Energy & Environment

Blackhawk Mining says it's closing three mines and two preparation plants in West Virginia amid weak global coal markets.

The Kentucky-based coal company on Tuesday announced the idling of its facilities in Logan and Mingo counties.

Fat Bear Week 2019 officially ended Tuesday night. And the winner is ...

No. 435, or if you prefer a name, Holly.

Fat Bear Week has been an annual event for the past five years in Katmai National Park and Preserve in southwestern Alaska. The idea is to publicize and celebrate the process of bears eating as much as they can to build up crucial fat reserves in advance of winter hibernation.

Why Worker Training Programs Alone Won’t Save Coal Country

Oct 8, 2019
Participants in a West Virginia worker training program offered by Coalfield Development Corporation.
Rebecca Kiger / Ohio Valley ReSource

Bobby Bowman mined coal in West Virginia for 12 years before his employer shut down.

“I don’t think that mine will ever open again,” he said.

Bowman lives in Welch, in the south of the state, where he worked at the Pinnacle Mine, which shut down almost exactly one year ago, putting him and about 400 others out of work. After waiting a month in hopes someone would buy Pinnacle and the mine would reopen, Bowman decided to do a four-week training program offered by the United Mine Workers Career Center. He enjoyed it and earned a certification in heavy equipment operation. But when he came back home, he struggled to find a job in the field. So Bowman took matters into his own hands.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Charleston hosted the annual West Virginia Book Festival during the weekend. Organizers estimate the event draws between 3,000 to 5,000 attendees each year.

But some would-be attendees promised not to show up and others came to protest this year. Emily Allen has more about the event and the conservative sci-fi author in this year’s speaker line up, Orson Scott Card, whose presence created the stir.

Court To Weigh Fight Over Pipeline Across Appalachian Trail

Oct 4, 2019
Natural gas pipe for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline sits in a yard Feb. 27, 2019, near Morgantown, W.Va.
Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Supreme Court will consider reinstating a permit that was tossed out by a lower court that would allow construction of a natural gas pipeline through two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail.

The justices said Friday they will hear appeals filed by energy companies that want to build the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Trump administration, which initially approved the project.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, growing up in poverty makes it difficult to access good opportunities and to succeed in our society. But when you live in an area of concentrated poverty, the struggles intensify. That’s according to new information from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Eric Douglas brings us the story.

National Integrated Drought Information System

Federal officials say drought conditions in West Virginia are worsening as unusually high heat continues to beat down on the region.

Blackjewel Miners Likely To Receive Pay In DOL Deal

Oct 3, 2019
An attorney briefs miners attending the Blackjewel bankruptcy hearing.
Courtesy of Ned Pillersdorf

The U.S. Department of Labor and a company associated with Blackjewel agreed this week to put nearly $5.75 million toward coal miners left unpaid in the company’s chaotic bankruptcy.

The July 1 bankruptcy of one of the nation’s largest coal companies left 1,100 coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia out of work and without weeks of pay.

Something odd is happening to streams and rivers on the high plains of Kansas and Colorado. Some have disappeared.

"We would go and visit these streams, and in many cases it's like a dirt bike channel. It's no longer functioning as a stream," says Joshuah Perkin, a biologist at Texas A&M University who studies the fish that live in these streams.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, author Crystal Wilkinson is this year’s Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence at Shepherd University.

Wilkinson grew up in Kentucky with her grandparents. Her work celebrates being black in Appalachia. Liz McCormick spoke to Wilkinson last week. Here’s an excerpt from the interview beginning with Wilkinson sharing one of her short stories from her book, "Blackberries, Blackberries".

Energy, heat, money, thermostat, heat pump, furnace
Dave Mistich via Tableau Public

While many states are adopting policies to make homes, cars and appliances more energy efficient, a new report finds states in the Ohio Valley are moving in the opposite direction.

 

Are 1,600 New Coal-Fired Power Plants Being Constructed Today?

Oct 1, 2019
Conesville coal plant
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The president of the United Mine Workers of America  -- a union representing coal miners, many of them in West Virginia -- sees a future for coal in electricity generation despite concern that coal’s carbon emissions could bring about climate change. 

In a Sept. 4 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, the union’s president, Cecil E. Roberts, touted the number of coal-fired power plants being constructed internationally.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, communities along the Tug Fork River in Mingo County are touting their waterway as a draw for outdoor recreational events. But there’s still a lot of work to be done in the river, to make sure it’s safe and clean. 

Emily Allen joined a group of volunteers and state workers yesterday [Monday] as they removed hundreds of old tires from the river.

Water Is Unaffordable For Nearly Half Of Kentucky County's Residents, Report Finds

Sep 30, 2019
Martin County relies on a water treatment plant that was built in 1968.
Benny Becker / Ohio Valley ReSource file photo

A new report finds nearly half the residents of Martin County, Kentucky, cannot afford water service. Local activists with the Martin County Concerned Citizens are ringing alarm bells about water affordability as the beleaguered county faces another likely water rate increase in the coming months.

Since the ReSource first reported on its water crisis two years ago, Martin County has become the prime example of rural communities struggling to maintain aging water systems.

Montana is under emergency conditions after an intense winter storm dumped record amounts of snow along with a life-threatening combination of bitter cold and stiff winds. In the town of Browning, 48 inches of snow fell from Friday to Sunday, the National Weather Service says.

Despite coming in late September, the 19.3 inches of snow that just fell over two days in Great Falls is second to only one other two-day total in the city — in any month. The only time the city recorded more snow in two days was during a winter storm more than 10 years ago.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as the Ohio Valley’s coal industry continues to decline, many coal-dependent communities are left asking, ‘What’s next?’

For some, a different kind of natural resource could be the key. Energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson visited one community in southwest Virginia that is betting big on outdoor recreation – and getting some help from an unusual local resident.

Appalachia’s Deep History Of Resistance

Sep 27, 2019
Becky Crabtree sits chained in her 1971 Ford Pinto, suspended over a trench at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site on her property in Monroe County, W.Va..
Appalachians Against Pipelines

When a group of Kentucky miners decided to block a coal-laden train from leaving a bankrupt mine in July, they weren’t just laying claim to missing paychecks.

The miners in Harlan County won attention across the United States for their willingness to put their bodies on the line for their beliefs. In doing so, they’re invoking the long-entrenched spirit of civil disobedience and direct action in the Appalachian Mountains. The mine wars of the early 20th century led to the rise of American unions in the 1930s and 1940s, but it’s not just coal miners who have laid claim to a history of activism.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Standing on the breezy outlook at Flag Rock Recreation Area, Norton City Manager Fred Ramey is taking in the panoramic view of downtown Norton, Virginia. The brick building-lined streets are framed by the verdant, rolling Appalachian mountains. Jagged, brown scars from mountaintop mining operations can be seen in the distance, reminders of the region’s history of coal production.

Water
Jasonanaggie / Wikimedia Commons

Ohio will begin testing some public and private water systems for the presence of toxic nonstick, fluorinated chemicals, broadly called PFAS.


Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

The nearly two-month blockade of a Kentucky railroad track is coming to an end as unpaid coal miners end their protest in order to take new jobs, start classes, or move away from their coal-dependent communities.

Glynis Board / WVPB

Two West Virginia lawmakers — a Republican and a Democrat — held a video conference Tuesday with middle and high school students across the state about a topic that’s not often given much attention in West Virginia: Climate change.

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a website that brings local history to life is expanding, thanks to a hefty grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Emily Allen visited Marshall University in Huntington, where the program was developed, and learned about some of the town’s culture and history, silently embedded in structures left behind and often overlooked.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

A group of fourth and fifth grade students at Morgantown Learning Academy — a private, non-profit elementary school located in Monongalia County — are sitting at two picnic benches surrounded by a forested canopy on a recent Thursday. This isn’t a special field trip. Every Thursday, students spend part of their classroom time outside with Mountain Stewardship & Outdoor Leadership, or Mountain SOL.


Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Environmental groups have reached a settlement agreement with a petrochemical company  in Ohio to beef up air pollution controls at a proposed petrochemical plant along the Ohio River. 

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a growing body of research shows that learning outside boosts the mental, physical and social health of students. In Morgantown, one outdoor education program has embraced learning in nature and integrated it into the curriculum at a local elementary school. As part of our occasional series on outdoor education, Brittany Patterson visited Mountain SOL.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A news release Friday from the Kanawha County Commission says the layoffs are planned at the Chemours plant in Belle.

The company formed as a spinoff from DuPont in 2015 and currently employs 207 people at the facility along the Kanawha River.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

More than 150 West Virginia college students and residents skipped class and work on Friday to raise awareness about the growing threat of climate change. The protest was part of a global climate action that drew millions of participants across the world.

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, not many high schools can say they operate an award-winning recycling program for their county. Much less do you hear this from smaller schools in rural counties.

But Wyoming East High School, a school of about 500 students in Wyoming County, has just that. As part of a new occasional series exploring outdoor learning, reporter Emily Allen spoke to the EPA-honored science teacher who helped make the effort possible.

Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.

That's according to a new estimate published in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.

Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1. 

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