Coal Report for March 1, 2017

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Coal miners in Harlan, Kentucky and surrounding areas are hoping to soon be back at work as the bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources has sold all of its mining assets in Harlan County to JRL Coal located in Marietta, Georgia. JRL Coal plans to reopen the idled mines. Alpha CEO David Stetson says the recent sale is in line with the company’s plan to sell off idled assets. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Last year Alpha Natural Resources sold its idled Enterprise Mining operations in Knott and Letcher counties.

The Interior Department has put a hold on implementing new changes to how the federal government values coal extracted from public lands, primarily in the Western United States, after mining companies challenged the agency in federal court. Rules in place since the 1980s have allowed companies to sell their fuel to affiliates and pay royalties to the government on that price, then turn around and sell the coal at higher prices, often overseas. The proposed changes to the rules would have allowed the the royalty rate to be determined by the price of the sale made to an outside company rather than the affiliate or middle man to the parent company. Western coal states such as Wyoming, Montana, and Utah applaud the decision of the Trump administration expressing that the new rules would have been an immediate hit to the industry and concerns that it would increase the price utilities pay for coal therefore increasing rates for electricity. However, about half the coal royalties collected by the federal government is directly disbursed to states. The move by the Trump administration means current rules governing the industry will remain in place pending decisions in the courts.

(Quote) “AppHarvest’s project will bring exciting, high-tech job opportunities to Eastern Kentucky. Our administration is dedicated to increasing economic opportunity across Kentucky, and this project presents a fantastic opportunity to help our Appalachian region continue its rejuvenation. We intend to make Kentucky the engineering and manufacturing center of excellence in America, and job growth in Eastern Kentucky will be a key part of our success.” (end quote) said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin speaking of an agricultural start-up company called AppHarvest and their intentions of using a 60-acre site in Pikeville located on former surface mines to build a 2 million square foot greenhouse costing $50 million dollars in order to create 140 full time jobs. The greenhouse will grow vegetables year around and focus mostly on cherry tomatoes and bell peppers. The facility will feature computerized monitoring and cutting-edge hydroponic, above-ground growing systems. AppHarvest expects construction on the greenhouse to begin in June. Jobs will include include management, human resources, logistics and picker/crop worker. AppHarvest Founder and CEO Jonathan Webb told KYForward (quote) “The spirit of the region is unmatched and we want to work alongside those hardworking men and women.” (end quote)

WMMT would like to wish Lynch, Kentucky in Harlan County a happy 100th birthday. Built by U.S. Steel during World War I, Lynch was once the largest company owned coal town in the world. A committee of volunteers in Lynch is working to schedule events each month to mark the anniversary. Residents also have set up a Facebook page where they are posting historic photos and trivia about the town’s past.

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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