coal

Still from White House video

Donald Trump loves coal.

He campaigned on a promise to put miners back to work and his first year in office included numerous Ohio Valley visits to highlight coal’s importance.

“I love our coal miners and they’re coming back strong!” Trump said to a roaring crowd at an August rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

At a March rally in Louisville the message was the same. “We are going to put our coal miners back to work! They have not been treated well but they are.”


Mimi Pickering, WMMT

One evening this past November, angry customers and public officials filled a high school auditorium in Hazard, Kentucky, and took turns pleading with three members of the state’s public service commission.

Angie Hatton, a state legislator representing Letcher and Pike counties, presented the situation in historical terms. “This community that for two centuries has been powering our nation, we’re now struggling to keep our own lights on.”


Vivian Stockman and Southwings

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences is pursuing private funding to complete a study of the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining after the Trump administration ordered a halt to the scientific work.

The panel of scientists assembled by the National Academies was months into a study of the health effects of surface mining when the Trump administration’s Interior Department told them to stop work.  


c-span

The Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget has announced a review of an Obama-era rule that protects coal miners from exposure to the dust that causes black lung disease.

That has some health and safety advocates concerned. The review comes amid a tide of regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration and at a time that black lung disease is on the rise in Appalachian coal country.


Larry Dowling, WVPB

Throughout coal mining country of the Eastern U.S. you will find streams that run a peculiar rusty orange. It’s the result of pollution called acid mine drainage, or AMD. It’s estimated that about 10,000 miles of streams are polluted by AMD in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. In fact, researchers have calculated that every second, coal mines throughout the region are pumping out about 3,000 cubic feet of AMD. That’s roughly equal to an average May day’s flow of water in the Monongahela River as it winds through the region.


Benny Becker

The sound of power tools blends with teenage chatter as students clamber around, under, and over a trailer bed that they’re busy turning into a home. They’re part of a project called “Building It Forward,” which has vocational classes building tiny houses as a way of gaining practical skills and new confidence.

Just a few feet from the garage door at the back of the room, there’s a vertical rock face. It’s all coal from the ground up at least ten feet. Coal here can be a reminder of the past — of the time when this land that the school sits on was blasted flat by miners; of times when coal jobs were plentiful here in eastern Kentucky.


Erica Peterson

Kentucky’s largest electric utility expects to be powered more than 80 percent by natural gas or renewable energy by the middle of this century — regardless of whether the country’s energy policies change.

Last month, PPL — the corporation that owns both Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities — released a climate assessment called for by shareholders. It looks at the Kentucky fleet under three possible scenarios:

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

A bipartisan group in Congress, including several Ohio Valley lawmakers, is pushing for more federal support for technology known as carbon capture and storage. The lawmakers and an uncommon alliance of labor, business, and environmental groups want to pass legislation called the FUTURE Act which would speed commercial deployment of technology that reduces carbon dioxide emissions from industries that burn fossil fuels.

Such technology has been in development for decades. Today, a number of projects show various methods are possible to “scrub” CO2 from the waste stream and store it underground. However, it is still prohibitively expensive to scale up those projects to the level needed to affect the global output of carbon pollution.


University of Kentucky

President Donald Trump is nominating a Lexington engineer to fill the top spot at the federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Department of the Interior announced Thursday that Steven Gardner of Lexington consulting firm ECSI has been tapped for the role. Gardner has more than four decades of experience working with and advocating for the mining industry.

In 2011, he testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule, which tightened regulations on surface coal mining.

Gardner and others raised questions about the justification used for the regulation, saying the Office of Surface Mining had prompted his company to change key calculations to lessen the perceived effect of the rule on jobs and coal production.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to end the Clean Power Plan is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to support the struggling coal industry. The Department of Energy is also pushing a new way to subsidize coal power. But a new study suggests market forces -- not regulations -- will still make more coal power plants in the region vulnerable.

Ohio Valley lawmakers and industry leaders overwhelmingly support the move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement is welcomed relief.


Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"The war on coal is over," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency "should ever use its authority" to "declare war on any sector of our economy."

paringaresources.com

An Australian company constructing a new coal mine in McLean County has filed a response to a lawsuit filed by two brothers who own land in the area. 

The response filed in McLean Circuit Court by Hartshorne Mining generally denies a list of claims by brothers Gordon and Kenneth Bryant, whose family has long owned acreage in the rural area.

Hartshorne denies that the coal mine is out of compliance with McLean County’s comprehensive plan because the project was approved by the fiscal court.

Erica Peterson

A coal industry advocate told Kentucky lawmakers on Thursday that “coal is not a silver bullet” for the country’s energy needs, but said coal should still play a role as natural gas and renewable energy continue to grow.

Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said power companies should be rewarded for using coal as an energy source.

“Right now coal is not being compensated fairly for some of the attributes it has. For example, coal has a very, very secure fuel supply,” Bailey said during a legislative hearing on Thursday.

Paringa Resources website

A new coal mine in McLean County is another step closer to reality after approval was given for two parts of the project on Sept. 25.

A member of the McLean County Board of Adjustment, Nancy Wetzel, said the board approved a conditional use permit for coal washing operations and the refuse pile for the Poplar Grove Mine.

The Australian company Paringa Resources and its Evansville, Indiana affiliate Hartshorne Mining Group have begun construction of the mine. The project is on 270 acres in the rural community of Semiway between Calhoun and Sacramento.

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.

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