Coal Tattoo

Friends of Coal license plate bill moving forward

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The good folks at Friends of Coal didn’t seem to be having much luck moving a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to create a special vanity license plate.

So, the industry front group has shifted its attention to the state Senate. As Gazette statehouse correspondent Phil Kabler reported this morning, Sen. Truman Chafin slipped the Friends of Coal language into another license plate bill that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee.

Chafin is a Democrat from Mingo County, which in West Virginia’s 4th largest coal-producing county, but also has more than 17 percent of its families living in poverty — almost twice the national average.

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Power line tax public hearing Friday AM

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Bill Howley from The Power Line blog reports that there is a public hearing Friday morning at 9 in the House Finance Committee on Gov. Joe Manchin’s power line tax legislation.

Howley is againt the PATH power line and against this legislation, and he’s offered lots of interesting reasons why. He’s also got a new post that explains some changes made by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

West Virginia Blue is also encouraging people to attend this hearing.

Friends of Coal license plates?

foc_logo_download.jpgEarlier this week, Friends of Coal launched a campaign to convince lawmakers to create a special West Virginia license plate with the industry front group’s logo.

Here’s what they said:

Several weeks ago, the bill authorizing the Friends of Coal license plate was introduced and initially referred to the Roads & Transportation Committee in the West Virginia House of Delegates.  The bill was sponsored by Delegate Linda Sumner from Raleigh County and it was second referenced to the House Finance Committee.

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Stalling selenium: DEP says bill goes too far

West Virginia lawmakers seem intent on helping the coal industry continue to stall compliance with water quality standards for toxic selenium pollution. They’re moving forward with a bill that even Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman doesn’t support.

Erica Peterson of West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports that a Senate committee approved the bill (SB461)  yesterday, despite the lack of DEP support and strong opposition from the West Virginia Environmental Council.

Here’s the video:

As I reported last week, the bill would give anyone holding a water pollution permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection — in this instance, coal companies — until July 1, 2012, to comply with water quality limits for selenium.

Recall that the coal industry and West Virginia regulators have been scrambling to find ways to avoid complying with these standards for years, since federal studies found dangerous levels of selenium runoff from mountaintop removal mines in Southern West Virginia.  A federal judge and the state Environmental Quality Board have both found that the industry has been stalling its efforts to stop selenium violations. (Also see Stalling on selenium?)

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Stop slurry injection?

white_randy.jpgCoalfield residents will be at the state Capitol later this morning, when Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, introduces legislation to ban underground injection of coal slurry.

Members of the Sludge Safety Project, with help  from the West Virginia Environmental Council and other groups, convinced lawmakers two years ago to order a Department of Environmental Protection study of the contents, health effects and water pollution impacts of coal-waste slurry that is pumped underground.

secretary-randy-huffman-portrait_small.jpgBut as we learned a few weeks ago, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman hasn’t been able to get his agency to complete the study. DEP officials don’t know if slurry injection is contaminating underground water supplies that Southern West Virginia residents rely on for their drinking water. Associated Press correspondent Vicki Smith reported on this matter in a lengthy story that we’ve still got posted on the Gazette’s Mining the Mountains page. And the AP’s Tom Breen has an update here, including some comments from citizens who attended the Environmental Council’s annual E-Day at the Legislature.

Flatten it … and nobody ever comes, revisited

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Gov. Joe Manchin’s proposal to rewrite the state’s law on post-mining land uses and the appropriate original contour reclamation variance for mountaintop removal mines.

I continue to be confused about the need for this legislation.

Coal operators can already develop mountaintop removal sites. They just don’t do it.

State regulators can already require such development if companies want to receive mountaintop removal permits. They just don’t do it.

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Saving coalfield cemeteries

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A grave marker for Joe Nelson, born in 1883, seen in the foreground, contrasts with the mountaintop removal mining seen in the background at the Harless-Bradshaw Cemetery on Brier Branch near Ashford, W.Va. , in this AP photo.

I blogged a few weeks ago to bring to your attention an op-ed commentary in the Gazette’s new Mountain Memories Web site section about the problems large-scale strip mining is creating for coalfield cemeteries.

Now, Brian Farkas over at The Associated Press has done a take-out story on this growing concern. I’ve posted the entire story on the Gazette’s Mining the Mountains  page here, and we’re going to run it in the print edition as well.

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Manchin energy bill introduced

Gov. Joe Manchin’s energy bill has been introduced at the West Virginia Legislature.

The Senate version is SB 297.

The House version is  HB 2682.

For more, see Early Thoughts on Manchin’s Energy Plan and Coal as Alternative Fuel?

I’d be interested to see any thoughtful reactions to Manchin’s proposals.

What happened to Manchin’s power line tax?

Writing a quick story for the Gazette Web site and our print edition about a recent ruling in the TrAIL power line case  reminded me of something that was clearly missing from Gov. Joe Manchin’s State of the State address last week.

The governor talked a lot about energy, but did not mention one word about his promise to introduce a “transmission tax” on new high-voltage power lines such as TrAIL. The governor had initially announced this idea last May, but repeated his promise in August, just after the Public Service Commission issued its ruling approving TrAIL.

Manchin had said he hoped to use part of the revenue from the tax to offset electricity rate hikes that fund construction of such projects, and to provide new revenue for the state and for counties where the TrAIL line would be located. Manchin even went so far as to warn Allegheny Energy and other utility companies to get behind his plan, or face his opposition to their projects.

But none of that came up last week, when Manchin announced his plans for this legislative session.

I asked Matt Turner, the governor’s communications director, about the transmission tax, and this is what he said:

He still plans to introduce it.

Don’t have a specific date — they’re working on it.

No details yet on Manchin’s carbon capture bill

A couple of folks have e-mailed me to ask for details on Gov. Joe Manchin’s bill to regulate carbon capture and sequestration in West Virginia.

I haven’t seen the legislation, and the governor’s office said this afternoon they weren’t ready to release it publicly yet.

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Coal as alternative fuel?

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I’ve been reading through Gov. Joe Manchin’s energy bill again,  and wanted to make it clear to everyone exactly how the legislation gets to the point of coal being considered an “alternative” fuel.

The bill (draft is posted here)  defines “alternative energy resources” as

any of the following resources, methods or technologies for the production or generation of electricity:

(1) advanced coal technology;

(2) coal-bed methane;

(3) fuel produced by a coal gasification or liquefaction facility; [WARNING NOTE: This is the big loophole for coal-to-liquids technology that produces twice as much greenhouse gases as traditional petroleum fuels…I’ll blog more about this later]

(4) synthetic gas;

(5) integrated gasification combined cycle technologies;

(6) waste coal;

(7) tire-derived fuel;

(8) pumped storage hydro-electrical projects; or

(9) any other resource, method or technology certified as an alternative energy resource by the Public Service Commission.

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Early thoughts on Manchin’s energy plan

manchin1.jpgWest Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin had been hinting for months that he planned to introduce major energy legislation aimed to encouraging more “alternative” and “renewable” electricity production in the Mountain State.

But it comes as no surprise that Manchin has carefully crafted (and named) his proposal so that it protects the coal industry. I’ve posted the draft text of Manchin’s “Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard” legislation  here.

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In his State of the State address tonight, Gov. Joe Manchin just proposed for West Virginia to create what he calls an “Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.”

The proposal is carefully named and crafted to include coal. Under the proposal, a broad variety of coal projects could quality in helping utilities to meet Manchin’s standards.

More on this soon..

[UPDATED} —

Here’s the text of the portion of Manchin’s speech dealing with this proposal:

One of the world’s most-pressing issues is a growing demand for energy. Our nation needs West Virginia’s energy resources to climb out of this recession. The opportunity for us to take the world stage in new energy development is now. Companies from around the globe are prepared to invest in West Virginia to make this kind of development a reality.

 

If we want to be a leader in renewable resources, we must commit to investing in the energy sources of the future. Throughout our history, our state has powered this nation. West Virginians know energy better than anyone. We must build upon our past successes and uncover even more efficient and cleaner energy sources.

 

That means not just coal, but natural gas, and renewable resources, including wind, solar, hydro and biofuels.

 

Tonight, I am introducing a bill, called the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act, which will put West Virginia at the forefront of new energy development. It sets a realistic timeframe for us to develop alternative and renewable energy resources.

 

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Manchin on coal

dsc_4261-sos192x240.JPGIt’s not that surprising that coal mining has played a role in each of Gov. Joe Manchin’s previous four State of the State addresses. Coal remains a big part of West Virginia’s economy, though concern about mining’s impact on our land, water and climate (not to mention the safety of the workers who mine it) continue to grow.

With the governor preparing to deliver the first State of the State of his second term Wednesday evening, I thought coal watchers might want to revisit what Manchin has had to say about the industry during his previous annual messages to lawmakers and state residents.

2005: 

In Manchin’s first State of the State, coal got just a quick mention:

As many of you aware, there are power companies are looking to build clean coal technology plants somewhere in the east, and I will fight to make that expansion happen in West Virginia.

2006:

Manchin’s second State of the State was  delivered just seven days after the Sago Mine disaster, and the governor focused much of his attention on mine safety:

It has been a difficult week in our state. Just seven short days ago, we lost 12 hard-working and brave West Virginians; men who left their homes each day knowing the inherent difficulty and danger of the jobs they performed and men who were proud to provide for their families, proud to be a West Virginian and proud of the energy they produced to keep America strong.We cannot know the purpose of this tragedy – but I assure you we will discover the cause. I am committing every resource available to me to aid in the investigation – not only to determine what happened inside the Sago Mine that caused this terrible accident, but also how the information received outside of the mine regarding the condition of the miners could have been so horribly wrong. Families should never be put through such a heartbreaking, emotional nightmare. Even more important, I rededicate myself and the State to the task of making our mines the safest in the country so that we can avoid future tragedies like the one we have just experienced.

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Slurry report (well kinda) coming Tuesday

secretary-randy-huffman-portrait_small.jpgRandy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, is scheduled to deliver a report to lawmakers Tuesday on his agency’s investigation of whether coal slurry that’s injected into underground mines is getting into drinking water and making people sick.

But as we learned this weekend from Associated Press writer Vicki Smith, DEP hasn’t really been able to figure out the answer to the question asked by lawmakers and coalfield residents.

But Huffman is going to present at least some sort of updated report to the Legislative Water Resources Committee during a meeting at noon Tuesday in the HouseJudiciary Room (410M) of the state Capitol.