Energy & Environment

Underground Fires, Toxins in Unfunded Cleanup of Old Mines

Jan 28, 2017
Rob Rice, left, chief of the West Virginia Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation, and planner Jonathan Knight check on the smoldering underground fire at a long-abandoned coal mine in Preston County, W.Va.
Michael Virtanen / Associated Press

PRESTON COUNTY — An underground coal mine fire burns beneath a sprawling hillside in West Virginia, the pale, acrid smoke rising from gashes in the scarred, muddy earth only a stone's throw from some houses.

 

The fire, which may have started with arson, lightning or a forest fire, smoldered for several years before bursting into flames last July in rural Preston County. The growing blaze moved the mine to the top of a list of thousands of problem decades-old coal sites in West Virginia awaiting cleanup and vying for limited federal funds.

 

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP
Department of Environmental Protection

The new head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection fired two workers responsible for interacting with the public.

Chief communications director Kelley Gillenwater as well as environmental advocate Wendy Radcliff were both fired at the DEP. Radcliff’s role was largely to facilitate any problems or concerns between communities and the agency. Both positions are mandated by state law.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was enthusiastic in his support of President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. During his Senate confirmation hearing today on Capitol Hill, Rick Perry said his views of the agency have changed.


Cliff Owen / AP Photo

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt faced questions from Senators in his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

AP images

Two nominees for the new administration who could have a lot of influence in our region will be on Capitol Hill this week.  President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for secretary of commerce and the  Environmental Protection Agency both have confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Aaron Schackelford / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The billionaire Wilbur Ross is headed for Senate confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Commerce. Ross made it to ultra-rich status in part by salvaging coal and steel assets in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. His business dealings leave a mixed legacy in the Ohio Valley region, from rescued steel mills to the site of a searing workplace disaster, and raise questions about the leadership he would bring to the president’s cabinet.  

 

Marshall University
Wikipedia / en.wikipedia.org

A conference at Marshall University will focus on long-term recovery efforts following last summer's devastating flooding in West Virginia.

The conference will be held Friday at Marshall's Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall in Huntington.

A New Disease Strikes Oak Trees in W.Va.

Jan 9, 2017
Danielle Martin, U.S. Forest Service, Coopers Rock State Forest, oak trees, oak
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Last fall, Danielle Martin, a forest pathologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Morgantown, and her colleagues noticed something different about the oak trees in Seneca State Forest. The trees secreted an amber-colored sap, and bore cankers - which look like canker sores - underneath their bark. 

Jessica Lilly

The economy in southern West Virginia is suffering due to the collapsing of the coal industry and it’s not hard to find reports of layoffs. But an international coal company called ArcelorMittal Princeton is expanding operations at a McDowell County mine bringing 50 to 75 jobs back to the region.


Winter Weather 1/5
weather.gov

Much of the state is under a Winter Weather Advisory Thursday as snow is expected to move into the region throughout the day. 

The Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until 6 a.m. Friday, as parts of the state will see 2-4 inches of snow. 

A butterfly sanctuary is under construction at Huntington's Kinetic Park.

Huntington Municipal Development Authority executive director Tom Bell tells The Herald-Dispatch that 400 milkweeds and three varieties of perennials have been planted in the lower part of the park along Fourpole Creek.

Rebecca Kiger

Can a photograph help a community grow? One photographer is shedding some light on ongoing efforts in a region looking for some new ways to sustain itself.

Pipeline ready for construction.
Seth Perlman / Associated Press

A proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina would have adverse environmental impacts, but most could be avoided, minimized or mitigated, according to an analysis federal regulators released this week.

Flood
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A National Weather Service meteorologist called it a "1-in-1,000-year" storm. By the time it was over, 23 West Virginians were dead.

Flooding that ravaged the state in late June was voted the No. 1 news story in 2016 in West Virginia by Associated Press member newspapers and broadcasters.

Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC

State and federal agencies are calling for a more complete assessment of the environmental impact of a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through Virginia.

The Roanoke Times reported Friday that Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality weighed in on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from West Virginia to another pipeline in Pittsylvania County.

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP
Department of Environmental Protection

West Virginia conservation officials say several remediation projects at or adjacent to old mine sites have received approvals to start spending federal grants.

DuPont's Washington Works
Parkersburg News & Sentinel

The third case of some 3500 against the chemical company DuPont reached an initial verdict today. The case stems from the company’s widespread water contamination with a chemical known as C8.


The Branham Family
Benny Becker / Ohio Valley ReSource

At the age of 38, a coal miner named Mackie Branham Jr. was diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis, a debilitating and terminal form of an illness that was supposed to be a disease of the past — black lung. But Branham is among many the miners afflicted by a resurgence in the disease, and officials are just beginning to realize the scope of the problem. A review of health clinic records shows roughly a thousand such cases, many times more than federal officials had thought existed.

The creek where the WVU Stream Lab team dropped their sensors. Save the Tygart Watershed Association has been keeping tabs on the waterway since before the coal slurry pond was installed nearby.
Colleen S. Good / WVU Stream Lab Project

A federal rule announced this week is designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal mining. It’s getting sharp criticism from politicians across coal country, while environmental groups are applauding the effort.

The Obama administration on Monday set final rules designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal mining on the nation's streams, a long-anticipated move that met quick resistance from Republicans who vowed to overturn it under President-elect Donald Trump.

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