Coal

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A slumping coal industry has put a Coalfields Expressway project in southern West Virginia on hold.

The state planned to build a section of the four-lane highway in McDowell County through a public-private partnership with a coal company. The company would convert a mined area into roadbed.

Coalfields Expressway Authority executive director Richard Browning says discussions about the project have stopped because of a depressed coal market.

AllVoices.com

Members of the U.S. Senate will soon consider a bill that could affect the pension and healthcare benefits of nearly 28 thousand retired West Virginia coal miners.

Authorities say a coal miner was killed over the weekend in an accident at a mine in southwestern Pennsylvania.

At approximately 12:15 AM on June 28, 2015, John William “Bill” Kelly, 55 years old, of Albright, West Virginia a long-term employee of Mepco, LLC, was fatally injured. According to a release from Mepco, Kelly died in an accident at the Company’s 4 West Mine located near Mount Morris, Pennsylvania. In the release, Mepco also released this statement:

The Front Porch Podcast
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Increasingly, working class men in Appalachia can't find work.

Central Appalachia has seen thousands of layoffs in the coal industry this decade. More and more, women are the main breadwinners.

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

Representatives from the coal industry in West Virginia met with local and state lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the future of the coal industry. Their talk focused on combating Federal environmental regulations, including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a proposed federal rule meant to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants.

Atlanta Journal Constitution, John Harmon, October 1997

This week, we remember Jean Ritchie, who's been called the mother of Appalachian folk music.

Clay Scott / High Plains News

West Virginia University researchers predict that state coal production will drop 39 percent compared with the industry's last high point in 2008.

The WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research released a report Thursday assessing coal production outlook over the next 20 years.

Coal giant Murray Energy expects to lay off more than 1,800 mine workers, mostly miners in West Virginia. The St. Clairsville, Ohio-based company announced Friday it plans to lay off 1,417  miners in West Virginia. The Monongalia County mine would be hit hardest, with 588 layoffs.

Courtesy of Kenneth King and the WV Mine Wars Museum

Amid news of more mine lay-offs, one former coal town has built a labor museum to attract visitors. Driving down to the new West Virginia Mine Wars Museum , you really feel the fading towns and cities, sliding into the backdrop of the mountains. It's surreal. Many places in Appalachia are. It’s sad to many people who remember the thriving economy here when coal was booming. Wilma Lee Steele says she hopes the museum in Matewan will become a place where people throughout the coalfields can come to reclaim their identity. “I think that we have a lot to say, and I think we’re gonna say it. We’re gonna tell our history, and we’re gonna come together as a community.”

Perry Bennett / WV Legislative Photography

Lawmakers met at the Capitol in Charleston Monday to show support for US Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s proposed legislation that will roll back the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan in West Virginia.

Senator Capito’s proposed legislation is called ARENA, or the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act. Co-sponsored by US Senator Joe Manchin, the bill would provide a way for a state’s governor to opt out of a state or federal plan that could negatively impact economic growth or electricity ratepayers.

Credit Courtesy Of WV State Archives (WVSA), Coal Life Collection

This past weekend, over 500 people visited Matewan, West Virginia to catch a glimpse of a new museum that tells the story of a dark and bloody time in West Virginia’s labor history.

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

Several federal government agencies are teaming up to send $35.5 million to help communities and workers adapt to the decline in coal jobs.  The grant is part of the  Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization  initiative, known as POWER, led by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Agency.

Catherine Moore

If you live in Appalachia, you know that one of the most sensitive topics to talk about can be coal. In this episode of "Inside Appalachia," we'll hear liberal and conservative points of view, as we take on the complicated subject of the future of coal.

Cleaning Up Coal's Legacy of Fires and Landslides

Apr 24, 2015
Jim Holliday is a veteran mine inspector in Kentucky.
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

  This story is part of the ‘The Future of Coal’—a collaboration of The Allegheny FrontWest Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Inside Energy.

Many of Appalachia’s coal mines were dug before the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 was passed. Thousands of problem mines throughout the region are not subject to that law’s protections. These so-called pre-law mines come with a bevy of issues—they fill up with water, cause landslides, and catch fire.

Hard times have come yet again to the coalfields of West Virginia -- massive layoffs, big cuts in production. The coal severance tax is down by about half in many coal counties.

That's what we're talking about this week on “The Front Porch”, our podcast where we bring together people with diverse views and backgrounds to see where we can find common ground.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In the first days of the 2015 Legislative session, energy was the focus of legislators’ attention. A bill that first began as a total repeal of the alternative and renewable energy portfolio act soon became only a partial repeal as lawmakers’ attempted to leave in place current net metering standards.

Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office will present oral arguments before a U.S. Court of Appeals Thursday fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon emission standards. 

The proposed standards were released for comment last summer by the federal EPA. They would require states across the country to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent in 15 years, focusing particularly on emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Wendell Smith/Flickr

Here in Appalachia, it’s ramp season, and that means many small towns have their annual ramp feed to help raise money for their communities. This week we’ll travel to the Feast of the Ramson in Richwood, West Virginia, where we’ll meet 12-year-old ramp digger, Tyler McCune. And we’ll head to the Shenandoah Valley to hear a crowd of shape note singers. Although more and more people are leaving Appalachia, we will also hearing from some, like musician John Wyatt, who have returned home.

Catherine Moore

This story was supported by High Plains News. It’s part of the ‘The Future of Coal’a collaboration of The Allegheny Front, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Inside Energy.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made by Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

Representatives of the coal and gas industry as well as solar are expected to speak at a public forum in Martinsburg next week. The forum is about energy and how it relates to West Virginia’s economy.

photo courtesy Coal River Mountain Watch

In Charleston on Monday, about 200 people gathered in front of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection headquarters to demand a moratorium on mountaintop removal mining permits.

Protesters cited several health studies that show a direct link between high rates of cancer and mountaintop removal mining. One of the six environmental groups that organized the rally was Coal River Mountain Watch. Vernon Haltom is the group’s executive director.

West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University Libraries

Earlier this month in West Virginia, a CSX train derailed, causing giant fireballs to stretch hundreds of feet into the air and one home to be destroyed. Investigators are trying to figure out what happened to cause this derailment. February also marks the anniversary of other industrial accidents. On this episode, we'll hear from folks who have survived them, and hear why many people are concerned that more of these accidents could happen in the future.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The House passed Senate Bill 357 Friday, the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015. This bill has caused a lot of controversy, so it was no surprise when the House debated the bill for two hours. Republicans feel like the bill is an update to previous safety laws, while some Democrats feel like it’s a scale back.

Bettman/Corbis / NPR

In this episode, we'll hear reactions to Obama's proposed tax credits and other funding for Appalachia. And we'll talk with documentary filmmaker John Nakashima, whose new film, "The First 1000 Days," explores the effects of poverty on young children.

 

We'll also take a look back at how the lessons from the War on Poverty could shine light on present day economic development efforts.

President Barack Obama's new budget proposal includes more than $3 billion worth of tax credits and other spending to help the Appalachian region recover from the declining coal industry. People across the coalfields are responding with mixed feelings.

In southern West Virginia, many people see initiatives from the Obama administration and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon emissions as an attack on their livelihoods.

So it’s not surprising to hear skepticism and doubt from the coalfields when the president announces intentions to throw a financial lifeline to Appalachia.


Emotions were high in the House Chamber Thursday as House Bill 2001 was on its third reading and up for a vote.

Fairness West Virginia

Songwriter Sam Gleaves was inspired by the story of Sam Williams, a former coal miner who was harassed at work for being gay. 

Sam Gleaves is a musician who grew up playing old time mountain music in Southwestern Virginia. His songs have a high lonesome, old-time sound. Their roots are deep in Appalachia, and the stories they tell explore some bitter truths about how hard it can be to be different here. I met up with Gleaves at his home in Berea, KY to talk about one song in particular.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  The Republican-run state House of Delegates has passed a repeal of an energy portfolio.

The House voted 95-4 Thursday to repeal the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

The portfolio requires generating 25 percent of electricity with renewable or alternative power sources by 2025. Some coal-burning technologies qualify.

Patriot Coal

Patriot Coal Corp. has relocated its headquarters from St. Louis to West Virginia.

The company says in a news release that its operations office in Scott Depot became the company's headquarters effective Jan. 1.

Patriot Coal says the move will reduce administrative costs and put the headquarters closer to its mining operations and customers.

The transition began in November and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015.

Patriot Coal has eight mining complexes in West Virginia and two in western Kentucky.

 

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