Coal

Mines That Change Owners Have Worse Safety Record, Audit Finds

Aug 22, 2019
MSHA head David Zatezelo during a visit to West Virginia University.
Jesse Wright / WVPB file photo

A new federal government report shows that mines that changed ownership had worse safety records than mines where ownership did not change. According to an audit from the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, mines that changed ownership during a 17-year period were nearly twice as likely to have safety violations, and five times as likely to report severe accidents in the same period.

Brian Peshek/ The Allegheny Front

The economy of central Appalachia has long revolved around extractive industries: timber, coal, oil and natural gas. The jobs associated with these industries are often good paying jobs. They also can bring environmental and health issues to the region. 

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how an increase in natural gas development has brought challenges and concerns, both for our health and our natural environment. But for some, the jobs and economic benefits that come with this increased activity are welcome, especially as so many jobs have left our region in recent years. 


Courtesy: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The recent rise of oil and gas drilling across West Virginia has raised questions about industry regulation and taxation. Many bear a striking resemblance to similar questions raised about the coal industry in years past. 

Ken Ward Jr. is a reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He’s been writing about the coal industry his entire career. He sees a number of similarities between the coal and natural gas industries and how those industries are regulated. 

August 15, 1842: Coal Operator and Union Captain Joseph Beury Born

Aug 15, 2019
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

Benny Becker/ WMMT

Our region has faced major economic changes and challenges in the past decade. But if you know our region’s history, this story of boom and bust, renewal and recession, is an all too familiar story. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how these economic changes affect people, our friends, our neighbors, and how entire communities can be uprooted by the closing of a local factory, or coal-mine layoffs. 


Court Tosses Lawsuit in 1968 Farmington Mine Explosion

Jul 24, 2019
In this Nov. 21, 1968, file photo, smoke pours from the burning Llewellyn portal of the Mountaineer Coal Co., where 78 miners are trapped near Farmington, W.Va.
AP file photo

A federal appeals court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the families of 78 men who were killed in a 1968 mine explosion in West Virginia.

The ruling Wednesday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Appeals affirms a 2017 ruling by a federal judge.

Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia

West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that will give a $12 million tax cut to a struggling coal-fired power plant in Pleasants County. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, after the 2014 Elk River chemical spill in the Kanawha Valley, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition created the “Safe Water WV” initiative.

The idea is simple -- to strengthen a community’s connection to their drinking water and encourage people to work together to better protect it. A couple years ago, Jefferson and Berkeley Counties decided to build off that initiative in a unique way -- using the conservation of farmland and Civil War battlefields as a model for drinking water protection. Liz McCormick explains.

How a Carbon Tax Could End Some Coal Towns, or Fund a New Future

Jul 15, 2019
Kudzu grows near a coal preparation plant in eastern Kentucky.
Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

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.

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday released its long-awaited final replacement for the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, which sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by one-third by 2025.

The Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE, tasks states with developing plans that rely on the use of efficiency technologies to reduce carbon emissions at existing power plants.

Jim Justice
Walter Scriptunas II / AP Photo

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to pay a $1.23 million court-ordered sanction against one of his family’s companies.

Justice’s lawyers and federal prosecutors said in a joint court filing Thursday that they’ve reached a deal for Justice Energy Co. to clear the fine in three payments of $410,000. The sanction stems from an unpaid 2016 fine ordered over a contract breach.

Peabody Energy, Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

U.S. demand for coal to generate electricity will continue its slide in coming months despite efforts by the Trump administration to prop up the struggling industry, federal officials said Thursday.

Jessica Lilly

Robert Bailey was a coal miner for 36 years. He began working in McDowell County, and after it became too hard to breathe, he retired from a mine owned by Patriot Coal in Boone County. Bailey first told his story with WVPB in June 2014. He shared his final story with Inside Appalachia host, Jessica Lilly, on February 15, 2019. 

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Hours ahead of a midnight deadline to take action on bills from the regular legislative session, Gov. Jim Justice has announced a final set of approvals and vetoes.

Of the 294 bills passed this regular session, Justice signed 266 pieces of legislation and vetoed 28.

Retired coal miner John Robinson displays his mining helmet at his home in Coeburn, Va., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.
Dylan Lovan / Associated Press

The Trump administration and coal industry allies are insisting that a federal black lung trust fund will continue to pay benefits to sick miners despite a drastic cut in funding.

Adobe Stock

West Virginia officials say a 38-year-old coal miner has died in an accident.

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training said preliminary information indicates Adam DeBoard of Craigsville died of head injuries he suffered in a fall from a highwall mine.

Anne Li / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re wading into the American political divide and bringing you voices with distinct points of view from opposite sides of the country. It’s no secret that these days, we live in the divided states of America. Sometimes, it can feel like the only thing that unites us anymore is that now-nearly universal experience of sitting awkwardly around the Thanksgiving table with family members who have different political beliefs, trying to find a way to avoid politics altogether. 


Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia House passed a bill Wednesday that would reduce the severance tax paid on coal burned for electricity

 

House Bill 3142 passed on an 88-11 vote after contentious debate on the floor.

Long sought by industry, the legislation would reduce the severance tax paid by coal companies on steam or thermal coal from 5 percent to 4 percent effective July 1 and to 3 percent effective July 1, 2020.

 

 

Adobe Stock

Arch Coal Inc. says it plans to open a longwall mine in northcentral West Virginia and employ nearly 600 employees when it's fully operational.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, when President Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday he’ll talk about job growth and it’s quite likely he’ll talk about coal. The coal industry and its out-of-work miners have been important symbols for Trump. 

But as Brittany Patterson reports, after two years under Trump more coal power plants are closing down and coal employment is at an all-time low.

Adobe Stock

Authorities in West Virginia say they've arrested the four people who entered an idle coal mine earlier this month.

Kayla Williams and Erica Treadway surrendered to authorities Wednesday on charges including entering without breaking. Authorities say they entered the inactive Rock House Powellton Mine along with Eddie Williams Jr. and Cody Beverly.

Williamson, W.Va., seen across the border from Kentucky.
Tyler Evert / Associated Press

If you want to understand why U.S. life expectancy is declining, West Virginia is a good place to start.

The state is a bellwether of bad health, portending major problems years before they became severe nationally.

December 14, 1857: Coal Operator Justus Collins Born in Alabama

Dec 14, 2018
Justus Collins, e-WV
E-WV / WV Humanities Council

Coal operator Justus Collins was born in Alabama on December 14, 1857. He got his start in coal mining in the Deep South but moved north about 1887 to pursue his fortune in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

In Mercer County, Collins organized the Louisville Coal & Coke Company, one of the first mines to ship coal on the Norfolk and Western Railway. In 1893, he opened Collins Colliery at Glen Jean in Fayette County. About the same time, he started Greenbrier Coal & Coke and later opened the Whipple mine near Mount Hope.

Mine Workers Sue Federal Regulators Over Controversial Mine Safety Decision

Dec 5, 2018
This MSHA inspection photograph shows where Affinity mine shuttle operator John Myles was killed in 2013.
MSHA

The United Mine Workers of America is suing the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, after the agency reduced its heightened oversight of a West Virginia coal mine with a poor safety record. 

U.S. Coal Consumption Drops To Lowest Level Since 1979

Dec 4, 2018
Superintendent Jackie Ratliff, a coal miner, holds coal running through a processing plant in Welch, W.Va.
AP file photo

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration’s pledges to revive the U.S. coal industry.

AllVoices.com

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has made three appointments to the state's Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that Justice said in a news release that he appointed Eugene White to replace the retiring Greg Norman as the office's director.

Peabody Energy, Inc.
Wikimedia Commons

Bluestone Resources says it is hiring 290 more workers for its coal-mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia

A major coal-fired power plant in Willow, Island West Virginia will not close in January 2019 as previous planned. Pleasants Power Station will remain open through May 2022 under a settlement agreement approved by a bankruptcy court last month.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jeannette Walls grew up poor in America. She wrote about it in her memoir "The Glass Castle," which has remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for more than eight years. She spent most of her childhood west of the Mississippi River, but her father, who was originally from West Virginia, eventually brought her family back to McDowell County, where she lived for four years. In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll listen back to an interview Jessica Lilly did with Walls in 2017, just before the movie inspired by her book was released in theaters. 


Climate change and energy jobs are hot issues, but they spark very different reactions from folks in different parts of the country. Those reactions are the heart of this installment of “Red State, Blue State," our weekly chat between Trump Country and the Blue Bubble.

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