coal

MSHA

A rash of fatal coal mining accidents in the Ohio Valley region pushed the nation’s total number of mining deaths to a level not seen since 2015, sparking concern among safety advocates.

Already this year 12 miners have died on the job in the U.S., compared to eight fatalities in all of 2016. Two miners were killed in Kentucky and six in West Virginia.

Southwings and Vivian Stockman

The Perry County Public Library in Hazard, Kentucky, lies along Black Gold Boulevard -- a name that nods to the wealth the coal from these hills has generated. On a recent Tuesday evening, however, the library was the venue for a hearing about the full costs of extracting that coal.

A team from the National Academy of Sciences visited to hear what the public had to say about  health impacts of surface mining.

The U.S. power grid could become less reliable if too much electricity comes from renewable energy and natural gas, according to a study from the Department of Energy.

But not everyone is buying it. Environmentalists suspect the Trump administration is just trying to prop up an ailing coal industry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for the study in the spring. The report doesn't say there is a grid reliability problem now — only that one could develop if more coal and nuclear power plants shut down.

Trump Administration Halts Mining Health Study

Aug 22, 2017
Vivian Stockman and Southwings.

The Trump administration’s Department of the Interior has asked the National Academy of Sciences to suspend research into the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.

A team from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was established last year for a two-year study. The committee has been conducting hearings and investigating accumulating science on the health impacts of surface mining, especially the practice known as mountaintop removal.


Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

The country’s newest Republican governor is, like President Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman, a political outsider, and a fan of the coal industry. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a former coal company owner, was elected as a Democrat but switched parties with a surprise announcement at a Trump rally in West Virginia.

Both Trump and Justice campaigned on promises to bring coal mining jobs back to the region. Now Justice wants the president to prop up the flagging coal industry with federally-funded incentives for power companies to purchase coal from Appalachia.


Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

A coal company run by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's family has sued two Kentucky regulators individually, claiming they're to blame for the company's reclamation delays that could result in $4.5 million in fines.

The Courier-Journal reports that Kentucky Fuel Corporation has sued Kentucky Department for Natural Resources Commissioner Allen Luttrell and Deputy Commissioner John Small. The Pike County Circuit Court lawsuits seek money from the regulators personally, not from the state.

Gabe Bullard

There’s no dearth of research on health disparities in Appalachia. But a newly-formed group of researchers at Virginia Tech says there is a dearth of scientific research into why these disparities exist, and how environmental factors could be contributing.

In a literature review published online last month in the journal “Reviews on Environmental Health,” the Virginia Tech researchers call for more community dialogue on the issue, and more focused epidemiological research on environmental health effects in Appalachia.

Erica Peterson

New numbers from the first two quarters of this year show both coal production and employment are continuing to decline in Kentucky, despite President Donald Trump’s promises that miners would be going back to work.

Overall, Kentucky saw a nearly 10 percent decline in coal production between the first and second quarters of 2017. The industry shed 200 jobs during the same time period.

“Obviously, an almost a 10 percent decrease since last quarter is not what we’d like to see,” said Kentucky Coal Association President Tyler White. “But I’ve always said that you don’t turn this industry around in a one or two quarter measurement.”

Union, Feds at Odds on Countering Surge in Coal Mine Deaths

Aug 3, 2017
NPR

Deaths in U.S. coal mines this year have surged ahead of last year's, and federal safety officials say workers who are new to a mine have been especially vulnerable to fatal accidents.

But the nation's coal miner's union says the mine safety agency isn't taking the right approach to fixing the problem.

Ten coal miners have died on the job so far this year, compared to a record low of eight deaths last year.

Glynis Board

Thanks to singer-songwriter John Prine, Paradise Fossil Plant might be the only coal-fired power plant that has a household name. “Paradise,” Prine’s 1971 ballad, drew on boyhood memories from the small town of Paradise, in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, to relay the environmental and social costs of our dependence on coal.

“Mr. Peabody’s coal train,” he sang, had hauled away the Paradise from his childhood.

Becca Schimmel

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s combined cycle gas plant in Muhlenberg County has produced more than one million megawatts of energy in its first three months of operation. It’s part of the federal utility’s effort to diversity its energy portfolio.

The natural gas facility in Drakesboro produces about 1,025 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for half a million homes. The cost of the project is estimated at about $850 million. Bob Deacy is a TVA senior vice president and has been building plants for more than 30 years. He said there’s a lot of fuel switching going on across the country, and having a diverse energy portfolio will save consumers money.

Jeff Young

Political leaders in West Virginia and Kentucky are joining a coalition of states threatening to sue California over a program the state is pushing that would drop investments in coal.

This week the attorney general of West Virginia joined 11 other Republican attorneys general and the governor of Kentucky in signing a letter to the commissioner of the California Department of Insurance. The department wants any insurance companies licensed in California to divest from fossil fuels – especially coal. Many of the companies licensed in California are also licensed in many other states throughout the U.S.

Gabe Bullard

A U.S. House committee has advanced a bill that would send a billion dollars for mine reclamation and economic development in coal communities.

The RECLAIM Act was first proposed in 2016 by Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers. It authorizes the release of $1 billion over five years from the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. The money would be earmarked for cleaning up abandoned mine sites, as well as identifying and funding economic development projects on the sites.

Rogers’ spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Erica Peterson

An economic development agency targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday nearly $16 million in funding to help diversify economies in hard-hit coal communities in seven Appalachian states.

The funding is earmarked for 18 projects in Alabama, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, and will create or retain more than 1,700 jobs, the Appalachian Regional Commission said in a news release.

The money announced by the ARC comes from a job organization comprising the commission, the U.S. Commerce and Labor departments, and other federal agencies, and is "a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Appalachia," ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl said in the release.

Erica Peterson

After being name-checked in two of President Donald Trump’s recent speeches, a new coal mine opened in Pennsylvania last week.

“Next week we’re opening a big coal mine,” Trump told supporters in Cincinnati. “You know about that. One in Pennsylvania. It’s actually a new mine. That hadn’t happen in a long time, folks. But we’re putting the people and we’re putting the miners back to work.”

The mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania is expected to employ about 70 coal miners. But while it may be cause for local celebration and useful for political rhetoric, it isn’t a harbinger of what’s to come in Kentucky.

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