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.

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 Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill that would block automatic utility rate increases for power plants that use natural gas.

The Courier-Journal reports Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence, the chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, is sponsoring the measure that would prevent utilities from utilizing a provision in state law called the "fuel adjustment clause", which allows utilities to adjust what it charges customers based on changes in cost of fuel or purchased power.

In an interview with the newspaper, Gooch called the measure a "consumer protection bill."

Gooch represents a House seat that covers Daviess, Hopkins, McLean, and Webster counties.

Kentucky Coal Plant Makes Top 10 Polluter List

Jan 3, 2013

A Tennessee Valley Authority coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky has landed on an environmental group's list of top polluters.

The report Thursday from the Environmental Integrity Project says the TVA Paradise Fossil Plant near Drakesboro emitted 1,505 pounds of arsenic, 1,907 pounds of lead and 1,409 pounds of chromium in 2011. The plant was third on the group's metal emissions list that used the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The 2,200-megawatt plant is the largest in Kentucky by wattage output. TVA said in 2011 it is spending $500 million to upgrade pollution controls on two generating units at the plant. TVA's website says the work was to be completed by last month.

State leaders say a nearly $1 billion project to update pollution controls at a massive Louisville power plant will be a boost for Kentucky's coal industry. The upgrades at LG&E's Mill Creek Generating Station in southwestern Jefferson County are expected to add about 700 construction jobs. They will also allow the 1,400-megawatt plant to continue to burn coal by meeting stricter federal air regulations that go in force in 2016.

The first shipment in a huge deal to export coal to India hasn’t yet left Appalachia. The deal was announced in August: Kentucky-based Booth Energy agreed to send up to nine million tons of coal a year to India for 25 years, at an estimated value of $7 billion. The first shipment was supposed to be on its way by the end of September.