Also, we are now podcasting! To subscribe to the Coal Report Podcast, either click here to subscribe through Itunes or copy and paste the following url into the podcatcher of your choice: http://www.wmmt.org/archives/category/coal-report/?feed=atom
Coal Report 12-04-13 6m 00sec
a coal mine ventilation air methane (VAM) abatement system installed at Walter Energy’s Mine No. 4 in Brookwood, Al. // photo from the BioThermica website: http://www.biothermica.com/node/210
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that methane captured from local coal mines could be sold to companies in California who are looking to offset their own carbon footprints. California is the only state with a cap-and-trade program. Companies there are subject to a carbon emissions limit, and if they wish to exceed this limit, they can purchase credits that fund emissions-reducing projects across the country. One of these projects could be capturing and destroying the methane that is normally just vented into the air out of local coal mines. CONSOL Energy has set up pilot projects at some of its mines, and destroying the methane vented from just the McElroy mine in West Virginia would offset the emissions from a 50 megawatt coal plant over the course of a year. California’s system hasn’t been quite set up yet to allow these coal-methane projects to count—the state was supposed to vote on the coal-methane issue in October but pushed the vote back to the new year. But this could represent an additional revenue stream for local coal operators.
In a new bill that is one sentence long, a Kentucky lawmaker is proposing to require all power utilities in the state to keep a 30-day stockpile of their fuel source on-site at all times. This is a requirement that coal just so happens to meet, while gas Continue reading Coal Report for December 4, 2013
Coal Report 11-27-13 6m 00sec
the Century Mine in Beallsville, Ohio, site of a fatal accident this week // photo: REUTERS/Jason Cohn, found via http://www.miningconnection.com/longwall/featured_stories/article/under_obama_coal_country_fights_for_its_way_of_life/
Another coal miner has been killed at work, this time in Ohio. According to the preliminary MSHA accident report (found via the Charleston Gazette), miner Ryan Lashley was killed at Murray Energy’s Century Mine near Beallsville Ohio when a pressurized hydraulic hose became severed underground, which caused Lashley to be struck by high-pressure fluid. This is the 20th coal mining death in the US this year, and the first in Ohio. SNL Financial reports the Century mine is one of the top-producing mines in northern Appalachia. Murray has come under fire for safety issues in recent years: another employee was killed earlier this year in a drowning accident in Pennsylvania, and six Murray miners and three rescue workers were killed in the Crandall Canyon disaster in Utah in 2007, when a retreat mining operation caused a mine to collapse. That disaster was found by federal investigators to be Murray’s fault even though the company denied responsibility.
Speaking of Murray, the company recently bought 5 of the largest underground coal mines in West Virginia from CONSOL Energy, and SNL Financial reports this sale is symbolic of a “decisive step” for CONSOL away from coal and towards gas. CONSOL President Nicholas Deluliis said the company would still hold on to some coal mines, including the Buchanan mine in Continue reading Coal Report for November 27, 2013
Coal Report 11-20-13 5m 52s
the coal-burning Paradise Power Plant in Muhlenberg County, Ky. // photo found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyphotofile/5891310807/
Coal jobs and production in Kentucky are both down again, with the biggest losses happening in Eastern Kentucky. The state as a whole lost 439 coal jobs just in the third quarter, and 403 of those layoffs happened in our region, compared with just 36 coal jobs lost in western Kentucky. Counting the recent layoffs by James River Coal and Arch, Eastern Kentucky has now lost over 6,300 coal jobs since January 2011. And compared with the second quarter, coal production in Eastern Kentucky fell another ten percent, while production in Western Kentucky was essentially steady, being down just 0.3 percent in the 3rd quarter. In total, Western Kentucky is now producing more coal–with far fewer people–than East Kentucky.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has announced plans to retire 8 coal-burning generators at three different power plants, The Wall Street Journal reports. To comply with new rules on mercury emissions, 2 of the 3 coal-fired generators at the Paradise plant in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky will be retired, along with 5 generators at the Colbert plant in Alabama and 1 generator at the Widows Creek Plant, also in Alabama. To make up for the 3000 megawatts of electricity going off the grid, the TVA has Continue reading Coal Report for November 20, 2013
Coal Report 11-13-13 5m 52s
image from the Washington Post, found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/11/04/heres-why-central-appalachias-coal-industry-is-dying/
Yet another coal miner has been killed on the job, this time in Illinois. The Southern Illinoisan reports that miner Dallas D. Travelstead was killed at M-Class Mining’s Sugar Camp Mine in Franklin County, Illinois on Monday, November 4. According to the report, Travelstead was killed when a large piece of coal became detached from a longwall underground and fell on top of him. This is the 19th coal-related death so far this year, and the 4th to happen in Illinois.
In local coal news, the past week has seen more coal-mine layoffs hit east Kentucky. Struggling operator James River Coal has been strapped for cash for some time now, and it already idled half of its central Appalachian coal production this September, laying off over 500 east Kentucky mine workers. Now, the Hazard Herald reports James River has announced it will idle two more underground mines and two more surface mines, which will furlough around 200 more miners and contractors. The company said these furloughs, all at the Buckeye complex in Perry County, were “due to continued weakness in the coal market,” and that it hopes to re-open the mines in 2014. But James River also called the September Continue reading Coal Report for November 13, 2013
Coal Report 11-6-13 5m 19s
part of the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has announced its medical school will no longer review chest x-rays in black lung cases, at least until troubling allegations about the program are cleared up. Last week, ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity published results of a year-long study of why so many miners lose their black lung claims. One reason is that coal companies usually submit testimony from doctors who read miners’ x-rays and say the x-rays show no evidence of black lung disease. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University have been hired by coal companies to read thousands of such x-rays, and the doctors almost always side with the companies, ABC says.
One such doctor is Dr. Paul Wheeler, a graduate of Harvard, a leader in his field and a very prestigious doctor. He has reviewed over 1500 miners’ x-rays and has not found a single case of what he would call advanced black lung. Other doctors reading the same x-rays found black lung in almost 400 of them. Autopsies or biopsies in 100 of these cases have found undisputed Continue reading Coal Report for November 6, 2013
Coal Report 10-30-13 6m 02sec
According to a new report, a law firm that has represented coal companies for decades has had a longstanding practice of withholding key evidence of black lung disease in miners and presenting only evidence it wanted courts to see. The report was written by The Center for Public Integrity, which last year documented a marked resurgence in black lung disease, and it found that the firm Jackson Kelly has a decades-long record of withholding evidence that suggests that miners do actually have black lung when the company argues otherwise, to keep coal companies from having to pay black lung benefits. The report also alleges the firm has hand-chosen doctors for black lung consultations. A retired judge who had once ruled in the firm’s favor against a miner said after learning this “I’m utterly dumbfounded, I just cannot conceive of attorneys doing that,” and said Jackson Kelly’s practices were “wicked.” The firm didn’t provide comment, but according to the report, it has argued in court that it isn’t doing anything wrong.
As of this past March, MSHA can now identify specific mines as having a Pattern of Violations if they have repeatedly broken mine health and safety rules over the past year. If a mine gets this designation and is then cited for a significant and substantial violation, it then must immediately shut down. The AP reports that of 14,600 mines MSHA reviewed this year, three were designated as having a pattern of violations, and they’re all in Kentucky or West Virginia: Tram Energy’s Mine No. 1 Mine in Floyd County, Ky., Brody Mining’s Brody Mine No. 1 in Boone County, WV, and Pocahontas Coal’s Affinity mine in Continue reading Coal Report for October 30, 2013