coal

Kentucky Coal Association Names New President

Nov 22, 2016
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Kentucky's coal industry advocacy group has named a new president. J. Tyler White has been named president of The Kentucky Coal Association beginning next month. White, a Kentucky native, is a district director for Republican Congressman Andy Barr. White also led Barr's recent re-election campaign. White says he's honored to have the opportunity to advocate for the industry and workers whose lives have been impacted by what he says is over-regulation and failed policy. White says with the right policies in place, the sagging industry can be revitalized. White replaces Bill Bissett, who left to take a job in his home state of West Virginia.

Two of the Republican Party's top leaders have hesitated to support a bill that would preserve the pensions and health care benefits for thousands of retired union coal miners. U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are both popular in Appalachian coal communities. But McConnell in the past has blocked a bill that would rescue the pensions and health benefits of more than 13,000 retired coal miners in Kentucky. Trump has been silent on the bill, which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has endorsed. The miners say the federal government owes them pension and health care benefits, stemming from a promise made by former President Harry Truman in the 1940s to end a costly strike. McConnell says he hopes "we can find a way forward" after the election.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

The Democratic candidate for governor in West Virginia has never held public office. Jim Justice is instead running on his record as a businessman. He runs coal mines, farms, and a luxury resort, and according to Forbes , he’s also the wealthiest person in the state, worth $1.56 billion. A review of records by NPR and the Ohio Valley ReSource shows that his coal companies owe more than $12 million in overdue county, state, and federal taxes, as well as over $2 million for mine safety violations. Add a lengthy list of environmental violations and damaged mine sites, and a pattern emerges: Justice’s business liabilities have in many cases become public liabilities, and the costs often fall hardest on already cash-strapped communities in the Appalachian coalfields.

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia were among the 27 states challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan , in oral arguments Tuesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The CPP aims to reduce by about a third the power plant emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas that scientists have identified as a major cause of climate change. The pollution reductions would come in phases over a little more than two decades. In an unusual move that reflects the importance of the case, all of the court’s 10 judges heard a full day of arguments, rather than the usual panel of three. Supporters say the EPA plan would spur investment in clean energy technology. Opponents, including West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, say it will drive up the price of electricity and hurt an already ailing coal industry.

Becca Schimmel

A bill to protect health care and pension benefits for about 120,000 retired coal miners and their families has moved forward in the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee approved the measure Wednesday, with a vote of 18 to 8. Six Republicans, including Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, joined all 12 Democrats in endorsing the bill. The office of Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats released a statement explaining his opposition to the bill. “ Senator Coats has great sympathy for coal retirees, many of whom live in Indiana, and the senator will continue fighting the Obama Administration’s War on Coal, which has put retired miners in this terrible position. The senator does not support federal bailouts of private pensions, especially when many pension plans across the country are underfunded by trillions and could ask for their own bailout. Senator Coats does not believe that Congress should expose taxpayers to trillions in liabilities, especially when our debt is climbing to dangerous levels and the largest retiree benefit plans for taxpayers – Social Security and Medicare – are headed for bankruptcy themselves. ”

An Alpha Natural Resources spokesman says the company plans to lay off 117 people when it shuts down a Kentucky coal mine in November. Spokesman Steve Hawkins tells the Lexington Herald-Leader that the company has issued a required 60-day layoff notice at the Process Energy Mine in Pike County, which is set to be closed on Nov. 7. Hawkins says dismal market conditions are the reason for the layoffs. He says the Process Energy mine is Alpha's last active mine in Kentucky. The Bristol, Virginia-based company has 18 mines in West Virginia.

Becca Schimmel

Thousands of retired coal miners will rally in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to urge Congress to shore up a fund that supports their pensions and benefits. Area lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were at the National Press Club in Washington to speak in support of the Miner’s Protection Act. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin called for an immediate markup and passage of the bill in the Senate Finance Committee, where it has been bottled up for most of the year. Manchin wants Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, to work together to pass the bill. “ All we’re asking for is the compassion to do the right thing, fulfill the commitment, a promise that was made,” Manchin said. Manchin is referring to a pledge dating to the 1940s , when Congress intervened in a national coal strike and established a health and welfare fund for miners. The agreement used royalties on coal production to create a retirement fund for miners and their dependents in cases of sickness, disability, death and retirement.

Southwings and Vivian Stockman

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences recently announced a comprehensive study on the health effects of the controversial coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal. For coalfield residents who have long questioned what impact the dust, blasting, chemicals and water contamination was having, the announcement comes as welcome news, if somewhat overdue. A decade of efforts to research the health effects of living near mountaintop removal mining have often run into industry opposition, political roadblocks, and bureaucratic delays. After decades of questions and concerns there is now reason to believe that answers are on the way. Longstanding Concerns Concerns about how surface mining affects the people of Appalachia are nearly as old as the practice itself. West Virginia first regulated surface mining in 1939, and statements of concern and protest have long been a part of the culture in the central Appalachian coalfields.

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Coal-producing states are preparing for arguments next month in the federal appeals court case known as West Virginia v. EPA , challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The case has major implications for the country’s policy on climate change. But some experts and industry leaders say the outcome is not likely to bring coal back from its decline in the power market. Diversifying Power Coal from central Appalachia has been “keeping the lights on” in the U.S. for nearly a century, so perhaps it’s no surprise that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is leading dozens of other states — including Kentucky and Ohio — and many industry groups in opposition to the new carbon emission standards. At a May event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Morrisey said the Clean Power Plan is a disincentive for coal production.

Report: Kentucky Coal Jobs Hit Lowest Level Since 1898

Aug 4, 2016
Erica Peterson

Officials believe there are fewer coal jobs in Kentucky than there have been in more than 115 years. News outlets report that a quarterly report from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet reveals that the number of coal jobs statewide dropped by 6.9 percent from April to June of this year. In western Kentucky, coal jobs dropped 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2016 while the number of jobs in the state's eastern region dropped 6.1 percent during that same time. As of July 1, the estimated number of coal jobs remaining in Kentucky was 6,465, which officials say is the lowest mark since 1898. A switch to natural gas, stricter federal regulations on coal designed to preserve the environment and the advance of renewable energy have contributed to the industry's plunge.

Tennessee Valley Authority

The number of coal jobs in Kentucky continue to decline. A report from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet says the number of jobs statewide dropped by 6.9 percent. In Western Kentucky, coal jobs dropped 7.9 percent from April to June. The amount of coal produced in that region declined 12.3 percent. Production in the state’s eastern coalfield is the lowest it’s been since 1915. Kentucky now has less miners than in 1898, before the extension of railroads allowed for explosive growth in production and jobs in Eastern Kentucky. Analysts say there are a number of reasons for the decline, including competition for power-plant customers from cheap natural gas; tougher federal rules to protect air and water quality and the growth of renewable energy sources.

U.S. Energy Information Administration

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, two presidents ran blocks for Hillary Clinton on an issue that has crippled her favorability in Appalachia: coal. Both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton brought up coal in their speeches endorsing Hillary’s presidential bid. During his address on Tuesday evening, Bill Clinton recalled how Hillary had sent him to stump for her in West Virginia ahead of the state’s primary election to deliver a message directly to coal miners. “If you really think you can get the economy back you had 50 years ago, have at it, vote for whoever you want to,” Bill Clinton said. “But if she wins, she is coming back for you to take you along on the ride to America’s future.” Then on Wednesday night, President Obama said coal miners need to be brought into the discussion about climate change.

Erica Peterson

A non-profit is recommending a Kentucky coal plant retire sooner than planned. The Elmer Smith plant in Owensboro is old — it initially went into service in 1964. And over the past few years, it’s become a target for environmental groups, who point to the plant’s age and emissions, saying the upgrades it would take to comply with upcoming pollution regulations make it uneconomical to keep burning coal there. At the request of the Sierra Club, the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis studied several documents from Owensboro Municipal Utilities, which owns and operates the Elmer Smith plant. IEEFA concluded that retiring the plant’s two units sooner rather than later would be the least-cost option for ratepayers, and urged the utility to consider replacing the capacity with renewable energy. Among the problems IEEFA Director of Resource Planning David Schissel flagged in his analysis of Elmer Smith was that the area’s demand for electricity has remained relatively flat since 2004. So since then, the plant has been producing more power than it needs to supply its ratepayers. OMU sells the excess power on the wholesale market, but for only a fraction of its cost.

Gray Calls For Roads, Technology To Help Coal Regions

Jul 27, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray says he would spend more money on technology and improve roads in eastern Kentucky to help the region recover from the devastating effects of a declining coal industry. Gray revealed his plan on Tuesday along with other state Democratic leaders. Gray said his plan would increase funding for the federal Office of Fossil Energy’s carbon capture storage technology research and would work to widen the Hal Rogers parkway to four lanes from Hazard to Somerset. Republicans have criticized Gray and other Democrats as being anti-coal after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said she would put coal miners and coal companies out of business. Gray told reporters he still supports Clinton but said she he was wrong about coal. Clinton has since said she was mistaken in her remarks.

Erica Peterson

There are lots of factual ways to describe coal: carbon-rich, abundant, fossil fuel. But Republicans would like to add one more to the list: clean. In the national GOP’s draft platform — leaked earlier this week — the party lays out its position on a number of issues, including the role it believes coal should play in America’s energy production. The share of U.S. electricity produced by coal is at the lowest point in more than half a century; in 2015, it accounted for 33 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Coal’s recent problems have been numerous: It’s getting harder to reach reserves in Appalachia, it’s facing competition from cheaper natural gas, and utilities are choosing to retire older coal-fired plants rather than update them to comply with new environmental regulations. But the Republican draft platform doubles down on coal.

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