coal

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is challenging leaders in eastern Kentucky to open their eyes to the state’s declining coal economy.

Comer is Kentucky’s only Republican statewide constitutional officer. He has led the effort to make industrial hemp legal in the state and is also considered a possible candidate for governor in 2015.

Comer recently told a group of farmers in Eastern Kentucky that he “cannot be controlled” by party bosses.

He says leaders in Appalachia need to understand that coal production is decreasing and they should begin discussing new economic opportunities.

Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority has decided not to close a coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky.  The nation’s largest utility was facing congressional pressure to keep open the Paradise Fossil Plant.

In a vote Thusday, the TVA's Board of Directors decided that one of the three units at the plant in Drakesboro will continue burning coal, while the other units will be converted to natural gas. 

“It’s unnecessary and tragic that the Obama administration’s actions have forced utilities to discontinue coal operations at any of these units,” U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement.  “I fought hard to prevent these changes and fortunately one of the units will continue to burn coal, saving hundreds of jobs."

In his statement, McConnell also vowed to continue fighting what he called the Obama administration’s anti-coal agenda that threatens the livelihood of Kentuckians.

In a meeting last month with McConnell, TVA President Bill Johnson said several factors, including the current regulatory environment, forced the utility to review the future of the Paradise Fossil Plant.  McConnell responded that Muhlenberg County couldn’t take anymore hits, given the upcoming retirement of Kentucky Utilities’ Green River plant in 2016. 

Tennessee Valley Authority

Democrat Alison Grimes has joined Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep a coal-fired generating plant operating in Muhlenberg County.

Grimes, who is running for McConnell's Senate seat, said in a statement that an upgrade would bring the Paradise Fossil Plant at Drakesboro into compliance with federal standards, while closure would have a devastating economic impact.

McConnell met with Tennessee Valley Authority President William Johnson last week to seek continued operation of the generating plant. TVA is considering whether it should add new emission controls to two coal-fired units that date back to the late 1950s, build a new generating plant powered by natural gas, or take no action.

TVA said in a statement last week that officials are "evaluating all options."

For Democrats running in coal-producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency's new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants provide a carboniferous chance to demonstrate independence from President Obama.

Those Democrats will probably take advantage of every chance they get to separate themselves from the president in voters' minds, since their Republican opponents will be working overtime to portray them as reliable Obama votes if they're elected to Congress.

The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Some politicians and the coal industry have criticized the rules, saying they amount to a ban on new coal-fired plants.

The plan sets an emissions limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for large natural gas plants, and 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for coal and smaller natural gas plants.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says climate change caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide poses numerous public health challenges—everything from poor air quality to an increase in the number of disease-spreading mosquitoes and ticks. She said these rules for new power plants are necessary, and won’t have the dire economic consequences industry groups predict

“We have proven time after time that setting fair, Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall,” McCarthy said. “The economy does not crumble.”

Technologies like carbon capture and sequestration will help new coal plants comply with the standard; they’re available, but are still very expensive.

The Environmental Protection Agency's second stab at a proposal to set the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants would make it impossible for companies to build the kind of coal-fired plants that have been the country's biggest source of electricity for decades.

Under the proposal, released Friday, any new plant that runs on coal would be permitted to emit only about half as much carbon dioxide as an average coal plant puts into the air today.

Crews are cleaning up after a train derailed in Hardin County, sending 15 cars carrying coal off the tracks.

The News-Enterprise reports that no injuries were reported when the Paducah & Louisville train derailed early Thursday morning in northern Hardin County. The train had a total of 88 cars. No hazardous materials were involved.

The newspaper reports crews from R.J. Corman were cleaning up the site.

Coal production in both of Kentucky’s coalfields has dropped slightly and employment is at a record low, according to the most recent quarterly report from the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. The commonwealth produced nearly 20.5 million tons of coal in the second quarter of 2013, which represents a 1.3 percent drop from the first quarter of the year.

There was a slight drop in both the eastern and western Kentucky coalfields, but western Kentucky still produced slightly more coal—50.2 percent of the total production.

The data estimates there are 12,342 coal miners employed in the state—the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1927. That number represents a loss of 851 jobs, but the losses weren’t even among the coalfields. Eastern Kentucky lost jobs, while Western Kentucky’s coal industry grew slightly.

Number of Kentucky Coal Jobs Lowest Since 1927

Aug 8, 2013

The state says Kentucky's coal jobs have dropped to the lowest level in the more than 85 years that the state has kept records of the number.

The Energy and Environment Cabinet says eastern Kentucky mines cut 916 jobs from April through June, while western Kentucky mines added 65 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the jobs lost in eastern Kentucky followed steep declines in 2012.

The cabinet said the number of people working at coal mines and facilities statewide dropped to 12,342 as of July, the lowest number since 1927.

The report also said eastern Kentucky coal production has dropped more than 41 percent in two years.

The Speaker of the Kentucky House and a bipartisan group of 50 House members have penned a letter to President Obama, expressing their concern over what they call the administration’s “unfair attack on coal.”

The letter—written by House Speaker Greg Stumbo—says the lawmakers are concerned about the President’s recent speeches about further limits to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The letter says coal in Kentucky “is a way of life”, and that coal had a $10 billion economic impact in the state in 2010.

The lawmakers write that “promising initiatives that should satisfy both sides of the climate debate are essentially left in the research lab, while the environmental impact of other major energy sources is minimized by comparison.”

Environmental advocates, on the other hand, want the President to take a tougher stance on coal, and hope the E.P.A will soon enforce tough new carbon pollution limits on coal plants.

The pro-coal letter was signed by 50 Kentucky House members, including Owensboro Democrats Tommy Thompson and Jim Glenn, Butler County Republican C.B. Embry, and Bowling Green Republican Jim DeCesare.

Here is the full text of the letter.

A report released by a coalition of environmental and clean water groups says twenty coal-fired power plants in Kentucky are discharging toxic metals into nearby waterways.

The report is called “Closing the Floodgates”, and was authored by the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Integrity Project, EarthJustice, and WaterKeeper Alliance.

The report points out coal plants are under no requirement to monitor or report discharges of toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.

You can see the full report here.

Sierra Club organizer for the western Kentucky region Thomas Pearce says his group and others want the Environmental Protection Agency to start enforcing tough new standards for coal-fired power plants.

Pearce says under current rules, coal plant operators don't even feel like they have to hide what they're doing.

Court Orders Kentucky Mine Operator to Abandon Lawsuit

Jun 21, 2013

A Kentucky coal company must withdraw a lawsuit it filed against a former worker who complained he was discriminated against, an administrative court in Washington has ruled.

Armstrong Coal filed a lawsuit in Muhlenberg County in August against Reuben Shemwell, who was fired from the company's Parkway Mine in 2011.

Shemwell had already taken his own legal action against the company by filing a federal discrimination complaint, arguing that he was let go for complaining about safety hazards. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has said Armstrong Coal's suit violated the section of a federal law designed to protect miners who file discrimination complaints.

The company accused Shemwell of wrongfully using civil proceedings, and said Shemwell was terminated for using his phone too much on the job.

The Henderson Gleaner reports that United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts was one of 14 people arrested at Tuesday's rally in Henderson featuring current and former coal miners.

The group was arrested after staging a sit-down in the middle of the intersection at First and Main Streets following the 90 minute rally at the Henderson County courthouse.

The Gleaner estimates a crowd of around 2,000 showed up for the rally against recent actions by Patriot Coal Corp. Patriot announced it was cutting pension payments to thousands of retirees, something upheld last week by a federal bankruptcy judge.

Miners and their supporters accuse Patriot's parents companies, Peabody Energy Corp., and Arch Coal, of spinning off Patriot and shifting the pension packages of former workers to the new company, knowing it would eventually go bust.

Peabody and Arch deny those charges.

A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.

Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.

"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.

"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a $5.2 million grant for out-of-work coal miners in eastern Kentucky.

The grant will fund re-employment services for miners who have been laid off. A statement from the Labor Department Monday says the funding will also help spouses of coal miners in the region who are looking to re-enter the workforce.

This grant was awarded to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. The program will train out-of-work miners and spouses to work in other industries in the region including business services, construction and health care.

Pages