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Coal Report 03-05-14 5m 53sec
Ky. State Rep. Keith Hall (at right) on the House Floor recently with State Rep. Ryan Quarles // photo via LRC Public Information
Keith Hall, a Pike County Coal Operator and an influential Kentucky legislator, is back in the news. Back in June, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Hall had complained to the state that a mine inspector to whom he had already given “a small fortune” was shaking him down for more. And now that mine inspector, Kelly Shortridge, has resigned after 24 years with the Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement. The Herald-Leader reports that there are separate state and federal inquiries going on into the relationship between Shortridge and Hall—despite Hall having complained about Shortridge and reportedly saying he “liked the Benjamins,” the two reportedly became close when Shortridge inspected Hall’s mines, so close, that Shortridge’s supervisor pulled him off of mines owned by Hall. While Shortridge denied soliciting money from Hall, he did acknowledge that Hall had made “unsolicited donations” in the past. Hall had no comment and reportedly refused to speak to the Kentucky Inspector General. As both a coal operator and the vice chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment, Hall came under fire last year for holding the permits to several east Kentucky mines with a long history of safety violations, including water pollution, improper maintenance of slurry ponds, and the reckless blasting of rocks onto several nearby homes and properties.
Speaking of Keith Hall, he sits on the board of advisers for the energy company that had partnered with an Indian company back in 2012 for an agreement that would supposedly ship east Kentucky coal to India for 25 years. But as the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, now a year and a half later, there has still been no coal shipped. Martin County coal operator Jim Continue reading Coal Report for March 5, 2014
southwest Virginia mines & operations owned by SunCoke Energy
Coal Report 02-26-14 5m 45sec
A coal miner has been killed on the job in southwest Virginia. The Bristol Herald-Courier reports that Arthur David Gelentser of Keen Mountain, Va. was killed on Februrary 21st at Dominion Coal’s Number 30/Jewell Smokeless mine when he became pinned by a continuous mining machine underground. The mine is owned ultimately by SunCoke Energy. As the Charleston Gazette has reported, between 1984 and 2010, 30 miners were killed by continuous mining machines and 220 more were injured, accidents which might have been prevented if proximity detection systems were installed on continuous mining machines to automatically shut them down if miners came too close. But there is still no federal rule requiring these proximity detection systems. Gelentser became the second coal miner killed so far in 2014, and the first in Virginia.
The Obama administration has announced a series of reforms aimed at making it easier for miners to win black lung benefit cases. The Charleston Gazette reports these reforms came after an investigation last year revealed how coal companies, lawyers, and doctors were all working together to make it difficult for miners to win black lung benefits, including withholding evidence indicating that certain miners did indeed have black lung. The reforms, announced by the US Department Continue reading Coal Report for February 26, 2014
Coal Report 02-19-14 5m 26sec
coal ash in the Dan River // image found via http://www.veooz.com/photos/GtZjXV.html
Controversy continues around the coal ash spill in North Carolina, which was the third-largest in US history, and leaked enough ash into the Dan River to fill 73 olympic-sized swimming pools. The AP reports that the federal government has begun a criminal investigation into the spill and how Duke Energy maintains its other coal ash ponds. Investigators have issued subpoenas seeking records both from Duke and from North Carolina state regulators. This investigation began, the day after news broke that north carolina regulators had blocked three lawsuits over the past year for leaks at other Duke coal ash ponds. By blocking the lawsuits, the state was able to settle privately with Duke, which allowed the company to pay far less in fines than it might have been on the hook for under the Clean Water Act.
Despite concerns over its effects on water quality, though, the EPA has ruled that coal ash is safe enough to use in cement and wallboard, according to Bloomberg news service. The EPA has been wrestling for some time with the question of coal ash. The law seems to leave only two choices—either call it “toxic waste”—which is not exactly accurate—or declare it’s generally Continue reading Coal Report for February 19, 2014
Coal Report 02-12-14 5m 45sec
Fields Creek in Kanawha County, WV after the spill // image found via http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/12/1276989/-That-W-Va-coal-slurry-spill-one-state-official-called-much-of-nothing-Tuesday-100-000-gallons#
After recent weeks have seen a coal chemical spill in West Virginia and a coal ash spill in North Carolina, there has been yet another coal-related spill, and again in West Virginia. The Charleston Gazette reports that over 100,000 gallons of coal slurry spilled into Fields Creek, in eastern Kanawha County near Charleston. Officials called it a “significant spill” with “a significant environmental impact,” and it reportedly happened early on February 11th when a slurry line ruptured at a prep plant owned by Patriot Coal. The valve was shut off after the spill, but state officials say the company took too long to notify them of the problem, the same accusation levied against Duke Energy after the ash spill in North Carolina and against Freedom Industries after the chemical spill in West Virginia. Coal slurry is a byproduct of processing coal for power plants, and it contains a variety of potentially-very-harmful toxic substances, including MCHM, the same ingredient from the chemical spill that left hundreds of thousands without water and sent many residents to the hospital. The slurry turned much of Fields Creek black and grey, and some of it was confirmed to have reached the nearby Kanawha River, but initial reports indicated it doesn’t seem likely to affect drinking water.
Speaking of that North Carolina coal ash spill, Reuters reports that the stormwater pipe that leaked between 50-80 thousand tons of coal ash into the Dan River has been plugged. Coal ash contains a number of potentially-toxic substances, including arsenic, lead, and selenium, and the Danville, VA Register-Bee reports that North Carolina’s environmental agency admitted that it made a mistake in initially declaring the water safe after the spill. Two days after it happened, a sample found four times the allowable amount of arsenic in the river, and officials called it an “honest mistake” that people were told the water Continue reading Coal Report for 2-12-14
Coal Report 02-05-14 5m 44 sec
grey coal ash visible in the Dan River // photo via http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/blog/2013/danriver-550.jpg
Between 50,000 and 80,000 tons of coal ash has spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reports. The spill happened at an unlined coal ash pond owned by Duke Energy left over from the old Dan River power plant, a coal-fired plant that was retired in 2012. A stormwater pipe beneath the pond broke and the ash seeped in from above, draining through the pipe into the Dan River, near the North Carolina/Virginia border on Sunday, February 2nd. Coal ash is a byproduct left over when coal is burned for electricity, and it contains arsenic, lead, mercury, and other metals that are toxic in high enough concentrations. Ash was visible along the bank of the Dan River the next day, and the water was noticeably gray. While Duke notified authorities of the spill on Sunday, they waited until Monday afternoon to notify the public. But officials from the nearest town downriver said as of February 4th that their water was safe.
In related news, as of right now, there are no regulations as to how coal ash must be stored. It’s often kept in large ponds that can either leak into the groundwater like the Dan River pond, or that can burst through dams and containing walls like Continue reading Coal Report for February 5, 2014
Coal Report 01-29-14 5m 47sec
the Coleman & Wilson Power Stations (respectively) in Western Kentucky, both operated by the Big Rivers Electric Corporation and slated to be idled
The price of natural gas bounced back in 2013 from record lows in the previous years, meaning that once again, coal was a competitively-priced option for many power plants. This means that coal production has started to bounce back–but according to the investing website The Motley Fool, this bounceback is happening in the Illinois Basin, the Powder River basin, and even Northern Appalachia, but not in central Appalachia. the Energy Information Administration said that local coal is just too expensive to mine relative to coal from other regions, and this report said that CONSOL’s getting rid of its major central Appalachian mines this past fall is a sign that the market has shifted away from local coal.
Due to this market shift, James River Coal has closed at least seven mines and has laid off over 700 people in East Kentucky just since September, and even though the company called the layoffs furloughs at the time, a report from the investing website Seeking Alpha says that James River now has a 95% chance of filing bankruptcy. James River has owed its creditors a Continue reading Coal Report for January 29, 2014