A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Black lung disease is still killing coal miners, and the coal industry doesn’t want to acknowledge it

By Elyssa East Special to KyForward Dr. James Brandon Crum was alarmed. For months, unemployed coal miners had been coming into his clinic in Coal Run Village seeking chest radiographs. One patient in 2015 stood out. He was in his early 40s, about the same age as Crum, and had three children at home, just like him, but he could barely walk. The 68ft hallway between the x-ray room and Crum’s office...

Rural Blog: Study shows how coal’s fall has hurt Appalachian suppliers, may threaten rail network

A 45 percent drop in Appalachia’s coal production from 2005 to 2015 has put other industries in the region at risk, says a study commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Researchers from West Virginia University and the University of Tennessee and identified the “coal industry ecosystem” in the region, mainly the industry’s supply chain of goods and services. “As...

Rural Blog: Department of Energy report could provide a boost to coal, nuclear industries

The Department of Energy released a controversial study last week that says too much electricity from renewable energy and natural gas could make the U.S. power grid less reliable in the future. The 187-page study, commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April, recommends that federal regulators make changes to wholesale electricity markets that could potentially benefit existing coal and nuclear...

Bill Straub: Stance of Pruitt, Trump, McConnell on global warming issue does a disservice to the nation

WASHINGTON – Apparently they don’t offer course work in science or mathematics at Lafayette High School and Georgetown College, two of the educational institutions that deigned to issue a degree to Scott Pruitt, but they must offer some great classes in magic – the administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency just conjured up 50,000 new coal mining jobs out of thin air. Pruitt, yet another...

Bill Straub: Despite Trump’s assertions to the contrary, no comeback in the cards for coal industry

WASHINGTON – During the opening 10 weeks of his presidency, Donald J. Trump has proved himself to be a buffoon, a liar, a flim-flam man of the first order and about as trustworthy as your friendly, neighborhood meth dealer. Now he has added yet another lowlife description to his sordid resume: Dangerous. Trump has taken the environmental movement, one of the nation’s great areas of achievement,...

Rural Blog: Congress blocks Stream Protection Rule for surface mines; Trump expected to sign bill

During President Obama’s final week in office, the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which spent nearly the entire eight years of his presidency working on the Stream Protection Rule, on Dec. 19 issued a final version with new limits on coal mining near waterways. Late last week, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 54-45 to kill the rule, Devin Henry reports for...

Health, including mental issues, post major challenges to coal communities as industry declines

As the coal industry declines, rapidly in Central Appalachia, there are “clues suggesting that health and mental-health issues will pose enormous challenges to the affected coal communities, and will linger for decades,” Georgia State University biology professor Roberta Attanasio writes for The Conversation US. Appalachia’s death rates are higher than in the nation as a whole, Attanasio...

Rural Blog: U.S. coal production may have bottomed out and now is on the rebound, experts say

U.S. coal production recently hit historically low level, but is rebounding, and investors seem to think it has bottomed out, BB&T capital markets analyst Mark Levin said in a note to clients last week. Tim Loh of Bloomberg reports on that, adding: “Some coal stocks are rallying as a recovery in natural gas prices brings the power-plant fuels closer to parity.” With a chart, Bloomberg...

Federal officials to provide funds to help Central Appalachian counties reeling from loss of coal jobs

By Al Cross Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues Federal officials trying to help Central Appalachian counties reeling from losses of coal jobs say they will use a pot of new money “to demonstrate that Appalachia really is the next great investment opportunity in America.” That’s how Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, described it late...