coal

Dylan Lovan/AP

The Kentucky Coal Association says former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million pledge to close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. would “essentially send us back into the Dark Ages.”

Coal consumption in the U.S. is in decline, but Kentucky remains reliant on the fuel for jobs and energy. About 75 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal power.

Kentucky Coal Association President Tyler White said Friday that coal has provided the Commonwealth with an abundance of cheap energy, which fuels manufacturing and keeps prices low for the state’s poorest residents.

Howard Berkes/NPR

Harold Sturgill was disabled by black lung disease when he was 58 years old. Now he advocates for disabled miners.

“When it comes to the mining companies, and it comes to the worker, it’s still all about production,” Sturgill said. “They could care less about me, how much dust I suck in, or how long I’m going to live, because somebody else is there to take my place.”

Sturgill worries that without meaningful action to protect miners, his son, who is also a miner, will contract the same illness. “A man’s gonna feed his family whether it kills him or not,” he said.


Brittany Patterson

Brick buildings line the wide sidewalks of Main Street in downtown Coshocton, Ohio. On a recent spring day the dogwood trees are blooming. Bright red and white tulips dot the grassy public square, home to the local courthouse and a gazebo.

There are barber shops, an optometrist, a florist, a railroad-themed steakhouse is open for lunch. A trendy public art installment features a small roller coaster designed and built by the local high school and a marquee that blinks “be nice to others.”


Sydney Boles

In apparent anticipation of a federal lawsuit seeking recovery of overdue penalties, coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have filed a lawsuit of their own against federal surface mining regulators.

The suit, first reported by WV MetroNews, is an apparent preemptive strike against the federal government, which is preparing to sue the companies over unpaid fines associated with more than 100 environmental and reclamation violations at mines in West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Joe Manchin Youtube

Retired coal miners joined lawmakers from the Ohio Valley on Capitol Hill Wednesday for another attempt to protect miners’ pensions. Pensions are at risk because of a downturn in the coal market, the lingering effects of the 2008 recession, and coal company bankruptcies which have all reduced the amounts companies paid into a shared, or multiemployer, pension plan. The United Mine Workers of America is pushing Congress for legislation to shore up those retirement benefits.


West Virginia Governor’s Office

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit against 23 coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, seeking more than $4.7 million in unpaid fines and fees for mine safety and health violations.

The delinquent fines were brought to light by investigations by NPR and the Ohio Valley ReSource as the Justice companies’ overdue debts ballooned from just under $2 million in 2014 to more than $4 million in 2018.


Jessica Lilly, WVPB

Robert Bailey started mining coal in southern West Virginia’s McDowell County in the 1970s. By the time he retired from the Patriot Coal Company 36 years later he was already having trouble breathing. By the time I first interviewed Bailey in 2014, his black lung disease had become severe.

“I’m in the process of a lung transplant,” he explained. But an insurance company was protesting further treatment. “It’s a struggle just to receive the help that you still need,” he said between puffs of air from an oxygen tank.


Vivian Stockman and Southwings

Residents of Appalachian coal communities told a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday that the controversial mining practice known as mountaintop removal should be halted until its health effects are better studied.

Late in the Obama administration the National Academy of Sciences launched a study into the health effects for communities near mountaintop removal coal mines.

Donna Branham of Lenore, West Virginia, was among the many residents with questions and concerns about effects on air and water quality. She was hopeful the National Academy study would bring some answers. But in the summer of 2017 the Trump administration’s Interior Department abruptly canceled funding and ordered the National Academy to halt the study.

Mine Safety Debt For WV Gov. Justice’s Family Companies Grows to $4M

Apr 8, 2019
West Virginia Governor's office

An Ohio Valley ReSource analysis of federal mine safety data shows that the companies belonging to the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice owe $4.3 million in delinquent debt for mine safety violations. That is far more than the companies owed when Justice ran for governor in 2016, when he pledged to make good on such debts.

The Justice companies still have the highest delinquent mine safety debt in the U.S. mining industry.

Unpaid mine safety violations have been a chronic problem for the Justice companies. In 2014, an NPR investigation showed Justice companies owed just under $2 million in delinquent federal mine safety penalties, which are levied by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA

.

CVI

A congressional subcommittee will hear testimony Thursday in support of a bill that would help clean up and redevelop surface mine land. The bill enjoys bipartisan support, but still faces hurdles.

A 2015 report found that as many as 6.2 million acres of land and water were harmed by mining operations that ended prior to 1977, when significant standards were put in place to protect communities and environments near mine sites.


Toyota Driving Demand For Solar Power In Ohio Valley

Mar 13, 2019
Sydney Boles

Automaker Toyota is planning to announce a major investment in solar and other renewable energy in Appalachia and the Southeastern U.S. The plan includes a massive new solar facility on an old surface coal mine property in Kentucky.

Sources close to the deal tell the Ohio Valley Resource that the Kentucky site is part of a much larger plan. Toyota plans to purchase as much as 800,000 megawatt hours per year, or roughly 365 megawatts, of renewable energy, primarily from developers in Appalachia and the South.


Becca Schimmel

A federal prosecutor announced new charges against a senior coal company official for conspiring to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust. The case comes amid a surge in cases of black lung disease and widespread allegations from miners that cheating on dust monitors is common in the mining industry.

Western Kentucky District U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman unsealed a new indictment Wednesday against the former manager of all of the western Kentucky mines belonging to the now-bankrupt Armstrong Energy coal company. Glendal “Buddy” Hardison is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency in charge of enforcing dust controls in coal mines.


New ARC Grants Combine Economic Recovery And Addiction Recovery

Feb 21, 2019
Rebecca Kiger

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Thursday another $22.8 million in funding to 33 projects aimed at revitalizing economies in places affected by the decline in the coal industry.

The awards are the latest in the ARC’s POWER Initiative, an acronym for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. Congress has funded the initiative for four years specifically to help communities affected by job losses in the Appalachian coal industry.


A Warrick County coal mine in southern Indiana will shut down this spring, affecting more than 80 employees. 

In a notice to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, White Stallion Energy of Evansville says surface mine operations at Liberty Mine in Boonville will shut down on April 5, though the company says the date may change "depending on business circumstances."

Researchers Predict Indiana Coal Will Be Replaced By 2080

Feb 19, 2019
Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Purdue University researchers predict lower electricity rates for homeowners and the end of coal power in Indiana as the state’s energy sector grapples with the demands of a changing climate.

Indiana is the eighth largest green house gas emitter among states, but as energy demands change and coal fired power plants reach the end of their lifespans, researchers conclude that coal will be replaced by natural gas, wind and solar by 2080, according to a Purdue Impact Assessment released Tuesday.

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