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Transitions Underground

Coal Age does finally have a little good news to report this month. Longtime readers know that included in the February edition of Coal Age is the U.S. Longwall Census. It lists all of the U.S. longwall installations and provides production statistics. Longwall mining is the safest, most productive form of underground mining.

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EPA Makes the Right Decision on Coal Ash

During December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized regulations for the safe disposal of coal ash from power plants, which is more formally referred to as coal combustion residuals (CCRs). Rather than classifying it as hazardous waste, the rule establishes technical requirements for CCR landfills and surface impoundments under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the primary law for regulating solid waste.

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A Difficult Year Ends with a Few Positive Signs

December was not a complete wash. Coal Age is reporting a few good stories this month, which helps break up the monotonous reports of WARN notices and companies exiting the coal business. First off, coal production is holding steady compared to last year, which might be the new norm. Total coal production for the U.S. currently stands at 925 million tons, 0.4% more than one year ago. America’s coal miners are producing more than 85 million tons per month, so 2014 should remain above the psychologically important 1-billion-ton mark.

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Strong Allegations

Former Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Donald L. Blankenship was indicted during November. It didn’t make the cover of the Wall Street Journal, but word spread quickly through the coalfields, especially in West Virginia. While the lead news story (See News, p. 4) covers the charges that have been leveled in detail, many of the allegations are intense.

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A Failure to Report

At the beginning of October, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a press release declaring that the agency’s reforms related to pattern of violations (PoV) had made mines safer. As the stepped-up PoV program nears its second anniversary, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main called it a game changer for the culture of mine safety and health.

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