Energy & Environment

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. 

The Scarborough Library on Shepherd University’s campus is home to the largest solar panel installation on a nonprofit in West Virginia. This photo shows half of its 189 panels.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


More than 180 solar panels are now on the roof of Shepherd University’s Scarborough Library. It’s one of the largest solar panel installations in West Virginia.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Shepherd University’s campus library is home to the largest solar panel installation on a nonprofit in West Virginia. As Liz McCormick reports, the staff who pushed for the installation are hopeful the achievement will inspire more organizations and homeowners in the state to turn to solar power.

Adobe Stock

An electrician was killed at a mine in Kanawha County early Tuesday morning. The incident marks the second electrician killed this summer at a mine operated by Blackhawk mining.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Appalachia’s coal country is struggling to diversify its local economies amid the sharp declines in employment at mines and power plants. An eastern Kentucky organization called SOAR, or “Shaping Our Appalachian Region,” is trying to help.

The group is betting big on high-speed internet and industrial development. But as the Ohio Valley ReSource’s Sydney Boles reports, those are proving tough items to deliver in the rural, coal mining region.

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

 

The federal judge presiding over coal operator Blackjewel LLC’s bankruptcy has set a timeline in the “hot goods” dispute over millions of dollars worth of coal sitting in railcars in Kentucky and Virginia.


courtesy Brandon Dennison

The founder of a West Virginia job-training organization called Coalfield Development has been awarded $250,000 from the Heinz Family Foundation. 


Brandon Dennison is being recognized for his work to help address generational poverty in central and southern West Virginia.

The Trump administration is changing the definition of what qualifies as "waters of the United States," tossing out an Obama-era regulation that had enhanced protections for wetlands and smaller waterways.

Thursday's rollback is the first step in a process that will allow the Trump administration to create its own definition of which waters deserve federal protection. A new rule is expected to be finalized this winter.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Executives from three major chemical companies — DuPont de Nemours, Inc., The Chemours Company and The 3M Company — testified for the first time to Congress about widespread contamination from the group of nonstick, fluorinated chemicals broadly called PFAS.

The so-called “forever chemicals” persist in the environment, are linked to ill health effects, and have been found in numerous water systems in the Ohio Valley.

Daniel Breen

Last spring, we put out an episode called “Farm Wars.” It was about Arkansas farmers' never-ending battles with “pigweed” or as some call it “Satan’s Weed.” It’s incredibly hard to get rid of. There’s a controversy in that state over a herbicide called “dicamba” that’s used to keep the weeds at bay, but has divided the farming community. 

Lead-based paint was extremely popular in the early and mid-20th century — used in an estimated 38 million homes across the U.S. before it was banned for residential use in 1978.

A man on the train tracks. Near the scene of the miners' protest in Harlan Co., KY.
CURREN SHELDON

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how our history is intertwined with our future. We’ll hear from coal miners and children about how they are reshaping Appalachia, while remembering the past. Also in this episode, we’ll hear from a woman who found recovery, and a job, after struggling with drug addiction for more than two decades.

And we’ll hear from some of the miners in Harlan County, Kentucky who are protesting their employer, coal operator Blackjewel LLC. We’ll talk about what the protest says about the state of organized labor in the mines.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, more than 200 mines are idled or not producing coal across central Appalachia. About half of them have been that way for three or more years, avoiding regulatory requirements for mine cleanup.

The Ohio Valley ReSource partnered with the Center for Public Integrity to learn more about how mine operators capitalize on this regulatory loophole.

In the second of two reports, energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson introduces us to a resident who lives below a coal mine that has been idled for years.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, more than 200 coal mines sit idle across central Appalachia. They have not produced coal for years. Those idled mines occupy a gray area in the regulations on mine cleanup and reclamation.

The Ohio Valley ReSource partnered with the Center for Public Integrity to learn more about how mine operators use a regulatory loophole. In the first of two reports, Brittany Patterson visited one such mine to see the effects on the neighboring community.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This Labor Day, members of the United Mine Workers of America marched eleven miles from the town of Marmet in West Virginia to Racine. As Emily Allen reports, the route traces part of a much longer journey miners made almost a century ago. 


Updated at 9:54 a.m. ET

Hurricane Dorian has grown even more powerful, strengthening to a Category 5 storm as it approaches the Bahamas with what the National Hurricane Center warned would be "devastating winds" and a "life-threatening storm surge."

Maximum sustained winds for Dorian increased to 175 mph, with gusts above 200 mph, and further intensification is possible according to the NHC.

Some of the crew aboard a tow boat operated by Amherst Madison in W.Va.
Eric Douglas/ WVPB

A decline in coal production over the past decade affected more than just coal miners. It also impacted the riverboat industry. Amherst Madison is a riverboat company based outside Charleston, West Virginia. For decades, the company has made most of their money towing coal barges. But a downturn in coal meant the company had to look for other ways to stay afloat. 

West Virginia Public Broadcasting spent some time with these folks inside the river industry, and we asked them what the future of the industry looks like.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving to take a rare species of plant found in the Ohio Valley off of the endangered species list. Amid controversial proposals to change the law protecting rare species, the Running Buffalo Clover is an example of a successful recovery. It would join about 2.5 percent of threatened and endangered species (42 species) that have been taken off the list, or delisted, due to recovery. There are still 1,663  U.S. plants and animals on the endangered species list.

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