EPA Rule Changes Results In Coal Producer Cutting Production And Elminating 1,200 Jobs In Virginia, West Virginia, And Pennsylvania

September 18, 2012

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA – Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources said Tuesday it was cutting production by 16 million tons and eliminating 1,200 jobs companywide, laying off 400 workers immediately by closing mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The mine shutdowns start Tuesday, while the rest of the layoffs will be completed by the end of the first quarter after Alpha fulfills current sales obligations, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Crutchfield said. In all, the layoffs amount to nearly a tenth of Alpha’s 13,000-person workforce.

Alpha said it was closing four mines in West Virginia, three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania. They are a mix of deep and surface mines, and all are non-union operations.

Alpha didn’t immediately name the mines because it wanted to inform all the workers first.

Company spokesman Ted Pile said most of the displaced workers may eventually be rehired, either assigned to new jobs in other locations or replacing outside contractors. Only 150 workers in West Virginia and three in Pennsylvania will not have any other employment opportunities with the company, he said.

Though some miners will stay on to seal the operations, most will either be reassigned or laid off immediately.

Support positions will also be cut proportionally as Alpha reduces its operating regions from four to two, Crutchfield said, and two executives will retire Nov. 1.

It wasn’t immediately what other states would be affected by the layoffs.

Crutchfield said the shutdowns and layoffs are a necessary part of ensuring Alpha survives in what has become a difficult U.S. market, where coal companies face a dual challenge: Power plants are shifting to cheap, abundant natural gas, while companies like his face “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

“We think the actions we’re taking are aimed at getting ahead of this on a proactive basis and getting set up for 2013 going forward,” he said.

Bristol, Va.-based Alpha will cut production 16 million tons by early 2013 and reduce overhead by $150 million as it shifts away from thermal coal used in domestic power generation to concentrate on metallurgical coal used in steelmaking overseas.

Globally, “there remains a structural undersupply” of metallurgical coal, Crutchfield said, and Alpha expects to see demand grow by more than 100 million tons by the end of the decade.

Alpha’s $7.1 billion acquisition of Massey Energy helped create “one of the most valuable met coal franchises in the world,” Crutchfield said, effectively doubling its production potential. Alpha now has the world’s third-largest supply of coal.

Alpha has 25 million to 30 million tons of export capacity through the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, giving it the ability to scale up exports quickly, he said. The global sales and marketing initiatives will be led by Brian Sullivan, the current president of Alpha Australia LLC. He’s transferring to the U.S. to fill the vacant post of chief commercial officer.

About 40 percent of Alpha’s production cuts will come from high-cost eastern mines “that are unlikely to be competitive for the foreseeable future,” Crutchfield said, while about half will occur in the Powder River Basin, the largest coal-producing region in the U.S. The basin is located in northeast Wyoming.

Alpha’s Wyoming operations, Alpha Coal West, consist of the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayre surface coal mines. Together, the mines have about 650 employees and produce about 50 million tons of coal a year, according to the Wyoming Mining Association. The number of layoffs that might occur there was unclear.

“We’re still trying to figure out, with the reduction in production, what our operations will look like,” said Mike Lepchitz, spokesman for the Belle Ayre Mine.

Crutchfield said “the elimination of jobs on this scale is something I take very seriously.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we think we have to do it to set the company on the right foot going forward.”

In the long run, the new strategy will create a leaner, more agile company that can readily adapt to changing market circumstances, he said.

Alpha will try to find openings for some of the laid off workers in other locations or in contractor positions, but that will take time.

Some politicians were quick to pounce on the announcement as further evidence that President Barack Obama’s administration is waging a “war on coal” through new air-pollution standards, but many U.S. power companies have long planned to close or convert some of their aging, inefficient coal-fired plants.

Crutchfield acknowledged that natural gas is currently a less expensive option for those utilities but predicted that will change. Eventually, the price of gas will rise, he said, and in the long term, so will Americans’ power bills.

“I absolutely, unequivocally believe that,” he said, citing coal prices that have been historically “relatively flat” and natural gas prices that have been “very volatile.”

Although Alpha stock had dropped more than 5 percent by midday, at least one analyst commended the new corporate strategy. Sterne Agee’s Michael Dudas said believes the market is underestimating Alpha’s value.

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State Of Virginia Loses Lawsuit – State Has Kept Prisoners In Segregation For More Than A Decade Because Of Beards

September 17, 2012

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – Virginia inmates will soon get to wear beards.

The state Department of Corrections settled a lawsuit earlier this week with inmate William Couch, a Sunni Muslim who says his religion requires him to maintain a beard. The state will amend its grooming policy to allow male prisoners to sport up to ¼-inch beards beginning in October.

Virginia has maintained that long hair and beards are threats to security and health and were therefore banned.

Several Rastafarian and other inmates unsuccessfully challenged the policy and were held in segregation for more than a decade for refusing to cut their hair for religion reasons.

A federal appeals court revived Couch’s lawsuit in May, saying federal law protecting prisoners’ religious rights requires the government to use “the least restrictive means” to guarantee security.

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State Of Virginia Targets Existing Abortion Clinics With New Building Codes Intended For New Hospitals

September 15, 2012

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – The Virginia state health board voted on Friday to require existing abortion clinics to meet stricter hospital building codes, a move clinic supporters say could force facilities to make expensive changes or close.

The board in June had exempted existing abortion clinics from meeting the building code rules for new hospitals that can require modifications such as wider hallways and additional parking. It voted 13 to 2 on Friday to reverse that decision.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican known for his conservative social views, had argued against that earlier decision, saying the health board did not have the authority to challenge the intent of a 2011 law that treats abortion clinics as hospitals.

Abortion-rights supporters, who had packed the hearing room, stood and chanted “shame, shame, shame” as the vote was read and security officers escorted them from the room.

“I’m exhausted because I’ve been going to these meetings for over a year,” said Shelley Abrams, director of A Capital Women’s Health, a Richmond abortion clinic. “We’ve complied with every rule except these architectural requirements.”

Anti-abortion activists said the board’s decision would protect women who choose to get an abortion.

“I’m against it, but if you’re going to do it, it should be safe,” Williamsburg resident Jerry Moran said. “Safety of women should be the primary objective.”

The board typically has exempted existing medical facilities from new construction codes approved by state lawmakers, limiting them to additions, renovations and new building.

More than half of the clinics have submitted plans to comply with the state codes.

“It is unprecedented to force existing health centers to comply with building regulations intended for new construction, and the board acted well within its authority in voting to amend these regulations in June,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

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Richmond City Virginia Deputy Sheriff Al-Tamar D. Glover Arrested, Suspended, And Charged With Drunk And Reckless Driving

August 31, 2012

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA —A Richmond City Deputy Sheriff was arrested early Wednesday morning by Colonial Heights Police for driving under the influence of alcohol.

28-year-old Al-Tamar D. Glover is a one-year deputy with the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office. Officers arrested him around 2:00 AM in Colonial Heights, and charged him with one count each of reckless driving and driving under the influence.

Glover has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the criminal charge in Colonial Heights.

Sheriff C.T. Woody made the following statement regarding the incident: “Deputy Glover is, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty. Although he was off-duty when the alleged incident occurred, he is still required to uphold the law and is responsible for his own conduct.”

Deputy Glover is being held at the Riverside Regional Jail, awaiting an appearance before the magistrate.

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Pedophile Coeburn Virginia Police Officer Edward Shane Kiser Arrested After Seeking Sex With A Child On Facebook

August 31, 2012

GATE CITY, VIRGINIA — A former Coeburn police officer is facing felony charges for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl over Facebook.

Edward Shane Kiser, 27, of Coeburn, was arrested and charged Friday by the Virginia State Police with using a computer in an attempt to gain sex from a minor.

The charge is considered a Class 5 felony and carries a possible sentence of one to 10 years in prison.

Although Kiser lives in Coeburn, the Scott County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case since the alleged victim is a resident of Scott County.

“The VSP received contact (from the girl’s parents) that there was, at that time, an officer from the town of Coeburn who had been Facebooking their daughter,” Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said. “He had made contact with the girl through his occupation, and he then began what we believe was an inappropriate relationship through Facebook.”

Kiser was employed as a patrol officer with the Coeburn Police Department when he allegedly began sending the messages.

Coeburn Town Manager Loretta Mays confirmed that Kiser submitted his resignation from the force without reason prior to being charged and arrested Friday.

The VSP began investigating Kiser on Aug. 16 after the teenage girl’s parents reported his alleged actions to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.

According to McClung and VSP Special Agent Jason Jenkins, Kiser first met the girl — and subsequently learned her identity and age — following a noise complaint involving juveniles at a gas station in Coeburn.

As a result of that incident, authorities said Kiser was able to find the girl’s Facebook profile and began sending her private messages on the social networking site propositioning her for sex.

“We allege that he knew how old she was,” McClung said. “When he stopped her, he had an opportunity to locate her age, and despite that he decided to carry on the inappropriate communication.”

After the girl’s parents discovered the messages and went to authorities, Jenkins was given permission to assume her identity on Facebook and begin carrying on conversations with Kiser.

That portion of the investigation lasted nearly a week before authorities decided to formally charge Kiser.

Jenkins said the cooperation of the girl’s parents was key to the investigation getting under way.

“It’s very important to have the parents involved,” Jenkins said. “Without the parents, a lot of times we wouldn’t know the extent of how bad these situations can be, because without parent involvement we might not find out.”

Following his arrest, state law enforcement executed a search warrant on Kiser’s residence and seized a computer and cell phones.

Kiser was taken before a Scott County magistrate after being taken into custody Friday and was released on his own recognizance.

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University Of Virginia Tells Obama Campaign To Keep Moving, Declines President’s Request To Speak At College

August 26, 2012

VIRGINIA – A University of Virginia spokeswoman says President Barack Obama will not be at the university when he comes to Charlottesville on Wednesday. In a statement released Friday, it was confirmed that the university declined the president’s request to speak at UVA.

UVA says the Obama campaign requested the use of one of two outdoor venues – the Amphitheater or the Harrison-Small Library plaza. The university declined the request for a number of reasons including class cancellations, which UVA estimates could be more than 186 classes on the second day of school. The other main reason is they would have to take on the full cost of security, and because of university policy and their federal and state tax exempt status, they would have to offer the same opportunity to the other candidate so as not to show favor for either candidate.

Virginia’s top Democrat is playing down the snub. While stopping in Albemarle County, Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran told NBC29, “We’re proud that he’s coming. We’re very excited that he’s coming to Charlottesville, regardless of where in Charlottesville. Charlottesville is known for the University of Virginia, so I don’t think that’s going to be missed on anyone.”

Other than the denied request from the university, questions still remain about the where and when of the event.

The Albemarle County Democratic Party blocked off 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on their website’s calendar for Obama’s visit, but there is still a lot of speculation and uncertainty.

UVA spokesperson Carol Wood confirmed President Obama will not be speaking at the university. Meanwhile, other information coming in Friday is narrowing down the details.

According to the UVA Communications Office earlier on Friday, they offered up John Paul Jones Arena, but were told it “was not academic enough” by the Obama for America campaign.

Meanwhile, Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers says they know of a “proposed” location, but can’t say where because of Secret Service restrictions. It could be the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.

nTelos Wireless Pavilion General Manager Kirby Hutto tells NBC29 they’ve been asked to save the date, but nothing’s been confirmed. Regardless of where or when it is, the Obama campaign office says it’s ready.

Charlottesville Democratic Co-chair Jim Nix said, “Virginia is one of the battleground states and we’re quite excited that Charlottesville is considered one of the more important destinations in Virginia, a place that will play a big role in electing the next president, so we’re very excited about it and looking forward to it.”

Nix says there’s no confirmed time or date for selling tickets for the event, but it’s possible that the time will be set for Sunday at noon, if everything is in place by then.

The full details about the president’s visit are expected to be released no later than this weekend. We will bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.

The NBC29 newsroom has received the following statement from University of Virginia Spokesperson Carol Wood:
Many of you have asked about whether President Obama will be holding an upcoming campaign rally in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia.

I am writing to tell you that the University met with five members of the Obama Presidential Campaign on Wednesday. The campaign team had toured the University Grounds prior to meeting with University officials and zeroed in on two particular outdoor venues — the Amphitheatre or the Harrison-Small Library plaza — that would accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 people. Both of these locations sit in the middle of the daily academic enterprise. After reviewing the campaign’s request for either of these two sites and the impact on the University, the University declined the request for the following reasons:

As you know, Aug. 29 is the second day of classes overall and the first day of classes on the Monday/Wednesday/Friday academic schedule.

The use of either of the desired sites would require closing buildings adjacent to the sites for the entire day.

The cancellation of 186 classes would occur if the site is the Amphitheatre or closing of the libraries and Newcomb dining if the site is the Harrison-Small plaza. This would result in an extraordinary disruption of the second day of the new semester.

In addition to the disruption to classes, the University would have to bear the full cost of security — a substantial and open-ended expenditure of staff time and money.

By University policy, we would also have to offer the same accommodations and bear the same costs for other candidates. Both our federal and state tax-exempt status requires that we not favor any candidate.

The Secret Service would have final approval on the site chosen and would dictate the security requirements, but at a minimum the buildings adjacent to the event venue would need to be closed on Aug. 29. Adjacent buildings would be searched and secured with officers posted in each starting at least 6 hours prior to the event.

Additional details: The use of McIntire Amphitheater would require the closing of the following buildings on Aug. 29: Bryan Hall, Cocke Hall, Garrett Hall, Minor Hall, and possibly Maury Monroe halls. The parking lots behind Bryan and Clark would have to be closed for the day, as well as a portion of McCormick Road.

The use of the Harrison-Small Special Collections Library would require the closing of the Alderman Library, Special Collections Library, the temporary dining facility, Peabody Hall, and possibly Monroe Hall, the rooms along the West Range and a portion of McCormick Road.

Costs: the host site would be responsible for all security costs as determined by the Secret Service. The security costs would include, but not be limited to: staffing the intersections along the motorcade route (anticipate more than 200 officers would be required at a cost of $90,000 or more); security required at U.Va. and at the airport (obtaining officers from the local police departments and state police at U.Va.’s expense); canine dogs (obtaining them from police departments statewide).

While there are certainly financial implications to a state university that has seen faculty and staff salary freezes for the past five years, the primary reasons for declining the offer were related to disruption of the first days of classes.

A national election is something we want our students to be involved in — and hope that it is something they will rally around. The timing of this request simply could not be accommodated at these two requested locations because of the start of classes. This was not an easy decision, especially given our Jeffersonian legacy.

The University informed Jim Loftis, the leader of the campaign advance team, who said that he completely understood the decision given the impact it would have on the academic schedule.

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Virginia Police Interrogate Family That Allowed Kids To Play Outside – Harassed By Authorities Because Its One Of Only Two Neighborhood Families That Allow Children Outside

August 24, 2012

A family has been harassed by social services and police for the egregious crime of allowing their children to play outside in another example of how the nanny state is running wild in America.

Lenore Skenazy, editor of the Free Range Kids website, was contacted by a mother in Virginia who related her story of how she was interrogated by police four times and visited by social services twice after her children were spotted playing outside unsupervised.

The mother said that despite the fact she is careful about allowing her kids to stay over at other people’s houses because of a related childhood trauma of her own, she is being harassed by authorities because she is “one of only two families that allows my children to play outside at all in our neighborhood (which is very safe).”

“Just today, I allowed all four of my children (they were all together) to go play in the field adjacent to my house. I could literally see them outside my kitchen window. My 10 year old ran home to tell my husband and I that a cop had stopped and was interrogating my oldest daughter,” the mother writes.

“No, this was not after dark, it was at 4pm on a Saturday. So my husband walked out to see what was going on, and the police officer even wrote up a report, stating that the children were left outside unsupervised.”

Although she makes her children carry cellphones and check in every 30 minutes, the mother was told by her neighbors that “it just isn’t safe anymore to allow your kids to play outside.”

When the mother asked the police officer if the children, two teens, a pre-teen and a 5-year-old, were causing trouble, the officer responded, “No they were very respectful kids, I just wanted to make sure they were okay because it was odd seeing them outside unsupervised.”

How fundamentally warped has society become when children are not allowed to play outside in a field right next to their own house without suspicion being cast on their parents by authorities and neighbors?

Paranoia about child abductions has been hyped by both the media and the state as a means of eviscerating parental rights and transferring such power over to the government.

In reality, America has never been safer for kids in decades.

As AOL News’ David Knowles documents, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 980,712 people under the age of 18 were reported missing in 1997, compared to 643,744 in 2008.”

Child abductions are declining rapidly year upon year, so why on earth are Americans increasingly terrified of allowing their kids to enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors?

This is another example of the nanny state gone wild.

Manufactured paranoia that has no basis in reality is being hyped to turn all parents into potential child abusers and in the process castrate the happy, normal, and adventurous upbringing that all children should enjoy.

Is it any wonder that so many children end up being put on Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs given that the happiest days of their lives and the key formative stage of their development is being strangled by such overbearing nonsense?

Parents are being harassed by police and social services for caring for their children in ways which a sane society would consider normal and healthy.

Back in 2010, we reported on the case of a father of two who was harassed and investigated by Child Protective Services and police for feeding his daughters organic food, refusing to make them drink fluoride-poisoned tap water and not having them injected with mercury-laden vaccines.

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