Wednesday, June 15, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...6-16-'11
- The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that the new District 12 office within the agency's Coal Mine Safety and Health division is now operational. The move comes after a decision earlier this year to split jurisdiction over southern West Virginia coal mines which were previously covered by District 4. MSHA decided to split jurisdiction after demand for southern West Virginia coal continued to rise. MSHA Chief Joe Main says, “Splitting this district will allow MSHA to more effectively execute its mission, provide adequate oversight and keep pace with the evolution of the coal industry." The new office is temporarily being run out of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, but will eventually move to a permanent home in Pineville. It will have jurisdiction over offices in Pineville, Logan and Princeton. District 4 will continue operations in Mt. Hope, while overseeing offices in Mt. Hope, Mt. Carbon, Madison and Summersville. Timothy Watkins, a former assistant district manager in Pikeville, Kentucky was selected as the new District 12 manager.
- West Virginia State Troopers say 59 year old Charlotte Booth from Branchland was killed in a car crash along Corridor G in Lincoln County Wednesday morning. Police say Booth was crossing the southbound lanes when she was hit by a flatbed truck carrying a trailer.
- More than 125 United Mine Workers are scheduled to vote Friday on a tentative 5 1/2-year contract with the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The United Mine Workers says members would get a $6 an hour raise over the duration of the contract, and miners would average about $30 an hour by 2016. President Cecil Roberts says the increase would be the largest in the union's 121-year history.
- Tuesday night, Brian Wilson, 33, of Poca, tried to swim across the Poca River to get away from the West Virginia State Police who had responded to a complaint of a stolen car from Country Roads Mobile Home Park, which Wilson was driving. He fled from police, wrecked the vehicle and swam through the Poca River but was arrested as he got out the river. Troopers learned Wilson had just left a home with an active methamphetamine lab. Officers went to the trailer at 303 Country Roads Mobile Home Park and found evidence of a meth lab along with three children. James Cash, 38, and Jennifer King, 34, were charged with operating a methamphetamine laboratory, conspiracy and exposing a child to methamphetamine.
- The case against Kenneth Murdock, a Putnam County man who attempted to rob the Exxon gas station in Hometown, has been forwarded to the grand jury. Murdock allegedly took out a knife at the Exxon and attempted to rob it, but the clerk there beat him with a baseball bat, knocked the knife out of Murdock's hand, and Murdock fled. He's now being held on $250,000 bond.
- Gary "Wayne" Taylor of Red House was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing after being charged with two counts of malicious wounding. Police say he stabbed his estranged wife, Joyce Taylor, with broken pieces of a dinner plate and banged her head against a concrete wall, knocking her unconscious. During the incident, Taylor's four-month-old granddaughter, who was in his wife's arms, was also seriously injured. Joyce Taylor testified about the incident during rhe preliminary hearing. After the prosecutor rattled off previous charges against Gary Taylor, including attempted murder in Kanawha County, the judge refused to reduce Taylor's bond. Taylor remains jailed on a $50,000 cash only bond, while the Putnam County Grand Jury prepares to consider the case. According to the criminal complaint, the whole thing started with Wayne wanting to fix their marriage, and Joyce saying it wasn't going to happen.
- Arch Coal, Inc. announced Wednesday that its $3.4 billion deal to acquire International Coal Group, Inc. has been completed. Arch acquired about 92 percent of ICG’s outstanding shares of common stock earlier this week. Steven Leer, Arch chairman and executive officer said, “This acquisition extends Arch’s reach into every major U.S. coal supply basin, enhances our low-cost and leadership position in core operating regions.” Arch now becomes the second-largest U.S. metallurgical coal producer and a top 10 global supplier to steelmakers. Arch has plans to expand and boost its metallurgical coal output to nearly 15 million tons by 2015. Arch’s coal reserves will increase 25 percent as a result of the acquisition, which is the largest in the company’s history. Arch will operate 24 mining complexes across five U.S. coal supply basins.
- Brian Daniel Mills, 36, and his wife, Mary Ann Byrd, 37, are charged with operating or attempting to operate a clandestine meth lab after Raleigh County sheriff's deputies responded to a complaint of a possible meth lab on Coal City Road in Mead and found evidence that indicated meth had been made at the location several times.
- The PSC has approved a number of rate increases for American Electric Power and its subsidiaries mainly based on the price the companies have paid for coal. Appearing before members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday, Mike Albert, the chairman of the state Public Service Commission, predicted future electricity rates are not going to go down. Albert explained to lawmakers how the PSC decides a rate case, showed them examples of information that's considered and detailed the thorough process. Albert says there's no source of power cheaper than coal, but federal EPA regulations limiting its future use will have an impact on rates.
- Republican members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works have criticized the Obama EPA for going too far with the Clean Air Act and stepping beyond its authority in regulating things like coal-fired power plants. Speaking before members of a congressional committee Wednesday, federal EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency plans to continue to make its public health decisions on the principles of "the law and the best science." Jackson says, "The mercury standards are authorized by the toxics rules chairman, the standards for soot, the standards for smog, the standards that are designed to fight asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and premature deaths are all specifically called out in the Clean Air Act." The U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works that held Wednesday's hearing is chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California.
- Representative Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to show how it considers jobs and the economic impact when proposing new regulations. Capito says the EPA claims the agency calculates job and eco impact when they put out a rule or regulation, but the reality is they do not. Capito sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a week after American Electric Power announced it would close five coal-fired power plants, three of which are in West Virginia. The closings will result in the loss of 242 jobs and $17 million in wages as well as a 10 to 15 percent rate increase. Capito said she thinks AEP is illustrating what impacts the EPA could have on the rest of the country. In the letter, Capito referred to the EPA’s regulations as the “EPA Regulatory Train Wreck.” She said this collection of rules require retrofits and modifications to equipment in power plants, manufacturing plants, boilers and refineries. Capito said the EPA has evolved under the Obama administration and now operates “in a vacuum.” A bill introduced last month by Capito, H.B. 1872, also known as the Employment Protection Act, would require the EPA to “examine the economic and employment impact of its actions and to hold public hearings in certain situations.
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