Energy & Environment

The Ohio Valley’s Decade In Data

Jan 2, 2020
Ohio Valley ReSource

The year: 2009. A Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama has just made history upon taking the presidential oath of office. The national economy is at a low point of the Great Recession. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the first NFL team to win six Super Bowls.

Ten years later, as 2019 gives way to a new decade, the country is a radically different place, and the Ohio Valley is no exception.

Berkeley County Public Safety via Google Maps

Updated on Jan. 2, 2019 at 1:40 p.m.

The evacuation for the .5 mile radius surrounding the Sewage Treatment Plant at 500 E. John St. was lifted on Dec. 24, 2019.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, floodwalls, earthen levees and pump stations in the Ohio River basin protect more than $120 billion in property and about 720,000 people from the prospect of rising waters. Yet many of these protection systems are more than 50 years old. Some are in deteriorating condition and rely on archaic equipment. Liam Niemeyer reports scientists predict climate change will increase the severity and frequency of future flooding. And Ohio Valley communities have little means to prepare for that future.

Natural Gas, Compressor Station
Glen Dillon / wikimedia Commons

 

Language included in the federal spending deal Congress passed this week could imperil a major natural gas storage project planned for the Ohio Valley that is seeking a $1.9 billion federal loan guarantee, according to environmental advocates. 

Aging Levees, Climate Change And The Challenge To Hold Back The Ohio River

Dec 19, 2019
Jim Casto stands up against the tiled river height gauge along the entrance of the floodwall in Huntington, West Virginia.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

When 78-year-old Jim Casto looks at the towering floodwalls that line downtown Huntington, West Virginia, he sees a dark history of generations past. 

The longtime journalist and local historian is short in stature, yet tall in neighborhood tales. On Casto’s hand shines a solid gold ring, signifying his more than 40 years of reporting at the local paper. “It was a lot cheaper to give me a ring than to give me a pay raise,” he said with a chuckle.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, celebrations in the Northern Panhandle have been ongoing this year in the town of Wheeling – where the state of West Virginia was born. Also, in this show, we bring you a report from StateImpact Pennsylvania on shale gas imports to Scotland.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, mountaintop removal coal mining has profoundly changed Appalachia’s landscape and people. The controversial practice blows the tops off mountains to get the coal below, and it sparked a wave of protests from affected communities. One group in the heart of West Virginia’s coal country recently marked 20 years of activism against mountaintop removal. Reporter Brittany Patterson visited Coal River Mountain Watch as the organization takes stock of two decades of work.

Wikimedia Commons

A group of Democratic West Virginia lawmakers announced plans Monday to introduce legislation to regulate a group of toxic, man-made fluorinated chemicals. 

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ruhrfisch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

The head of natural gas driller EQT Corporation told members of the West Virginia Legislature the company intends to ramp up the size of drilling projects to hedge against projected low natural gas prices. To accomplish that, the company may need help from lawmakers when it comes to "fractured mineral interests."

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

 

Coal River Mountain Watch’s history of resistance to mountaintop coal mining is plastered across the wood panelled walls of the group’s modest office in Raleigh County, West Virginia. 

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Accessing Better Health.

About Michael Hendryx's TED Talk

For over a decade, Michael Hendryx's research has shown mountaintop removal is connected to cancer and other diseases in nearby towns. He says awareness is key for changing policy around the practice.

About Michael Hendryx

Bill Beatty

 


Volunteers are needed across West Virginia to help count birds this holiday season. This Saturday marks the start of the National Audubon Society’s 120th annual Christmas Bird Count. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Us & Them host Trey Kay talks with Bob Garfield. Garfield is co-host of the NPR program “On the Media.” He is also co-founder of an initiative called “The Purple Project for Democracy.” Its goal is to help people believe in democracy once again and show them ways to get involved and re-engage.

Study Shows Surface Coal Miners Are Exposed To Toxic Dust That Causes Black Lung

Dec 10, 2019
Vivian Stockman / Southwings

Appalachian surface coal miners are consistently overexposed to toxic silica dust, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and surface mine dust contains more silica than does dust in underground coal mines.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we’ll hear about a 70-year-old music festival serving a different kind of Christian music. Also, we hear the latest on the debate over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a new study on the risks of black lung disease.

December 8, 1984: Naturalist Earl Core Dies in Morgantown

Dec 8, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Naturalist Earl Core died in Morgantown on December 8, 1984, at age 82. The Monongalia County native received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and served on West Virginia University’s biology faculty for nearly a half-century: from 1926 to 1972. 

As an undergrad at WVU, Core had collected thousands of specimens for the WVU herbarium, of which he became the longtime curator. On his first botanical expedition, Core discovered a new species—at the time considered the rarest plant in the world. In 1936, he organized the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the abundant drilling of our region's Marcellus and Utica shales has created a glut of natural gas. That means prices are at an all-time low. Producers eager to find new markets now ship gas overseas.  StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips traces the path of natural gas from the forests of northern Appalachia to Japan, where cheap Pennsylvania shale gas provides energy in the wake of a disaster.

InciWeb / Monongahela National Forest

Wet, cool conditions are helping to slow a wildfire in Pendleton County that broke out on Thanksgiving.

The Dry Hollow Fire was first reported early Thursday in the Monongahela National Forest near the community of Upper Tract. 

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.

Pages