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Here and Now

Obama Calls For New ‘Square Deal’, Super PACs Will Likely Spend $1 Billion on 2012 Election, Pike County Community Sues Coal Company for Flood Damage: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm President Barack Obama is making a pitch to middle-class voters today in Kansas, talking about his proposed payroll tax cut and his plan to extend unemployment benefits.

1:11pm We are likely to see as much as a billion dollars spent by Super PACs to determine the outcome of the 2012 elections. These Super PACs are pretty new, but they have a lot of power and they can raise plenty of money. We’ll talk about their impact on the elections.

1:34pm Residents in an Eastern Kentucky town are suing the coal company after flooding wiped out their town. WFPL’s Erica Peterson joins us to explain.

1:49pm There are plenty of book apps for beginning and young adult readers, but not much for the ‘tween crowd. One librarian says she doesn’t think book apps will replace actual books for the youngest readers, but they might lure them to real books. Mary Ann Scheuer, librarian at the Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, CA, writes the “Great Kid Books” blog.

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Environment Local News

Federal Government Granted Permanent Injunction Against Pike County Coal Mine

A federal court has issued a permanent injunction against a Pike County coal mine in response to allegations from the Mine Safety and Health Administration that the mine was giving advance notice of inspections.

When miners have advance notice, they can quickly rectify unsafe conditions to pass inspection. That’s what MSHA says was happening at CAM Mining’s Mine Number 28, where the agency went to investigate complaints that miners were smoking underground.

A temporary restraining order was already in place at the mine. The permanent injunction means that the mine operators are barred from warning underground workers that inspectors are on site. This is already illegal, but involving the federal courts increases the severity of the punishment. The federal judge who issued the injunction also ordered a copy be posted at every communication device in the mine.

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Environment Local News

Federal Government Seeks Injunction Against Pike County Mine

NPR’s Howard Berkes is reporting that the Labor Department is asking a federal judge to issue an injunction against a Kentucky coal mine for warning its miners of an inspection. The mine in question is CAM Mining’s #28 Mine in Pike County and the injunction would prohibit anyone at the mine from issuing advance warnings. Violation of that could result in fines or jail time.

As Berkes reports:

The inspectors say they staged the inspection after a complaint from a miner that workers underground were using smoking materials. The Labor Department complaint in U.S. District Court in Kentucky says smoking and the use of lighters underground has caused four major mine explosions and 24 deaths since 1977.

“Smoking materials present a grave danger to miners working in any mine, but particularly so in a mine that has both a history of methane liberation and hydrocarbon ignitions,” the complaint says. “Any flame produced during the lighting of a cigarette is sufficient to cause an explosion that could kill every person working in the vicinity and potentially any person working underground.”

The Labor Department says CAM Mine #28 has a history of explosive levels of methane and hydrocarbons.

The federal government has increased the frequency of surprise mine inspection since last April’s explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. It’s illegal to warn miners underground that inspectors have arrived at the mine, and a Massey Security Chief was indicted for allegedly doing that at Upper Big Branch.

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Local News

Damage Assessment To Begin In Flood-Stricken Pike County

Federal Emergency Management officials are expected in Pike County, Kentucky Tuesday to assess damage after flash floods over the weekend caused widespread damage to homes, roads and bridges.

Judge Executive Wayne Rutherford anticipates the assessment to trigger a federal disaster declaration. That requires damage estimates that exceed $5 million.

“A lot of times the other counties get flooded too, and then we put a package together but this time it’s us, so we’re going to have to be hard-nosed as FEMA goes out and does their inspections to make sure they’re fair and they get everything down,” he said.

The flash flooding Saturday killed two people and left 10,000 people without water.

Emergency shelters are open for those driven from their homes but Rutherford says few people go to them. They instead go to relatives or neighbors.

There’s a lot of rebuilding ahead to get electrical power restored, open water lines and rebuild county roads. Rutherford has gone through the process before. This would be the 16th federal disaster declaration Rutherford has been involved in as Pike County Judge.

(Story by Ron Smith, Kentucky Public Radio/WEKU, Richmond)

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Local News

Thousands Remain Without Power In E. Kentucky

Thanks to Ron Smith, Kentucky Public Radio/WEKU, Richmond

Utility crews continue to work to restore power to tens of thousands of eastern Kentucky residents left in the dark by a weekend winter storm.

Heavy snow Saturday brought down numerous tree limbs and power lines in the region.

Four Red Cross shelters have been set up in hard-hit Pike County, where officials say power may not be fully restored until Saturday.

Robin Tackett with the Big Sandy Red Cross chapter says about 180 people have been staying at the shelters.

“It’s really hard to leave your home when its the holiday season, especially with Christmas coming up and you don’t want to spend it in a shelter situation if at all possible,” Tackett said.

“People aren’t wanting to leave their homes because you know all their gifts and things that they bought for Christmas are still at their homes and they’re concerned that if they leave those homes that someone could break in and get those things.”

Officials are also on the lookout for price gouging of supplies and services in the wake of the storm.

At the height of the outages Saturday, more than 100,000 customers were without power in the region.