Energy & Environment

Cattle farmers are seeing increased local demand amid the pandemic.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


Debby Dulworth has a lot of conversations with her cattle each day. She swings open a gate, driving the herd with repeated calls and the Hereford cattle, respond in kind with groans and snorts.

“They talk to me,” Dulworth said with a laugh, as the cows come bounding out into a fresh field of Kentucky fescue and buttercups. She’s been corralling them from pasture to pasture on her farm for decades near Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, nestled in a bend of the Ohio River.

coal truck
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broacasting

Coal company American Resources Corporation, which owns mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, is facing sanctions after failing to comply with a bankruptcy court’s orders, even after the company received $2.7 million in government aid meant for companies harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A federal court on Friday approved a deal that requires two federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of coal mining on endangered species, including West Virginia's Guyandotte River crayfish. 

 


coal
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

A federal investigation released Tuesday found that a lack of safety procedures at a West Virginia mine led to a contractor being fatally run over by a trailer earlier this year.

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

Environmental groups announced Monday that they plan to sue the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection over what they say is the agency's failure to adhere to federal reporting requirements for a coal mine reclamation fund.

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses.
Howard Berkes / NPR

Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind of place where the coronavirus could spread like wildfire. 

Bob Murray
Glynis Board / Ohio Valley ReSource

Last fall, Murray Energy — the largest privately-owned coal company in America with a large presence in the Ohio Valley — joined many of its peers in declaring bankruptcy. Murray faced mounting debt and a struggling coal market. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tanking the global economy including energy markets. 

S&P Global Market Intelligence senior reporter Taylor Kuykendall has been following the bankruptcy case closely. Late last week, he spoke with energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson about the latest updates in the case.


West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice gives a speech during a Department of Tourism conference Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at the Morgantown Event Center.
Jesse Wright / WVPB

A federal judge in Kentucky has ordered companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to pay more than $1 million in fees and expenses in a lawsuit that accused them of defaulting on a mining contract.

John Nakashima / WVPB

While the coronavirus is forcing many of us to stay largely at home, spring in West Virginia has not gotten the message.

Flowers are blooming and birds are out in full force. Although many places are closed, West Virginians can still get outside during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as safe social distancing practices are observed.

Falconry is the oldest form of hunting still in use. Learn how it is being practiced today in West Virginia from Master Falconer Mick Brown!

Harris's Hawks, like Purdy who is featured in the video, look amazing, but don't be fooled. These raptors are not pets, and hunting with them is strictly regulated. It takes daily dedication and several years of training to hunt with these amazing creatures.

Courtesy Tonia Casey

Food banks and pantries across the Ohio Valley are seeing spiked demand as an unprecedented surge of people continue to file for unemployment benefits, with food banks facing weeks long delays to get certain products. Meanwhile, some farmers are facing a financial crisis, sitting on excess food they can’t sell — food that could be directed to food banks and pantries. 

Adobe Stock

Thousands of people in eastern Kentucky and parts of West Virginia remain without power Thursday after strong winds downed power lines across multiple counties. 

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broacasting

A West Virginia-based coal plant operator has announced that it’s filing for bankruptcy due to weak demand for electricity. Longview Power LLC, which operates one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S. hailed by the Trump administration as a model for coal’s future, announced in a Tuesday press release that it would seek to restructure its debts and ownership structure under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. 

 

Coal Country: Can A Play About A Mine Disaster Help Bridge A National Divide?

Apr 5, 2020
Joan Marcus / The Public Theater

 

The actors deliver their lines from a sparse stage — just a few benches around them and 29 modest lights above. For the most part they speak directly to the audience, sharing memories of the lives of husbands, sons, fathers and nephews, some of the 29 men who died on April 5, 2010, when an explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.  

It’s a powerful performance, made even more so by the realization that nearly all of the actors’ dialogue is drawn directly from court transcripts and hours of interviews with about a half dozen people who lived through that tragic day and the many long days that followed.

“Coal Country,” which opened in New York’s storied Public Theater, introduced New York theater-goers to the real lives of families affected by the tragedy.

Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this week released a long-awaited plan to update the state’s water quality standards.

looney ridge surface coal mine
Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice have agreed to pay more than $5 million in overdue mine health and safety fines and fees.

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

On a blistering August afternoon in Cumberland, Kentucky, David Pratt, Jr. stood in the middle of a two-lane highway, holding a sign that read “COAL MINERS AND TRUCKERS AGAINST CORPORATE AMERICA.” A few yards away, his father, David Pratt Sr., who is graying but still muscular, leaned back in a lawn chair perched precariously on the crossties of a railroad. His eyes focused on the spot where the tracks disappeared around the bend and more than $1 million worth of coal idled in train cars.

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

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Thursday filed a lawsuit against coal operator ERP Environmental Fund, Inc. alleging the company has racked up hundreds of violations, laid off employees, and walked away from its mining operations, leaving environmental obligations unfulfilled. 

According to documents filed with the Kanawha Circuit Court on March 26, ERP holds more than 100 permits at numerous mine sites across West Virginia. With the exception of one permit, all were acquired in 2015 from Patriot Coal Corporation during the company’s second bankruptcy. 

The United Mine Workers of America is asking federal regulators to set uniform, enforceable guidelines to help protect coal miners from contracting COVID-19. 

 

During the 2020 state legislative session, we asked you what energy and environment issues were on your mind. We got a lot of great responses, but one area in particular stood out —  many of you had questions about West Virginia's renewable energy policies. 

Like Huntington, West Virginia, resident Jennifer Leist. She asked: “What are the obstacles keeping West Virginia from advancing with more renewable energy in our state? What can we do to help with the problem?”

This year, West Virginia lawmakers debated a handful of different bills related to solar energy. One proposal that could exponentially increase the amount of solar installed across the Mountain State passed. 

coal
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

As states across the Ohio Valley order the closure of non-essential businesses to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, coal mines will remain open. But as with many industries, the global pandemic is straining the coal sector, and some experts say the already struggling industry could face intense challenges in the months ahead as electricity demand flags and international exports stall. 

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Energy producers, utilities and energy sector workers across the Ohio Valley are adjusting operations and bracing for continued economic impacts as the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, coal miners with black lung disease met recently to discuss the 2020 legislative session, and we hear from Aetna Better Health, which was selected last year by the state Department of Health and Human Resources to help manage health services for foster children.

Barb Sargent / Courtesy WV DNR

U.S. Forest Service district biologist Shane Jones stands on an overlook high up on West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain. Behind him lush, red spruce trees stand like sentinels on this frozen landscape. As he looks out, small patches of green dot what is largely a view of the barren, brown trunks of leafless hardwoods.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State lawmakers wrapped up the 2020 legislative session this weekend in Charleston. We’ll hear about what lawmakers did and didn’t accomplish this year on this West Virginia Morning, plus more…


Wendell Smith/Flickr

As spring approaches, ramps are popping up across West Virginia. The Monongahela National Forest on Friday released guidelines for harvesting the wild onion.

 

 

A bill that would create a utility solar energy program in West Virginia is one step closer to becoming law.

On Thursday, despite vocal opposition from some coalfield lawmakers, the House of Delegates passed an amended version of S.B. 583, 75 to 23 with two members not voting. The bill now heads back to the Senate to address two House amendments.

Clean Water Wanted: Contaminated Wells And The Legacy Of Fossil Fuel Extraction

Mar 2, 2020
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Just three bankruptcies of American coal companies have added more than $800 million in costs to a federal government program that funds health care for disabled coal miners, the Government Accountability said in a report released Wednesday.

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.
Adelina Lancianese / NPR

Lynn Estel Stanley was the kind of coal mine foreman who wanted to know if there was a safety problem, and would always be the one to go fix it himself. He was also the kind of miner who refused to slow down, even when his men told him he was overexerting himself. But when he was 69, his doctor told him it was time to stop for good.

Stanley wasn’t surprised. He knew he was getting sick. “It kept getting progressively worse and harder to breathe to the point where I just couldn’t do my job, I didn’t have enough oxygen,” he said.

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