coal

Coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have agreed to a settlement covering millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in four eastern Kentucky counties: Harlan, Knott, Magoffin, and Pike.

Checks totaling $1.2 million from Justice entities began rolling in last week, county officials said. According to state officials, the checks cover half the delinquent debt owed. Counties will receive the remaining amount in payments over the next six months.

Dylan Lovan/AP

The Kentucky Coal Association says former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million pledge to close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. would “essentially send us back into the Dark Ages.”

 

Coal consumption in the U.S. is in decline, but Kentucky remains reliant on the fuel for jobs and energy. About 75 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal power.

Howard Berkes

  Harold Sturgill was disabled by black lung disease when he was 58 years old. Now he advocates for disabled miners.

 

“When it comes to the mining companies, and it comes to the worker, it’s still all about production,” Sturgill said. “They could care less about me, how much dust I suck in, or how long I’m going to live, because somebody else is there to take my place.”

Sturgill worries that without meaningful action to protect miners, his son, who is also a miner, will contract the same illness. “A man’s gonna feed his family whether it kills him or not,” he said.

MSHA

 This year, under the Trump administration, MSHA decided to remove POV status for the Affinity mine in an agreement with the company that resolved litigation on the matter, despite a continued record of spotty safety performance at the mine.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

On a cool but clear November day about a dozen residents from eastern Kentucky’s coal mining region crowded into the lobby of an office building in the small town of London, Kentucky. That’s where Kentucky’s powerful senior senator, Mitch McConnell, has his local field office.

McConnell’s staff let the local advocates for black lung treatment into the office a few at a time to make their case for funding the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

 

EPA Rule Rollback Aimed at Boosting Coal Plant Development

Dec 5, 2018
OVR

  The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce it is rolling back Obama-era regulations that required newly-built coal plants to strictly limit carbon emissions.

Industry advocates argued the rule made it nearly impossible to build new coal plants because it required the installation of expensive carbon capture technology.

But experts say it’s unlikely that the EPA’s rollback will reverse the trend.

Sydney Boles

The rain started around 10:30 p.m. By midnight, the creek in front of Elvis and Laura Thackers’ house had swelled to a mighty flood, uprooting trees, moving boulders and surging right up to the couple’s front steps. The Thackers decided to abandon their home. But when they got into their Jeep, they found the flood had washed the road away, leaving them trapped.

“Water was everywhere,” Laura Thacker remembered. “I said, ‘You don’t know how big it’s going to get.’”

Courtesy the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act. 

Pension Problem

Stephen George/WFPL

Lexington Engineer Steven Gardner has more than four decades of experience working with and advocating for the mining industry. 

He also had the backing of President Donald Trump, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan in his bid to run the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement. 

But on Thursday Bloomberg News reported Gardner withdrew his nomination to head the agency responsible for protecting society and the environment from the adverse effects of coal mining. 

Vice.com

At the heart of this case are contract disputes between a paper company called WestRock and two coal companies controlled by the Justice family.

WestRock and Southern Coal Corporation have for years been fighting in court over a coal supply agreement for a paper mill in Florida.

The parties had settled, but after making three payments, Southern Coal stopped. This year, a federal court awarded WestRock a settlement totalling just over one-million-dollars.

Kara Lofton/WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration’s signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

In Ohio Valley Visits, Trump Administration Pushes Policies Supporting Mining And Metals

Aug 23, 2018
Kara Lofton/WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region’s traditional but faltering industries — metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

 

Trump Touts Coal Industry Comeback At W. VA. Rally

Aug 22, 2018
Kara Lofton/WVPB

Hours after the head of the EPA unveiled a more industry-friendly version of power plant regulations, President Trump used a rally in West Virginia to claim that his policies have revitalized the coal industry.

 “And it is really happening. We are back. The coal industry is back,” Trump told the clapping and cheering crowd. 

But industry statistics reveal a muted job recovery in coal, at best.

White House Video

President Donald Trump’s desire to help boost the Ohio Valley’s energy industry and bring back mining jobs could be stymied by the administration’s escalating trade battle with China and other trading partners across the globe.

White House

President Donald Trump last week told the Department of Energy to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the Ohio Valley region that are no longer economical to operate.

But a number of energy analysts say the administration’s unprecedented effort to prop up struggling utilities will do little to solve their underlying problems and will likely end up costing consumers more.   

FirstEnergy Emergency Request Could Be A Last Chance To

Apr 17, 2018
Glynis Board/Ohio Valley ReSource

Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy Solutions made waves last month when it asked the Department of Energy to grant it an emergency order to help keep coal and nuclear plants operating across the Ohio Valley.

The request even hit the president’s radar. Speaking earlier this month at a roundtable event in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Donald Trump said the administration was examining the utility’s request.

“We’ll be looking at that 202, you know what a 202 is, we’ll be looking at that, we’re trying,” he said.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Common

Kentucky Power customers expressed frustration with proposed rate increases.
Mimi Pickering/WMMT

One evening this past November, angry customers and public officials filled a high school auditorium in Hazard, Kentucky, and took turns pleading with three members of the state’s public service commission.

Angie Hatton, a state legislator representing Letcher and Pike counties, presented the situation in historical terms. “This community that for two centuries has been powering our nation, we’re now struggling to keep our own lights on.”

 


From C-Span Video

Glynis Board/Ohio Valley ReSource

A group of about 30 coal miners in work apparel complete with hardhats sat in one of the three hearing rooms to hear their boss, Bob Murray. Murray is CEO of the Ohio-based coal company Murray Energy, and a leading opponent of the Clean Power Plan. He applauded EPA’s decision to repeal the regulation.

“God bless President Trump, and you coal miners,” Murray said. “I love you, fellas. God bless you.”

MHSA

Lawmakers and union leaders are raising concerns about the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s practices amid an increase in coal fatalities.  


MSHA

A rash of fatal coal mining accidents in the Ohio Valley region pushed the nation’s total number of mining deaths to a level not seen since 2015, sparking concern among safety advocates.

Already this year 12 miners have died on the job in the U.S., compared to eight fatalities in all of 2016. 


Vivian Stockman and Southwings

The Perry County Public Library in Hazard, Kentucky, lies along Black Gold Boulevard — a name that nods to the wealth the coal from these hills has generated.

On a recent Tuesday evening, however, the library was the venue for a hearing about the full costs of extracting that coal.


Ohio Valley Environmental Council

The Trump administration’s Department of the Interior has asked the National Academy of Sciences to suspend research into the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.

A team from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was established last year for a two-year study.    


Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

The country’s newest Republican governor is, like President Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman, a political outsider, and a fan of the coal industry.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a former coal company owner, was elected as a Democrat but switched parties with a surprise announcement at a Trump rally in West Virginia. 

 

Glynis Board/Ohio Valley ReSource

Thanks to singer-songwriter John Prine, Paradise Fossil Plant might be the only coal-fired power plant that has a household name. “Paradise,” Prine’s 1971 ballad, drew on boyhood memories from the small town of Paradise, in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, to relay the environmental and social costs of our dependence on coal.

“Mr. Peabody’s coal train,” he sang, had hauled away the Paradise from his childhood.


Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

 

Political leaders in West Virginia and Kentucky are joining a coalition of states threatening to sue California over a program the state is pushing that would drop investments in coal.


Ky Coal Association Supports Paris Accord Pullout

Jun 1, 2017

Among those praising President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is the Kentucky Coal Association.

Association President Tyler White issued a statement this Thursday.


Mending Mining Country: Three Ways Trump Could Help Miners And Coal Communities

May 16, 2017
From White House video

At a March ceremony to sign an executive order reversing Obama-era environmental regulations, coal miners were arranged on stage around President Donald Trump as he took up his pen.

“You know what it says, right?” Trump asked the miners. “You’re going back to work.”

From his campaign rallies to White House events, President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with coal miners and promised to restore their collapsed industry.


Can coal make a comeback? That’s the title of a new report from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Researchers there analyzed the factors leading to the coal industry’s sharp decline over the past six years and assessed the Trump administration’s efforts to revive it.  


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