Coal

"As I've gone up through science, I've realized how easy it is to have an impact on the world around you," WVU researcher Scott Cushing said, "even just doing research on the undergraduate level in a lab."
Larry Dowling / WVPublic

 

Scott Cushing grew up in the Charleston area. He once almost failed a middle school science project where he was supposed to build a machine with moving parts out of macaroni.

“It was trying to move, but couldn’t,” Cushing remembers about the macaroni engine he built. The macaroni piston failed, so the engine didn’t move. He got a C on that assignment, but clearly, he was destined for ambitious projects.

Sketch artist Jesse Corlis

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship appeared Wednesday in US Federal Court in Beckley.

Judge Irene Berger heard arguments in two hearings in relation to Blankenship’s criminal case.  

One involved a motion to lift the broad gag order while the other requested more time to prepare motions and for trial.

Several media outlets including Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and NPR are challenging a gag order Judge Berger issued after former coal company CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on federal conspiracy charges.

Republicans Pledge to Work Together

Dec 9, 2014
West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Republican lawmakers at both the state and federal levels pledge to work together to move their agendas forward.  And Governor Tomblin tells a classroom of third graders about the importance of STEM based learning. 

Paul Corbitt Brown

W.Va. Poet: “Appalachian Blackface” Story of 2014 Election Cycle: Have you ever heard the term ‘Affrilachian?’ It’s one poet Crystal Good uses to describe herself, an African American who grew up and lives in Appalachia. Good is a native of St. Albans, in West Virginia’s chemical valley. Good’s newest poem, “Appalachian Blackface,” premiered this fall at the Summit on Race Matters in Appalachia held in Charleston.

Courtesy of the Meade family

Perfect for your Thanksgiving road-trip: Fifty-one minutes of some great Appalachian stories, including: NPR's mine safety investigation continues. Where is the the mine with the highest delinquent fines in the U.S.? What happens when mines don’t pay their fines? And an update from the Appalachian Project, and how a financial adviser in Johnson City, TN decided to begin recording oral histories across Appalachia. These stories and more, in this week's episode of Inside Appalachia.

Courtesy of the Meade family

Perfect for your Thanksgiving road-trip: Fifty-one minutes of some great Appalachian stories, including: NPR's mine safety investigation continues. Where is the the mine with the highest delinquent fines in the U.S.? What happens when mines don’t pay their fines? And an update from the Appalachian Project, and how a financial adviser in Johnson City, TN decided to begin recording oral histories across Appalachia. These stories and more, in this week's episode of Inside Appalachia.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Landfilling has been the main source of getting rid of waste for centuries. But a new technology coming to West Virginia may change how we think of waste disposal, and in the long run, help our environment.

Jessica Lilly

The second meeting of the SCORE task force met in Fayette County Tuesday night.  SCORE, Southern Coalfields Organizing and Revitalizing the Economy, is an initiative aimed to give southern West Virginia much-needed opportunities to diversify the economy and strengthen communities.

Nothing was off the table as each person that chose to speak had two minutes at the podium.

Other areas of concern brought up by the community included:

  • drug abuse
  • aging population
  • disaster preparedness
  • quality child care
  • clean water

Suggestions from other speakers included:

  • renewable energy tax credits
  • selling water as a natural resource
  • funding water protection plans
  • resisting attempts to weaken environmental law
  • Ensuring the DEP is enforcing the laws


WV Division of Culture and History

Once considered untouchable, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on four federal charges in connection with the Upper Big Branch Disaster that killed 29 men in 2010. It’s news that folks in the coalfields never thought would happen.

In this episode, we’ll hear a special investigative series of reports about outlaw coal mining companies that keep operating despite injuries, violations and millions in fines.

And a new lawsuit has just been filed on behalf of the 78 coal miners who died in the Farmington Mine Disaster. We’ll hear memories from Sarah Kasnoski, one of the widows who lost her husband on that fateful date, November 20, 1968. 

Investigating Outlaw Mines That Keep Operating Despite Delinquent Fines

A recent investigative report has uncovered that some coal companies are working the system to avoid paying fines. The report also finds a connection between skirted financial penalties and injured coal miners: mines with more delinquent fines also have higher rates of injured workers.

NPR and Mine Safety and Health News sifted through citations, and documents for more than a year to find the connection. NPR’s Howard Berkes says it was no easy task. Each delinquent fine has a different start date, so tracking the injuries associated with the delinquent fines was complicated. In this episode, we hear the first three of these reports. We also talk with Berkes about mine safety and the development of these investigations.

Gary Quarles lost his son in the Upper Big Branch disaster. Since then, he's looked for peace, understanding and justice.

Quarles wanted to see Don Blankenship held accountable for the conditions at the mine and the death of his son.

Blankenship's Reputation

Quarles worked for Massey Energy as buggy operator for nine years and he knows first hand what kind of operation Blankenship was running.

“Don Blankenship’s name was known throughout Massey," he said.

Southern Coal
Patrick Graham

Another West Virginia coal miner died this week, the fifth death this year. It's a tough reality in the coalfields where families regularly pray that loved ones will come home from a day's work, as they have for decades.

As incidents are reported, media outlets often share the amount of citations or delinquent fines of the mine where the accident occurred. But to what end?


Rhode Island Senator to Visit W. Va. on Wednesday

Oct 21, 2014

As a part of their agreement to visit each other’s states, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will host Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in West Virginia on Wednesday, October 22 to demonstrate West Virginia’s ability to utilize diverse energy resources. Senator Manchin will emphasize the importance of investing in the technology needed to provide cleaner power while also ensuring reliable and affordable electricity throughout the United States.

The government says that the number of chronic safety violators among mine operators has fallen sharply in recent years.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says the number has dropped in response to reforms the agency has taken to rein in mines cited frequently for safety violations.

Prior to 2010 no mine had ever been placed on a pattern of violations, or POV status. Safety reforms aligned the POV regulatory rule, with Congress’s original intent in enacting the Mine Act.
 

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jay Rockefeller and plan to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring more fair treatment for coal miners with black lung disease as they pursue benefits claims.

The bill by the two coal-state senators comes after an investigation examined how doctors and lawyers, working at the behest of the coal industry, helped defeat the benefits claims of sick miners. The investigation was done by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News.

Senator Rockefeller introduced the Black Lung Health Improvements Act last year, but the new bill is expected to address issues uncovered in the investigation.

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

  West Virginia's top legislative leaders don't think clamoring over coal this election helps Appalachia's already-sputtering industry.

A U.S. Senate race and two competitive House contests have hammered on fear of federal regulation further stifling coal.

Republicans lump Democrats in with President Obama, an ever-unpopular figure in West Virginia. Democrats zig-zag to show they don't support his energy policies.

In Virginia, ordinary citizens are being specially trained to monitor water quality.

We remember Brother Claude Ely, known as the Gospel Ranger.

And in West Virginia, what was it like to grow up in a federal prison camp?  Ed and Agnes Friel’s parents were corrections officers there.

As the coal industry continues to decline--what many say isn't a "typical bust"--The Washington Post reports on the struggles of those in southern West Virginia looking to find new job opportunities and other ways to gather an income.

Shawn Brackbill

This week, "A Change of Tune" host Joni Deutsch interviews Yeasayer co-founder Anand Wilder about his indie Appalachian musical “Break Line." The record features musicians from major indie/alt bands like Chairlift, MGMT, and Vampire Weekend, and the musical itself is inspired by West Virginia’s coal mining past. If you’re a fan of indie rock collaborations and classic rock operas, this interview is recommended for you.

Capital punishment is debated in Kentucky.

Coal camp communities are working to cope with dated water systems created by coal companies.

A farmer’s market is provides summer meals to children. 

Questioning Capital Punishment in Kentucky:  Mirroring a national trend, the debate over capital punishment continues to makes headlines in Kentucky. Earlier this month, the state legislature held the first public hearing testimony on the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1976. As Kentucky Public Radio’s Jonathan Meador found that arguments for and against a bipartisan legislative effort to abolish capital punishment boil down to, in part, a moral quandary over vengeance versus forgiveness.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Bluefield Coal Symposium brings together government and industry leaders to discuss challenges, West Virginia parallels Kentucky in coal jobs and politics in regards to the widely talked about "war on coal", and McDowell residents get closer to having safe water.

AllVoices.com

The "war on coal" is a phrase that's increasingly popular in Central Appalachia politics. With declines in coal jobs and new rules from the EPA to target carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, the words become hugely political--especially during an election year.

But the phrase's validity certainly begs question, at least according to a recent article by Erica Peterson of WFPL in Louisville.

Just last week, Peterson--who began her career as a reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting--detailed the ups and downs of Kentucky's coal jobs back to the Reagan administration beginning in 1981, examining the loss or gain of coal mining employment within that state across presidencies. What she found was, that if a war on coal exists in Kentucky, the blame goes farther back than President Barack Obama. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  Members of Congress, state government and industry representatives gathered in Bluefield Tuesday for the Bluefield Coal Symposium. The annual event gathers leaders to discuss the major issues facing the industry.

On the panel were Congressmen Nick Rahall and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Rainey and Alpha Natural Resources Senior Vice President of Environmental Affairs Gene Kitts. Sen. Joe Manchin served as the moderator.

Kentucky pastors sound off about gay marriage.

A former addict urges drug courts to address the roots of addiction.

The America Legion says the VA is a system worth saving.

 

Recent upgrades could help a Putnam County power plant save $10 million annually by moving coal more quickly on barges.

The $6 million investment at Appalachian Power's John E. Amos Power Plant in Poca reduces the time to change a barge from 45 minutes to five.

Parent company spokeswoman Tammy Ridout says the company can now unload a full barge while an empty barge is pulled away. The technology became operational in April.

The Department of Energy has named a new director for the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which has offices in five states including West Virginia.

The DOE said in a press release that Grace Bochenek  will manage day-to-day operations for more than 1,000 employees from their Pittsburgh office. Those employees work on new technologies to manage and use fossil fuel energy.

Bochenek  has more than 25 years of technical and management experience with the Department of Defense, most recently as the first Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

From Boone County banker Lee Milam's experience, each round of coal mine layoffs that hits southern West Virginia stifles his community's already-fragile economy.Thursday's news was especially bitter. Coal giant Alpha Natural Resources revealed plans to shed 1,100 workers at 11 West Virginia surface mines and related operations by mid-October. In Boone, where about 2,400 people work in coal mining, two mines employing 462 people could be shuttered.

Appalachian voices sound off at hearings about proposed EPA regulations:  “Our jobs our securities, for our families, I’m a recent retiree my benefits may be in jeopardy.”

But some residents are supporting new regulations: “We need to make it clear that the EPA does have the authority and the mandate and moral obligation to reign in CO 2 emissions.”

A Kentucky political tradition goes without a strong voice: “Darling if you want to use your outside voice you can go over there and play on the playground, OK. We’re trying to get some serious conversation going on so you can go over there play on the playground.”

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

One of the nation's largest coal producers said Thursday it expects to lay off 1,100 workers at 11 southern West Virginia surface coal mines by mid-October, citing dismal markets and federal regulation.

The announcement by Alpha Natural Resources dealt another blow to Appalachia's iconic, but dwindling, fossil fuel industry. The company said 2015 industry forecasts show Central Appalachian coal production will be less than half of its 2009 output.

Jessica Lilly

Landmark regulation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration meant to lower the amount of dust in mines begins Friday. The first part is meant to fix the loopholes in the sampling process. Victims of black lung hope the new regulations give young workers a better future. 

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