Coal

gary cohn, jim mattis
Evan Vucci / AP

The president's chief economic adviser is casting doubt on the future of U.S. coal, saying it "doesn't really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock," directly contradicting President Donald Trump's repeated promises to revive the struggling coal industry.

Briefing reporters Thursday night on Air Force One, Gary Cohn singled out natural gas as "such a cleaner fuel." By exporting more natural gas and investing in wind and solar energy, the U.S. "can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly," Cohn said.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Senate President Mitch Carmichael says legislative leaders and the Governor are inching closer to a budget deal that he's "optimistic" can be approved by next week.

Carmichael says that budget deal will be based on a tax reform plan approved in the Senate last week that was voted down twice in the House.

Coal has long had a grip on American politics. That's why politicians worry about its fate. They tout the fossil fuel's contribution to the U.S. economy, but lately they've also been trying to find a way to clean up coal's image.

April 28, 1924: 119 Miners Die in Benwood Mine Explosion

Apr 28, 2017
Graveside service for miners lost in Benwood coal mine
e-WV, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

 A little after 7 a.m. on April 28, 1924, miners at Benwood in Marshall County were preparing their work areas for their daily shift. One miner approached a roof fall, thinking incorrectly that it’d been examined by the fire boss.

His open light ignited firedamp, which is an explosive mixture of methane and air. An explosion ripped through the mine, which was dry and dusty with poor ventilation and sprinkling practices. The explosion spread quickly, and slate and debris blocked portions of the main entry.

Growing up the son of a coal miner in southern West Virginia, David Wiley saw the downside of the profession up close. His father had been injured in the mines, lost several fingers and damaged his knees and back. "He was just really beat up," Wiley says.

So when it came to find his own line of work, Wiley says he had no desire to work in the coal mines. For a couple of years after high school, Wiley tried his hand at manufacturing and welding jobs in the neighboring state of North Carolina.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcast

Lawmakers from coal-mining states are pushing to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire at the end of April. Last December, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and other coal-state Democrats won a four-month extension that preserves benefits through April 30. With lawmakers returning to the Capitol following a two-week recess, Manchin says the time for extensions is over and that more than a partial fix is needed.

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The CEO of the nation’s biggest public utility said Tuesday that the agency isn’t going to reopen coal-fired power plants under President Donald Trump, who has promised a comeback for the downtrodden coal industry.

Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said he thinks very little will actually change for the federal utility under Trump.

Kevin Butt's job is to find cleaner ways to power Toyota. One of the hardest places to do that is at the automaker's sprawling plant in central Kentucky, a state where nearly 90 percent of electricity still comes from coal.

Butt points out a new engine assembly line, where a conveyor belt moves in a slow circle. He says it was specially designed with a more efficient motor. There are also enormous fans overhead and LED lights, all changes that save millions.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / via West Virginia & Regional History Collection

On April 14, 1875, Hallie Davis married Stephen Elkins, bringing together two powerful political families. Hallie Davis was the eldest child of Henry Gassaway Davis, a U.S. senator and one of West Virginia’s richest men. She grew up primarily in the Mineral County town of Piedmont and in Frederick, Maryland. When she met Stephen Elkins, he was serving as a delegate to Congress from the New Mexico Territory. They later lived in Washington and New York.

Update: 100 Days in Appalachia

Mar 17, 2017
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, we’ll check in with Dave Mistich, the editor of our digital journalism project “100 Days in Appalachia” and Johnny Staats and Robert Shafer has our Mountain Stage song of the week.

That’s on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

Not many Americans know the story of the Mine Wars that were fought between workers, labor unions and mine company guards during the early 1900s. In this show, Jessica Lilly talks with filmmaker Randy MacLowry, whose new PBS documentary The Mine Wars focuses on these armed uprisings by labor organizers in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

Courtesy: Violet Gathalee Pavkovich

Violet Gathalee Pavkovich stands on the small back porch of her powder blue, turn-of-the-century farmhouse, an orange cat meandering around her legs. White wicker furniture contrasts the rusty railroad tracks that border her back yard.

“Trains hauling coal come through here two or three times a day,” she remarked casually. As I thank her for her time, she asks if she can give me a hug.

Roger May

This week on Inside Appalachia, we travel to Cedar Grove, West Virginia, home of renowned novelist Mary Lee Settle. On this episode, we explore surprising, hidden histories through the work of Settle and the voices of women from Cedar Grove.

On The Legislature Today, the Senate's Select Committee on Tax Reform begins discussing the chair's plan to reform the state's tax code, shifting from a personal income tax to a broader consumer sales tax.

Ted Boettner with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and John Deskins with the Bureau for Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University discuss the potential benefits and risks to the plan and it impacts on West Virginians. 

Dave Foster / West Virginia Rural Water Association

It’s been happening for years - water systems are slowly coming to a breaking point. The next episode of Inside Appalachia explores one legacy of the coal mining industry - crumbling water infrastructure.

Betting on Trump: Coal

Feb 16, 2017

Many coal miners saw the election of Donald Trump as a moment of hope; what can he actually do to bring back coal jobs?

Underground Fires, Toxins in Unfunded Cleanup of Old Mines

Jan 28, 2017
Rob Rice, left, chief of the West Virginia Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation, and planner Jonathan Knight check on the smoldering underground fire at a long-abandoned coal mine in Preston County, W.Va.
Michael Virtanen / Associated Press

PRESTON COUNTY — An underground coal mine fire burns beneath a sprawling hillside in West Virginia, the pale, acrid smoke rising from gashes in the scarred, muddy earth only a stone's throw from some houses.

 

The fire, which may have started with arson, lightning or a forest fire, smoldered for several years before bursting into flames last July in rural Preston County. The growing blaze moved the mine to the top of a list of thousands of problem decades-old coal sites in West Virginia awaiting cleanup and vying for limited federal funds.

 

Candace Nelson

If you didn’t grow up in West Virginia, you may have no idea what a pepperoni roll is. But those who grew up eating them in school cafeterias or buying them at some of the Italian bakeries in north-central West Virginia, probably know pepperoni rolls are strongly connected to Appalachian culture and childhood memories.

This week, we’ll learn a bit more about this signature Appalachian food, and we’ll learn about how its origins are deeply connected with the history and culture of coal mining, and to the food that miners brought to work in their lunch buckets.

Janet Kunicki / Wes

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined 17 Republican counterparts from other states urging Congress adopt stop federal regulation overreach.

In a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and congressional leaders, they are calling for job-impact and cost-benefit analyses, greater congressional oversight and its approval of major rules changes.

Aaron Schackelford / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The billionaire Wilbur Ross is headed for Senate confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Commerce. Ross made it to ultra-rich status in part by salvaging coal and steel assets in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. His business dealings leave a mixed legacy in the Ohio Valley region, from rescued steel mills to the site of a searing workplace disaster, and raise questions about the leadership he would bring to the president’s cabinet.  

 

Pages