Coal Report for April 19, 2017

 

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Dennis Fillinger, age 62, of Harts, W. Va. lost his life April 6th to injuries sustained while working underground as section foreman for C K Coal Corporation’s Mine No. 5 in Mingo County in southern West Virginia. On February 23, Fillinger was struck by a piece of rock “approximately 3 feet wide by 2 feet long by 3 to 4 inches thick,” the Mine Safety and Health Administration reports. He was administered first aid and then transported to a local medical center, where he remained hospitalized until his passing. Fillinger had 38 years’ total experience in coal mining, but had worked only 10 weeks at the C K Coal operation. WMMT would like to send our condolences to Fillinger’s family, friends, and co-workers.

 

A Coal Company Is Planning A Major Solar Project on a Former Kentucky Strip Mine

 

How Asian Politics Could Affect U.S. Coal

 

The Coal Report is a weekly production of WMMT. It is assembled from newspapers and press services and reports coal-related material as these sources give it. It does not represent the opinion of WMMT on the matters discussed. Our aim is to reflect both local developments regarding coal and the big picture we’re a part of. For feedback, comments, or questions, email [email protected]

Coal Report for April 12, 2017

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It may seem somewhat paradoxical, Kentucky’s Coal Mining Museum located in Harlan County being powered by solar, but as of last week work began to install solar panels that the museum operators hope will save them between $8,000-$10,000 yearly in costs. Brandon Robinson, communications director of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, which owns the museum, told WYMT-TV (quote), “It is a little ironic. But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.” (end quote) Tre Sexton the owner of Bluegrass Solar located in Whitesburg who is installing the panels told EKB-TV (quote) “I know the irony is pretty prevalent. Continue reading Coal Report for April 12, 2017

Coal Report for April 5, 2017

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Joseph W. Partin aged 33 lost his life at the Green Hill Mining No. 51 surface mine March 30th, when a 15 foot tall section of rock collapsed.  Partin was performing maintenance work.  Federal inspection records reveal no serious violations at the mine since 2005.  This is the second death occurring at eastern Kentucky mines in 2017, matching the total deaths for all of 2016.  WMMT offers our condolences to the family, friend, and co-workers of Mr. Partin.

Black Lung Update: Federal Researchers Seek Allies in Appalachia

Lawmakers Ask Trump for More Black Lung Funding

The Coal Report is a weekly production of WMMT. It is assembled from newspapers and press services and reports coal-related material as these sources give it. It does not represent the opinion of WMMT on the matters discussed. Our aim is to reflect both local developments regarding coal and the big picture we’re a part of. For feedback, comments, or questions, email [email protected]

Coal Report for March 22, 2017

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President Trump’s budget proposal is asking Congress to pull the funding for the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan which is currently in litigation in federal court.  The president also promised a rally in Louisville, Kentucky that he has more plans for changing legislation in order to put the industry back on its feet and miners back to work, however, he did not offer the crowd any details to support the statement.  As the executive branch continues promises and actions in hopes of boosting the coal industry, Peabody Energy, which is the largest privately held mining company in the United States, has gotten approval for its amended bankruptcy exit plan and is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 in April.  The St. Louis-based coal company expects its new equity to trade on the New York Stock Exchange, separate from its existing ticker symbol BTUUQ.

 

Ohio Valley ReSource – Mine Safety Changes

Lawmakers in both Kentucky and West Virginia are working to loosen mine safety regulations. Glynis Board has details.  

Kentucky passed a bill this week that reduces the number of underground mine inspections. The state used to require six inspections a year. Now it’s one. Lawmakers in West Virginia are considering similar legislation. The introduced bill is more drastic and would change the mining inspection program to a “compliance assistance” program.  Kentucky attorney and mine safety expert Tony Oppegard says these bills won’t result in increased coal production or even a better business climate, they’ll just make mining more dangerous.  “West Virginia has no mine safety law anymore if that passes. It’ll be a joke. And Kentucky’s is about a step above a joke.”  West Virginia Coal Association’s Chris Hamilton says given tightening budgets, states would be better served to leave mine inspections to existing federal investigators who already inspect each mine four times a year, and instead focus state dollars on safety training programs. But even he thinks West Virginia’s bill goes too far.  “Going from four to one inspection might be a little too drastic; why not go with two inspections and two compliance visits?”  West Virginia’s bill is currently being reworked by lawmakers, according to the bill’s lead sponsor Randy Smith.

The Kentucky state government has passed a bill which will lift a ban on building nuclear power plants in the state.  Gov. Bevin is in support of the bill.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Kentucky is one of only 15 states who restrict nuclear power facilities.  Representatives from the coal producing regions of the state are not happy with the bill’s passing saying it will cause further decline in Kentucky’s already struggling coal industry.  Republican Rep. Steven Rudy from western Kentucky said (quote), “Should this bill become law, as a matter of fact, it will take a decade or more, probably decades, before an applicant could possibly wade through the regulatory environment before bringing a reactor online.” (end quote)  In 2014, 93% of Kentucky’s electricity was produced by coal.  It has since fallen to 83% as coal fired power plants are being replaced by cheaper to obtain and burn natural gas.  Lawmakers in western Kentucky are hoping the highly skilled workers left behind by the 2013 closing of a uranium enrichment plant in the area will be able to find work in a nuclear facility.  The bill requires Kentucky officials to review the state’s permitting process to ensure costs and “environmental consequences” are taken into account.

 

Owensboro Municipal Utilities announced that it plans to stop using coal completely for power generation by 2023.  The utility expect Unit 1 of the Elmer Smith Facility on KY 144 to stop burning coal as soon as 2019.  The plant plans to convert to burning solely natural gas.

The Coal Report is a weekly production of WMMT. It is assembled from newspapers and press services and reports coal-related material as these sources give it. It does not represent the opinion of WMMT on the matters discussed. Our aim is to reflect both local developments regarding coal and the big picture we’re a part of. For feedback, comments, or questions, email [email protected]

Coal Report for March 15, 2017

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The Kentucky House of Representatives passed House Bill 234, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence. The bill eliminates required mining permits for all the surface area above underground mines. Rep. Gooch said (quote) “With the new Trump Administration in place, we are seeing real relief for coal country, and it is imperative that our state’s government follows suit. This measure will reprieve coal companies of unnecessary costs and help in our efforts to get our coal miners back to work.” (end quote) Continue reading Coal Report for March 15, 2017

Coal Report for March 8, 2017

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43-year-old Jason Kenneth Matthews of Bluefield, Virginia lost his life Monday, February 27th at Southern Coal’s Bishop Prep Plant in McDowell County.  Matthews worked as a plant floor man, and according to a company spokesman, fell to his death just before 10:30 p.m.  His is the second coal mining related fatality of 2017 in the US.  Southern Coal is owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. Justice released a statement on the mining accident:  (quote) “Tragic accidents like this just break all of our hearts and our state is grateful to have a close-knit mining community that steps up on these most difficult days.” (end quote)  WMMT would like to send our condolences to Matthews’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Affordable Care Act & Miners’ Health (Ohio Valley ReSource)

INTRO: Retired coal miners say their health care options face a one-two punch that could leave many of them in the lurch. A repeal of Obamacare and the expiration of miner’s health protections could make it hard for any coal retiree to get health care. Becca Schimmel has more.

BS: Ohio Valley retirees have been meeting one-on-one with congressional leaders to talk about the risks to their benefits. Some provisions of the Affordable Care Act are especially important to miners. The so-called Byrd Amendment deals with benefits for miners suffering from black lung, and miners hope it will be restored if the Act is repealed. Miners are also concerned about the Act’s pre-existing condition provision. United Mine Workers communications director Phil Smith says the nature of the work makes every retired miner a “walking basket” of pre-existing conditions.

PS: “If they don’t have the health care that they were promised and the miner’s protection act doesn’t pass, and the ACA is out the window then nobody’s going to insure them.”

BS: Smith says the union hopes the miner’s protection act might pass before the end of April, when more than 22,000 miners, widows and beneficiaries could lose their health and pension benefits. Without those guarantees, miners might have to look for health insurance, and many of them have higher rates of cancer, heart disease and musculoskeletal injuries that make insurance harder to get. Smith worries miners won’t be able to afford care. If those retirees wait until they are seriously ill and then seek care at emergency rooms, as many uninsured patients do, rates for those that are insured could go up.

PS: “These are people that don’t have a whole lot of money to start with, exist on a small pension and small social security check.”

BS: Uncompensated care spending–which is the cost of caring for the uninsured–has gone down since the ACA took effect. With small pensions of about $500 a month miners will have to make some tough decisions of what to pay for. For the Ohio Valley ReSource, I’m Becca Schimmel in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

NAS ON MTR EFFECTS

ANCHOR: A committee with National Academy of Sciences has started work on a study of the health effects of surface mining in central Appalachia. The eleven-member panel gathered yesterday (Tuesday) in Washington, D.C., to hear about earlier research on how mining affects nearby residents. Bill Orem [OAR-um] of the US Geological Survey was among those who addressed the committee. He led a USGS study on the health effects of mountaintop removal mining that began in 2009, but was defunded in 2012 before it could be completed.

Bill Orem [0:16]: Some of the health effects— numerous types of respiratory disease, water quality is another potential impact, things like arsenic and selenium. Unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to complete that study so it’s just very preliminary data.

ANCHOR: The committee will look at surface mining in four states— Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee. The study is slated for release in early 2018. A similar study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is currently under review for publication in a scientific journal.

The Coal Report is a weekly production of WMMT. It is assembled from newspapers and press services and reports coal-related material as these sources give it. It does not represent the opinion of WMMT on the matters discussed. Our aim is to reflect both local developments regarding coal and the big picture we’re a part of. For feedback, comments, or questions, email [email protected]