Coal Report for July 20, 2016

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley worked more than 20 years for Peabody Energy, which is now bankrupt.

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource
Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley worked more than 20 years for Peabody Energy, which is now bankrupt.

Are you a weekly listener of the Coal Report?  If you are, I, your weekly reporter, Kelli Haywood would like to hear from you.  As I report every week, it is impossible to not recognize that the coal industry has taken a marked hit.  As the daughter of four generations of coal miners, and with my father still employed in the industry, it matters a great deal to me how we perceive what is happening in our communities and the actions we take to see that we can continue to make a life and raise our children here.  In that vein, I’d like to propose some minor changes the coal report.  Still focusing on the most pertinent news in the industry, and especially that affecting our region, I will continue to have weekly coal news.  However, also within the report, I’d like to include the voice of a few other reporters as it makes sense, and news on economic development and transition opportunities in the region.  This week’s report still focuses on coal, but hints to the different format.  Our first piece is from the Ohio Valley ReSource a regional journalism collaborative reporting on economic and social change in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Continue reading Coal Report for July 20, 2016

Mtn. Talk Monday: Medicaid Public Hearing in Hazard, Kentucky

On June 22, 2016, Gov. Matt Bevin presented Kentucky HEALTH, a comprehensive plan to transform Kentucky’s Medicaid program, which he says will empower individuals to improve their health and well-being while simultaneously ensuring Medicaid’s long-term fiscal sustainability in the commonwealth. See the proposed changes here – http://chfs.ky.gov/…/0/62216KentuckyHEALTHWaiverProposal.pdf  As a means of receiving public feedback, the administration held a series of public forums.  WMMT reporter Mimi Pickering attended the forum in Hazard, Kentucky.  This episode of Mountain Talk Monday presents the overview of that forum.  Many Kentucky citizens are concerned that the proposed changes will be a drawback to the positive changes we’ve seen in coalfields, Kentucky and for those previously uninsured Kentuckians.


The public comment period ends on July 22nd @ 5pm.
Written comments on the Kentucky HEALTH waiver proposal can be mailed to:
Commissioner Stephen Miller
Department for Medicaid Services
275 E. Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621
Or via email to kyhealth@ky.gov.

Medicaid+forum+Hazard+7-6-16 Hearing Comment info

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

MN&WR: The Art that Tells Our Story

  • To celebrate the 108th birthday of Appalachian writer Harriette Simpson Arnow, hear an excerpt from the 1987 Appalshop Film by Herb E. Smith – Harriette Arnow 1908-1986.
  • WMMT’s Rich Kirby interviews Appalshop filmmaker Herb E. Smith, maker of the 2000 film – The Ralph Stanley Story, on the life and passing of bluegrass great Dr. Ralph Stanley.
  • From the Humans of Central Appalachia project and Malcolm J. Wilson, we feature the story of Morgan Canty, a 21 year old young man of color from Bristol, TN who encourages us all to act out what we know best – getting to know our neighbors. (And, he has the voice of an angel!)

7-14 MN&WR

 

In this edition of Mountain News & World Report, we celebrate the storytellers among us and the variety of ways we tell our stories by featuring the lives of three individuals – artists – who using the mediums that spoke to them the most, chose to preserve and share the Appalachian experience with the world.  On the 108th birthday of the famous Appalachian writer whose most well known work is The Dollmaker , we celebrate the life and work of Harriette Simpson Arnow in our first story.  Arnow shares her life story with us in her own words through an excerpt of the 1987 Appalshop Film by Herb E. Smith – Harriette Simpson Arnow: 1908-1986.  Arnow’s work documents a time in Appalachian history which can be hard to access now, covering things like subsistence farming, moon-shining to make a living, and outward migration and discrimination.  WMMT would also like to thank Mrs. Arnow’s son, Thomas L. Arnow, for assisting us with this piece through providing a segment of his memoir on being her son which we also excerpt.

The passing of bluegrass legend, extraordinaire Dr. Ralph Stanley was felt all around the world.  At 89 years old on the day of his passing, Ralph Stanley has fans of all ages and an international acclaim.  He leaves an extensive music library, a museum dedicated to his life in Clintwood, VA, and a legacy of inspiration that is hard to match.  Through his music, Ralph Stanley has given our Appalachian story a universal accessibility.  In our second story, WMMT’s Rich Kirby interviews the maker of The Ralph Stanley Story, Appalshop filmmaker Herb E. Smith on the life, music, and passing of Dr. Ralph Stanley.

And finally, we have the story of 21 year old Morgan Canty, a musician from Bristol, Tennessee.  In this time of tension and unrest, Morgan’s story reminds us to take time to know and understand our neighbor.  Morgan’s story was collected by photographer Malcolm J. Wilson as part of the Humans of Central Appalachia project.  You can find more stories of the Appalachian experience on their website www.humansofcentralappalachia.org.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for July 13, 2016

Image courtest of  John Kasawa @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtest of John Kasawa @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Phil Smith, government affairs director of the mine workers union said of the need for an agreement between the US government and the United Mine Workers of America to occur regarding retirement benefits for former union miners to USA Today, (quote) “If we don’t get new money into this pension plan through this legislation within the next 12 to 18 months, that fund will be past the point of no return.” (end quote)  A bill called the Miners Protection Act would allow the transfer money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund — a coal mine cleanup program — to the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan, which now pays benefits to about 120,000 retirees.  The bill has received bipartisan support in Congress, but from the standpoint of many Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the Republican from Kentucky has done all in his power to block the bill from a vote. Ohio  Democrat Sherrod Brown and fellow Ohio senator, Republican Rob Portman are part of a bipartisan group who has managed to obtain a promise that the Miners Protection Act would receive a vote in the Senate Finance Committee before the current session ends.  Yet, many fear the possibility that it will not due to the pertinence of other legislation.  Senator Brown looks to the collapsed coal industry as the reason for the Funds to be drying up, (quote) “The plan has too few assets, too few employers, and too few union workers now paying in.” (end quote) To that effect, Kentucky currently employs no union miners.

Continue reading Coal Report for July 13, 2016

Mtn. Talk Monday: Southern Appalachian Writers’ Cooperative Literary Reading

In this episode of  Mountain Talk Monday get your dose of literary musings when as we feature the 2016 Seedtime on the Cumberland’s Southern Appalachian Writers’ Cooperative Literary Reading. Hear writers from Letcher County, Kentucky and all over southern Appalachia read their work.

  • The literary work featured in this episode was written with an adult audience in mind.  Parental discretion advised.

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Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

Coal Report for July 6, 2016

2016 Crew at the Enterprise Coal Processing Plant in Roxana (Letcher County, Kentucky) Photo by Miner and Crew Member Thomas Biggs

2016 Crew at the Enterprise Coal Processing Plant in Roxana (Letcher County, Kentucky) Photo by Miner and Crew Member Thomas Biggs

Donald Rumsfeld once said while Secretary of Defense (quote) “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” (end quote) Rumsfeld was criticized for talking nonsense at first, yet science investigates known unknowns as hypothesis through the scientific method and at times gets completely unexpected results that were unknown unknowns.  What does this have to do with the coal industry?  The Kemper Plant owned by the Southern Company in Delkab, Mississippi tells the story.  Boosted by federal subsidies the plant is supposed to show that clean coal electricity is a possibility – creating jobs and giving a leg up to the collapsing coal industry.  The conversion of the plant is two years behind schedule and $4 billion over its initial budget of $2.4 billion and is not operational.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour even signed a law called the Baseload Act that allows companies to charge consumers instead of investors for projects before they are completed.  In February of 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled that Mississippi Power owner of the Southern Company had to repay ratepayers roughly $377 million for increasing rates by 15 percent in 2013 and 3 percent in 2014 without proper approvals.  However, regulators later agreed that the company could again raise rates 15% to help avoid bankruptcy.  The company is now the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company.  Tom Fanning, the CEO of the Southern Company said the difficulties of the plant came from experiencing (quote) “unknown unknowns” (end quote).  Read more on the complexities of this story at the New York Times.
Continue reading Coal Report for July 6, 2016

MN&WR: Organize

  • Kara Lofton, health reporter for West Virginia Public Radio, speaks with UMWA  members and others about the recent rally in Lexington, Kentucky and what the stalemate in Congress surrounding shoring up retirement benefits for miners and their families will mean for their future.
  • Hear audio recordings of the late balladeer and organizer Sarah Ogan Gunning and those close with her and her family from Mimi Pickering’s 1988 Appalshop Films release – Dreadful Memories.
  • The Cowan Creek Mountain Music School just ended its 15th year with a record attendance.  WMMT reporter Kelli Haywood covers how the music school, Cowan Community Center, and others are exploring a new way of organizing the community for the greater good of all – the Letcher County Culture Hub.
Photo by James L. Webb

Photo by James L. Webb

Organizing ourselves in order to maintain our right to basic liberties became a necessary component of life in the coalfields with the introduction of big industry.  In this episode of Mountain News & World Report, we take a look at what it means to organize throughout our past, in our present, and for our future.  Our first story comes from health reporter, Kara Lofton, with West Virginia Public Radio.  Lofton takes a deeper look at the recent United Mine Workers of America rally in Lexington, Kentucky where thousands gathered in attempt to protect the retirement benefits of 22,000 coal miners and their widows, which will be lost within the year if Congress does not act.  The UMWA are planning to take the rally cry to the U.S. Capitol on September 8 to ask that Congress look hard at bankruptcy law and act to secure the benefits the miners were promised.

In our second piece, you will hear audio from the 1988 film by Mimi Pickering about the life of Sarah Ogan Gunning - Dreadful Memories, released by Appalshop Films. Comments from relatives and such friends as Pete Seeger, Hazel Garland, Tillman Cadle, and Archie Green help to tell Sarah’s story and speak of her personal strength and cultural significance.  Sarah was a eastern Kentucky balladeer, composer of at least twelve original songs of organizing and protest, and the daughter and wife of coal miners.  She along with her half sister Aunt Molly Jackson, and her brother Jim Garland were known among the folk revival movement of the 1960s and 70s.  June 28th would have been Sarah’s 106th birthday.

Creative placemaking is a newer way of organizing around the assets of a community and is a practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture, and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth, and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.  WMMT reporter, Kelli Haywood, brings our third story, exploring the ways in which the Letcher County Culture Hub is creating the environment for new opportunities among various partners throughout Letcher County, Kentucky.  Haywood visits the 15th annual Cowan Creek Mountain Music School at the Cowan Community Center to learn how their involvement in the culture hub has taken their work to a new level and increased the viability and positive exposure for their programming – even attracting outside tourists.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for June 29, 2016

Image courtesy of meepoohphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of meepoohphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Kentucky Power Company announced that one of its plants that purchased and burned some of the largest amounts of eastern Kentucky coal has transferred to consume natural gas.  Unit 1 at its Big Sandy plant in Louisa had been burning coal since 1963, but as of May 30th of this year has been burning natural gas.  The Big Sandy plant, on some years, bought as much as 3 million tons of eastern Kentucky coal, but now won’t be buying any.  As Unit 1 was converted to natural gas, the larger coal burning unit that remained was shut down entirely.  When looking into the possibility of installing pollution control on the second unit so that the plant would continue to burn coal it was realized this would mean a 30% increase to the bill of the average resident, so Kentucky Power decided to do what many have done – convert solely to natural gas.  The plant that once employed 71 workers now employs 39.   Continue reading Coal Report for June 29, 2016