Friday roundup, Jan. 29, 2010

January 29, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


In this Dec. 4, 2009 file photo, coal vendors load coal briquettes pounded from soft coal on to a cart at a coal depot in Beijing, China. China has set up a government agency headed by Premier Wen Jiabao to better coordinate energy policy, as the world’s second-largest power consumer faces growing domestic demand and struggles with shortages. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, File)

We’ll have a short Friday roundup this week, as I’ve been pretty swamped covering the situation here in the Kanawha Valley at the DuPont Belle chemical plant (check out the coverage over at the Sustained Outrage blog).

I would welcome readers to point out their own news and commentary items on coal below in the comments section … Please include links!

If you missed it, the New Republic had a piece on West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd and his call for the coal industry to “embrace the future.”  In “Old Senator, New Tricks,” writer  Jesse Zwick concludes:

Byrd’s not about to become an environmentalist; even in his op-ed, he insisted that coal was here to stay. But he seems to recognize that the realities of global warming will force the country to rethink how it uses coal sooner or later and that the state’s companies aren’t playing a constructive role. (Blankenship, for instance, has criticized coal-heavy utilities in other states, like Duke Energy, for working with Congress on climate issues.) Byrd’s longtime mantra, according to political historian Robert Rupp, is that “It’s better to be at the table than on the menu.” And so he seems willing to spend what’s likely his last term in Congress getting West Virginia to realize that, in the end, obstructionism won’t serve the state very well.

Over at The State Journal, Pam Kasey had a great story headlined “North-Central W.Va. is Ground Zero for Surface Mine Coal Ash.” Pam explains:

On the eve of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision about regulating coal combustion waste as a hazardous material, mine operators are spreading the substance extensively across north-central West Virginia.

From the coalfields of Wyoming, Dustin Bleizeffer of the Casper Star-Tribune reports that details Powder River Basin coal’s contributions to the economy.

We had earnings releases this week from Arch CoalAmerican Electric Power, Alliance Resource Partners, Peabody Energy, CONSOL Energy, and International Coal Group.

Over in Kentucky, my buddy Jim Bruggers wrote about the MSHA inspector who thought it was a good idea to courage readers of the  Facebook page for the pro-coal Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security to “Hang a tree-hugger today.”

I asked Bryan Brown, one of the PR guys behind FACES of Coal, about this and he told me in an e-mail message:

We can monitor, review and delete posts (and do) but cannot control what people say.  Of course we do not condone violence or the threat of violence.  As a matter of fact and unfortunately, we have had to remove several similar comments that appear to have come from both coal supporters and environmentalists over the past several months.

Coal Tattoo readers know that I’ve been trying to encourage civil discussions in the comments section of this blog. So I certainly understand Bryan’s frustration. And FACES did remind its Facebook readers this week:

A comment tool is provided to encourage thoughtful discussion of the ideas posted on this site. We welcome open debate and viewpoints that differ from those of the post authors. That said, we wish to keep the conversation civil and ask that readers abide by the following guidelines:
Remember that the people under discussion are human beings. Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not the posters themselves. Repeated violators will be banned.

But right under that warning was an example of the kind of name-calling that doesn’t help coalfield communities resolve the many challenges they face:

I am so sick of ” protesters of coal” complaining to everyone that they are being picked on! Well stop acting like a MORON and we will not respond! But if you are going to go in a tree on mine property, make sure that you are ready to take all comments.

And, you have to wonder, if you read through the FACES of Coal news releases, does this group really encourage thoughtful discussion — or it just about trying to scare everybody to death and divide the region’s residents?  FACES repeatedly uses phrases like “outsiders” — as if everyone who is concerned about mountaintop removal is from somewhere else — and praises news stories in which political leaders greatly inflate the potential threat to West Virginia from reasonable limits on the coal industry. And sometimes, FACES just gets its facts wrong. For example, look at where Bryan Brown wrongly claims that the WVU studies of coal’s impact on public health in Appalachia did not account for other factors that can negatively affect residents’ health. Or, note that Bryan made prominent mention of Coal Tattoo pointing out inaccuracies in what Robert F. Kennedy said in the big debate with Don Blankenship, but didn’t mention any of the weaknesses in Blankenship’s debate performance that this blog also pointed out.

And by the way, I asked Bryan for examples of posts where environmentalists have urged others to hang or otherwise physically harm coal miners … he hasn’t come up with any.

Finally, here’s a link to a video that’s making the rounds in the social networking world about a new mountaintop removal permit that WVDEP is considering issuing for a mine adjacent to Kanawha State Forest Outside Charleston. My guess is we’ll have some Gazette coverage of this permit coming up soon …

Have a good weekend, everybody.

2 Responses to “Friday roundup, Jan. 29, 2010”

  1. Casey says:

    I watched the 17 minute video on Kanawha State Forest and the adjacent proposed surface mine permit. I’ve hiked and enjoyed the Forest and think its great. But I don’t see the 9,000 acre forest being impacted that much. We can’t afford to turn the whole state into a State Forest, can we?

  2. rhmooney3 says:

    January 29, 2010


    Barge traffic on the Ohio River halted at the Greenup Locks along the border between Kentucky and Ohio after a 240-ton gate was damaged, stopping shipments of coal to about 30 power plants and forcing at least one refinery to slow oil-product deliveries and curtail production.

    The main lock is expected to be shut from six to eight weeks and an auxiliary waterway is scheduled to open Jan. 31, said Peggy Noel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington, West Virginia. Thirty-three power plants in nine states received coal shipments through the passageway in 2008.

    More than 123 million tons of coal, or about 11 percent of U.S. production, was transported on the Ohio River in 2007, including the equivalent of 84 percent of output from the Appalachia region, according to corps and the Energy Department.

    “It might temporarily push back the timing of coal deliveries,” said James Rollyson, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc. in Houston. “Given how high inventories are, generically, right now it’s not a big deal. If supply were tight there could be a risk for power outages.”

    Consumer coal stocks reached a record 207.1 million tons as of Sept. 30, due to the mild summer and lower industrial usage, according to the latest data from the department.

    There are eight barge-towing vessels waiting to travel west through the locks while two are waiting to travel east and one is in the locks’ main chamber, according to Noel. Each tow typically has 15 barges attached to it and can pass through the main locks in about 45 minutes. The same shipment takes about three hours to pass through the auxiliary locks, said Noel.

    A single barge carries the equivalent of 70 trucks or 16 railroad freight cars, according to Martin.

    American Electric Power Co., the largest U.S. producer of power from coal, said the closure may delay some deliveries to its plants in the area, and that it maintains inventories adequate to prevent power disruptions.

    “We really have no concerns about fuel supplies,” Pat Hemlepp, a spokesman for the Columbus, Ohio-based utility owner, said today in an interview.

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