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The cast in rehearsal for “Coal Country.”

Coal Country: Can a Play About a Mine Disaster Help Bridge a National Divide?

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The actors deliver their lines from a sparse stage — just a few benches around them and 29 modest lights above. For the most part they speak directly to the audience, sharing memories of the lives of husbands, sons, fathers and nephews, some of the 29 men who died on April 5, 2010, when an… Read More

Gov. Justice takes the oath of office as his son James C. Justice III (center) looks on.

Justice Coal Companies Agree to Settle $5 Million in Delinquent Mine Safety Debts

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (OVR) — Coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice have agreed to pay more than $5 million in overdue mine health and safety fines and fees. According to a press release released Wednesday, a total of 24 coal companies owned by the Justice family agreed to settle millions of dollars… Read More

Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.

Bankrupt Blackjewel Coal Still Racking Up Environmental Violations, Officials Warn

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An attorney for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet told a federal judge Wednesday that the bankrupt coal company Blackjewel has accrued nearly 300 environmental violations since it entered bankruptcy in July. “It’s essential that these violations are addressed, abated, and that they stop accruing,” Cabinet attorney Lena Seward told bankruptcy judge Frank Volk in the… 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

A sign warns of an abandoned uranium mine. Two such mines, in addition to a former mill site, surround the Red Water Pond Road Community in the Navajo Nation.

While “Zombie” Mines Idle, Cleanup And Workers Remain In Limbo

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The sound of metal banging against metal broke the calm on the high mesa separating Colorado’s Paradox and Big Gypsum valleys. An old rusted headframe marked the entrance to an abandoned uranium mine that, from a distance, looked as if its workers were simply off on a lunch break. Jennifer Thurston, a local environmentalist, paused… Read More

Official: Kentucky Cabinet Fails to Secure Coal Worker Bonds

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The state’s Labor Cabinet hasn’t secured the necessary bonds from coal companies that would cover wage payments to miners if their employer unexpectedly shuts down, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said. Beshear, a Democrat running for governor, announced on Thursday that his office examined records of Kentucky companies that should be… Read More

Don Blankenship

Judge: Ex-coal CEO Blankenship’s Conviction Should be Tossed

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Former coal CEO Don Blankenship’s misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to violate mine safety laws should be tossed out, a federal magistrate judge in West Virginia recommended Monday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Omar Aboulhson wrote that Blankenship’s rights were violated under the Brady rule, which says suppression of evidence favorable to the accused… 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

bl-widows-salyers-photo

Still Fighting: These Widows’ Stories Show Larger Effects of Black Lung Epidemic

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Nancy and Rich Potter had the kind of marriage that made other couples jealous. He’d take her on spontaneous trips. She’d wear her Daisy Dukes just for him. Joyce Birman said her late husband, George, made a terrible first impression. It was his apology for it that made her fall for him, hard. Vickie Salyers’… Read More

KY Coal Mine That Belonged To WV Governor Causes Damaging Floods Again

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The rain started around 10:30 p.m. By midnight, the creek in front of Elvis and Laura Thackers’ house had swelled to a mighty flood, uprooting trees, moving boulders and surging right up to the couple’s front steps. The Thackers decided to abandon their home. But when they got into their Jeep, they found the flood… Read More

Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions, Black Lung Fund

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Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act. Pension… Read More

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration David Zatezalo

Safer Direction? Top Mine Regulator Addresses Concerns About Dust And Deaths In Coal

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As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration’s priorities for… Read More

Coal Fatalities Rise: Miner Deaths Increase Amid Low Coal Employment

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A rash of fatal coal mining accidents in the Ohio Valley region pushed the nation’s total number of mining deaths to a level not seen since 2015, sparking concern among safety advocates. Already this year 12 miners have died on the job in the U.S., compared to eight fatalities in all of 2016. Two miners… Read More

A mountaintop removal mine site in southern West Virginia.

Strip Mining Science: Trump Administration Stops Mining Health Study

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The Perry County Public Library in Hazard, Kentucky, lies along Black Gold Boulevard — a name that nods to the wealth the coal from these hills has generated. On a recent Tuesday evening, however, the library was the venue for a hearing about the full costs of extracting that coal. A team from the National Academy… Read More

West Virginia To Review Mining-Health Research

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration will review studies linking mountaintop removal mining with health problems in nearby communities. State health officer Dr. Rahul Gupta tells The Charleston Gazette that the Bureau for Public Health and Department of Environmental Protection will evaluate the research. Gupta says the state will coordinate with federal scientific and regulatory agencies…. Read More