Energy & Environment

Flight cancellations and delays continued Monday as the winter storm that tore across the United States reached the Northeast, bringing several inches of snow and coastal floods. Travel disruptions are likely, with the National Weather Service warning of hazardous driving conditions.

Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ohio River
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Ohio River is an important ecological and economic force in the region. It provides drinking water for 5 million people, but it’s also one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. A new regional journalism collaborative is digging into what it means to live in the Ohio River watershed. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, across Appalachia, and even rural America more broadly, hospitals are closing. Faced with increasing costs and aging, sicker and poorer patients, health care systems are consolidating their services, and in the process, increasing travel times for patients seeking specialized and emergency care. Freelance reporter Mason Adams recently dug into the impacts these changes are having on Appalachian communities in a story for In These Times. He spoke with 100 Days in Appalachia’s student editor Kristen Uppercue about his reporting.

The world is getting windier, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers analyzed decades of weather data and determined global wind speeds have risen dramatically over the past 10 years.

The study says wind farm operators are likely to benefit from the uptick in wind speeds since faster wind means more efficient wind turbines.

Downstream of Dam #5 in Falling Waters, W.Va. during a study using tagged American eels from Millville, W.Va.
David Sutherland / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

At the end of Vineyard Road in Falling Waters, West Virginia, there is an old, stone and brick structure on the Potomac River. This small, historic building is a hydroelectric power plant owned by Cube Hydro Partners based in Maryland. Beside the structure is ‘Dam #5.’

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, for more than 180 years, American eels have not been able to swim past Dam No. 5 in Falling Waters, Berkeley County. But that’s about to change. As Liz McCormick reports, officials are finishing a new “eelway” that could potentially help thousands of eels a year migrate further upstream in the Potomac River.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the decades-long saga over DuPont’s dumping of toxic chemicals in the Ohio Valley is getting the Hollywood treatment. “Dark Waters,” a film starring Mark Ruffalo as environmental lawyer Rob Billot, opened in theaters Friday. The film comes as regulators and lawmakers consider new rules on the toxic chemicals known as PFAS. As Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Brittany Patterson reports, the chemicals are showing up in more drinking water systems around the region.

Photo courtesy Focus Features

The new film “Dark Waters” depicts the real-life story of the 20-year battle waged by attorney Rob Bilott against chemical giant DuPont.

MSHA Comment Period Shows Divide On Measures To Protect Miners’ Health

Nov 22, 2019
Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses
Howard Berkes / NPR

The comment period has closed for the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rule on respirable silica, a major contributor to skyrocketing rates of lung disease among coal miners. The 49 relevant comments included a striking testimony from an anonymous coal miner sharing details of the ways in which current mine operators cheat on dust monitoring protocols.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, earlier this fall, Bob Hansen, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, said the state looks forward to creating new job opportunities for West Virginians in recovery from addiction. For some of these opportunities, being in recovery is actually a qualification.

The state has been certifying and paying peer recovery support specialists through its Bureau for Medical Services since July 2018. As Report for America corps member Emily Allen reports, this is just one example of the state’s recent investments in peer support.

Black Lung Trust Fund Likely Burdened By Murray Bankruptcy

Nov 20, 2019
Bob Murray speaking at an event in October, 2019.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

The recent bankruptcy of Murray Energy is likely to significantly increase the debt of a struggling federal trust fund that supports disabled miners’ health care expenses.

According to court filings, Murray Energy could be responsible for as much as $155 million under the Black Lung Act and general workers’ compensation, but testimony from the Government Accountability Office shows that the company only offered $1.1 million in collateral to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we’re hearing stories this week that explore the benefits of going outside.

People from all over the state and region converged in Terra Alta, West Virginia, earlier this year to celebrate nine decades of Mountain Nature Camp. It’s a camp where adults go to study pristine Appalachian corners of the world.

Many folks came to celebrate community and traditions that have been going since 1929. But they also go to get their nature fix, which, as Glynis Board reports, an increasing number of researchers say is critical for both human health and maybe even life on the planet.

Adobe Stock

Communities across the Ohio Valley are among an estimated 2 million Americans that do not have consistent access to clean drinking water and basic indoor plumbing, according to a report published Monday by two nonprofits, DigDeep and the US Water Alliance.

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the combination of climbing medical costs and stagnant wages can make it hard for many working people struggling with chronic health problems. Statistics show medical bills contribute to more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the country. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Mary Meehan has the story of one woman who lost her home while fighting cancer. It’s a story becoming all too common as medical bankruptcy threatens people’s ability to keep a home.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An organization called Experience Learning in Pendleton County, has been leading kids out into pristine mountain landscapes to learn about the world, themselves and each other for about 50 years. It’s one of the longer running outdoor education institutions in the West Virginia. Organizers say they’ve spent years watching kids be transformed by outdoor experiences. More than anything else, they want kids to learn to love learning and they don’t care if kids find that love on top of a mountain, or in their schoolyards. 

Henrik Hahn, Deputy Ambassador of Denmark to the U.S., speaks to a local chapter of the West Virginia Kiwanis Club on Nov. 7, 2019, in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


The Deputy Ambassador of Denmark to the United States Henrik Hahn was invited to speak to a chapter of the West Virginia Kiwanis Club in Harpers Ferry last week. 

Denmark-based Rockwool has been a source of health and environmental contention for more than a year in the Eastern Panhandle, but discussion about the company was intentionally excluded from the event. 

Is Murray Energy The Nation's Largest Coal Company?

Nov 12, 2019
Robert Murray, center, chief executive of Murray Energy Corp., talks to two miners in charge of drilling bore holes into the Crandall Canyon Mine before a news conference.
AP file photo

Murray Energy Corp., a major player in the coal-mining industry, declared bankruptcy in late October, sending shockwaves across coal-dependent regions of West Virginia and neighboring states.

In addition to putting coal employment at risk, the company is the last major employer contributing to the United Mine Workers of America’s pension plan.

Shepherdstown resident Tracy Danzey (right) walked 70 miles in 11 days from Kalundborg to Copenhagen protesting Rockwool. Martinsburg resident and former organizing director of the national AFL-CIO, Stewart Acuff (left), accompanied Danzey on the walk.
Emily Vaughn


Residents in the Eastern Panhandle continue to protest Denmark-based, stone wool manufacturing facility, Rockwool. For more than a year now, hundreds of residents still rally at commission and town council meetings in Jefferson County and at the Rockwool construction site – in an effort to stop the plant from being built.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the federal Abandoned Mine Land program puts millions toward cleaning up old mine sites. Now, coal country officials are putting some of that money toward broader economic development as well.

Reporter Brittany Patterson visited one unusual project in the mining town of Lynch, Kentucky.

In Florida, Nestlé is taking heat from environmental groups and others concerned about the future of one of the state's most endangered natural resources — its freshwater springs. Florida has more than a thousand freshwater springs, which provide drinking water, important natural habitat and places for recreation. Nestlé wants to begin taking more than a million gallons of water each day from Ginnie Springs, a popular destination in north Florida for swimming, canoeing and tubing.

Spotted Lanternfly, Lanternfly, Lantern Fly, Fly, Lantern
Sam Droege / USGS

State officials have confirmed an invasive pest known to feed on a wide range of crops and trees has been found in West Virginia for the first time.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture said in a press release released Wednesday that the Spotted Lanternfly was discovered in the Bunker Hill area of Berkeley County in late October. 

Dylan Lovan / AP Photo

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is co-sponsoring a bill with West Virginia's two U.S. senators and others aimed at preserving the pensions of about 92,000 retired coal miners, as well as the health-care benefits of another 13,000 working miners.

Kentucky Division of Waste Management

Federal environmental regulators released proposed changes to two rules related to the disposal of coal ash and wastewater from coal-fired power plants.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse Of Coal Miners’ Pensions

Nov 4, 2019
Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.
Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource file photo

The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon.

The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension fund, and has even raised broader concerns about pensions for a range of other trades.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy’s bankruptcy renewed fears about the already shaky pension plan that tens of thousands of retired miners depend upon. As the Ohio Valley ReSource’s Becca Schimmel reports, some regional lawmakers are renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers’ pension fund.

A patch of miscanthus towers above other grasses on the former mine site
Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations argues reclaiming abandoned mine lands could be a key factor in Appalachia’s transition from coal.

In its second annual report, released Thursday, the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition, highlighted 19 reclamation projects in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. They run the gamut from installing solar on abandoned mine lands to boosting outdoor recreation opportunities like biking and hiking trails. 

Jasper Davis stoops to tilt a plastic bottle under a drip of water that's trickling from a crack in the mountainside.

"Tastes better than what the city water does," he says. "Way better."

The spring is innocuous, a mere dribble emerging from a cliff face that was cut out to make room for a four-lane highway. But there's evidence of frequent visitors. A small footbridge has been placed over the muddy ground, and some enterprising soul shoved a rubber tube into the mountain to make filling jugs easier.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Halloween Morning, we’d like to remind West Virginians of the many creatures featured in the state’s folklore – such as Big Foot and Mothman. And there’s another one that’s often described as an alien or a monster. Over the years, it’s become a part of the state’s pop culture. It's even made a larger resurgence just in the past four years through a tourism campaign and a new museum.

Our folklife reporter Caitlin Tan brings us the story from Braxton County.

On a windy night in Billings, Mont., Patricia Iron Cloud and about 60 others were protesting the Keystone XL pipeline ahead of a public meeting on Oct. 29. It was the public's first and only chance to meet with U.S. State Department officials about a new environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"I think it's at least 19 degrees right now," Iron Cloud said, shaking in a traditional ribbon skirt and ballet flats with no socks. "Who does that?"

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, beginning in the late 1970s, shelters and other resources began to become available for survivors of domestic violence in West Virginia. But navigating those resources and legal processes that can go with it isn’t easy. As Liz McCormick reports, work continues to broaden and improve what’s available to survivors.

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