Climate change

Jeff Young

On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities.

As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and revenue has also gained traction. Nearly every 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful has touted some version of the idea, ranging from the expansive “Green New Deal” championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to former Vice President Joe Biden’s more modest mix of worker training and direct assistance for coal country.

 


LRC Public Information

For more than a decade, Kentucky House Rep. Jim Gooch has denied the existence of human-driven climate change.

The Republican lawmaker from Providence has chaired the House Natural Resources and Energy committee for 20 out of the last 21 years. The committee is responsible for legislation including forestry, mining, flood control, public utilities and renewable energy.

Back in 2007, Gooch made national news for holding a hearing on climate change that didn’t include any actual scientists. Gooch’s views have moderated somewhat over the past 12 years, from outright denial to begrudging acceptance that humanity has in some ways contributed to warming.

 


Appalachia’s Strip-Mined Mountains Face A Growing Climate Risk: Flooding

Nov 22, 2019
Jack Spadaro

VARNEY, West Virginia — Pigeon Creek flows through a narrow mountain hollow along a string of coal mining communities, its water trickling under the red and yellow of the changing fall foliage.

The tranquil scene belies the devastation the creek delivered one night a decade ago as heavy rain fell on soggy soil and thousands of acres of nearby strip mines. Witnesses spoke of awakening in the dark of May 9, 2009, to the sound of rushing water like they had never heard before, entering their homes from underneath their doors.

Disastrous Disconnect: Coal, Climate And Catastrophe In Kentucky

Oct 28, 2019
Illustration by Joanna Eberts

This story is part of a series about the insufficient protections for vulnerable people as natural disasters worsen in a warming climate. The Center for Public Integrity and four partners – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, High Country News, Ohio Valley ReSource and StateImpact Oklahoma – are contributing stories.

REGINA, Ky. — Todd Bentley stepped onto his porch and saw the storm swelling the creek near his home. If this kept up all night, he feared, the creek could overflow its banks and wash out his neighborhood’s road. He headed out into the rain with his teenage son to secure his mother’s trailer across the street.


Drought Fueling Hazardous Kentucky Wildfire Season

Oct 2, 2019
U.S.Forest Service-Daniel Boone National Fores

Kentucky’s wildfire season has only just begun and already fires are scorching parts of the state including a popular tourist attraction at Red River Gorge.

Hot, dry weather over the last two months has left much of the state in a moderate to severe drought. The conditions have stripped much of the moisture from the state’s forests as leaves begin to fall from trees, creating additional fuel for fires to burn.

 


Becca Schimmel

A Western Kentucky University student is organizing a local event to coincide with the Global Climate Strikes

Jessica Williams is the main organizer and is designing her academic major around climate change. The WKU junior from Florence said the U.S. government needs to take climate change science seriously.

“We can’t wait another year, we can’t wait another month, we can’t wait another day. Something needs to happen now. And that’s why I am organizing the climate strike.” 

 

J. Tyler Franklin

Governor Matt Bevin threw shade at 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg and continued to cast doubt on the science behind man-made climate change during a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board on Tuesday.

Bevin’s comments came during a meeting of an interstate compact of officials from 16 southern states focused on energy and environment policies at Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel. According to a video posted by WHAS reporter Chris Williams, Bevin said Thunberg’s climate activism is based on a lack of perspective.

 


U.S. Forest Service

Kentucky coal helped fuel the state’s prosperity for generations, but production is down, mines are going bankrupt or sitting idle and the state is left with a legacy of environmental degradation.

It’s apparent in the moonscapes of the state’s mountaintop removal coal mines, the acid mine drainage of its waterways, the coal ash leftover from burning coal for electricity and the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.


White House video

President Donald Trump Tuesday toured Shell Chemical’s soon-to-be completed ethane cracker complex in Monaca, Pennsylvania, to tout his administration’s commitment to expanding energy production. The facility is part of what industry boosters hope will be a new plastics and chemical manufacturing base in the upper Ohio Valley, but many residents here worry about the heat-trapping gases and plastic waste such an industry would produce.

Speaking to a crowd of a few thousand construction workers, Trump said investment in plastics and other petrochemical plants in the Ohio Valley could greatly benefit the region. He touted the vast reserves of natural gas and natural gas liquids contained in the Marcellus Shale, which extends throughout much of the Appalachian basin.

Brittany Patterson

Down bumpy back roads deep in central West Virginia, a flat, bright green pasture opens up among the rolling hills of coffee-colored trees.

Wildflowers and butterflies dot the pasture, but West Virginia University Professor Jeff Skousen is here for something else that stands above the rest of the Appalachian scenery – literally.

Thick stalks of green-yellowish grass reach up ten feet into the air like a beanstalk out of a fairy tale, and Skousen is dwarfed by it.


Jeff Young

Declining coal tax revenues place coal-reliant counties in Appalachia at risk of fiscal collapse, according to new research from the centrist Brookings Institution and Columbia University. Policies designed to prevent further climate change would accelerate that decline, the report found, but could also provide a new stream of revenue to help communities rebound from coal’s demise.


ShowYourStripes.Info

The stripes kind of look like those old packs of Fruit Stripe bubble gum. Each stripe represents a year. The colors, shaded from cool navy to scarlet, indicate annual average temperatures.

Together, the stripes reveal patterns of warming trends across the globe over the last 100-plus years.

Climate Scientist Ed Hawkins created the graphics to start conversations about the warming world and the risks climate change poses in different regions.

Lisa Gillespie

During a House Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday climate scientists and expert witnesses warned Congress that climate change could cost the American economy trillions of dollars.

Kentucky Democratic Congressman and budget chair John Yarmuth held the hearing to raise awareness of the fiscal impacts, in addition to the environmental, health and security consequences of a warming world.

In his latest effort to boost the coal business — and in the process help a major supporter — President Trump has called on the Tennessee Valley Authority to, essentially, ignore the advice of its staff and keep a large coal-fired power plant operating.

The move has drawn extra scrutiny because that plant buys coal from a company headed by a large campaign donor to Trump, Murray Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Robert Murray.

Becca Schimmel, Ohio Valley Resource

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says closing the last coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County would be a "huge mistake."  Bevin outlined his concerns this month in a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The TVA is considering closing the last remaining coal-powered unit after an environmental assessment projected it to have high future maintenance and environmental compliance costs.

The Paradise power plant in Drakesboro has been in operation since 1970.  Units 1 and 2 were replaced with natural gas generation in 2017.

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