Energy & Environment

Mountaintop Removal
4:56 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Alpha Natural Resources Reaches Settlement

Alpha Natural Resources has reached a settlement with environmental groups over stream pollution from two affiliated mountaintop removal mining complexes.

The proposal filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Huntington requires judicial approval.

The settlement addressing high conductivity discharges gives Alpha until August 2019 to meet water cleanup marks.

In June, a judge ruled Elk Run Coal and Alex Energy mines harmed aquatic life in a Boone County creek and Robinson Fork in Nicholas County.

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Natural Gas
10:14 pm
Sun December 14, 2014

Industry Backed Bill Could Force Mineral Owners to Sell

President of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association Kevin Ellis presented the bill to lawmakers during a November interim meeting.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers return to town this week for their final interim session of 2014, they'll learn more about a practice in the natural gas industry companies want them to approve through legislation: forced pooling.

Kevin Ellis, president of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, explained to lawmakers during a November meeting, when companies prepare to drill a well they create a giant rectangle of land parcels and then negotiate with each mineral owner within that rectangle for their gas rights.

By pooling these owners together, companies can drill a well and then pay out mineral owners proportionally by land acreage for the gas produced.

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5:04 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Judge Orders Hearing on Motion to Lift Gag Order

Credit Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

The judge in Don Blankenship's case has scheduled a hearing after the former Massey CEO responded Thursday to a request by several news outlets to lift a gag order.  

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued the order Thursday evening scheduling a hearing on the motion to lift the gag order.

That motion was filed by the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, The Charleston Gazette, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio Nov. 14.

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4:24 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Petition Asks W.Va. Govenor Not to Allow Drilling Under Ohio River

Ohio River

Govenor Earl Ray Tomblin received a petition with 3,820 signatures requesting he disallow horizontal drilling under the Ohio River.

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Law & Order
3:35 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

House Releases Policy Paper on Coal Ash

Little Blue Run Coal Ash Impoundment

Today from Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a policy paper that addresses coal ash disposal.

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Water Supply
9:59 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Coal Operator Ordered to Replace Water Supply

A Wyoming County judge has ordered a coal operator to replace the water supplies of residents living near one of its mines.

Circuit Judge Warren McGraw granted an injunction sought by more than a dozen residents living near Mechel Bluestone's Dynamic Energy Inc. mining complex. The residents alleged that their water supplies were damaged by the mining operations.

McGraw's ruling says water test results submitted by the plaintiffs showed high levels of arsenic, aluminum, lead, iron and other pollutants.

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An Inspiring West Virginian
12:16 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Moundsville Native Is A Pioneering Astrobiophysicist

Pioneering scientist Adrian Melott says his curiosity stems from the chemistry lab he was allowed as a child in his Moundsville, WV home.
Credit Jean Snedegar

During his distinguished career, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Adrian Melott has been a pioneer in two completely different fields of space science – and he credits his focus and curiosity in large part to his grandfather who read a lot about science, and his father, a machinist who allowed him “free reign” in a chemistry lab in the family basement.

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11:08 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Alpha Won't Lay Off 750 West Virginia Coal Miners

  About 750 Alpha Natural Resources workers at West Virginia coal mines will keep their jobs, despite layoff warnings this summer.

In a news release Monday, Alpha said operations will continue at eight mines in Logan, Mingo, Boone and Raleigh counties.

In July, Alpha warned 1,100 West Virginia workers at 11 mines of anticipated layoffs. The mines produced about 75 percent thermal coal for power generation, and 25 percent metallurgical coal for steel production.

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Mine Safety
3:26 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

Map: Where West Virginia Mine Operators Owe Millions in Delinquent Fines

Credit Mine Safety and Health Administration / U.S. Department of Labor

A recent investigation by NPR and Mine Safety and Health News revealed thousands of delinquent fines by mine operators across the county. Those fines, which are handed down by the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, range in their delinquency from months to decades--sometimes adding up to millions of dollars worth of fines. West Virginia mine operators had nearly $10.8 million in delinquent mine safety penalties at 312 mines (as of March 31, 2014).

Three West Virginia-based mine controllers are among the mine owners with the ten highest delinquent penalty amounts, according to the investigation by NPR and Mine Safety and Health News:

  1. James C. Justice II, Southern Coal Corp.: $1,995,327  (Justice's delinquencies are in multiple states. He began paying delinquent penalties at the rate of $100,000 a month after being contacted by NPR.)
  2. Brandy M. Horvath, New West Virginia Mining Company: $1,369,224 (Horvath was involved in a federal criminal case for tax charges that resulted in a 2013 plea agreement and prison sentence.  The court ultimately ruled that Horvath was not the actual controller.)
  3. Richard H. Abraham, Rio Group: $ 982,252 (After NPR series aired, MSHA revealed that Abraham is engaged in negotiations.)

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Energy & Environment
2:43 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

Chesapeake Energy Royalty Practice Investigated

Chesapeake Energy's royalty payment practice is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and several states.

The company says in a recent regulatory filing that it has received subpoenas from the federal agency and the states seeking information on its royalty payment practice.

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10:54 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Arch Coal Again Appeals W.Va. Strip Mine Permit Veto

 Arch Coal is continuing to fight a 2011 veto of a West Virginia strip mining permit.

Late last month in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Arch's Mingo Logan Coal Co. subsidiary filed an appeal notice for the Spruce No. 1 mine case.

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency retroactively vetoed the mine's permit, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued four years earlier.

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12:59 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Delegate Says DEP Hasn't Moved on Requests About Injection Well

A waste pond at the Lochghelly injection well site.
Credit Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Delegate John Pino requested two things of the state Department of Environmental Protection during a November interim meeting. The first was information about the permit status of an injection well in Fayette County, his district. The second was for the department to conduct tests of a creek near the site for possible contamination.

Three weeks later, Pino said he still hasn’t heard from the agency.

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Energy & Environment
9:02 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

State Environmental Regulators, Coal and Power Industries Submit Comments on EPA Carbon Rules

Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State environmental regulators and leaders of the coal and power industries announced yesterday they’d filed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules that aim to reduce carbon emissions.

Governor Tomblin said the Department of Environmental protection worked with the West Virginia Division of Energy and the state Public Service Commission in filing a nearly 70 page document responding to the proposed rules . At a news conference Monday, Tomblin called those rules “unprecedented” and “illegal.”

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2:07 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Media Outlets Challenge Gag Order in Blankenship Case

A sketch of Don Blankenship during his November plea hearing.
Credit Sketch artist Jesse Corlis

The Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting joined four other news outlets challenging a judge's gag order in a former West Virginia coal executive's criminal case. 

The motion was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Beckley by The Associated Press, The Charleston Gazette, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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1:16 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Dominion: Pipeline Means $25 Million in Property Taxes

Credit Dominion Resources

Energy provider Dominion Resources says a proposed pipeline that would deliver natural gas to the Southeast would provide more than $25 million in annual local property taxes.

The Richmond, Virginia-based company said Monday it has provided the property tax estimates to local governments regarding the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

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Carbon Emissions
11:45 am
Mon December 1, 2014

EPA Reaches Final Day of Public Comment on Proposed Carbon Emission Rule

The Mt. Storm power plant is coal-fired and would have to reduce carbon emissions under the EPA proposed rule.
Credit Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Monday is the final day the federal Environmental Protection Agency will accept comments on their proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from coal fired power plants.

The EPA announced the rule in June of this year aimed at cutting CO2 emissions for the country by 30 percent by 2030. Individually if the rule were approved as is, West Virginia would have to cut its emissions by 15 percent compared to 2012 measurements.

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West Virginia Morning
8:21 am
Mon December 1, 2014

WVU Clinician Chooses Home, Greenbank Meeting on Proposed Pipeline

A West Virginia native, Bill Petros led world renowned Duke University Cancer Center for a decade, but when the opportunity arose to continue his work at home, he left Duke for a spot at West Virginia University.

Dominion Resources' Atlantic Coast Pipeline has caused an uproar in some Virginia counties in its path, but in West Virginia, the proposed pipeline is just starting to gain attention. A recent meeting in Greenbank in Pocahontas County was focused on helping property owners understand the project and what they can do to protect their land.

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Mine Strike
11:22 am
Tue November 25, 2014

United Mine Workers Responds to Strike Complaint

A court filing offers new details into a labor dispute between the United Mine Workers of America and a Patriot Coal subsidiary.  

UMW Local No. 1570 filed a response Monday to a lawsuit filed in October by Eastern Associated Coal. Eastern filed the lawsuit after union members walked off the job at the Federal No. 2 mine on the morning of October 17. 

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3:22 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

W.Va. Poet: “Appalachian Blackface” Story of 2014 Election Cycle

West Virginia poet Crystal Good.
Credit Paul Corbitt Brown

Editor's Note: The audio links in this story contain some racially charged words that may not be suitable for all listeners. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you a story. It’s a strange, fascinating and awful tale staged in West Virginia during the 21st century when they developed a unique craft, an art form of performance known as Appalachian blackface."

The opening lines of Crystal Good's newest poem "Appalachian Blackface" are meant to pull the audience into a theatrical tale, one where the politicians are the performers and West Virginia voters the ticket holders to a show the centers around coal, economics and race.

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Inside Appalachia
3:39 pm
Sat November 22, 2014

Coal Co. Operating Above the Law, Revitalizing Coal Country, 14-Year-Old TN Banjo Picker & more

Credit 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.

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