coal

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President Donald Trump nominated to lead the federal Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement has withdrawn his nomination over issues with the vetting process.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


Lisa Graves-Marcucci, Environmental Integrity Project

Curt and Debbie Havens’ ranch style home is the gathering place for their family. Their two boys grew up playing in the streets in this quiet neighborhood in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Now, their grandchildren do the same.

“They played ball, all kinds of games,” Debbie recalled during a recent interview. Family photos and knick-knacks line the walls. One heart-shaped sign reads “May love be the heart of this home.”

“Everybody wants to come to grammy’s and pappy’s,” she added.


Adelina Lancianese NPR

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences says the coal mining industry needs a “fundamental shift” in the way it controls exposure to coal and rock dust in order to prevent lung disease among miners.

Despite improvements such as an Obama-era rule to strengthen monitoring and control of dust in mines, the experts on the National Academies panel said more work is needed to address the deadly surge in cases of severe black lung disease, which is especially prevalent among Appalachian miners.


Erica Peterson

Coal-fired power plants in Kentucky continue closing even as the Trump Administration works through details on how to bail out the industry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday he wasn’t ready to provide details of the plan, but even if it was implemented tomorrow, that wouldn’t stop Owensboro, Kentucky from shutting down its coal-fired power plant in 2020.

The city of Owensboro has generated much of its own electricity for more than 100 years, but that will change when the city closes Elmer Smith Station — a coal-fired power plant operating since 1964.

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