Energy & Environment

Black Lung, Red Ink: Residents Press McConnell As Deadline Looms For Black Lung Fund

Dec 17, 2018
Black lung advocates hold a 'quilt' honoring those with the disease.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

On a cool but clear November day about a dozen residents from eastern Kentucky’s coal mining region crowded into the lobby of an office building in the small town of London, Kentucky. That’s where Kentucky’s powerful senior senator, Mitch McConnell, has his local field office.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A lawsuit in West Virginia is challenging a type of state incentive to attract industry.

The Exponent Telegram reports a nonprofit organization called Jefferson County Vision has filed multiple lawsuits to stop the construction of an insulation production plant in the Eastern Panhandle, including one that targets the state's Payment In Lieu of Taxes program.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as Congress nears the end of its session, the clock is ticking on a tax that supports the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The fund provides benefits to tens of thousands of sick coal miners in the Ohio Valley. If Congress does not extend the tax, the fund will likely slide deeper into debt just as the region is seeing a surge in new cases of black lung.

As The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Becca Schimmel reports, the decision is largely in the hands of Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Ryan Zinke is out as secretary of the interior.

Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year; his successor is expected to be announced next week.

On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted that Zinke is leaving after serving for almost two years. He said Zinke has accomplished much during his tenure and thanked him for his service.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, journalist and professor Bonnie Stewart joins us to talk about the recent 50th anniversary of the Farmington Mine Disaster.

Adobe Stock

Three people missing since last weekend were found alive Wednesday in an underground coal mine in West Virginia, authorities said.

The three were located Wednesday inside Elk Run Coal’s Rock House Powellton mine near Clear Creek, the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training said in a statement. The mine was described as nonoperational.

Senator Joe Manchin will become the Democrats' top member on the Senate committee devoted to energy issues.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the petrochemical industry is promising economic development in many Ohio Valley towns where it’s sorely needed. Like East Liverpool, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. There, The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant reports, the town’s welcoming this new industry while still living with pollution from decades-old facilities.

Digging For Answers: New Report Points To Industry Obfuscation Of Mining’s Health Effects

Dec 10, 2018
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Jason Walker spends $50 per month on bottled water. He spends three hours each week standing by the small stream that runs near his house, pumping creek water into a thousand-gallon tank.

“You have to catch the creek at the right time, when it’s clear,” Walker said. “Whatever you pump, whatever the creek looks like, is what you’re going to pump, and that’s going to pump right into your house.”

Walker, 31, used to get water from a well he shared with his mother, Sherry Walker, who lives next door. But they noticed changes after mountaintop removal mining started nearby.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a growing body of research shows that people living near mountaintop removal coal mines face increased risks of disease linked to pollutants in air and water.

A new report from a human rights group argues that the mining industry has tried to suppress the science about health risks and has forced coalfield communities to take on the industry’s costs.

Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Sydney Boles visited residents who are hoping for clear answers and clean water.

Will Wright / Lexington Herald-Leader

HUNTLEYVILLE, Ky.-- Jessica and Tim Taylor’s prayers seem to have paid off.

The rain came. It filled the buckets that lined the outside of their home. It filled the small plastic pool by the barn they use to water the animals. But not knowing how long the rain will continue makes them anxious.

“It’s beyond stressful,” Jessica Taylor said.

Manchin Changes Mind on GOP-Confirmed Trump Energy Nominee

Dec 6, 2018
Joe Manchin
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal energy board despite a video that shows the nominee saying renewable energy “screws up” the nation’s electrical grid.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved Bernard McNamee’s nomination to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a 50-49 party-line vote Thursday, Dec. 6.

In Southern W.Va., Residents Wary of Water's Health Effects

Dec 6, 2018
F. Brian Ferguson / Charleston Gazette-Mail

Joanna Bailey remembers crowding around the kitchen table with her family, carefully sticking stamps on the corners of her neighbors’ monthly water bills. Her dad managed water service in Glover, an old coal town along the Guyandotte River in Wyoming County.

Stirring the Waters: Investigating Why Many in Appalachia Lack Reliable, Clean Water

Dec 6, 2018
F. Brian Ferguson / Charleston Gazette-Mail

For many families in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia, the absence of clean, reliable drinking water has become part of daily life.

They buy bottled water rather than drink what comes out of their taps. They collect rainwater in buckets, fearing there won’t be any running water at all the next day. They drive to natural springs on the sides of highways and backroads to fill up jugs for cooking and making coffee.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Molly Born and Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Caity Coyne have been working on a series of stories about water infrastructure issues in the southern coalfields. They’re both fellows with Report for America, an initiative that aims to strengthen local journalism.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Molly Born, Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Caity Coyne and Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Will Wright have been working on a series of stories about water infrastructure issues in the southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky coalfields.

Mine Workers Sue Federal Regulators Over Controversial Mine Safety Decision

Dec 5, 2018
This MSHA inspection photograph shows where Affinity mine shuttle operator John Myles was killed in 2013.
MSHA

The United Mine Workers of America is suing the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, after the agency reduced its heightened oversight of a West Virginia coal mine with a poor safety record. 

U.S. Coal Consumption Drops To Lowest Level Since 1979

Dec 4, 2018
Superintendent Jackie Ratliff, a coal miner, holds coal running through a processing plant in Welch, W.Va.
AP file photo

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration’s pledges to revive the U.S. coal industry.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both listen and have their say in front of Ohio environmental officials at a recent hearing in Belmont County, Ohio. For the three dozen or so people who testified, the stakes were high.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the abundance of natural gas from fracking could soon fuel a new petrochemical industry in the Ohio Valley. A massive facility proposed for Belmont County, Ohio, brings both the promise of economic gains and environmental risks. Reporter Brittany Patterson attended a recent public hearing, where residents spoke up about what kind of future they want for the Ohio Valley.

climate change WVU College of Law
Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Teachers, scientists, longtime climate change communicators and others gathered Saturday at West Virginia University’s College of Law to talk about one of the greatest threats facing the world: climate change.

The theme of the 7th National Energy Conference centered on climate change communication. Speakers and attendees acknowledged that invoking the topic can be especially challenging in West Virginia because of the state’s history with coal.

 

For the next two weeks, leaders from around the world are attending a major climate conference in Poland. They will talk about how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and how to support those communities that are already being affected by climate change.

Updated Nov. 26 at 3:12 p.m. ET

NASA's InSight probe landed successfully on Mars Monday shortly before 3 p.m. ET.

Two tiny spacecraft that flew with the lander to Mars were able to relay telemetry from the probe as it descended to the surface. As a result, mission managers knew immediately that the landing had worked. Unsurprisingly, the control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., erupted in cheers.

Fifty years ago this week, 78 men were killed when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia. The Farmington Mine Disaster devastated a small town and ushered in new health and safety laws nationwide.

George Butt was in the first grade in November 1968 when his father put in his two weeks' notice at the No. 9 mine. Harold Wayne Butt had worked as a coal miner but planned to switch careers, to become a postmaster.

"They came and got me out of class and told me I had to go home," George Butt said. "Ended up finding out the tragedy when I got there."

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, it’s time to gather round the table with family, eat turkey, and talk. America’s political divisions seem to amplify during the holidays, as families across the country gather and either talk politics politely -- or avoid it altogether. In today’s episode of West Virginia Morning, we bring you another installment of “Red State Blue State.”

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

 

11/20/2018 8:55 p.m.: This story was updated with information from Diversified. 

 

The West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization is asking state environmental regulators for a hearing to discuss a proposed transfer of more than 3,800 oil and gas wells located across West Virginia.

 


 

Farmington No. 9: The West Virginia Disaster that Changed Coal Mining Forever

Nov 20, 2018
Jesse Wright / WVPB

In 1969, the world’s attention turned upward to the Moon, as Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first momentous step off Earth onto another world.

But that year also saw momentous federal legislation spurred by a disaster that riveted the nation’s attention downward, hundreds of feet below the Earth and the hills of West Virginia.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning… Vultures usually get a bad rap. But that hasn’t always been the case – find out why. And we hear a story from the Allegheny Front's Kara Holsopple about having tricky conversations over Thanksgiving dinner.

Brittany Patterson

When Jennie and Brian Kahly decided to move to a 150-acre family farm in West Virginia’s Preston County, they thought a lot about what type of farmers they wanted to be.

“We went ahead and made a list of values, and one of those values was to minimize our fossil fuel use,” Jennie said. “That doesn't mean we don't use fossil fuels. It means we make a conscious effort to minimize them.”

Installing solar panels was high on their wish list. After two years of planning, this fall Possum Tail Farm began running on sunshine.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, states in the Ohio Valley are cultivating economic benefits by embracing clean energy, and we remember the Farmington Mine Disaster that occurred 50 years ago this week.

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