Energy & Environment

Major questions remain in the chemical spill from Freedom Industries, Inc. in the contamination of West Virginia American Water supplies across nine counties. West Virginia Public Broadcasting news director Beth Vorhees interviews Mark Glass from Downstream Strategies, Ashton Marra reports on the recent press conference at West Virginia American Water, and Dave Mistich gives a run down of activity on social media.

Stream the audio above to find out the latest from our Charleston news bureau and be sure to follow @wvpublicnews.

West Virginia National Guard

As the National Guard joins Governor Tomblin as well as various county, state, and federal authorities in helping those affected by the state of emergency due a chemical leak and water advisory, we here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting will do our best to keep you informed on water distribution centers and filling stations as they become available.  Below is the most up-to-date list of these centers we have.

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP
Department of Environmental Protection

State regulators have issued a pollution violation notice to an oil and gas drilling company following a tank explosion at a Tyler County well site.
 
     The Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday that the tank ruptured on Jan. 2 at Jay-Bee Oil & Gas' Lisby gas well pad. Fluid leaked from the tank onto grounds surrounding the well pad.
 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia is beginning to warm up a bit following an arctic blast that broke cold temperature records across the state.
 
     Temperatures on Wednesday morning ranged from 4 degrees in Elkins and Lewisburg to 12 degrees in Bluefield.
 

West Virginia is about to experience the coldest temperatures the state has seen in about 20 years.

The National Weather Service issued the following winter weather message mentioning several counties in northern Virginia, western Maryland and eastern West Virginia this afternoon:

Roscoe Bartlett, U.S. Representative for Maryland's 6th congressional district from 1993 to 2013, is going "off the grid" in the mountains of West Virginia. By building his own home powered by solar energy, and attempting to live off resources collected himself, Bartlett says his mission is to be “independent of the system.”

Glen McCoy

KIMBALL, W.Va. (AP) — Hazardous material crews are cleaning up following a trail derailment.

Officials say at least 16 cars of the Norfolk Southern train derailed around 8:30 a.m. Friday in an area of McDowell County along U.S. Route 52. No evacuations were ordered and there were no injuries.

The train has five locomotives and 111 cars and is about 7,000 feet long. It was headed from Bellevue, Ohio to Linwood, N.C.

State emergency officials say booms are in place to prevent the tar leaking from a ruptured tanker car from going any farther down into Elkhorn Creek.

Jessica Lilly

The state is providing a useful way for West Virginians to dispose of their Christmas trees.

The Department of Environmental Protection will collect trees and sink them in four West Virginia lakes to provide fish habitat. The Register-Herald reports that the department's ninth annual Christmas tree recycling event is set for Jan. 4 at the Capitol Market in downtown Charleston.

West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center

The most prominent resident of a bird rehabilitation center in Fairmont has died.

Nyttend / wikimedia Commons

West Liberty University is getting a $24,760 grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to continue its recycling efforts.
 

The school says the award will allow its voluntary recycling program to grow from its infancy into a full-fledged, mandatory program.

Federal mining regulators issued more than 290 citations during October and November impact inspections.
 
     The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says it also issued 21 orders following inspections at 18 coal mines and three other mines.
 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Snow crunches under foot as Jim Baker gives a mid-December tour on about 170 acres his hunting club just acquired. The property sits along the Morgan-Hampshire County line in the shadow of Cacapon Mountain bordering Cacapon State Park.

“Basically some rolling hills at low elevations before you see the larger Cacapon Mountain in the background,” Baker said.  “It gives you an idea of what I call the diversity in topography around here.”

Energy Corporation of America

Energy Corporation of America still hasn’t decided whether to turn one of its former gas wells in northern West Virginia into an underground injection well.

ECA is thinking about putting an underground injection well in Preston County, near Decker’s Creek. The company is still investigating this proposal and hasn’t come to a conclusion about what it will do.

Two conservation groups are joining forces to preserve battlefield land at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
 

A winter storm has knocked out electricity for about 17,000 Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia.
 
     The utility's website shows most of the outages are in southern West Virginia. As of 8:25 a.m. Monday, there are 7,900 outages in Mercer County and more than 3,500 in Raleigh County.
 
     Smaller outages have occurred in Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Summers and Wyoming counties.
 

CONSOL Energy Inc. says it has completed the sale of subsidiary Consolidation Coal Company to Murray Energy.
 
     The sale includes five longwall mines in West Virginia. They include the McElroy, Shoemaker, Robinson Run, Loveridge and Blacksville No. 2 mines.
 
     The deal also gives Ohio-basedMurray Energy about 1.1 billion tons of coal reserves.
 
     Murray Energy paid $850 million in cash and will take $2.4 billion in liabilities off CONSOL's balance sheets.
 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Two companies are proposing to build a hydroelectric power plant at the Pike Island Locks and Dam along the Ohio River in Wheeling.
 
     American Municipal Power and Free Flow Power Project have submitted competing preliminary permit applications for the project, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project would generate up to 256,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.
 
     The Intelligencer and Wheeling-News Register reports the commission is accepting public comments on the project.

WV Division of Culture and History

Wednesday is the 45th anniversary of a mine explosion in Farmington, W.Va., that claimed the lives of 78 men. Time Trail, West Virginia, from the state Division of Culture and History, describes what happened that day.

November 20, 1968: The Farmington mine disaster

After an explosion tore through Consolidation Coal Company's Number 9 mine in Farmington, there was still hope that miners trapped below ground found a way to survive.

Ashton Marra

State lawmakers say they’re starting to broaden their focus of the state’s water resources from not just protecting it, but also managing it.

During a legislative interim meeting in Charleston, legislators considered the thoughts of scientists and industry leaders regarding waste water management in the natural gas sector.

Will W.Va. Get an Ethane Cracker Plant?

Nov 14, 2013
Odebrecht logo
wikimedia / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced this afternoon that a Brazilian petrochemical company, Odebrecht, has chosen a site in Wood County to explore the possible location of an ethane cracker plant and three polyethlene plants. 

The governor was disappointed when Shell announced a few years ago it was choosing Pennsylvania over West Virginia for a cracker plant.  And he’s wanted one ever since.

Decathlon still memorable for WVU team despite loss

Nov 13, 2013
West Virginia University

Branden Bellanca is the student project lead for the Solar Decathlon team. For three weeks in Irvine, Ca., Bellanca and the team competed against nearly 20 other programs from around the world, testing the endurance and efficiency of homes using solar power and other green technologies. WVU’s entry is the first log cabin, rustic style home the competition has seen and Bellanca said that meant encountering some bumps along the way.

Submitted Photo / W.V. Division of Forestry

Update: Friday, November 22 at 10:40 a.m.

The Smoke Hole area of Pendleton County, W.Va. that was struck by a forest fire nearly two weeks ago will reopen to the public on Sunday now that the fire is fully contained.

A news release says the public will be free to enter the Monongahela National Forest area where the fire was beginning Sunday morning, Nov. 24, 2013. 

 

The fire burned 1,611 acres.

The release says visitors to the area should be aware that there are still ongoing monitoring and fire patrol efforts and that while the majority of firefighters have gone home, several crews, engines, and a helicopter continue to work in the area. 

 

Update: Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 10 a.m.

The forest fire at the Smoke Hole area of Pendleton County has grown to about 1,600 acres but firefighters are also finding more success in fighting  it. According to a news release the fire is 50 percent contained.

The fire started a week ago on private land adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest 11 miles southwest of Petersburg, W.Va. and three miles northeast Seneca Rocks. The cause is under investigation.

The news release says about 190 firefighters and support staff, including four crews, two modules, six engines, two bulldozers, and one helicopter are assisting with the fire.

The release says: Crews had a safe, productive day yesterday.  The south and east flanks are being mopped up and patrolled. Some minimal fire activity occurred along the crest of North Fork Mountain along the northwest section of the fire.

Plans for today call for direct attack on any remaining active fire. In areas where the fire is not actively burning, crews are strengthening the completed line. 

A cold front moving into the area in late afternoon may bring a chance of thunderstorms with gusty winds and additional rain.

 

Update: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 9 a.m.

The U.S Forest Service and West Virginia Division of Forestry report the fire in the Smoke Hole area of Pendleton County, W.Va. is about 30 percent contained.  

The fire is burning on about 1,400 acres of national forest land and adjacent private property 11 miles southwest of Petersburg and three miles northeast of Seneca Rocks.

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by relatives of three men killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster who claimed Alpha Natural Resources failed to pay them each $1.5 million as promised under a settlement with the federal government.

Trans Tech Conference comes to Morgantown

Nov 7, 2013
Ben Adducchio / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The term “TransTech” has been floating around for about five years, according to Carl Irwin, creator of the TransTech Energy Program at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

It refers to technologies that try to transition the nation’s energy portfolio into something that’s more economically sustainable, while at the same time, being competitive and using lower amounts of carbon. Carl Irwin says the public plays an important part in recognizing transitional technologies.

Harry Schaefer, Environmental Protection Agency / wikimedia Commons

An organization that promotes energy efficiency puts West Virginia among the top five most improved states in this year's annual scorecard.
 
     The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released its rankings Wednesday.

Downstream Strategies

The Marcellus water resources and water footprint report takes a critical look at water-use data provided by natural gas drillers over the past couple years to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection—data operators are required to provide under the Horizontal Well Control Act of 2011.

A federal judge issued a memorandum Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to finalize federal coal ash regulations.

United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton issued a ruling giving the Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to name how long it will take to review and revise coal ash regulations. 

Breaking down the Consol-Murray sale

Oct 29, 2013

Consol Energy is selling five of its long wall coal mines in West Virginia to Murray Energy. It’s a deal slated to cost more than $3 billion.

In the deal, Consol will get:

$850 million in cash;

Almost $200 million in value of future payments;

The acquisition of $2.4 billion in Consol's liabilities, to Murray Energy.

In return,

Murray Energy will receive:

Almost 4,000 new employees;

6 more coal preparation plants;

5 more active mining complexes;

6 more longwall mining systems;

23 more continuing mining units;

West Virginia's two U.S. senators say they'll be watching closely to see how Ohio-based Murray Energy treats safety and the workforce of the five CONSOL Energy mines it's buying.
 
     Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller have requested a meeting with Murray Energy to discuss the transition.
 
     The companies announced the deal Monday for the sale of the Blacksville No. 2, Loveridge, McElroy, Robinson Run and Shoemaker mines.
 
     Pennsylvania-based CONSOL said it wants to shift resources to natural gas development.
 

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