Mining the Mountains

In West Virginia, mining companies are literally moving mountains to uncover valuable, low sulfur coal reserves. Mountaintop removal has become the dominant form of surface mining in the state. Coal operators are blasting off hilltops, and dumping leftover rock and dirt into nearby valleys. An untold amount of the state has been flattened, and hundreds of miles of streams have been buried. Find out more in this Special Report.
EPA adversary Pruitt confirmed to head agency

EPA adversary Pruitt confirmed to head agency

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the...

MCHM mixture new to coal plant where spill occurred

MCHM mixture new to coal plant where spill occurred

A small leak last week of a chemical mixture containing MCHM occurred just two weeks after an Alpha Natural Resources coal preparation plant began using the material, which was the main ingredient in the January 2014 Elk River spill.

Justice continues criticism of WVDEP inspectors

Justice continues criticism of WVDEP inspectors

Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday doubled down on his criticism of his own state Department of Environmental Protection, using a speech to a group of oil and gas operators to increase his attacks on the way he says DEP inspectors dress when they inspect...

Judge blasts WVDEP, EPA over lack of mine pollution cleanup

Judge blasts WVDEP, EPA over lack of mine pollution cleanup

A federal judge on Tuesday blamed repeated delays by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and weak oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the state’s failure to write and implement...

Citizen groups gear up for water-protection fight

Citizen groups gear up for water-protection fight

After Gov. Jim Justice's promise Wednesday night to rein in what he depicted as out-of-control state regulators, and following a meeting with Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton, environmental groups are gearing up for...

Justice says he’s going to make DEP stop saying ‘no’ to industry

Justice says he’s going to make DEP stop saying ‘no’ to industry

Gov. Jim Justice promised Wednesday night that on his watch West Virginia business and industry would stop hearing “no” from the state Department of Environmental Protection, an 800-person agency whose rank-and-file inspectors the governor ...

DEP’s Caperton files late financial disclosure with Ethics Commission

DEP’s Caperton files late financial disclosure with Ethics Commission

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton on Wednesday filed a financial disclosure statement with the state Ethics Commission, reporting that at least 20 percent of his income last year came from the mining equipment...

WV DEP lax in its mining oversight, 3-year federal investigation says

WV DEP lax in its mining oversight, 3-year federal investigation says

A three-year investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior has documented persistent failures by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to enforce state rules governing the coal-mining industry, including a lack of proper...

Trump regulation plan could cripple safety protections, experts say

Trump regulation plan could cripple safety protections, experts say

Suppose the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration wanted to finally update its decades-old rule on exposure to silica dust to help protect coal miners...

Congress moves to reject Obama mining rule changes

Congress moves to reject Obama mining rule changes

Congress on Wednesday evening was headed toward fairly quick action to reject a late-term effort by the Obama administration to replace a controversial stream “buffer zone” rule with a collection of requirements that coal operators...

Longtime coal consultant named WVDEP secretary

Longtime coal consultant named WVDEP secretary

Longtime coal industry consultant Austin Caperton was named Friday by Gov.-elect Jim Justice to be West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary.

US court upholds mountaintop removal pollution ruling

US court upholds mountaintop removal pollution ruling

A federal judge in West Virginia was correct in ruling that coal operators in the state must comply with water quality standards that limit the legal pollution allowed in streams, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Judge approves Justice water pollution settlement with EPA

Judge approves Justice water pollution settlement with EPA

A federal judge has approved a water pollution deal in which companies owned by West Virginia Gov.-elect Jim Justice will pay $900,000 in fines, an amount that government lawyers disclosed in court records was based at least partly on what those...

Trump EPA pick: ‘Heavy hand of EPA’ didn’t bring coal’s decline

Trump EPA pick: ‘Heavy hand of EPA’ didn’t bring coal’s decline

Last week, when President-elect Donald Trump announced his plan to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, West Virginia political leaders — constant critics of the EPA under ...

DEP reaches another deal for more Alpha reclamation money

DEP reaches another deal for more Alpha reclamation money

Lawyers for the state Department of Environmental Protection have reached a $15 million deal to resolve a lawsuit that targeted high-ranking former Alpha Natural Resources officials for potential cleanup liabilities if the reorganized Alpha...

$100M in ‘unaccounted for’ liabilities put Alpha mine cleanups at risk

$100M in ‘unaccounted for’ liabilities put Alpha mine cleanups at risk

Fewer than four months after emerging from bankruptcy, Alpha Natural Resources has revealed $100 million in what it calls...

Trump win won’t bring coal rebound, could block climate progress

Trump win won’t bring coal rebound, could block climate progress

On the day after Tuesday’s election, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney wasn’t exactly overjoyed. But he was pretty optimistic, something coal backers across Appalachia haven’t had much reason to feel in recent...

Coal eager for Trump regulatory rollbacks, but industry rebound unlikely

Coal eager for Trump regulatory rollbacks, but industry rebound unlikely

Leaders of West Virginia’s coal industry were rejoicing Wednesday over the election of Republican Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th president — and the possible regulatory rollbacks that may come with it — but industry and...

Judge orders EPA to report on coal job losses

Judge orders EPA to report on coal job losses

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required by federal law to study the effects of air pollution regulations on jobs, a federal judge in Northern West Virginia ruled Monday in a case brought by outspoken coal operator Bob Murray.

While politicians focus on EPA, experts say gas to blame for coal decline

While politicians focus on EPA, experts say gas to blame for coal decline

While both major party candidates for governor in West Virginia continue to blame Obama administration regulations, a new study provides still more expert evidence that competition from cheap natural gas is a much larger factor in the decline of West...

2nd water lab employee pleads guilty

2nd water lab employee pleads guilty

A second former employee of a Raleigh County water testing laboratory pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a scheme to...

EPA, Jim Justice coal firms reach $6M deal over water pollution

EPA, Jim Justice coal firms reach $6M deal over water pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it had reached a nearly $6 million deal to resolve thousands of pollution violations at coal-...

Feds: 2nd WV mine water tester to admit lying on reports

Feds: 2nd WV mine water tester to admit lying on reports

A second former employee of a Raleigh County water testing laboratory is expected to plead guilty to his role in a scheme to falsify water pollution samples for coal-mining operations across Southern West Virginia, federal prosecutors revealed in...

Senate panel approves UMW pension legislation

Senate panel approves UMW pension legislation

Members of a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday morning approved legislation aimed at preserving the health care benefits and pensions for thousands of union coal miners and their families.