coal mining

Environmental activists and eastern Kentucky residents are heading to the state Capitol next week to protest surface mining in Appalachia.

The annual protest in Frankfort is called "I Love Mountains Day." Now in its 10th year, it attracts hundreds of protesters to the steps of the state Capitol building.

Organizers say they are protesting the destructive effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in eastern Kentucky. The mining practice uses blasting and earth movers on mountaintops to get at coal seams.

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Environmental groups are going to court to argue that Kentucky and West Virginia are doing a poor job of enforcing federal clean water rules.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and others say the states haven’t done enough to control pollution from surface coal mines, causing damage to nearby streams and rivers.

The groups behind the federal lawsuits say they asked the Environmental Protection Agency years ago to rescind Kentucky and West Virginia’s authority over surface coal mine discharges. But the plaintiffs say the EPA never responded to that request.

The Herald-Leader reports the lawsuits are designed to compel the federal agency to act. The suits claim Kentucky doesn’t have enough employees to adequately monitor surface mine pollution, failed to set appropriate limits on pollutants, and issued mining permits under rules that included less scrutiny of applicants.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says his group believes they have been implementing all programs in accordance with state and federal regulations.

NPR and four other news organizations are challenging a sweeping gag order issued in the federal criminal case against former coal mining executive Don Blankenship.

Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain.

He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.

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As concerns rise about mine safety following an explosion in a Turkish coal mine that killed more than 200, Kentucky mine safety officials are coping with a 38 percent budget cut.

The state Office of Mine Safety and Licensing’s Dick Brown says $8.5 million in cuts will lead to eliminating some 50 positions across the state and cutting annual mine safety inspections from six to four.

The cuts also mean less safety training for miners.

“We’re going to have to be judicious in how we approach this and make sure, number one, that miners are as safe as we can possibly make them and that we can effectively keep them safe,” Brown said.

Brown expects a cut to the number of mine safety rescue teams as well. However, Madisonville’s KCTCS Mine Rescue Team receives private funding from coal companies and won’t be impacted by the budget cut.

The Office of Surface Mining has awarded Kentucky a $40 million grant to eliminate environmental hazards caused by past coal mining.

The money will go to the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands

The grants go to 28 coal-producing states annually. They're funded by a fee on mined coal and are intended to repair unstable slopes, eliminate acid mine drainage and restore damaged water supplies.

Kentucky Natural Resources Commissioner Steve Hohmann said the grant money has been used in past years to close mine shafts and portals, put out mine fires, eliminate dangerous highwalls and subsidence and to provide drinking water to residents in mining communities.

Union-backed coal miners in Kentucky and surrounding states are protesting a coal company’s bankruptcy proceedings they say jeopardizes pension and health care benefits for some 20-thousand retirees and dependents. Miners were picketing Wednesday outside Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis.

Two charter buses bound for St. Louis left early Wednesday morning from western Kentucky to join the protest led by the United Mine Workers of Amercia.

Peabody Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal companies and one of the companies the union accuses of orchestrating business deals that bankrupted Patriot Coal.

A University of Kentucky geologist says the 4.3 magnitude earthquake that shook eastern Kentucky over the weekend was too deep to be induced by the region's underground mining activity.

Five Daviess County residents have filed a lawsuit over a recent decision to allow coal mining on nearly 700 acres of land. The suit targets Daviess County Fiscal Court, the Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Western Kentucky Minerals.

Daviess County Fiscal Court has voted to allow a company's request to rezone 700 acres of land for coal mining. However, both supporters and opponents of the move say the issue isn't settled yet.

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