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Eastern-->Central Appalachia

Central Appalachia

Drill into subregion of central appalachia:

The Eastern region is divided by the Energy Information Administration into three sub groupings as Northern Appalachia, Central Appalachia, and Southern Appalachia. Central Appalachia is defined as Virginia, the eastern counties of Kentucky, the southern counties of West Virginia, and the northeastern counties of Tennessee.

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  • Kayford Mountain and Stover Cemetery

    Photoset of Kayford Mountain and Stover Cemetary taken by Vivian Stockman on July 23, 2007. Flyover courtesy of SouthWings.org.


  • Marsh Fork Elementary and environs April 29, 2009

    Photoset of the Marsh Fork Elementary at the base of the impoundment for the Marsh Fork Mine. Take a virtual tour of Marsh Fork Elementary school and environs in Raleigh County, W.Va. The school is near the (first –another has been permitted!) coal silo visible in some photos. Check out the toxic coal sludge dam and the mountaintop removal operation–with associated basting above the dam and school. Learn more: http://www.sludgesafety.org and http://www.ohvec.org. For permission to use photos, contact vivian@ohvec.org. Thanks to SouthWings.org for the flyover.

    View photoset at http://coaldiver.org/photos/marsh-fork-elementary-and-environs

  • Photo Essay, Spruce 1 Mine Reauthorization

    Coal train near the Spruce 1 mine

    This slideshow was created by the New York Times in conjunction with their 7/14/2010 article talking about the importance of the Spruce 1 mine in West Virginia (central appalachia) as a bellweather for mountaintop removal coal mining.


In Victory for Obama, Court Backs Rules for Coal Pollution

April 29, 2014

The Supreme Court today upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to place regulations on pollution caused from coal-fired power plants that are emitted from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states. This is a major victory in reducing power plant pollution and highlights a decade long battle by the EPA to find a way to limit smog pollution that has been plaguing the eastern seaboard.

This ruling will require coal power plants to reduce their smokestack pollution in an effort to clean up air quality for downwind states. The EPA stated that this ruling would prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illness each year.

 Read article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/us/politics/supreme-court-backs-epa-coal-pollution-rules.html?_r=1

Duke: Moving Coal Ash Would Cost up to $10 Billion

April 24, 2014

After the devastating February 2nd spill that released toxic sludge for over 70 miles on the Dan River, Duke Energy is under pressure to remove all coal ash that borders North Carolina’s rivers and lakes. Environmental groups are citing the need for Duke Energy to remove all of their coal ash to lined landfills in order to avoid the environmental degradation that occurred on the Dan River.

Duke Energy is alleging that this removal of coal ash would cost over $10 billion dollars and take decades to clean up. Furthermore, Duke Energy has stated that the majority of these costs for paying for coal ash clean up would come from its electricity customers.

 Read article at http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/duke-moving-coal-ash-cost-10-billion-23430364

Largest coal mines still in Wyoming, but US is diversifying

April 21, 2014

The Powder River Basin in 2013 listed the top nine coal producing mines in the United States. However, the amount of mines in the Powder River Basin situated in the top twenty five highest producing mines shrinked as compared to twenty years ago.

The decline in the amount of Powder River Basin mines being in the top twenty-five is the result of large mining projects taking hold in New Mexico, Texas, Indiana and Ohio. Nevertheless, the scale of coal production in the Powder River Basin’s Black Thunder mine and the North Antelope Rochelle mine are the largest producing coalmines with growths as high as 400% since 1994.

 Read article at http://www.mining.com/web/largest-coal-mines-still-in-wyoming-but-us-is-diversifying/

What next for Murray Energy?

April 18, 2014

Murray Energy Corporation stated Wednesday that the coal giant will no longer provide medical coverage for the over 1,200 retirees who worked for Consol Energy. Murray purchased Consol’s five West Virginia coal mines 16 months ago.

The termination of medical coverage will impact 1,200 former Consol Energy coal miners and 161 households in Pennsylvania alone. Murray Energy has cited this decision as a response to the struggling coal industry facing proposed regulatory reforms, legal actions and the growth of the Natural Gas industry.

Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2014/04/18/what-next-for-murray-energy/

Barclays and Citigroup Top Backers of U.S. Coal Industry’s Worst

April 17, 2014

Rainforest Action Group, BankTrack and the Sierra Club today released a report that Barclays and Citigroup are the top funders for dangerous coal practices. Barclays has been cited as the top funder of mountain top removal while Citigroup comes in as the top funder for power utilities that burn coal for electricity.

The report also highlighted that JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. have significantly reduced the amount of funding for mountaintop removal. This is an improvement for JPMorgan which last year was cited as being one of the top funders of coal related projects.

 Read article at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-04-17/barclays-and-citigroup-top-backers-of-u-dot-s-dot-coal-industry-s-worst

Coal Untouched By April’s Bloom

April 13, 2014

Forbes discusses the challenges faced by the coal industry in dealing with regulatory and legal battles that are likely to curtail expansion. With the boom in the natural gas industry, coal companies are facing decreased demand and the need to retrofit their operations to meet the upcoming carbon limits or shut down.

Companies such as Consol Energy are selling coalmines  (5 by Consol) in order to become more active in the natural gas market. Additionally major players in the coal industry (American Electric, Duke, First Energy and Southern) are being forced to shut down coalmines because of natural gas competition, regulatory carbon limits and upcoming legal battles.

 Read article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/04/13/coal-untouched-by-aprils-bloom/

James River Coal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

April 8, 2014

Richmond, Va-based James River Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure and save the Coal company’s declining business. The company has secured a $110 million dollar bankruptcy loan.

James River Coal stated that this decline for both James River and coal companies in the central Appalachian region is directly attributable to the new natural gas boom associated with fracing. The change to natural gas has led to a decline in the coal industry including mine closures and layoffs throughout Appalachia.

 Read article at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/james-river-coal-files-for-chapter-11-bankruptcy-2014-04-07-18485718?link=MW_latest_news

NC judge rebuffs Duke Energy request to shield coal ash records during criminal investigation

April 4, 2014

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway of North Carolina denied Duke Energy’s motion to shield records associated with groundwater pollution that has been leaking from 33 coal ash dumps throughout North Carolina. A criminal investigation is continuing involving Duke’s February coal ash spill that spanned 70 miles of the Dan River.

Duke Energy lawyers were concerned that these records of leaching coal ash from company dumps could present the company in an unfavorable manner and thereby influence grand jury members involved in the criminal proceeding.

 Read article at http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/04/04/nc-judge-denies-duke-motion-to-seal-coal-ash-docs

US Senator: Coal Boss Has ‘Blood on His Hands’

April 2, 2014

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia publically accused former Massey Energy CEO Donald Blakenship of having “blood on his hands” associated with the Upper Big Branch mine in which 29 coal workers were killed in an explosion in April 2010. Senator Manchin was the governor of West Virginia at the time of the Upper Big Branch tragedy.

Allegations have been made that high ranking officials within Massey Energy including Blankenship encouraged and employed practices of warning mine workers ahead of time that a safety inspector would be coming to the mine. Investigators are claiming that the tragedy in which 29 coal workers lost their lives could have been avoided if the mine had followed proper mine safety protocol.

 Read article at http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-senator-coal-boss-don-blankenship-blood-hands/story?id=23162460

Coal Firm to Pay Record Penalty and Spend Millions on Water Cleanup in 5 States

March 5, 2014

Alpha Natural Resources, and 66 of its subsidiaries have been fined $27.5 million, the largest civil penalty ever for violations of the Clean Water Act associated with over 6,000 coal related violations in five states ranging from 2006 to 2013. Additionally, Alpha will pay $200 million under a consent decree to alleviate pollution from their coalmines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Some people have regarded these penalties as not specific enough since these penalties do not address the fundamental problems of high pollution associated with the coal mining techniques such as mountain top removals in the Appalachians. Many would like to see that the E.P.A. stop issuing permits that coal companies simply are unable to comply with. The concern is that levying fines after the pollution occurs does not protect the communities and waterways that are already harmed.

 Read article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/us/coal-firm-to-pay-record-penalty-and-spend-millions-on-water-cleanup-in-5-states.html?src=twrhp&_r=0


BLM Could Enhance Appraisal Process, More Explicitly Consider Coal Exports, and Provide More Public Information

February 4, 2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released findings related to coal leasing and the need for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to enhance the appraisal process. GAO found that the BLM consistently failed to explain the rationale for accepting bids for coal leasing on federal land that at least initially were far below the actual fair market value presale estimates.

The report stated that the state offices of the BLM did not allow independent review of these leasing agreements with coal companies. Additionally, GAO cited that the BLM failed to take advantage of an independent third party appraisal within the Department of the Interior (Office of Valuation of Services).  Lastly, GAO was highly critical of the BLM’s failure to provide even limited information to the public on federal coal leasing.

 Read article at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-140

 See document at http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659801.pdf

New study examines mountaintop removal’s potential impact on mental health in Appalachia communities

October 22, 2013

Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University recently released a report that highlights the severe emotional toll that the coal industry’s practice of mountaintop removal takes on the people living where these extraction tactics take place.

The study released showed that of 8,591 adults living in Central Appalachia, 17% of respondents in mountaintop removal mining areas suffered from major depression. This was compared with 10% of respondents diagnosed with major depression in non-mining areas.

 Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2013/10/22/new-study-examines-mountaintop-removals-potential-impact-on-mental-health-in-appalachia-communities/

 See document at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/eco.2013.0029

After decades of decline, black lung on the rise in Eastern Kentucky

July 6, 2013

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently identified an increase in black lung disease among Kentucky coal miners. In 1969, 40 percent of seasoned miners had black lung but with the passage of the 1969 mining act, the prevalence from 1995 to 1999 had dropped to 2 percent.

However NIOSH recently reported that from 2005 to 2009, 9 percent of Eastern Kentucky miners had developed black lung. Some of the reasons being attributed are shifts of 10 to 12 hours in the mines; poorly designed dust control regulations; more cutting through rock in thinner coal seams; and the coal industry’s failure to follow these regulations to protect coal miner safety.

Read article at http://www.kentucky.com/2013/07/06/2705218/after-decades-of-decline-black.html

See document at http://media.kentucky.com/smedia/2013/07/03/12/07/wrWFO.So.79.pdf

Citizens Object To State Of Kentucky’s Backroom Deal With Coal Company

January 31, 2013

Citizen’s groups in Kentucky recently rose a public objection to what they claim is the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet making back-room deals with Frasure Creek Mining. The agreement is to determine fines levied against Frasure Creek mining for hundreds of water pollution violations. The citizens groups are claiming that the state of Kentucky is allowing Frasure Creek Coal’s threat of forfeiture to get off the hook for $440,000 of the $660,000 penalties for intentional polluting of Kentucky waterways.

This is just another example of citizen groups alleging that they are being excluded from all negotiations while the coal industry is being allowed to settle pollution violations through private, non-public negotiations.

Read article at http://appvoices.org/2013/02/01/citizens-object-to-state-of-kentucky%E2%80%99s-backroom-deal-with-coal-company/

See document at  http://appvoices.org/aww/Frasure_OAH_Settlement_Objections.pdf

The Impact of Coal on the Virginia State Budget

December 12, 2012

According to a report released by Downstream Strategies, the state of Virginia in 2009 lost an estimated $22 million in revenues as a result of the coal industry. The coal industry was the largest expenditure to the state of Virginia and is said to receive over $37 million a year in tax breaks within the state.

This article emphasizes the need for reform in the tax structure associated with the coal industry and the drain these tax breaks are taking on local economies. Downstream Strategies also discusses the decline of coal production in Virginia and the rising costs associated with coal mining expenses.

Read article at http://appvoices.org/2012/12/12/coal-industry-costs-virginians-millions-of-dollars-every-year/

See document at  http://www.downstreamstrategies.com/documents/reports_publication/ds_impact_of_coal_on_virginia_state_budget_final_12-10-12.pdf

US Labor Department’s MSHA cites corporate culture as root cause of Upper Big Branch Mine disaster

Massey issued 369 citations and orders with $10.8 million in civil penalties

December 6, 2011

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced the results of its investigations into the 2010 explosion at Alpha Resources’ Upper Big Branch Coal Mine that killed 29 miners. The agency’s report cited a corporate culture that valued profits over safety as the primary cause of the accident. Along with the report, MSHA assessed nearly $11M in fines and 369 citations and orders; An unprecedented 21 of the orders were considered “flagrant”, the most serious category of violation.

See the following reports:

A Field-Based Aquatic Life Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams – EPA – 2011

National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, EPA/600/R-10/023F, www.epa.gov/ncea, March 2011

This report describes a method to characterize the relationship between the extirpation (the effective extinction) of invertebrate genera and salinity (measured as conductivity) and from that relationship derives a freshwater aquatic life benchmark. This benchmark of 300 µS/cm may be applied to waters in Appalachian streams that are dominated by calcium and magnesium salts of sulfate and bicarbonate at circum-neutral to mildly alkaline pH.


Final Memorandum: Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations, EPA 2011

Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations Under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Environmental Justice Executive Order. Published July 21, 2011.


MSHA announces results of April impact inspections

May 31, 2011

The results of the April 2011 MSHA “impact” inspections have been announced, resulting in a total of 161 citations and orders being issued against eight different coal mining operations. All cited mines were in the eastern region of the US, including Shoemaker and Randolph in West Virginia, the No. 2 and #68 mines in Kentucky, as well as one mine in each of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.

Among the worst offenders in the sweep were the Vision Coal’s No. 2 mine, which received 37 citations and orders that documented (among other things) that Vision wasn’t properly drilling bore holes to test for methane, and that it was creating a risk of a collapse by not following its ceiling reinforcement plan. Inman Energy’s Randolph mine received 25 citations, 21 of which were the most serious “S&S” citations indicating an immediate danger to the mining crew. The impact inspections grew out of an increased enforcement push by MSHA after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Impact inspections target mines that have a history of violations.

Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2011/05/31/msha-announces-results-of-latest-inspection-sweeps/ and http://www.wfpl.org/2011/06/01/two-kentucky-mines-cited-in-msha-inspections/. Read MSHA press release at http://www.msha.gov/MEDIA/PRESS/2011/NR110531.asp See the list of inspected mines at http://coaldiver.org/documents/master-inspection-list-targeted-enforcement-msha-april-2011

MSHA Internal Audits, Region 5, 2010

Reports from MSHA Office of Accountability reviews of MSHA inspectors in region 5.