coal

Kentucky Unlikely To Meet New Climate Change Goal

19 hours ago
Kyeland Jackson

Kentucky has just 12 years to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to do its part to save the planet from the worst impacts of climate change, according to a new report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change.

Monday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says humankind is already living in a warming world and the planet is on track to be 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than pre-industrial levels around 2040, according to the report.

Rising global temperatures contribute to Kentucky’s weather variability increasing the risk of droughts, heat waves, extreme storms and heavy rainfall.

JESSE WRIGHT / WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING

The Justice family companies’ difficulties paying taxes over the years are well documented. But tax collectors haven’t been the only ones trying to recover debts from companies once operated by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and now in control of his family.

A review of court documents by the Ohio Valley ReSource found at least five cases in which judges ruled that Justice family companies failed to pay suppliers for goods or services. When compelled by courts to pay, the companies either refused or failed to meet agreed upon payments.


Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act. 

Pension Problem

A United Mine Workers of America spokesperson said the miners’ pension fund could become insolvent by 2022. Congress created a Joint Select Committee to shore up this and other similar pension funds that are in jeopardy. But UMWA spokesperson Phil Smith is concerned that the committee is not making enough progress. Smith said Congressional Democrats have proposed a potential solution but Republicans have not responded.


Stephen George

The mining engineer from Lexington, Kentucky, President Donald Trump nominated to lead the federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement has withdrawn his nomination over issues with the vetting process.

Trump tapped Steven Gardner, CEO of Lexington consulting firm ECSI LLC, to lead the office last October. Gardner has more than four decades of experience working with and advocating for the mining industry.

But Gardner is withdrawing his nomination after a year of negotiations with the Office of Government Ethics over conditions of an ethical agreement, he told Bloomberg’s Stephen Lee on Thursday.

Kara Lofton, WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

Earlier that day the Environmental Protection Agency released the new Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE, to replace the Clean Power Plan.


The Trump's administration's proposal to relax regulations on carbon emissions is welcome news in coal producing states like Wyoming, even as people in the industry acknowledge its impact would be limited.

Kara Lofton, WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region's traditional but faltering industries -- metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

The next day, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross presided over the ceremonial start-up of a production line at a Kentucky aluminum company that has increased production in response to Trump’s tariffs on imported metals.


Coal Miners Respiratory Clinic

When former coal mine employees in western Kentucky faced arraignment Wednesday on federal charges that they conspired to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust, the hearing brought renewed attention to the region’s surge in black lung disease.

The case highlights the many challenges miners face in the workplace. And health officials in black lung clinics say sick miners also face an increasingly Byzantine bureaucratic process that determines if those afflicted with the lung disease receive benefits.


Ashton Marra, WVPB

In October, 2016, NPR, Ohio Valley ReSource and its partners reported that West Virginia billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, who was running for governor as a Democrat, owned companies that owed roughly $15 million in overdue taxes and mine safety fines.

This week, Gov. Justice, who is now a Republican, made an announcement about those taxes.

“I think we can put to bed once and for all this tax issue that’s been looming around forever more,” Justice said at a Monday press conference. 


Becca Schimmel

Eight former employees of two western Kentucky coal mines entered not guilty pleas at an arraignment hearing Wednesday. Those defendants are being federally charged with cheating on safety monitoring which is meant to reduce the risk of black lung disease.

Miners who work in the dustiest areas routinely wear monitoring devices. The indictment alleges those workers would be replaced mid-shift with miners who were not wearing the devices. Officials at Armstrong Coal Company are also accused of fabricating tests and submitting results from days when the mine wasn’t operating.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said money his family’s coal companies owe in West Virginia has been paid.

At a Monday news conference, West Virginia revenue officials said the obligations from Justice’s companies had been paid, including fines and taxes.

“The state is completely and totally satisfied with the resolution of these matters,” Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said.

Justice didn’t say how much was owed and paid or whether the debt obligations were reduced as part of negotiations. He also noted it would likely be a few days before the liens were released by the county offices, making the settlement of the debts official.

New Coal Ash Rules Extend Deadlines For Leaking Ponds

Aug 1, 2018
Kentucky Division of Waste Management

Kentucky power plants will have more time to clean up pollution leaking out of coal ash landfills and ponds under new federal rules.

Last month, A WFPL News and Ohio Valley ReSource analysis found contaminated groundwater at 14 Kentucky power plants. That’s every power plant covered under the federal rules.

The pollution comes from the piles of ash leftover from burning coal for energy. In Kentucky, the ash is stored in landfills and ponds that are mostly unlined — meaning there isn’t any sort of barrier between the coal ash and the soil.

Brittany Patterson

A pilot-scale facility that extracts valuable rare earth elements from coal waste byproducts officially opened its doors this week at West Virginia University.

Advocates of the project are hopeful that environmental waste left by Appalachia’s coal mining legacy could one day fuel an economic boom in the region while also providing some national security.

"This could go a long way forward in creating new economic opportunity for West Virginia and this region and treat acid mine drainage, and turn it into a financial boon instead of a financial burden," Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute told the crowd.


Adelina Lancianese

Western Kentucky District U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman didn’t hide his emotion when announcing federal charges against a coal company for faking coal dust samples.

“This is one of those that just made me angry, it just made me angry to see the impact on these miners,” Coleman said.

 

Coleman unsealed indictments Wednesday against eight employees of the now-bankrupt Armstrong Energy coal company for falsifying dust monitoring samples in two of its Kentucky mines.


Still from White House video

President Donald Trump’s desire to help boost the Ohio Valley’s energy industry and bring back mining jobs could be stymied by the administration's escalating trade battle with China and other trading partners across the globe.

The Trump administration announced in June $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, which are set to go into effect on Friday. In return, China has committed to its own $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. exports, which may include U.S. energy exports.


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