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Coal Report for May 10, 2017

Coal Report for May 10, 2017

Image courtesy of Phil_Bird at
Image courtesy of Phil_Bird at

Despite President Trump’s promises to put coal miners back to work, Kentucky’s coal industry still saw a loss in coal jobs for the first quarter at a 3.3% drop statewide. According to Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, eastern Kentucky coal jobs fell 4.6% in the first quarter. However, Kentucky Coal Association president Tyler White said that the numbers were promising.

He said (quote), “It’s definitely steps in the right direction.” (end quote) Last year’s first quarter loss in coal jobs in the state was at 17.9% and finished the year down 24%. Production of coal statewide rose, however, 0.76% and some counties in the state did see an increase in coal employment. White said (quote), “You don’t stop a coal train with 50 feet of track. You don’t measure change over 100 days.” (end quote)

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is scheduled to be released from an Arizona prison this month. Ashton Marra of West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports. Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards in December 2015. He was sentenced to one year in federal prison, beginning his sentence in May 2016 in a California penitentiary. In March, Blankenship was moved to a halfway house in Phoenix to serve the remainder of his term. He is scheduled to be released from that facility today (Wednesday). Blankenship’s conviction stems from the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. An explosion at the mine in April of that year killed 29 men. The U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that explosion was the result of a conspiracy under Blankenship to shirk safety laws to increase production and profits. In February, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Blankenship’s request to have his trial reheard. He can appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but would have to do so by the end of the month.

On Saturday, May 6, Michael Ramsey, a 62-year-old worker from Colstrip, Montana., was operating a dump truck at Westmoreland’s Rosebud Mine when the 100-ton haul vehicle fell 100 feet into a pit, according to news reports. Ramsey was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the accident is currently under investigation and the Mine Safety and Health Administration is onsite. Operations in the vicinity of the incident have been suspended pending investigation. MHSA recently launched an initiative during its quarterly stakeholder call aimed at educating miners about best safety practices after five workers died in the first three months of 2017. WMMT would like to send our condolences to Ramsey’s friends, family, and co-workers.

The recent spending bill passed by Congress contained great news for economic diversification and mine reclamation efforts in the coalfields region. The Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Pilot Program was expanded from $90 million in FY2016 to $105 million.** Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia will see $25 million each for FY2017. The program will also be expanded to Ohio, Alabama, and Virginia, which will each see $10 million. The program will allow states to continue important investments in coal mine reclamation projects that spur community and economic development. The spending bill also includes $80 million to invest in economic diversification in coal communities. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will again receive $50 million for the POWER Initiative, and the Economic Development Administration will receive $30 million for assistance to coal communities, which is twice the FY2016 level of $15 million.

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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