Mountain News & World Report: Master Ky. Fiddle Player Charlie Stamper’s First Album; Remembering Blair Mountain; E. Ky. Towns Want Power+

Charlie Stamper playing fiddle outside his home in Cadiz, Ky.

Charlie Stamper playing fiddle outside his home in Cadiz, Ky.

If you’re familiar with traditional Appalachian music, you might know the name Stamper. There’s Hiram Stamper, a legendary traditional fiddle player from Knott County, Ky.  And there’s his son, Art Stamper, who wound up in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.  A Stamper fiddler you might not know, though, is Hiram’s oldest son, and Art’s big brother: Charlie Stamper.  But Charlie is also a master fiddler, and at age 85, he has just put out his first full-length album, Glory to the Meetinghouse .  The record is full of traditional tunes from the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, as well as stories Charlie tells about growing up in Knott County in the 1930’s and 40’s.  And in this edition of Mountain News, we begin with an in-depth profile of Charlie, his life, and his music.  (And to hear selections from the record, or purchase a copy, click here!)

Also in this show, we hear a remembrance of the Battle of Blair Mountain, which began 94 years ago this past week.  Blair Mountain was a watershed moment in the history of coal mining in Appalachia & organized labor as a whole,  and this story (produced by the Talking Across the Lines project) also features selections from the Blair Pathways CD/project.

Finally, we hear about how several eastern Kentucky communities and county governments have passed resolutions supporting the Obama Administration’s proposed Power+ Plan.  Among other programs, Power+ would allocate $1 billion of federal money to give coalfield people employment in cleaning up abandoned mine sites.

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 August 28, 2015

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A coal miner in West Virginia spraying rockdust to reduce the combustible fraction of coal dust in the air // photo via wikimedia commons at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coal_miner_spraying_rock_dust.jpg

Because the coal market has fallen so low, and so many companies have declared bankruptcy, lots of mines are cheap right now if anyone wants them. And according to SNL Energy, some smaller companies have started to buy up mines while they’re so affordable, with the theory being if they can break even on a mine right now, the bet will really pay off if the market turns around. Royal Energy, a company based in South Carolina, has recently bought several metallurgical mines in McDowell County, WV, as well as other mines across West Virginia and northern Appalachia. Royal seems like it’s being very precise about which mines it buys, though, finding sites with special advantages, like location, or quality of coal. Blackhawk mining is another company that’s been trying to buy Appalachian mines on the cheap. It recently bought most of the operations owned by James River Coal when it went bankrupt, and it’s now trying to buy most of Patriot Coal’s assets as it goes through bankruptcy.

Speaking of Patriot’s bankruptcy, SNL also reports that the process isn’t exactly going smoothly. Reportedly, a strike at Patriot’s union mines in Appalachia is looking more and more likely. Blackhawk wants Patriot’s mines, but it wants to throw out Patriot’s agreement with the UMWA. It also doesn’t want to have to pay the health and pension benefits that Continue reading Coal Report for August 28, 2015

Mountain Talk: It’s Good To Be Young in the Mountains

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collage of images from people across the region posing with cards promoting the It’s Good 2 Be Young in the Mountains conference

In the latest edition of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we hear from several of the organizers of the upcoming It’s Good 2 Be Young in the Mountains conference, which runs from Aug. 13 – 16 in Harlan, Ky.  The event has been billed as “the festival where a conference breaks out,” and is geared towards giving the youth of the region a voice in planning Appalachia’s future (though all ages are welcome).  In this broadcast, we hear from conference planners Annie Zomaya, Tanya Turner, Megan Epperson, and more (and we also hear a tune from Angaleena Presley, who is herself a native of Pike County, and who will be performing on Saturday night!).  For more information on the conference, or to sign up, check out their website.

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesay from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains: food; community issuesart; health; and more (click any of those links to hear streaming audio of past programs archived by topic).

Coal Report for August 7, 2015

A UMWA protest held outside of the headquarters of Arch Coal in August 2013. Protestors were rallying against what they said was Patriot Coal using bankruptcy to get out of paying retiree benefits. Patriot once again went bankrupt this summer, and the UMWA is alleging that the company is using the same tactics again. // photo by Julie Shepherd-Powell

The final version of the federal Clean Power Plan isn’t going so easy on Kentucky after all. Under the plan, each state is getting different targets for how much they will need to reduce carbon emissions. In the first draft of the new rule, the EPA had taken it easier on states that currently rely heavily on coal. In Kentucky, in particular, it seemed like nothing would actually have to change to meet the new requirements. But that’s no longer the case. According to WFPL Radio, Kentucky was originally supposed to reduce carbon emissions by 18%. But now, in the final Clean Power Plan, that number is jumping to either 30 or 40 percent, depending on how you count. State officials say they are surprised that the rules got tougher, and worry that cutting carbon emissions so much so soon might harm Kentucky’s economy. The EPA disagrees, saying that by their measurements, Kentucky is already on track to meet the new goals by 2020, a whole decade earlier than the law requires. At the time of recording, Kentucky officials weren’t sure yet how the EPA got those figures.

Other coal-reliant states are in a similar boat—according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, West Virginia originally was supposed to cut its carbon emissions by 20%; that number is now 37%. Industry analyst James Van Nostrand said, in West Continue reading Coal Report for August 7, 2015

What’s Cookin’ Now: Camp! Also, new WCN this Wednesday at 6 p.m.!

Jonathan P. & Pine Mountain Adventure & Arts campers live on-air!

Jonathan P. & Pine Mountain Adventure & Arts campers live on-air!

In this edition of the greatest live radio cooking show this side of Teaberry, hosts Jonathan and Jenny welcome a gaggle of guest chefs to the program–the intrepid campers of the Pine Mountain Adventure & Arts Camp.  Together, our kitchen-ful of hosts & junior hosts create dishes suitable for camping, including the classic Hobo Pack, as well as a way to make french toast using melted ice cream (which is way easier to carry with you than milk, eggs, & sugar, but has all of those ingredients within it already!).

Also, tune in on Wednesday, August 5th, at 6 p.m. for a live, brand-new What’s Cookin’ Now!

For more on What’s Cookin’ Now, including recipes, photos, essays, and more, check out their always-delightful blog: whatscookinnow.org.

To hear past episodes of the show, check out the streaming archives.

Coal Report for July 31, 2015

Map from 2011, showing Alpha's increased Central App. footprint after it bought Massey Energy in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Explosion.  This $7b deal, and the subsequent steep decline of the metallurgical coal market & the demand for CAPP coal in general, could have played a large part in Alpha's recent bankruptcy // image from http://www.alphanr.com/PublishingImages/map.jpg

Map from 2011, showing Alpha’s increased Central App. footprint after it bought Massey Energy in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Explosion. This $7b deal, and the subsequent steep decline of the metallurgical coal market & the demand for CAPP coal in general, could have played a large part in Alpha’s recent bankruptcy // image from http://www.alphanr.com/PublishingImages/map.jpg

Alpha Natural Resources has declared bankruptcy, becoming the third major coal company to go under this summer. SNL Energy reports (also here) that Alpha is one of the largest coal companies in the world, and the largest here in central Appalachia. But Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said “The US coal industry as currently structured is unsustainable.” The company blamed the bankruptcy on low coal prices and weak demand for coal both here in the US and around the world. They also blamed competition from natural gas, and emissions regulations at power plants. Because they’re based heavily in Appalachia, Alpha has also suffered from Appalachian coal being more expensive to mine than coal from elsewhere in the country. Further, Alpha decided to buy a major Appalachian producer right before the coal market collapsed, when it bought Massey Energy for $7 billion in 2011. Alpha hopes to come out of bankruptcy as a solvent company, and plans to reorganize its operations. It also plans to start investing in natural gas production. It’s unclear yet what will happen to local Alpha mines—Bloomberg reports that the company is in talks to sell six mines in eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia to Revelation Energy. Alpha workers are being told to keep coming to work until further notice.

In final version of the landmark Clean Power Plan, the EPA has decided to give states more time to meet the new standards. Energy & Environment News reports that if states will now have until the year 2022 to start cutting carbon emissions, instead of 2020, as had been originally proposed. Under this new plan, every state is being given a different Continue reading Coal Report for July 31, 2015

Mountain News & World Report: Young People Speak on Appalachia’s Present & Future; Using New Broadband Infrastructure in East Ky.; Gurney Norman on Growing Up in the Mountains

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a collage of posters made to promote the upcoming It’s Good 2 Be Young in the Mountains conference, happening Aug. 13-16 in Harlan, Ky. more at http://www.ig2byitm.com. // photo via the ig2byitm facebook page

In the latest edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we hear some perspectives on the past, present, and future of Appalachia.

We begin in the present, with the second and final part in a series where three local young people share their thoughts on what it’s like to be young in Appalachia here in 2015.  In this story, we hear their opinions on a range of issues, from the coal industry to their hopes for the region’s future.  We hear these voices in advance of the upcoming It’s Good 2 Be Young in the Mountains conference, slated for August 13-16 in Harlan, Ky.  WMMT’s Destiny Caldwell has the story.

Next, we hear about upcoming workshops that are looking ahead to Appalachia’s future.  In conjunction with SOAR, a network of “middle-mile” broadband fiber is being laid through eastern Kentucky, which should improve access to high-speed internet for many mountain communities.  This could provide a wide range of new opportunities for local businesses and individuals alike.  To try to help people learn how to take advantage of this new network, there will be two free workshops held in the region this week: in Prestonsburg on August 5th, and in Manchester on August 6th.  WMMT spoke with Dr. Jason Jolley, who will be presenting, about the workshops.  (To sign up, or for more information, click here.)

We close the show with a small look back to Appalachia’s past.  We hear an interview with celebrated eastern Kentucky author Gurney Norman, who speaks about growing up in the Allais coal camp in Perry County, as well as about what prompted him to start writing.  The interview was originally produced on video by Appalshop filmmaker Andrew Garrison in 1990 (to watch the whole thing, click here).

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.

Mountain Talk: Looking Back to the ‘War on Poverty’

a historic news clipping featuring Hollis West, a veteran of the ‘War on Poverty’ in southeast Ky. in the 1960’s

In this special edition of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we bring you an hour-long program looking back on the “War on Poverty” of the 1960’s, and specifically, how it played out here in Appalachia.  When talked about, the War on Poverty is often written off as a failure.  But here especially as the SOAR initiative tries once again to tackle some of the serious structural economic problems facing eastern Kentucky, it’s worth looking back to the War on Poverty to ask–what really happened?  Was it really a complete failure?  What went wrong, what went right, and what can we learn from it?

In this program, we hear extended interviews with two veterans of the War on Poverty who were on the front lines in Eastern Kentucky: Hollis West and Robert Shaffer.  WMMT’s Sylvia Ryerson & Mimi Pickering sat down with them to reflect back on their time in the mountains and where they think conditions in the region stand today.

We also hear a story from the WMMT archives about how the turbulence in the Appalachian coal industry in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s–especially the issue of mechanization, which was eliminating thousands of jobs–helped lead, in part, to the War on Poverty.  This story was originally produced in 1993, by WMMT’s Maxine Kenny.

Also interspersed throughout the program are historic clips and recordings from the era, about the region and the War on Poverty itself.

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesay from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains: food; community issuesart; health; and more (click any of those links to hear streaming audio of past programs archived by topic).