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Monday, May 30, 2011

New Company Opens Mine in Tamaqua

Harry Note - 50% of all the electricity in America is made by burning coal. Greenies constantly bad mouth coal - but they continue to run their air conditioners round the clock and gobble up their share of energy. Schuylkill County and Carbon County in Pennsylvania have enough coal to run the USA for 400 years - it is just buried deep in the ground. It is more important that our country be self-sufficient than it is for people to be feeling good about "saving the earth." Someday - we will move everyone out of the Valley - and simply rip open the mountains and take this black gold out. Energy crisis over - Arabs can bath in their oil.

From the Hazleton Standard Speaker -

A new company is taking over a surface mining operation in two counties.The state Department of Environmental Protection has transferred a 7,500-acre surface mining permit to BET Associates to mine, re-mine and reclaim numerous abandoned mine lands in Schuylkill and Carbon counties.The site spans Tamaqua and Coaldale in Schuylkill County, and Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning in Carbon County.

Doug Topkis, managing owner of BET Associates, said the company is in partnership with Robindale Energy Services, and is doing business as Lehigh Anthracite. The company has an office in the former Jamesway Shopping Center.

"We are interested in revitalizing the local economy and we have plans to have the site mined properly and safely," Topkis said.

BET Associates purchased the site from the former permit holder, Lehigh Coal & Navigation (LCN), through a bankruptcy sale last May, shortly after DEP suspended LCN's mining operations.

DEP issued 24 compliance orders to LCN between 2008 and 2010 for numerous water quality violations and for failing to reclaim the site. LCN had filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

As a condition of the permit, BET Associates will post bonds to cover the full cost of reclaiming the site and to treat the acid mine drainage.

The previous bonds LCN posted would have been insufficient to reclaim the site and the state would have been responsible for millions of dollars in remediation projects. The permit transfer relieves the state of the potential responsibility of reclaiming the site.

"The plan is to mine the coal, since there is plenty of anthracite coal, and at the same time fill up a lot of the holes for positive drainage. Right now it's porous land. Filling the holes will benefit the mine by having the water drain properly," Topkis said.

The new company will commit $24.5 million in reclamation bonds and funds to use for treating the site's acid mine drainage problem.

"We've been working to take care of the environmental problems that existed to make it safer for our working employees," Topkis said.

He explained that Robindale, of Indiana County, will be operating the heavy equipment and be in charge of operations of the newly formed company, Lehigh Anthracite. He believes, depending on the coal market, that new jobs will be created from it.

The company should have 50 employees working at the site this week, and could have as many as 80 employees by the end of the year, he said.

The market is strong for coal due to recent economic upswings in China and India, according to Topkis.

"Anthracite coke is used in the steel-making process and the price is lower, making it an attractive export," Topkis said. "I think it's a win-win for everyone. We've got a good plan and good people running it."

Topkis said Tamaqua officials appear to be very pleased the company will be mining coal again.

"We're very excited about working in the communities of all five boroughs. Tamaqua council has already offered support and it's encouraging," he said.

Tamaqua council members met with Topkis and came away feeling this is going to be a healthy coal-mining operation according to council President Micah Gursky.

"We are thrilled it will be a boost to the local economy and yes, we are very supportive and glad that a healthy, strong company is taking over the operation to mine coal here again and new jobs will be created for the area, " Gursky said.

Tamaqua has always been tied to coal mining operations in the past, he said.

"I feel very confident they are a good company and I think they are going to do a good job," Gursky said.

The site has been mined for a couple hundred years and is one of the oldest surface mining sites in the state and the largest landowner in the Tamaqua area. However, in recent years, LCN company had some problems that drew the attention of DEP.

Those problems stemmed from not paying taxes to local municipalities, at times being unable to pay employees, equipment breakdowns, non-compliance with environmental issues, unsafe working conditions and lack of funds for bonds to re-claim scarred land. In the most recent problem, about 7,000 gallons per minute of water contaminated by acid mine drainage flows through the site, which includes more than 800 acres of surface mine pits, according to DEP.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Latest Craigslist Purchase - Lulu Wanted a Treadmill

You can watch TV and listen to your iPod or iPhone while you run at the same time.

It is heavy duty - rated for 350 pounders. It goes 12 miles an hour and up to a 12% incline.

Lulu was complaining that I spend too much time on Craigslist and the Internet. while we were discussing this - an interesting post popped up on the screen.

"This is a heavy duty Healthrider H140t treadmill with a 3.5hp motor, 20" wide belt, and lots of bells and whistles. It also has had the optional chest strap heart rate monitor installed. Other features are a built in 7" LCD TV with remote control, 40 built in iFit programs, iFit card slot if you are interested in other pre-designed workouts like Jillian Michaels etc., a built in sound system so you can listen to your Mp3 player or iPod without headphonoes, and a built in cooling fan.
The weight limit is 350lbs. Everything works perfectly.
I'm interested in selling this outright or trading it for an elliptical of comparable quality.

Within the hour we were at Jeff's front door. The treadmill was remarkable. It had a digital cable TV in it - and ipod and iphone port. It had a ton of running programs in it and a RAM slot where you could buy more. It had giant digital readouts of miles - calories - pulse - time - distance. It even had a wireless heart monitor and a fan for hot days.

We looked on the Internet to find out that it cost $2500 new. It also has a lifetime warranty on the frame and 3.5 horsepower motor. The serial number tag says it was built in Dec 2009.

Jeff looks like a physical fitness expert. I asked him what he did - and he said he designs children's toys. His claim to fame is the marshmellow shooter.

Jeff designed this marshmellow shooter.

This thing is heavy - we hat to break it down into 4 big pieces to lift it and get it out the door. It also folds up for easy storage. We will be keeping it in the barn. Jeff and I loaded it into the truck - it was easy unloading it in the garage door.

Lulu had a treadmill once before and she dramatically ran off several pounds on our porch back in Pennsylvania. She should be able to lose one pound a week. At that rate she will disappear in 3 years. I will post before and after picture.

New it was $2500 - he was asking $500 - we settled on $400.

I guess I will get a pardon for being on the computer too much.

It is in our barn - you can stare out the barn door to the lake.

The TV has a remote - You can also listen to your iPod. It has stereo speakers and even a fan for that wind in the face feel.

It is several big digital readouts - miles - time - distance - pulse - calories.

It has several performance programs built-in - but you can add more thru a RAM port.

See the RAM port here.

This belt monitors your pulse wirelessly.

I need work - I just did a 12 minute mile and my pulse hit 144.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

American Sportworks Electric Vehicle

Fold down windshield - removable hard top.

Brake - accelerator - emergency brake - forward/reverse switch - turn signals - headlights - seat belts.

It was so new it still had the sales tags on it.

That is the blue electric motor. The bed on the back dumps.

Steel frame - shock absorbers - plastic body parts.

Tonight - my friend Manny and I drove this American Sportworks LSV-48V. It is a Low Speed Vehicle - can be registered and driven on roads with speed limit of 35 mph. This vehicle barely goes 20 miles per hour - for 38 miles supposedly. It has seats belts - lights - turn signals - etc - so it can licensed.

The guy bought it new in December of 2009. It has 6 - 8 volt Trojan batteries. Supposedly the vehicle has less than 50 miles on it. There is no odometer.

The guy had a bill showing that he paid $6500 with sales tax. He is asking $4500.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Last Day of the Vision Tour - NEW HAMPSHIRE

We are home now. Lulu's School Library Vision Tour is over. It ended in New Hampshire yesterday. She visited 35 school libraries in 35 states - but it took much longer than 35 days. It started out way back in September in Alabama zigzagged all the way out to Hawaii then ended with a flourish through the 6 New England States. It was off and on over 9 months.

The original insane idea was to get a motor home and drive to each library. It ended up that most visits included a plane ride - then a rental car circling the area to hit a few states. Some were just a long road trip from Florida.

The libraries were selected by each state's school library association. Some states chose not to participate - thank goodness - thus only 35 states - not 50. Originally Lulu budgeted $35,000 of her own personal money for the tour. Fortunately - through private donations and some funds from the American Library Association - the trip cost us a fraction of what we expected.

You can see the whole tour at

General Stark is the guy that gave New Hampshire its motto. On his death bed - he said - "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary every election cycle. My question is why? Doesn't this give the million or so people in NH too much influence on selecting our leaders?

Lulu loves visiting state libraries. In New Hampshire there is not metal detector - and no one checks your bags. We saw a couple back packs lying on the floor in the lobby - bomb alert anywhere else.

The Old Man in the Mountain turned into a landslide in 2003. This is a picture of a picture from before the disaster.

The New Hampshire Senate has 25 members. 13 are women.

The oldest state capitol where they still occupy the original chambers - 1819.

Here I am posing to be the new "Old Man in the Mountain." Note the golden dome and granite capitol in the background.

Sharon Silva - school librarian - receives the award from Lulu.

Local press interviewed Lulu about the award.

The last school of the tour.

Dr. Virginia Barry - is the New Hampshire Secretary of Education. She came to honor the Vision Tour. To our surprise - she is an alumni of Florida State University.

New Hampshire loves their vanity license plates. Every other car seems to have one.

I wonder if this was the principal's car?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final Night on the Road of the Vision Tour - Concord NEW HAMPSHIRE - "Live Free or Die"

This Capitol is the oldest one in the USA still being used in its original configuration. It is on a nice level lot downtown. It is made of granite.

Today we visited the Capitol at Concord. To say it was unusual would be an understatement. This state loves its freedom.

The state motto is "Live Free or Die." It is everywhere including across the top of their license plates. Simply it means freedom is more important than anything.

We have visited almost every state capitol - and the Concord Capitol is the only one you can walk into without going through a metal detector or any kind of search. We walked through the hallways freely and even stumbled into the House which was in session. We were able to sit down right on the rail and watch them passing laws. I asked just to make sure I could take pictures - they said of course I could. After the session was over - we all walked out of the front door together - we were parked right by the front door. It seemed like a different time - reminded me of scenes from "To Kill A Mocking Bird."

Some think the motto should be, "Live Free or Cheap." The constitution does not allow them to pass mandates without the funding. If the state makes you do something - they fund it.

New Hampshire has no sales tax and new income tax. They do have property tax and a few other fees. One thing they do is sock it to tourists. Hotel and Restaurant taxes are 9% - the steepest we have run into. All that being said - the population is not growing or falling. 98% of the people are white of European ancestry. I guess the folks from the tropics do not like the cold. We have not experienced 60 degrees since we have been here. We have had plenty of rain - fog - and wind.

About 15 years ago there was a debate about the motto on the license plates. Some of the Mennonites were covering the "die" part of the motto with tape. The state decided to arrest them for defacing public property. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before the it was reversed. It is a violation of our civil rights to make someone wear the motto on their car.

Another funny story story is "The Old Man in the Mountain." About 200 years ago someone discovered a rock formation that looked like a bearded man. They even put his picture on their license plates. The locals were crushed in 2003 when the rock formation collapsed. But that did not stop the legislature from "worshipping" this past rock formation. If you drive by the rock formation on the highway - and look through the state sponsored telescopes - the old man appears on the glass. I guess that was easier than buying all new license plates.

New Hampshire only has 1.3 million people. It is one of the few states that has more US Senators (2) than members of the US House (1). Even though New Hampshire has so few people - the USA allows them to have the first primary election for the presidency. Explain to me how that works?

The state motto on a piece of granite cut out to look like a map of New Hampshire. We use more granite from this state than any other. Granite is simply lava that cooled underground very slowly (magma).

The state motto on this old wooden boat.

This afternoon Lulu and I stumbled into a session of the Legislature. All the doors were wide open - from the front door - to the hallways - to the chamber. I thought of how easy it would have been to have a few hand gernades in my pocket and lob them down into the gallery. They were packed together very closely without desks. They voted by pushing a red or green button. They had 30 seconds to vote. House Bill 12 passed while we were there.

The Senate already went home for the weekend.

They gave Lulu a sweatshirt with "NH" on it. Under the big letters is - live free or die.

This was our hotel at Meredith NH. Although the weather stunk - this hotel is one of the nicest hotels we stayed in. Our room was cozy.

Since New Hampshire has such a small population - there are plenty of short numbered plates like "6" or "DE." Also - this state seems to have more vanity plates per capita - it must be cheap to get what you want on a plate. Note the motto and the old man that is no more.

The Vision Tour ends tomorrow in Merrimack NH - Number 35.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Greetings from Beautiful Meredith - NEW HAMPSHIRE - Site of the New Hampshire Association of School Librarians Convention

Meredith is centrally located in New Hampshire on the state's biggest lake.

The town and our hotel sit on an isthmus between two lakes with a waterfall going right through the hotel.

This is the Mill Falls and the Mill Falls Inn. Water drops about 40 feet from Lake Waukewan to Lake Winnipesaukee.

We are spending 3 days in downtown Meredith NH - a small village of 6000 on an isthmus of land between Lake Waukewan and Lake Winnipesaukee. Since the topography is the product of glacial activity - one lake is about 40 feet higher than the other. In the early 1800s - the land owner built a small canal between the lakes and developed a very concentrated water fall - similar to Niagara Falls but much smaller. Just like Lake Erie is emptying into Lake Ontario - Lake Waukewan is emptying into Lake Winnipesaukee.

I never heard of a library convention selling out before - but the NHASL fest sold out! I tease Lulu that it is because she is the keynote speaker and the masses are huddled together to hear about the Vision Tour. Thursday - the Vision Tour ends at Mastricola Elementary School in East Merrimack NH. The tour started in Alabama in September and wound its way through 35 different states including Hawaii. It is now sprinting thru 6 New England states to the finish line Thursday.

Meredith built up around the mill and falls between the lakes. When the value of water power waned - the value of the tourist dollar boomed. "The season" does not start for a couple weeks - when I am guessing this cute quiant New England Village turns into a snarling tourist mecca with not enough parking spaces to handle the masses.

It has everything - two pristinely clear lakes - a large city dock - a scenic railroad - and even a paddle wheel boat to tour the lake and get panoramic photos of Mount Washington. In the fall - the leaves are spectacular - in the winter the skiing is great - but the summer weather in the mountains is the main attraction.

They have build a giant hotel right over the Mill Falls. It does provide quite a roar which is an excellent background for the shops and encourages the dollars to flow. I am glad we are here in the middle of May - we did not have to put with with any major snowstorms nor any lines of tourist traffic. They could not have picked a nicer place for the convention. 200 librarian are here for the event. I simply love our hotel room.

What is not to like? French doors onto a wooden porch and the waves lapping about 40 week away. The gas fireplace blazes at the flip of a switch and it really heats the room thanks to a glass door and radiation vents. The flat TV hides behind shutters above the fireplace - to the delight of every egghead. The king size bed requires a foot stool to enter - provides a spectacular moonlight view of the lake to lull you to sleep. Also - free wifi - free breakfast - free parking. :-)

Thursday - the end of the Vision Tour.

Lake Winnipesaukee - the largest lake in New Hampshire.

Lake view from our hotel room.

The grass is always greener in the other state.

Scenic train rides along the lake shore.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend With the Grandkids

One of the worst things about living in Florida is not seeing family enough. So on our weekend trip to New England we were able to spend time with the grandkids.

It was the highlight of the trip.

While Lulu Visited Poland Community School - I Visited Poland Spring

Lulu visited a school in Poland ME. To get there we had to go through Paris - London - and Oxford. Lulu has one school left to visit - in New Hampshire. She is wearing her official MASL vest.

Poland Spring is the top selling bottled water in the world. While I believe that the whole bottled water industry is a big con - it is fun to see how far these hucksters will go to fool people into buying their stuff.

Poland is a small town about 30 miles off I-95 in Maine. Someone discovered a spring on the mountain side and convinced people to come and bathe in the water. A resort hotel was developed on the site. It has been a summer tourist trap since 1845.

Nestles has purchased the rights to the name - Poland Spring. They sell water from many different springs under the same name. The locals are not happy about that. The legislature even attempted to pass a 20 cents per gallon tax on the water.

Today - there is a resort hotel at the site - but it was closed when I tried to visit. It opens on Memorial Day.

The Poland Spring Inn. Babe Ruth played golf here. Many presidents had vacationed here. It was closed while I visited.

This is the Maine State Building. It was constructed of Maine products and build for the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1892. It was then broken down and brought to Poland Spring filling 17 freight cars.

This is the Poland Spring. The building was part of the marketing scheme - glass and silver piping - granite and marble walls. Workers dipped the water in sterilized suits.

The Poland Spring was in this small building - putting out 8 gallons a minute. It has not changed its impurity concentration since 1845.

The is the Poland Spring Corporate Office.

The whole area is maintained by the Poland Spring Preservation Society - a local historic group.

The park was open but all the buildings were closed.