coal

Four-and-a-half years after they were first announced, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to finalize the nation’s first federal rules on the handling of coal ash this month.

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.

Abbey Oldham

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his plans should he win re-election next month and should he become Senate Majority Leader.

The latter will happen if McConnell defeats Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republicans win a net of six Senate seats in November. McConnell has told audiences and reporters that, if he became Senate Majority Leader, he would seek to defeat President Obama’s legislative agenda by adding language to spending bills that would strip funding from projects the President supports.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio Wednesday, McConnell was asked specifically which programs he would seek to defund.

WKU Public Radio: What specific programs or initiatives would you seek to block if you were to become Senate Majority Leader?

Sen. Mitch McConnell: Well, my first choice, obviously, is to see what the President is willing to do with us. We need to do comprehensive tax reform. It’s been 30 years since we scrubbed the code. The President says he wants to do trade agreements. That’s a big winner for Kentucky agriculture. So I think you would anticipate kind of a mix of things, hopefully working on things we can agree on together.

But there are some things we would differ on. The initiatives that the President has carried out through the regulatory side have been quite burdensome to the economy. And we would indeed seek to reign in the regulators, and a good example of that is the war on coal, which has created a depression in eastern Kentucky.

The most severe form of black lung disease is at levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to new data from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

NIOSH has been testing underground coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia for the disease for 40 years.

In the data letter published today in a scientific journal, researchers say there has been a startling resurgence of complicated black lung.

This is despite federal laws that were supposed to control dust in coal mines and eradicate the disease. 

Evan Smith is an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg.

Hal Heiner campaign

Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner says he isn’t sure whether burning fossil fuels like coal contributes to climate change.

 Heiner spoke to Kentucky Public Radio at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s country ham breakfast last Thursday, saying that he’s on the fence when it comes to climate science.

“I don’t have a scientific position, on contribution or not, but what I do know is … if we’re going to stay economically competitive in a global marketplace, we have to burn coal,” said Heiner.

Heiner recently attacked his primary opponent, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, over comments he made last year that the state needs to move “beyond coal.”

TVA

State lawmakers were once again briefed Friday about the effects  of proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from  Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters told an  energy subcommittee in Frankfort that if the changes cause utility companies to increase their rates high enough, the state’s economy could suffer.

“I think the rate increases that are being talked about right now probably on the side it’s five percent," said Peters. "It could be as much as 25 percent. And if it gets into the 25 percent range, we have done some separate studies that clearly show that has a major impact on our manufacturing industry.”

Under the proposed guidelines, Kentucky will have to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 18 percent by the year 2030.

WKU PBS

A trade group representing Kentucky's coal industry is defended Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell after a published report that his wife is a board member of an organization that has spent $50 million to close coal-fired power plants.

Yahoo! News reported Friday that Elaine Chao sits on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Former New York Mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg founded the charity.

The Kentucky Coal Association says Bloomberg's contribution was made before Chao joined the board in April 2012.

The eastern Kentucky coalfields have lost 7,000 coal-related jobs since January 2012. That's an issue at the center of McConnell's re-election bid against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The Kentucky Coal Association says McConnell has done everything possible to protect the coal industry.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that 34 fiscal courts in the Commonwealth will receive refunds from mining permit and acreage fees.  Eight counties in our region will receive refunds totaling $58,377.

For the first time in a year, quarterly data shows an increase in coal production in Eastern Kentucky. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is rebounding. 

The coal industry made its presence known in Pittsburgh this week for public hearings on President Obama's controversial plan to address climate change. A key element is rules the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in June. They would cut greenhouse gas emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide — from existing power plants. The national goal is 30 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

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