Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Don Zeiler stands on a wall in the middle of the Monongahela River. In work boots and a bright orange jacket, the lockmaster at Braddock Locks & Dam is dressed for dance.

“When you’re dancing with your partner you take a step, they need to know where to go: when I’m doing this, then you do that, then I’ll do this, then you do that. So that’s basically what locking is,” he explained.  

In the West, Coal's Boom Resonates Across the Land

Apr 3, 2015
U.S. Geological Survey

Driving south of Gillette, Wyoming, through an arid and austere landscape once home to herds of bison, you pass coal mine after coal mine, for 70 uninterrupted miles, carving deep troughs into the prairie.

In Kentucky, A Prairie Made By Coal

Mar 27, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Patrick Angel pulls his pickup truck off a small road in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, and points to a long ridge covered with dried, brown grass.

“If you didn’t know where you were, you'd think you were standing in a prairie land in South Dakota or Wyoming, because it’s all grass,” says Angel, a forester with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

A road is being built over land that can be mined for coal, and a lawyer is trying to figure out how his client will be compensated.

Robert Lightcap is an attorney for Penn Pocahantas Coal Company which owns approximately 16 blocks of coal covering several thousand acres in Somerset County where Route 219 is being constructed.

The highway will go over the coal reserves owned by his client.

Some of the coal is in release to PBS Coals. They already had a planned, permitted mine in place. Lightcap says acres of coal will be lost because of the road project.

More than 300 people filled a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to devise the framework for a regional energy development plan.

Representatives from more than 20 energy-related organizations led the event, trying to pinpoint key issues to address in the energy development plan.

Pittsburgh and the surrounding 32 county region have a long history of being energy innovators, according to Power of 32 Implementation Committee Chairman Greg Babe, but the area lacks vision and strategy.

PA Governor Candidates on CO2 Cap and Trade

Oct 30, 2014
AP Photo / Keith Srakocic

The U.S. is ratcheting up efforts to combat climate change, with the final carbon rules for power plants expected from the Environmental Protection Agency next year.

When Pennsylvanians elect a governor in November, they will, in part, be making a choice over how the state should move toward complying with the new rules. One way is by joining with other states in a cap and trade program.

A small coal waste fire has been burning underground near the Pittsburgh International Airport for several years, but it’s about to be extinguished for good.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday announced plans to put out the fire and reclaim the abandoned mine underneath airport property.

“We’re going to dig up all the waste coal and put out the smoldering area, eliminate that, and then regrade the area and plant it,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.

Dr. Alan Lockwood said he has seen way too many children in emergency rooms struggling to breathe while their parents look on confused and helpless.

That is why he and other health professionals from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which aims to limit carbon emissions from power plants and the effects of climate change.

What Role Will Coal Play in Pennsylvania's Future?

Jul 30, 2014
Joseph A / flickr

Coal has long played an important role in the history of western Pennsylvania. It was coal that was excavated in the areas surrounding Pittsburgh, and then shipped to the city where it was used to power the steel mills.

It made for an effective system of production, but the smog that blanketed the city could turn days into nights.

Following World War II, civic leaders sought to clean up Pittsburgh, and reducing smog was particularly important. That struggle continues today- coal is still a major player in local energy, but the government is still looking to further curtail its pollution.

The EPA announced it’s Clean Power Plan in June, and hearings are being held this week in several U.S. cities. One of those cities is Pittsburgh- the biggest city in Appalachia, the heart of coal country. Environmentalists strongly support the reforms, but plenty of citizens in the region worry about a loss of jobs and an increase in energy prices.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest coal-producing state in the nation and Fred Hails, a fifth-generation coal miner from Washington County, wants to see it stay that way.

“You’re going to see rolling blackouts,” he said. “You’re going to have high electric bills, and I don’t see the sense in shipping our jobs overseas and buying back energy to support our country.”

Health professionals, lawyers and U.S. senators met in Washington Tuesday to explore the challenges faced by coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

The U.S. Department of Labor will look to hire two administrative law judges and bring back a retired judge in Pittsburgh in 2015 to handle growing black lung claims, according to Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu.

In response to frigid temperatures and increases in energy costs, the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance is calling for a hearing to examine recent power supply problems.

The alliance points to the closing of three Pennsylvania coal-fired power plants on Oct. 9, including the Mitchell plant in Courtney and the Hatfield Ferry plant in Masontown, as a potential reason for the state’s sudden energy issues.

PA Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy said the lack of coal energy has strained available electricity.

Tim Camerato/90.5 WESA

Coal advocates, union leaders, and tradesmen were joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-R-18) in the Allegheny County Courthouse’s courtyard to denounce new standards on carbon emissions for power plants.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  proposed new rules to cut carbon emissions for all future coal-fired power plants.  Regulations on current plants have not been released yet.

Boilermakers, utilities workers and politicians rallied Friday in an effort to save southwestern Pennsylvania coal jobs.

Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) took to the megaphone outside of Boilermakers Local 154 Hall in Pittsburgh to take a stand against the Environmental Protection Agency and its latest regulations that contribute to the closing of two Pittsburgh power plants.