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This Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, shows Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers discussing the status of the statewide broadband network at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. Launched with considerable fanfare in 2015

SOAR At Six: Group’s Lofty Goals For Coal Country Meet Challenges On The Ground

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In a conference hall in Pikeville, Kentucky, this September, Gov. Matt Bevin led an eager audience in a countdown. When the audience reached “One!,” a map on the screen behind the governor lit up with the promise of a high-tech future. After years of delay and scandal, major portions of the commonwealth’s “middle mile” of… Read More

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration David Zatezalo

Mines That Change Owners Have Worse Safety Record, Audit Finds

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A new federal government report shows that mines that changed ownership had worse safety records than mines where ownership did not change. According to an audit from the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, mines that changed ownership during a 17-year period were nearly twice as likely to have safety violations, and five times as likely to report severe accidents… Read More

“Bloody Harlan” Revisited: Blackjewel Miners Draw On Labor History While Facing Uncertain Future

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Curtis Cress sat in the gravel beside a railroad track in Harlan County, Kentucky. Tall and thin with a long, black beard, Cress is every bit a coal miner, or, he was until a month ago. “It’s part of my heritage, you know? My dad and papaws had always done it,” he said. “And I’m… Read More

Piles of coal

As Disabled Miners Hit D.C., Lawmakers Introduce Bills To Fund Black Lung Benefits

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Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. “It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a… Read More

W.H. Sammis Coal Plant in Stratton, Ohio.

“Death Spiral.” How A Carbon Tax Could End Some Coal Towns … Or Fund A New Future

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Declining coal tax revenues place coal-reliant counties in Appalachia at risk of fiscal collapse, according to new research from the centrist Brookings Institution and Columbia University. Policies designed to prevent further climate change would accelerate that decline, the report found, but could also provide a new stream of revenue to help communities rebound from coal’s… Read More

My Cold Kentucky Home: Coal Country Turning To Solar As Heating And Housing Costs Climb

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Joe Oliver and Tony Brown peered into the dark crawl space beneath a Letcher County, Kentucky, home. Already, they could see problems. The crawl space had been blocked off with just a thin sheet of plywood; the posts supporting the house rested on uneven blobs of poured concrete; the whole place reeked of mold. A… Read More

As Calls For Action On Black Lung Disease Grow, Regulators Show Little Indication Of Change

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Harold Sturgill was disabled by black lung disease when he was 58 years old. Now he advocates for disabled miners. “When it comes to the mining companies, and it comes to the worker, it’s still all about production,” Sturgill said. “They could care less about me, how much dust I suck in, or how long… Read More

Congressional Leaders Seek Investigation Into Russian Investment In KY Aluminum Mill

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A group of Congressional leaders asked the Trump administration to review a Russian company’s investment in a new Kentucky aluminum mill. The request comes from eight prominent Democratic lawmakers with leadership roles in committees with oversight, banking and national security responsibilities, including Ohio Sen.Sherrod Brown and House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff. The lawmakers… Read More

From Russia, With Loot: KY Aluminum Company’s New Russian Partner Raises Concerns

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A large whiteboard in an Ashland, Kentucky, unemployment office is covered with a list of companies that are currently hiring. Senior career counselor Melissa Sloas said that just a few years ago, that board was a lot emptier. This corner of eastern Kentucky has long struggled to make up for losses in mining and manufacturing…. Read More

For Earth Day Nature Conservancy Preserves 100,000 Acres Of Appalachian Forest And Streams

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A conservation group chose Earth Day, April 22, to announce the purchase of a massive property in Appalachian forest to protect habitat and help wildlife adapt to the challenges of climate change. The property covers 100,000 acres of forest straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The Nature Conservancy, the nonprofit that made the purchase, said it plans to restore… Read More