news by location
Murray Energy, regional pillar of coal industry, is sinking
The largest privately-held coal producer in America is having trouble making payments to creditors. The company operates in Appalachia, the Illinois Basin, and Utah, with 7,000 employees and 16 mines.
Companies explore turning Appalachian mine sites into solar farms
Following project models established at Chernobyl and in Canada, Australia and New England, a move is afoot to build utility-scale solar arrays at brownfield mine locations across Appalachia.
A fight for preservation of miner benefits in West Virginia
Mine workers and their union representatives are pushing back against state-level policy changes that have made it more difficult to get healthcare and other benefits.
Hazard, Kentucky: Retooling for a post-coal economy
At the vanguard of a regional push for a “post-coal Appalachia,” the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development seeks a paradigm that is “more sustainable, more diverse, more equitable and more resilient.”
Report: Reclamation projects open the door for ‘Appalachian New Deal’
Twenty “ready-made” mine reclamation projects in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia still lack crucial federal funding that could create 540 jobs and generate $83 million in local economic activity.
TVA considers closing more coal-fired power plants
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies electricity to consumers in seven states, is weighing whether to close more coal-fired power plants after having already shut down half of the 59-plant fleet it once operated. The TVA has generated less than 30 percent of its electricity from coal this year, down from almost 70 percent in the 1980s. The issue boils down to a question of costs, and how coal-generated power has become less competitive. "Say you're driving a 70-year-old car, what would be required to keep it on the road?" said TVA President Bill Johnson. “They are rather expensive to maintain.”
Study depicts Central Appalachian reclamation possibilities
Researchers at Duke University have published a visually-rich study showing how surface mining has spread over the years in Central Appalachia, leaving behind a deeply-scarred 32,000-square-mile landscape across Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia. The study notes the growing difficulties facing coal companies as coal seams are tapped out and as they have to move three times as much earth as they did 30 years ago to produce a ton of coal. The researchers want to make their findings available to local and state governments to help identify sites that qualify for federal reclamation money, including through the Abandoned Mine Lands pilot program and the RECLAIM Act.
As regulators push for more lenience, a surge in black lung across Appalachia
As the Trump administration, at the behest of coal companies, continues to explore ways to roll back mine dust regulations, a new report shows an upsurge in black lung among miners. The study, “Continued Increase in Prevalence of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis in the United States, 1970-2017,” finds the disease especially prevalent in Appalachian, where it afflicts 20 percent of veteran miners. “We can think of no other industry or workplace in the United States in which this would be considered acceptable,” researchers concluded.
Hard Times Persist in Appalachia’s Coal Country
Two years after Donald Trump campaigned on the promise of reviving the U.S. coal industry, families in coal country continue to struggle. “If you got fired tomorrow or quit tomorrow, there's absolutely no opportunity to get another [job],” says one miner. "You can't keep propping it up and hoping for it to last forever because it won't."
Study: ‘The Easier Coal’ Has Already Been Mined in Central Appalachia
A new study that compiles data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission finds that low natural gas prices, stagnant demand for electricity, and rising production costs have driven the decline of mining in Kentucky and West Virginia. “In central Appalachian coal is deeper in the ground and the seams are thinner,” one expert said. “Because we’ve been mining coal for so long and so aggressively, we’ve already taken out all the easier to get coal.”
In West Virginia, programs like Refresh Appalachia, Reclaim Appalachia, and the Appalachian Bee Collective are helping former coal workers, and communities, create a path forward. "...the idea is to create a new generation of small-holding Appalachian farmers who will contribute to a larger agricultural community—one that’s appropriately scaled, diversified, and vertically integrated. "
Corporate Miners in Appalachia Are Showing Little Interest in the Economic Future of the Region
Advocates for diversification see over-reliance on the coal industry continuing to impoverish much of Appalachia. But local ownership of economies offers a way forward as corporate interests abandon much of the region: “Those people don’t have any stake in the communities there. They don’t have any reason to reinvest in the human capital and public services and goods."
Study: ‘Tough Task Ahead’ for Coal Country
The Appalachian Regional Commission has published a study by researchers at the University of Tennessee and West Virginia University that documents “a vicious cycle at work” in the decline of the coal industry and its wide-ranging impact on local and regional economies. “Talk of bringing back coal is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done,” said the president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
Editorial: ‘Empty Promises to Appalachian Coal Miners’
Political rhetoric from Washington will neither reverse market forces that are making old ways of generating electricity obsolete nor help hard-hit communities. “What miners need are real programs to help transition them to new jobs, not promises of ‘beautiful, clean coal.’”
In coal country, a flood of money to build other businesses
Grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission support innovative job creation and training efforts in coal communities
Natural Capital Investment Fund Borrower Profile: Sport Outfitters, LLC
From coal miner to business owner: JTF grantee NCIF profiles Sport Outfitters, LLC
Doubts in West Virginia Over Coal’s Future
While a hearing this week on repeal of the federal Clean Power Plant drew vocal support in West Virginia, some residents used it as an opportunity to talk about a post-coal future. “People in Appalachia are starting to realize that we need to start thinking about additional ways to have economic development and economic activity,” says the director of Energy Efficient West Virginia. “While coal is going to continue to be part of the economy, I don’t think that anybody is under the illusion that it is going to be the main driver of the economy.”
Researchers: Campaigns to Revive Appalachian Coal Industry ‘Do More Harm Than Good’
Based on interviews with residents of Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, researchers at Indiana University have published a paper concluding that people who live and work in the region do not expect a coal-industry resurgence and that “current efforts to revive the coal industry will likely do more harm than good to fragile Appalachian communities transitioning from coal as a major source of employment.”
Commentary: In Difficult Appalachian Transition, Seeds of Opportunity
“America is awakening to the reality that our country’s energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables—while cutting pollution and creating new jobs in many places—is painful for Appalachian families. But in this challenging time there is real opportunity, if we have the courage to seize it.”