Mountain News & World Report: A Community Forum on Appalachia’s Economic Future; A New Mobile App for Paddling the Clinch River; Collecting Heirloom Apples

panelists at a community forum on economic possibilities for Appalachia held in the Appalshop Theater on Oct. 7, 2014. l-r: Mair Francis & Hywel Francis (special guests from Wales), Robin Gabbard (of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky), Evan Smith (of the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center)

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we hear about a new mobile app that serves as an audio guide for those floating down the Clinch River in southwest Virginia.  The app was developed by UVA-Wise in partnership with Clinch River Adventures in St. Paul, and aims to use the natural beauty of the Clinch as a way to help drive river-based tourism & economic activity.

Also in this show, we hear about heirloom apples in an interview with Tom Brown, an heirloom apple collector from North Carolina who, to date, has discovered over 1,000 apple varieties.  You can learn more about his work at applesearch.org.

But we begin this program with highlights from a community forum held on October 7th in the Appalshop theater that brought together local and international voices to discuss new ideas for Appalachia’s economy.  Special guests Hywel & Mair Francis of Wales joined local leaders and community members for a discussion of what ideas our region might be able to take from Wales, a place which also had to deal with a sudden and dramatic loss of coal jobs some thirty years ago.  You can hear the full, hour-long broadcast of the forum here.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Speak Your Piece: 10.15.14

In this week’s trip down the highways and holloways of Letcher County’s anonymously-expressed opinions, Speak Your Piece:

Admonitions for that woman in Pistol City to have some decency and stop putting that stuff on the internet!  Accusations of Poor Grammar levied upon county officials!  Vote for Grimes!  Vote for McConnell!  Stop giving that guy money when he comes to the funeral home!  And more vague gossip of all kinds!

Our thanks as always to The Mountain Eagle. You can hear Wiley Q. (pictured) read Speak Your Piece live each Wednesday near 5 o’clock on WMMT, and you can hear previous installments at our streaming archives.

Coal Report for October 15, 2014

a coal train in the Pacific Northwest. a logjam in railroad traffic is causing delays of coal shipments across the country // photo from Paul K. Anderson at http://www.coaltrainfacts.org/docs/ct1.jpg

A West Virginia man has pleaded guilty to falsifying water quality reports for coal companies, the Charleston Gazette reports.  John W. Shelton, of Raleigh County, W.Va., worked for a company called Appalachian Laboratories, which analyzes water samples for coal companies under the federal Clean Water Act to make sure pollution laws are being followed.  But Shelton admitted to taking part in a conspiracy to falsify water samples that supposedly came from mining sites.  He admitted to diluting water samples with distilled water, switching out entire samples of water from coal sites with water he knew to be clean, and failing to keep water samples refrigerated.  US Attorneys said this was done to allow coal companies to avoid fines, and to ensure repeat business for Appalachian Laboratories.  They are continuing their investigation. The whole case raises questions about the Clean Water Act.  One attorney said “The whole Clean Water Act system relies on self reporting. . . If that self-reporting can’t be trusted, then the system just falls apart.”  Appalachian Laboratories does testing for over 100 mine sites in West Virginia, but it’s not known yet which mines were involved in this case.  Shelton faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Coal-fired power plants continue to experience problems actually getting coal due to delays in railroad service, SNL Energy reports.  According to an Arch Coal executive, last year’s frigid winter led to an increase in coal demand, but operators have found themselves unable to actually supply more coal because of railroad delays across the country, and analysts think these Continue reading Coal Report for October 15, 2014

Mountain Talk: A Community Forum Looks to Wales for New Ideas for Appalachia’s Economy

In this edition of Mountain Talk, WMMT’s weekly community conversation, we bring you excerpts from a community forum which took place on Tuesday, October 7th in the Appalshop Theater.

The forum was convened to present both local and international perspectives on new economic possibilities for the central Appalachian coalfields.  Specifically, the coalfields of south Wales shut down abruptly thirty years ago, which forced communities there to diversify their economies.  As coal employment continues to decline in Appalachia, and with many experts saying that coal jobs are not likely to rebound, some see Wales as a possible model for what new economies could be built in Appalachia.

The forum featured Hywel Francis,  a labor historian and a Member of Parliament from the Aberavon region; his wife Mair Francis, founder of the D.O.V.E. workshop, a woman-run education center considered by many to be an international model for community development; Evan Smith, an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a non-profit law firm in Whitesburg, Ky.; and Robin Gabbard, Associate Executive Director at the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.  Voices of community members who attended can also be heard in the Q&A portion of the broadcast, including the perspective of renowned Appalachian scholar Helen Lewis.

Mountain Talk, WMMT’s weekly conversation, airs each Monday & Wednesday at 6 p.m. To hear previous episodes, check out the Mountain Talk archives, or the archives for What’s Cookin’ Now!, which airs on the first Wednesday of every month.

Coal Report for October 8, 2014

the Boundary Dam Power Plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, the first commercial coal-fired plant to use carbon capture & storage technology // image via wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Dam_Power_Station#mediaviewer/File:SaskPower_Boundary_Dam_GS.jpg

A coal miner has been killed on the job in Kentucky.  WYMT-TV reports that Justin Mize, of Harrogate, Tennessee, was killed on Tuesday, October 7th in a rock collapse at the Tinsley Branch mine in Bell County, Ky.  According to MSHA’s preliminary report, he was crushed by a falling rock at a highwall mining site.  The mine is ultimately owned by Nally & Hamilton Enterprises, a coal operator based in Bardstown, Ky.  Mize became the 12th coal miner killed on the job in the US this year, and the first in Kentucky.

News of this latest tragedy comes just days after MSHA announced that the number of mines with serious and chronic safety violations has decreased sharply in recent years.  The AP reports that in 2010, in response to the Upper Big Branch disaster, MSHA began putting repeat and serious offenders on a Pattern of Violations, or POV, list, which meant that portions of a mine could be immediately shut down if more so-called significant and substantial safety violations were found.  MSHA says that Continue reading Coal Report for October 8, 2014

Blue Highway will perform at BGX Live TONIGHT!

WMMT is proud and delighted to welcome back Blue Highway to the Appalshop stage this week, on Thursday, October 9th, for the latest edition of Bluegrass Express Live!

Blue Highway is undeniably one of the most influential and esteemed bands of the contemporary bluegrass era, and the group’s stellar live performances give proof to all of those great reviews.  Since their first performance in 1994, Blue Highway has won many awards, including a Dove award and several IBMA awards, and has also received two Grammy nominations. The band still consists of all of the founding members, and they now have eleven albums to their credit, including The Game, released in January of 2014.

We are also excited to have Letcher County’s own Sunrise Ridge open the evening with a fun, high-energy set of  bluegrass!  We have had them on the Appalshop stage before and we are thrilled to get them back.

The show starts at 7:30 pm, and doors open at 7pm. Admission is $15.  If you can’t make it to Whitesburg, you can hear the concert LIVE on the radio at WMMT 88.7 FM or here online at our 24/7 live stream.

For questions, or to make your reservations for the show, email [email protected] or call 606-633-0108 during business hours.

Also, mark your calendars for the other BGX Live performances that will happen this fall:

Thursday, Nov. 6th: Larry Sparks

Thursday, Dec. 11th: The Grascals

All BGX shows begin at 7:30.  Call or email us to make reservations for those shows, too!

Seeya thursday!

Mountain News & World Report: Ky. Activist Anne Braden; Serious Black Lung Again on the Rise; International Perspectives on Economic Diversification in Appalachia

Anne Braden & Rosa Parks

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we hear about efforts to bring an international perspective into local discussions on economic development in central Appalachia, specifically the After Coal project, which is looking to Wales for insight on what might be possible here.  Also in this program, we hear a feature story on Kentucky civil rights activist Anne Braden, who sixty years ago on October 1 was indicted by a Jefferson County Grand Jury on a charge of sedition for her efforts to desegregate Louisville housing (and for more on Anne Braden, check out the Appalshop Film Anne Braden: Southern Patriot).  But we begin our show with a report from WFPL’s Erica Peterson on a troubling new study that shows a rapid rise in severe cases of black lung disease.

As a final note, Appalshop will host a forum on Tuesday, October 7th at 7 p.m. that will bring together local community leaders as well as special guests from Wales to discuss what other coal mining regions have done to diversify their economies after coal declined, and what lessons Appalachia might take.  If you cannot make the forum (which is free and open to the public), tune into WMMT’s Mountain Talk on Wednesday, Oct. 8th at 6 p.m. for excerpts from the evening (which will also be posted here at wmmt.org).

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for October 1, 2014

an old flooded coal mine in British Columbia, Canada. some researchers think flooded mines could be a renewable energy source for geothermal heating & cooling systems. // photo by Gerry Thomasen, via https://www.flickr.com/photos/gerrythomasen/sets/72157603235856957

A subsidiary of Patriot Coal has been cited in the deaths of two coal miners in West Virginia earlier this year, the Charleston Gazette reports.  On May 12th, a section of mine wall collapsed at the Brody No. 1 mine in Boone County, West Virginia, killing miners Eric D. Legg and Gary P. Hensley.  The company was retreat mining at the time, when pillars of coal are removed from an area after it has been mined out, which theoretically allows the mine to collapse in a safe way. But the section where the fatality happened had been the site of another wall collapse just three days before, on May 9th, which caused a miner to be buried in coal up to his waist.  The company did not report that incident to state mine safety officials.  Afterwards, some employees did express concern that the section was unsafe, but the company kept mining there anyhow, which led to the fatal collapse.  Even before these incidents, the Brody mine had a long history of unsafe conditions and failing to report accidents–MSHA found 253 significant and substantial violations at Brody just in 2013, and designated the mine as having a large-scale Pattern of Violations.  The exact fine Patriot Coal will pay hasn’t yet been set, but the company was cited for failing to support the mine roof and wall, and for failing to report the first collapse.

After issuing notice earlier this summer that some 1100 West Virginia miners at 11 mines across the state might soon be laid off, Alpha Natural Resources has confirmed that some of those layoffs have begun.  The Charleston Gazette reports that Alpha has idled the Twilight surface mine in Boone County and the Ewing Fork No. 1 mine in Kanawha & Fayette counties, Continue reading Coal Report for October 1, 2014