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Kayak on river

Coal Towns Were Counting On Tourism For New Jobs. Then Coronavirus Hit.

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On a recent sunny weekday, Bill Currey proudly walks among 30 neatly stacked, brightly colored plastic kayaks. Birds chirp merrily, and the soothing sounds of the meandering Coal River permeate the background — nature’s version of a white noise machine.  For the tanned Currey, who also owns an industrial real estate company, being here, on… Read More

A miner is tested for lung function and signs of black lung disease

Coal and COVID-19: Lung Impairment Makes Miners Especially Vulnerable to Coronavirus

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind… Read More

David Pratt Jr. and Sr., right and second from right, protest former employer Blackjewel in summer 2019.

‘There’s Going To Be Something Better for Him’: Former Blackjewel Miners Reflect on Changes in Coal Country

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On a blistering August afternoon in Cumberland, Kentucky, David Pratt, Jr. stood in the middle of a two-lane highway, holding a sign that read “COAL MINERS AND TRUCKERS AGAINST CORPORATE AMERICA.” A few yards away, his father, David Pratt Sr., who is graying but still muscular, leaned back in a lawn chair perched precariously on… Read More

Piles of coal

UMWA Wants More Coronavirus Protections for Coal Miners

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The United Mine Workers of America is asking federal regulators to set uniform, enforceable guidelines to help protect coal miners from contracting COVID-19. In a letter dated Tuesday, March 24, UMWA President Cecil Roberts wrote to the Mine Safety and Health Administration requesting the agency issue a “safeguard” or “emergency standard” that would require coal mine operators… Read More

The coal power station on the border between WV and PA

Amid Climate Debate and Coal’s Decline, West Virginia Considers its Future

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On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities. As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and… Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

Scientists, Mine Safety Officials Discuss Black Lung Protections

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Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration met for the first time with miners’ health researchers Wednesday in a new partnership designed to discuss ways to better protect coal miners from the dust that causes black lung disease. In future meetings, representatives from the two agencies will discuss recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences… Read More

Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., KY

More Unpaid Appalachian Miners Stage a Coal Train Blockade

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For the second time since summer, eastern Kentucky coal miners are blockading a railroad track to protest unpaid wages. The new blockade, which was started Monday afternoon by Quest Energy miners, echoes the months-long blockade by Blackjewel coal miners over the summer and speaks to a growing discontent in Appalachian coal country. “It’s hard to go… Read More

coal stack

Study Finds Coal Closures Saved Thousands Of Lives

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A new study finds the closure of coal-fired power plants and transition to natural gas generation across the United States over a decade saved an estimated 26,610 lives due to a reduction in air pollution, with about a fifth of those avoided deaths in the Ohio Valley. The coal-rich Ohio Valley states received outsized health… Read More

The coal power station on the border between WV and PA

2020 Hindsight: The Ohio Valley’s Decade in Data

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The year: 2009. A Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama has just made history upon taking the presidential oath of office. The national economy is at a low point in the Great Recession. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the first NFL team to win six Super Bowls. Ten years later, as 2019 gives way to… Read More

Retired miners begin a meeting with the pledge of allegiance.

After Nearly A Decade Of Anxiety Over Pensions, Coal Miners See Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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Union coal miners and retirees breathed a collective sigh of relief after the U.S. Senate passed a spending bill that includes support for miners’ pensions, which had been at risk due to the coal industry’s downturn. The bill, which funds the federal government for the coming year, also includes The Bipartisan American Miners Act which secures pension… Read More

A mountaintop removal mine site in southern West Virginia.

Study Shows Surface Coal Miners are Exposed to Toxic Dust that Causes Black Lung

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Appalachian surface coal miners are consistently overexposed to toxic silica dust, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and surface mine dust contains more silica than does dust in underground coal mines. The research is the first to specifically analyze long-term data on exposure to toxic silica dust for workers… Read More

A gavel in front of some legal books

Coal Bankruptcy Judge Asks Company to Explain Attorney Costs

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A judge is telling a bankrupt coal company to provide more information about over $73,000 in expenses accrued by its attorneys while miners awaited back pay. Attorneys for Blackjewel want U.S. District Judge Frank Volk in West Virginia to approve reimbursement for a range of expenses including meals, transportation and hotel… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Black Lung Trust Fund Likely Burdened by Murray Bankruptcy

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The recent bankruptcy of Murray Energy is likely to significantly increase the debt of a struggling federal trust fund that supports disabled miners’ health care expenses. According to court filings, Murray Energy could be responsible for as much as $155 million under the Black Lung Act and general workers’ compensation, but testimony from the Government Accountability… Read More

A scene from inside Portal 31.

Portal 31: How A Closed Mine Opened New Prospects For One Coal Town

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Devin Mefford is sitting in the squat metal buggy of a modified mantrip, the train-like shuttle coal miners use to travel underground. Mefford is dressed for work, in a hardhat and a navy shirt and pants with lime green reflective stripes. It’s a uniform his father and grandfather — both Kentucky coal miners — would… Read More

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky.

Bill Addresses Pensions, Health Care for Miners, Retirees

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is co-sponsoring a bill with West Virginia’s two U.S. senators and others aimed at preserving the pensions of about 92,000 retired coal miners, as well as the health-care benefits of another 13,000 working miners. Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced… Read More

Piles of coal

EPA Proposes Changes to Federal Coal Ash, Wastewater Rules

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Federal environmental regulators released proposed changes to two rules related to the disposal of coal ash and wastewater from coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced its third round of changes to its 2015 rule regulating coal ash. Coal ash is one of the largest waste streams in the country and often contains toxic… Read More

Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse of Coal Miners’ Pensions

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The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon. The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Ohio-Based Coal Giant Murray Energy Declares Bankruptcy

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Murray Energy Corp., the largest underground coal mining company in America with a substantial footprint across the Ohio Valley, has filed for bankruptcy protection. “Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers… Read More

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Blackjewel Miners Get More of Their Pay as Labor Dept. Acts Against Bankrupt Company

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Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Murray Energy CEO Lashes Out at “Feckless” Federal Officials Over Coal Subsidy Plan

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Coal executive Bob Murray clashed Monday with federal energy regulators at a Lexington, Kentucky, energy forum over what Murray called a failure by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sufficiently support the struggling coal industry. “The word that I’ve been using to describe FERC is feckless,” Murray told the audience, including FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee…. Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

Federal Agency to Hear Comment on Silica Dust as Black Lung Epidemic Rages

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The Mine Safety and Health Administration will host a public meeting Thursday as it considers action on regulating respirable silica, one of the major contributors to Appalachia’s skyrocketing rates of black lung disease. MSHA issued a request for information in response to calls for increased regulation after a 2018 investigation from NPR and PBS Frontline. That… Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

New Kentucky Memorial Honors Miners Who Died Of Black Lung

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Coal miners and family members of miners who have died from black lung disease gathered Sunday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to dedicate a new memorial to miners who perished from the workplace disease. While Appalachian coal country has several memorials to mining disasters, this is believed to be the first memorial to remember the thousands of… Read More