Energy & Environment

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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.

The Trump administration has spent three years trying to help the coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations and pushing for subsidies for coal-fired power plants. Still, the long list of coal company bankruptcies has continued, and dozens more plants have announced their retirement since President Trump took office.

Disastrous Disconnect: Coal, Climate And Catastrophe In Kentucky

Oct 28, 2019
Illustration by Joanna Eberts / CPI

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series about the insufficient protections for vulnerable people as natural disasters worsen in a warming climate. The Center for Public Integrity and four partners – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, High Country News, Ohio Valley ReSource and StateImpact Oklahoma – are contributing stories.

Todd Bentley stepped onto his porch and saw the storm swelling the creek near his home. If this kept up all night, he feared, the creek could overflow its banks and wash out his neighborhood’s road. He headed out into the rain with his teenage son to secure his mother’s trailer across the street.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Kentucky and West Virginia are among the states with the highest emissions of carbon dioxide per person. They also helped to block the federal government’s most ambitious effort to fight climate change.

Now, an analysis from the Center for Public Integrity finds that those two states were among the ones most often hit by natural disasters during the past decade. Scientists warn that a warming climate makes extreme weather – and disasters such as flash flooding – more likely.

Reporter Sydney Boles takes us to Pike County, in Kentucky’s coal country, where vulnerable communities have suffered repeated flooding. It’s a place where coal politics, climate policy and catastrophe all connect.

Protesting miners block train tracks in morning fog.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource file photo

Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month before it folded.

Anti-Rockwool signs like this one can be seen throughout the Eastern Panhandle. Photo taken in Aug. 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


More than 100 people spoke at a public hearing in Shepherdstown this week hosted by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection

The hearing was for two proposed stormwater-related permits to be issued to Denmark-based Rockwool in Ranson, Jefferson County.

Us & Them: Three Tales of Coal

Oct 24, 2019
WV Archive

For decades, coal was king in West Virginia. It paid good wages, paid the bills for many local services through taxes, and kept small towns alive. But more of our nation’s electricity is starting to come from other sources like wind and solar power. Coal is losing out.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, for decades, coal was king in West Virginia. But as more of our nation’s electricity is starting to come from other sources, coal is on the decline. On the latest episode of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s program Us & Them, host Trey Kay has a conversation about coal and its future in Appalachia with journalist Ken Ward, who has covered the coal industry for decades here in the state. We hear part of that interview.

Wikimedia Commons

Tap water delivered by more than 2,000 water systems across the Ohio Valley contain pollutants, many harmful to human health, even though they mostly meet federal drinking water standards. That’s according to a newly-updated database released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. 

 

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Adversity isn’t new to Appalachia. We’ve faced boom and bust cycles for over a century. This episode of Inside Appalachia looks at some of those struggles and various efforts to curtail them. We’ll hear stories about West Virginia’s overwhelmed foster care system, to questions about what is killing off apple trees. And we’ll explore the research behind job creation programs ⁠— many of which are supported by federal grants. Do they bring long-term economic impact to Appalachia? 


Pipe ready for construction.
Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Federal regulators are putting a temporary stop to most construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline amid litigation over key project permits.

New Kentucky Memorial Honors Miners Who Died From Black Lung

Oct 15, 2019
The memorial lists hundreds of local miners who have died from black lung.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal miners and family members of miners who have died from black lung disease gathered Sunday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to dedicate a new memorial to miners who perished from the workplace disease.

While Appalachian coal country has several memorials to mining disasters, this is believed to be the first memorial to remember the thousands of men and women who died from black lung.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we can learn a lot from the natural world -- things our ancestors knew that many of us have forgotten. A program in Pocahontas County wants to teach about those things -- and use nature as a classroom as well. Eric Douglas has the story.

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