Energy & Enivornment

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.

Jessica Lilly

The coal industry has done a lot for central Appalachia. It’s created jobs, and it’s helped many families afford college. Coal has also created a  very strong sense of pride. But as jobs in the coal industry have declined, so have the opportunities in Central  Appalachia. On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we explore one of the legacies of of the industry: crumbling water infrastructure.

Tim Reddinger, Ohio River, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s easy to take the water coming out of your faucet for granted, but tragedies like the Elk River Chemical spill that left thousands of residents in West Virginia's capital city without water for days have put tap water front and center.

Appalachia is no stranger to water contamination, especially in places with a history of heavy industry, like the Ohio River Valley. But as a large source of drinking water, how do we know it’s safe?

early fall at Dolly Sods, WV
wikimedia / ForestWander

Updated on 10-06-2016 10:50 a.m.

The Closure Order for the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area was lifted on October 5, 2016 and all trails are now open. A Fire Ban in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area is still in effect due to prolonged drought and will remain in place until weather conditions improve.  Gas powered backpacking/camping stoves are allowed in the wilderness area.  The current Fire Ban no longer includes the Red Creek Campground and Dolly Sods Picnic Area.

Updated on 09-29-16 5:55 p.m.

Two out of the five wildfires in the Dolly Sods Wilderness have been completely extinguished, and two more fires have been 100 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service team that is managing the Red Creek Fires. There is a fifth fire that firefighters haven't yet been able to contain. This fire was discovered Wednesday, September 29. An explosive safety specialist has been called in to inspect the area surrounding the fifth fire to make sure there are no unexploded ordinances nearby. During World War II, the Dolly Sods Wilderness area was used as a training ground for soldiers, and many artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice still exist.

The southwestern portions of Dolly Sods in Tucker County are closed until further notice. The rest of the wilderness area is still open for camping and hiking.


The fires are a 4-mile hike from the nearest road. Thirty Forest Service employees are managing the fires, with the assistance of horses that have packed in supplies.

 

Updated on 09-28-16 4:40 p.m.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are now five wildfires burning in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.  All of the fires are small, less than an acre in size.  Three of the five wildfires are 80-100 percent contained.  It has been determined that three of the five wildfires were caused by unattended campfires.  The cause of the fourth and fifth fire is still under investigation.  Fire suppression efforts continue Wednesday and rain is forecasted for the next couple of days, which authorities say should help their efforts to fight the fires.

The Big Stonecoal Trail, Little Stonecoal Trail, Breathed Mountain Trail, Rocky Point Trail and Dunkenbarger Trail all remained closed in Dolly Sods. A fire ban is in place throughout most of the Dolly Sods area.

Updated on 09-26-16 9:30 p.m.

This past weekend was the peak time for tourists to visit Dolly Sods to see the leaves change for fall. But some of these visitors left behind smoldering campfires, and now four wildfires are burning in the area.

The first fire was discovered two weeks ago on September 16th. That fire is still burning, as well as three more that were discovered last Thursday, and this past weekend. Unattended campfires are believed to have caused three of the fires - and the cause of the fourth is still under investigation.

Reid Frazier/ The Allegheny Front

On this week's show, we hear how the natural gas industry is affecting communities in the region. We feature a special report by The Allegheny Front about environmental concerns surrounding the production and transportation of natural gas.  Hundreds of miles of new pipelines are in the works to move natural gas from the shale formations in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to markets across the country. 

National Park Service

The National Park Service is opening an environmental education center in southern West Virginia.

The New River Gorge National River says in a news release that a grand opening celebration will be held May 21 for the new Camp Brookside center in the Summers County community of Brooks. The event is free and open to the public.

West Virginia National Guard, Army National Guard, National Guard, Camp Dawson, Preston County
West Virginia National Guard

The West Virginia National Guard’s Camp Dawson has been recognized for its environmental conservation efforts.

The military training facility in Preston County was one of nine winners from a total of 30 nominations for the 2016 Secretary of Defense Environmental award.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On April 5, 2010, Howard "Boone" Payne went to work at the Upper Big Branch mine just as he had for years. He and 28 other men made their way miles underground to the mine's long wall operation, spent hours mining coal, and prepared to wrap up their day when the unthinkable happened- an explosion that took all of their lives.

Six years later, Boone's sisters Shirley Whitt and Sherry Keeney Depoy say there is still a void left in their family that cannot be filled. 

wikimedia

State officials expect a $353 million deficit for the current budget year as revenues from unearthing coal, oil and natural gas continue to drop.

pipeline
AP Photo/Sergii Ryzhkov

A new 50-mile pipeline is gathering natural gas from north central West Virginia and sending it to markets.

The Stonewall Gas Gathering Pipeline began operations on November 30. The Exponent Telegram reports that the pipeline runs from Doddridge County to a Columbia Gas pipeline in Braxton County that transports gas to markets across the Mid-Atlantic and the Gulf Coast.

WCHSTV

Kanawha County official says authorities believe a diesel fuel spill in a creek was intentional.

Media outlets report that the spill was discovered early Tuesday morning in a creek in Eskdale.

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Appalachian Power plans to add up to 150 megawatts of wind power to its renewable energy portfolio. 

In a regulatory filing, the company says it plans to issue a request for proposals from bidders in February 2016. The company will seek proposals to purchase wind power assets or to buy electricity generated by wind power projects.

Energy companies will pay $18 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died in a flash fire at a natural gas station in Tyler County.

The settlement involves the April 2013 death of Bruce Phipps. Karen Phipps filed the lawsuit in Ohio County Circuit Court after her husband and two other workers were severely burned at the Eureka Hunter Pipeline facility in the town of Wick. The other workers survived.

water faucet
wikimedia

The city of Wheeling plans to boost its backup well water system's capacity by drilling two additional wells.

Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

Attorneys for former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship want evidence about the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine kept out of his criminal trial this fall.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the attorneys filed a motion late Friday asking a federal judge to instruct jurors that the trial does not concern the explosion that killed 29 miners, its cause or who was responsible.

@yeagerairport / Twitter

Work is scheduled to begin Monday on removing part of a manmade hillside at Yeager Airport that collapsed earlier this year.

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.

National Youth Science Foundation / Canaan Valley Institute

After four months of waiting, the National Youth Science Foundation has acquired a research and education center in Tucker County.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Student Climate & Conservation Congress met for its sixth year this week in Shepherdstown, teaching high school students about conservation and leadership skills.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Some 200 miners in southern West Virginia could be back to work by the end of the summer after an announcement Monday from Bluestone Resources.

The Jim Justice owned Bluestone Resources announced in a press release they are starting the recall process for Coal Mountain mine located in Wyoming County.

Bluestone spokesman Tom Lusk said the process to notify laid-off miners of open positions began this week and is on a “fast track” to be completed in the next few days. He predicted the mine will return to full production within a month.

Lusk said the recall process at the Red Foxx mine in McDowell County will begin as soon as the Coal Mountain project is completed. The sites are expected to employ a total 200 miners.

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