Coal

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the coal industry in West Virginia has been struggling, but over the past several months, revenues from coal severance taxes have increased for the state. That’s because of increased demand overseas, says West Virginia University Research Assistant Professor Brian Lego.

Lego is a member of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research team that recently released its annual report predicting the future of the industry. He discussed the report with Ashton Marra.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Rick Perry at Longview Power Plant
Glynis Board

Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured a modern and relatively clean coal-fired power plant in West Virginia in order to tout the benefits of coal in a competitive energy market. But the secretary’s comments generated some controversy.

RIck Perry
Eric Gay / AP

After touring one of the few recently built coal-fired power plants in the U.S., Energy Secretary Rick Perry says they're important for the country's future.

Perry says a stable baseload of electricity is important and this technology provides "the ability to deliver a secure, economical and environmentally good source of energy."

Peabody Energy, Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

Short term coal production in West Virginia is likely to increase, according to a report released by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Those short term gains won't off set overall production declines in the industry.

The annual report published by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research is titled "Coal Production in West Virginia." It sets out both long term and short term outlooks in the industry.

AllVoices.com

Alpha Natural Resources has announced the sales of a coal mining complex and a natural gas operation in West Virginia.

The company, which emerged from bankruptcy reorganization last year, says its Green Valley mining assets in Nicholas and Greenbrier counties are being sold to Quinwood Coal Co.

Michael Virtanen / AP

MATOAKA, W.Va. — The red caboose parked at the edge of a rundown commercial block is the only rail car some people have seen in Matoaka in more than a year.

It bears the markings of the Norfolk and Western Railway, a company merged years ago and absorbed into oblivion, like Amoco and Oldsmobile. It has come to rest here, a relic of the past.

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.

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