Ohio Valley ReSource

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the seven stations involved in the Ohio Valley ReSource will be taking a look at the big stories in a regional community, from large focus issues in economy, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and agriculture. Each station has a reporter collaborating to this initiative, working together to tell these stories.

The region is undergoing huge changes in all of these large focus areas. OVR Managing Editor Jeff Young states, "Just look at how dramatically the energy marketplace has changed or what a crisis opiate addiction has become affecting healthcare. Some communities are really struggling while others are finding creative approaches for new economic development, or coming up with new ways to deliver health services in rural areas."

Young says he hopes the resource will offer storytelling that allows people in one community to learn from people in another.

http://ohiovalleyresource.org/

Adobe Stock

Westmoreland Coal Company, one of the oldest mining companies in the country, became the second major coal bankruptcy of the Trump presidency Tuesday when the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Texas court.

The company, which has a substantial presence in the Ohio Valley, has for years faced mounting difficulties as it continued to take on debt while many of the power plants that used its coal announced they intend to close or switch to cleaner fuels.

 

James C. Justice III, left, watches his father’s inauguration as governor. He has assumed control of some Justice family companies.
Office of the WV Governor, via Flickr

The Justice family companies’ difficulties paying taxes over the years are well documented. But tax collectors haven’t been the only ones trying to recover debts from companies once operated by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and now in control of his family.

Ohio River near Huntington
JaGa / wikimedia commons

A multi-state commission charged with protecting the Ohio River decided Thursday to postpone a decision to dramatically alter pollution controls.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, has been considering a proposal that would reduce its oversight of water pollution control standards along the Ohio River. The proposal, called "option 2" would eliminate the body's water pollution control standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the river.

Rebecca Kiger / Ohio Valley ReSource

After decades of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, Wendy Crites finally made a clean break.

“For the first time in my life I just wanted to be off of it,” she said from her home in Ranson, West Virginia. “I hit rock bottom.”

Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions, Black Lung Fund

Sep 26, 2018
Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration's priorities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Senate Opioids Bill Takes Aim At Fentanyl Imports

Sep 19, 2018
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan package to address the nation’s opioid crisis with more resources for addiction treatment and recovery and an emphasis on stopping the flow of the the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The New DARE: Schools Aim To Stop Next Generation Of Opioid Crisis

Sep 17, 2018
Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

New data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Fewer high schoolers in the region appear to be using opioids.

School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But these are not the same drug prevention programs many people remember from their school days.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

William Suan is no stranger to the problems abandoned oil and gas wells can cause.

“It's just an eyesore,” he said, standing inside a barn on his cattle ranch near Lost Creek, West Virginia. “I had to fence one off because it's leaking now.”

There are five inactive wells on his land, most installed in the '60s and '70s, and the companies that owned the wells have long since gone out of business.

DuPont's Washington Works
Parkersburg News & Sentinel

Environmental Protection Agency officials told a Congressional panel Thursday that the agency will announce by the end of the year whether it will take the next step to regulate a group of toxic fluorinated chemicals found in some water systems in the Ohio Valley.

The PFAS group of chemicals, which include PFOA or C-8, were widely used to make nonstick products and flame retardants and have been detected in at least 10 water systems in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Exposure has been linked to a number of health effects.

Reining In Abuse: Lax Laws On Animal Welfare Affect Pets And People

Sep 5, 2018
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Suzanna Johnson is an education officer with the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue in Camner, Kentucky. Johnson is looking after a pregnant horse she rescued recently.

“Be good,” she instructs the mare, named CC, and pats her belly. 

After Nearly Three Decades And $3 Billion Olmsted Locks And Dam Open On Ohio

Aug 31, 2018
Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource

After nearly 30 years of construction and a budget that rose into the billions, Olmsted Locks and Dam passed the first tow barge through its system at a ceremony Thursday on the Ohio River.

The $3 billion infrastructure improvement by the Army Corps of Engineers is the most expensive inland waterway project in U.S. history and is touted as the hub of the nation’s river navigation system.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice talks about his budget proposal during a stop on his Save Our State Tour on Thursday, March 3, 2017, at Fairmont State University.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal court has ordered the U.S. Marshal to collect more than $1 million owed by two coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

Kara Lofton / WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

In Ohio Valley Visits, Trump Administration Pushes Policies Supporting Mining And Metals

Aug 24, 2018
Kara Lofton / WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region's traditional but faltering industries -- metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

Rural Risk: Mobile Clinics Help Tackle Multifaceted Opioid Crisis

Aug 20, 2018
Anthony Scott Lockard / KY River Dist. Health

In a room at the Letcher County Health Department in Whitesburg, Kentucky, about 20 people are learning how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.

Among them is 18-year-old Morgan Hopkins. An aspiring therapist, Hopkins said she wants to be ready with naloxone if someone overdoses around her.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, you have it, rather than you don’t have it.”

Hazard Ahead: Ohio Valley Auto Industry Concerned About Trump Trade Policies

Aug 17, 2018
Nick Youngston CC By-SA 3.0 / Alpha Stock Images

Automotive manufacturing leaders met in Kentucky to discuss how changes in U.S. trade policy under President Trump affect the industry and its growing presence in the Ohio Valley.

Industry leaders gathered for the annual AutoVision conference and many don’t like what they see coming.

Federal Dust Fraud Charges Highlight Black Lung Threat For Miners

Aug 13, 2018
Coal Miners Respiratory Clinic

When former coal mine employees in western Kentucky faced arraignment Wednesday on federal charges that they conspired to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust, the hearing brought renewed attention to the region’s surge in black lung disease.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

In October, 2016, NPR, Ohio Valley ReSource and its partners reported that West Virginia billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, who was running for governor as a Democrat, owned companies that owed roughly $15 million in overdue taxes and mine safety fines.

Win For Wetlands: Program Helps Farmers Conserve More Flood-Prone Land

Aug 4, 2018
The Relict darter is endemic to Bayou de Chien in west Kentucky.
Bec Feldhaus Adams

West Kentucky farmer Judy Wilson says her family is a bit of a sundry bunch.

“We love the farm, but we also love all the nature,” she said.

Wilson is driving down a back-country road that divides two fields, to the left is her soybean crop and to the right is 102 acres that she has placed in the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program, something her husband always wanted.

Ohio Collaborative Seeking Solutions To Opioid Crisis

Aug 1, 2018
ReSource reporter Aaron Payne (right) and other journalists meet with community members in Belpre, OH.
Bill Ambrose / Your Voice Ohio

An Ohio-based collaborative thinks journalists can play a bigger role in solving the region’s opioid crisis. The effort starts with listening to people in some of the hardest-hit communities.

A group of about 50 people gathered in a small building at the fairgrounds in Marietta, Ohio, to share their thoughts on the region’s opioid crisis with local journalists.

Alexandra Kanik / Ohio Valley ReSource

Jim Thacker is frustrated.

The spokesperson for the Madison County, Kentucky, Health Department said there is a real threat of a Hepatitis A outbreak at the detention center right down the road in Richmond.

Built to house about 240 inmates, it holds more than 400. 

“It’s like a petri dish, they are packed so close together,” he said.

Vivian Stockman and Southwings

An area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined for coal in Appalachia using mountaintop removal, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

The Ohio Valley is not known for good health. Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia often rank near the bottom of states in many health rankings.

But a new report shows there are “bright spots” in the region where some health measures are better than expected. And a team of health researchers thinks these communities can offer a guide to improve health across Appalachia.

Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

The low rumble of industrial fans fills the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, a shelter that provides meals and other services for homeless people.

Health Official: Regional Overdose Death Rates Up, But Flattening

Jul 27, 2018
Drugs, Drug abuse, Drug overdose, overdose
Pixabay

Health officials in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia say the number of overdose deaths continued to rise in 2017. The Ohio Valley ReSource's Aaron Payne reports that one public health official says, however, there is cause for optimism.

Lawmakers Warn Of Economic Fallout From Failing Pensions

Jul 18, 2018
A union miner at an Ohio rally for pension protection.
Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts fired up a crowd of thousands of union workers in Columbus, Ohio, with a simple chant: “Fix it!”

The rally last week came on the eve of a congressional field hearing on problems plaguing multi-employer pension programs like the one retired miners depend upon.

Hogwash: Farmers Fear Trump Trade Disputes Are Damaging Ag Markets

Jul 16, 2018
Jimmy Tosh looks at hogs ready for the market.
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Jimmy Tosh sells a lot of pigs. He is owner and CEO of Tosh Farms, Tosh Pork, and Bacon By Gosh, in Henry County, Tennessee, and has 84 contracted barns in the region where farmers grow pigs for his products.

On a recent July day, Tosh craned over some 1,200 piglets and reflected on how recent market disturbances have affected his business.

Federal Prosecutor Charges Coal Company With Faking Dust Samples Amid Black Lung Surge

Jul 11, 2018
An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.
Adelina Lancianese / NPR

The U.S. Attorney for Kentucky’s Western District unsealed eight fraud indictments Wednesday against employees of the bankrupt Armstrong Energy coal company for falsifying dust monitoring samples in two Kentucky mines.

Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

"Be brave, have fun,” Jennie Boggess instructs as she leads a room full of young students at Camp Curiosity, hosted by the Daviess County, Kentucky, Public Schools.

Boggess is the development director for the Owensboro Dance Theatre and today she is preparing students for a finale performance to cap the four-week summer camp.

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