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Coal Report for April 26, 2017

Coal Report for April 26, 2017


Justice Low Seam Mining Inc., a company owned by West Virginia governor Jim Justice, has been cited in relation to the February 27th death of Jason Kenneth Matthews at the JC “Jim” Justice II Prep Plant in McDowell County. The citations were issued by West Virginia’s Office of Miner’s Health, Safety, and Training. Matthews, age 43, was killed when he fell onto a conveyor belt and then into a coal-waste bin after climbing a ladder to repair a plate filter press used to dewater coal waste inside the preparation plant. Matthews had been working at the plant for about three months. A mechanic helping Matthews assess the problem, Ralph Sparks, told investigators that Matthews was not wearing a fall protection safety harness at the time of the fall. Inspectors issued five notices of violation. Two of them concerned failing to implement a comprehensive mine safety program by not providing training records for Matthews and Sparks. Two others said the operator had failed to ensure that employees wear safety harnesses and that all ladders be properly secured. A fifth notice said the operator did not report to the state, in writing and within 24 hours, the full details of the accident. Investigators also issued a “special assessed notice of violation” that said the mine operator had failed to ensure compliance with a rule that repairs and maintenance not be performed on equipment until the power is off and the equipment is blocked against motion. The report said that, in this instance, the power was on to the filter press and the conveyor belt was in operation at the time of the fatality. The penalty of a special assessment involving a death can be as much as $10,000, but the fine has not yet been determined.

Chris Beam, the new president of Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling, W.Va. native, has announced that the company does not intend to build any new coal fired power plants, but instead intends to focus on renewable energy sources to meet the demands of potential customers. Companies like Amazon and Google, who can bring jobs such as warehouse and call center work to distressed areas seeing a loss of jobs with coal’s downturn, are increasingly demanding access to renewably produced electricity. Charleston Gazette-Mail was told by Beam that the company would continue to burn coal in its existing coal fired plants now and into the future. They would definitely, however, not build more. He said that instead of more coal plants, the company is planning to add their wind generation capacity in the south region of West Virginia. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s CEO Bill Johnson announced April 18th that the nation’s biggest public utility is not going to reopen any coal fired power plants under the Trump administration, and by the end of 2018, the utility will have retired five of its original 11 coal-fired power plants. Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press (quote),”Our statutory duty is to produce electricity at the lowest feasible rate. And when we decided to close the coal plants, that was the math we were doing. We weren’t trying to comply with the Clean Power Plan or anything else. What’s the cheapest way to serve the customer? It turned out to be retiring those coal plants.” (end quote)

April 21st was the first day since 1882 that Great Britain had gone a complete 24 hours without using coal to generate electricity. The last underground coal mine in the country closed in December 2015, though open cast mining still occurs. Britain is hoping to phase out all coal fired electricity generation by 2025 in favor for cleaner burning natural gas and renewables. Other European nations are already coal free in terms of power generation. They include Switzerland, Belgium, and Norway. 30% of electricity in the U.S. still comes from coal, however, Vermont and Idaho are both coal free states with California set to join them in the future.

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]

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