Coal Report for April 27, 2016

Reclamation Project

Reclamation Project

On a strip mining site just outside of Grundy, Virginia, Paramont Coal Company Virginia and Alpha Natural Resources have worked with Buchanan County leaders to play a significant role in the planned reclamation of the site as a residential and commercial area called Southern Gap.  The site had been poorly reclaimed by the previous owners and was covered with abandoned mines according to  Alpha’s Vice President of Environmental Affairs, John Paul Jones.  He says of the project (quote),”We re-mined, we went through and took additional cuts on those walls, and took what were scars on the landscape, and made the flat, level land that you see here today.” (end quote)  This reclamation project has won awards for Alpha.  Progress on builing, which was to include 600 homes, has stalled due to the coal industry downturn.  County officials hope the completion of the four-lane U.S. 460, connecting Kentucky through Southern Gap to Grundy, which is expected in 2018, will bring more business into the area.  Currently, a small neighborhood of homes, baseball field, park, and Sykes Enterprises are located on the site.  A visitor’s center is also being planned. Continue reading Coal Report for April 27, 2016

MN&WR: Are We Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?

  • When a region is at odds about how the land can best serve the community,  everyone has some hard decisions make.  Among them, is it more important to fight for what you believe in,  or to keep the community together? Benny Becker goes to Elkorn City to explore how the community has reacted to the Russell Fork River getting named one of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers.
  • Does fewer coal miners equal a lesser need for government oversight of their safety?  Many Kentucky state politicians say – yes.  Kelli Haywood speaks with a mine safety lawyer, a miner, and a historian to find out.
  • From the Appalshop Archive, we present an interview conducted by the late Buck Maggard with Wade Mainer in celebration of what would have been his 109th birthday.  

4-21-16 MNWR

Being a region in transition, it is inevitable that we will not always agree on what is the best way to move forward.  At times, we have seen that we aren’t at odds with outsiders, elusive government officials, or big corporations, but we are at odds with ourselves.  As residents invested in the future of the region, we each have a right to have our voice heard and our opinions considered when addressing the future economy and current need to make ends meet.  How much is too much?  How far is too far?  When do we end up shooting ourselves in the foot?  For the first story in this exploration, WMMT’s Benny Becker interviews the key players in the recent addition of the Russell Fork River to the American Rivers 10 Most Endangered listing by the group Appalachian Voices.  It seems some citizens in Elkorn City, a town we recently featured on Mountain News & World Report, believe that the move could be detrimental to their efforts to maintain the current tourism boom they are seeing around the river and their hopes to increase it.  When both partners at the table have a similar goal, but a different idea on how to get there, who is right?  Does it matter?

Recently, Kentucky state politicians put forth two bills in the legislature that received support from the governor and the Kentucky Coal Association, that would have rolled back some of the safety regulations that had been put into place to protect miners after years of public push for such measures.  In our second segment, Kelli Haywood seeks to find out if such cut backs will actually be of any benefit the jobs miners, the financial integrity of struggling coal companies, and the state budget, or will it put miners’ lives at undue risk.

And finally, from Appalshop Archive and the late Buck Maggard, we present an interview with “The Grandfather of Bluegrass” – Wade Mainer, who would have celebrated his 109th birthday on April 21st.  From Buncombe County, North Carolina, Mainer’s innovative 2-finger banjo picking style is considered the precursor to the 3-finger playing style used in today’s bluegrass music.  Mainer plays a few tunes with his wife Julia, discusses his favorite song, and his take on environmental stewardship.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for April 20, 2016

By Don O'Brain - https://www.flickr.com/photos/dok1/2088838758, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47277751

By Don O’Brain – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dok1/2088838758, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47277751

Peabody Energy, the country’s largest non-government owned coal producer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 13th.  This action by the company was one that has been anticipated for months by industry analysts as many of the largest coal companies in the nation have preceded them in filing for bankruptcy.  The company’s assets and liabilities are in the $10-50 billion range according to the paperwork that has been filed.  The downturn in the use of coal has been attributed cheap price of natural gas and regulations.  However, warm winters of recent years and coal companies expanding of their holdings during a time of expected growth in countries like China who had fewer regulations on carbon emissions are also reasons given for the downturn.  China’s growth has since stalled.  Peabody isn’t expected to go away completely, but to operate at lower production.  Coal fired power plants are still being constructed, 80% of which are located in the Asia-Pacific region. Continue reading Coal Report for April 20, 2016

Coal Report for April 13, 2016

By Charleston Gazette - http://www.wvculture.org/HiStory/labor/mwnews.html (originally published in the Charleston Gazette, 10 September 1921, Public Domain

By Charleston Gazette – http://www.wvculture.org/HiStory/labor/mwnews.html (originally published in the Charleston Gazette, 10 September 1921, Public Domain

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled in Washington on Monday that removing West Virginia’s Blair Mountain  from the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 was the wrong action for the U.S. Interior Department to take.  In the Charleston Gazette-Mail, staff writer Ken Ward Jr. states that Walton “said that federal officials had simply rubber stamped a state recommendation, did not independently verify the accuracy of a list of objecting landowners, and failed to act in a transparent manner,” in his 47-page opinion document.  The matter has been sent back to the U.S. Interior Department for correction.  This is just the latest in the ongoing legal battle between coal companies that own potential to be mined property in the area and citizen groups.  Blair Mountain is the site of the largest armed labor conflict in American history.  In late August 1921, 5,000 W.Va. coal miners marched into Mingo and Logan counties in order to unionize and liberate miners there who were living under martial law.  They were met by 3,000 armed men, mostly hired by the coal company, and fighting ensued.  Fighting ended when President Warren Harding sent in federal troops and the miners surrendered. Continue reading Coal Report for April 13, 2016

Mtn. Talk Monday: The Rising Center

Did you know?

  • Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 6 women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
  • 1 in 33 men in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
  • 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
  • 47.7% of Kentucky women have experienced sexual violence.
  • 19.6% of Kentucky men have experienced sexual violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  Seeing these statistics, it becomes obvious that this is a prevalent problem and isn’t being addressed well enough in our public conversations or actions.  In this edition of Mountain Talk Monday, host Kelli Haywood speaks live with the director of The Rising Center – Holly Combs.  The Rising Center in Hazard, Kentucky located beside Appalachian Regional Hospital provides an array of services to adult and child victims of sexual assault, abuse and incest in Kentucky River Community Care’s (KRCC) eight county area.  In doing so, it works closely with local health service agencies, criminal justice systems, and social service agencies to ensure a coordinated system of reliable and appropriate care.  Throughout the show, the pair discuss what it means to be sexually assaulted, the feelings associated, what to do if it happens to you, and more.

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Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

Mtn. Talk: 1st Wednesday Food Hour with Breaking Beans & Eight Piece Box

WMMT is happy to share the 1st Wednesday Food Hour with the new podcast Breaking Beans @ 6pm, and @ 6:30pm a fresh take from Jonathan Piercy of What’s Cookin’ Now fame, his podcast – Eight Piece Box. Eight Piece Box is a show all about cooking, eating, and drinking in Kentucky, Appalachia, and beyond. Host, Jonathan Piercy brings a rotating panel in each month for a freewheeling discussion of all things delicious. The Breaking Beans Project tells the stories of the people of eastern Kentucky and their love of family, food and the land. The stories tell of our ties to the land, above ground as well as below. Be sure to tune in and let us know what you think! 1st Wednesday Food Hour will typically be the 1st Wednesday of every month. New episodes of both of these podcasts will be on air again May 4, 2016!

City of Whitesburg Letcher County Farmers' Market

City of Whitesburg Letcher County Farmers’ Market

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

MN&WR: Traditions in Transition

  • Is squaredance a mountain tradition we want to put the resources of time and money toward saving in our communities?  Kelli Haywood examines this question by looking at the history of squaredance in the area and following the efforts of the Letcher County Culture Hub and squaredance classes and events they are helping organize.
  • Can our rich and varied Appalachian food traditions become one source for a sustainable economy in the region?  Benny Becker attends the Appalachian Seed Swap in Pikeville, Kentucky to talk with the folks who believe it can.
  • In our Humans of Central Appalachia featured story, Brian Fields talks of retraining miners, farming, music, squaredance, and staying at home in the mountains despite hardship.
Black/White Image - "Brian Fields" by Malcolm J. Wilson - Humans of Central Appalachia

Black/White Image – “Brian Fields” by Malcolm J. Wilson – Humans of Central Appalachia

It seems everything in our mountain home is in a state of transition.  Change can be hard, but also good.  It is a time to take the bull by the horns and stop beating the dead horse — to use some commonplace phrasing.  This week on Mountain News & World Report, we are looking at a few of our Traditions in Transition.  What traditions are worth putting time, money, and effort toward preserving?  What time honored traditions might serve us as we transition into a new economy and which ones should we release in order to make room for new thoughts and ideas?  WMMT’s Kelli Haywood begins this episode asking just those questions as she explores the efforts of the Letcher County Culture Hub in introducing squaredancing to a new generation and attempting to reinvigorate the tradition in that generation’s parents and grandparents.  What she found might surprise you.  Be sure to let us know what you think as well by commenting.

In our second story, Benny Becker attends the 4th Annual Appalachian Seed Swap and speaks with Joseph Simcox and Joyce Pinson who participate in the event.  Simcox has traveled the world collecting and swapping seeds and along with Pinson believes that Appalachia can be a hub for the revival of small scale, sustainable agriculture.  Not only does Simcox share some of the seeds of knowledge he’s collected from his world travels, but puts forward his idea for how Central Appalachia can use agriculture to transform our economy and reclaim our mined lands.

And, to end the show, we include the story of Brian Fields as interviewed by Malcolm J. Wilson of Humans of Central Appalachia.  Fields works in retraining former miners for a variety of careers.  He also comes from a long line of musicians and farmers.  His story illustrates how it is just second nature at times to take on tradition as part of your own identity.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for April 6, 2016

Image courtesy of Patou at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Patou at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On December 3rd, 2015, Massey Energy Company CEO, Don Blankenship was found guilty of conspiracy to willfully violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 people lost their lives in an explosion in 2010.  Today, Wednesday April 6th,  federal Judge Irene Berger sentenced Blankenship to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine in federal court in Charleston, W.Va..  Blankenship will also serve a one year term of supervised release following his year long prison sentence.  Tuesday marked the 6th anniversary of the disaster, however the families of the miners who were killed were refused their request to give victim impact statements.  Outside of the courthouse Blankenship told WSAZ News, (quote) “I feel badly for them.  There is a lot of emotion and its understandable.” (end quote)  The sentence is the maximum Blankenship could have received and is in par with the recommendations from prosecution. Continue reading Coal Report for April 6, 2016