The Sierra Club along with environmental groups in Kentucky and West Virginia are attempting to block permitting at two mountaintop surface mines, alleging in federal lawsuits that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not consider potential health impacts on residents.

Coal miners are continuing to be the subjects of TV political ads in a Lexington-based congressional district that has no mines. Republican challenger Andy Barr went up Wednesday with another such ad in which miners, their faces covered in coal dust, criticize 6th District Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler.

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Last week the state of Kentucky announced that India would purchase large quantities of coal from companies in the Commonwealth in the future. This week, some lawmakers in India are raising questions about the procedure used to sell coal fields in that country. Angry opposition lawmakers have shouted and crowded aisles in India's parliament to demand the prime minister resign.

The involvement of a state representative in a major coal deal in Kentucky is raising some eyebrows. The $7 billion contract signed Wednesday creates a 25-year standing order to ship 9 million tons of Kentucky coal annually to India.

Coal mines in Kentucky and West Virginia will send millions of tons of coal to India, under the terms of a 25-year contract that was signed Wednesday. The deal is being hailed as a sign of hope in the coal export market.

The Associated Press reports that government inspectors have been keeping watch over coal operators through aerial surveillance in Central Appalachia, a region in which mountaintop removal mining has been controversial. The Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement has spent more than $477,000 over the past four years for helicopter flights.

One of the world's largest coal producers says it will lay off about 750 workers in the Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia coalfields. It's the latest setback for an industry struggling for market share as utilities switch to cleaner and cheaper alternatives.

Administrative Law Judge Margaret A. Miller ruled that Cumberland River Coal Company improperly fired 52-year-old Charles Scott Howard of Letcher County after he was injured on the job. The judge ordered Howard reinstated and says the company must pay a $30,000 fine.

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Federal officials now say coal accounts for slightly more than one-third of the electricity generated in the United States. Coal's percentage of the market hasn't been that low in decades.

As the Environmental Protection Agency begins its public forums on coal mining permits in Kentucky, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is rallying for coal to be a bigger part of the nation's energy portfolio.