Jessica Lilly

Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief

Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program, and during afternoon newscasts.

Jessica joined WV PBS in 2008 as the Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief. She’s committed to reporting stories from the people in her region and across the state and is passionate about following issues and developments in mine and worker safety.

Jessica was chosen by the West Virginia Associated Press in 2013 as the winner of the Significant Impact Award for her influence on broadcasting in the state. She was also the winner of the 2013 Associated Press Best Reporter, Best Enterprise Reporting and Best Feature Runner-Up.

In 2011 Jessica was recognized by the Associated Press as Runner-Up for Best Reporter and in 2012 was recognized for Best Breaking News Coverage.

While studying broadcasting, public relations and business administration at Concord University, Jessica worked as the weekend producer and fill in reporter for WVNS-TV in Raleigh County. She went on to work as a full time reporter for WVNS-TV for about a year.  

Jessica graduated from Concord University in 2007, where she was named Concord University’s Reporter of the Year and Producer of the Year.

Born in Bluefield, WV Jessica grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia and Wyoming County. She was always busy with activities such as cheerleading, or theatre.

When she’s not reporting, Jessica advises Concord University's online radio webstream and teaches communications classes at the school. She enjoys attending sporting events and theatre productions, singing, antiquing, skiing, riding ATV’s, and traveling with family.


Black Lung
10:11 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Federal Cuts to Black Lung Programs Expected to Hit W.Va. Hardest

Credit National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

A McDowell County clinic is worried that federal cuts could compromise care for coal miners and their families.  The concern comes after grants for the Black Lung Clinic Programs were capped at $900,000. Since West Virginia was the only state to receive more than that annually, it’s expected to hit home the hardest.   

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7:00 am
Sat April 5, 2014

Remembering the Devastation of Monongah, UBB, and a Tornado So History Doesn't Repeat

Let's look back at the Upper Big Branch Disaster to see what does it take to change coal culture?

Remembering the worst coal mining disaster in history so history does not repeat.

Wheeling Jesuit University hopes you'll join them to "Celebrate Appalachia".

Local maple syrup could be threatened by climate change.

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Mine Safety
12:05 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Four Years After UBB: Families of Victims Say It Is Still 'Us' vs. 'Them' in West Virginia Mines

Credit Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Four years after an explosion at the Upper Big Branch killed 29 miners and injured two others, an investigation by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin continues to examine the practices of executives at then-owner Massey Energy. The mine’s current operator, Alpha Natural Resources, has established Running Right, a leadership academy focused on empowering miners to address safety concerns.

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Black Lung benefits
10:08 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Tomblin Hopes Feds Reconsider Black Lung Benefits Funding Cuts

Credit Department of Labor

 Federal funds for black lung benefits in West Virginia were cut about 44 percent. The United States Department of Health and Human Services Black Lung Clinic program now limits awards to $900,000 per grantee.

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Upper Big Branch
10:51 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Subjects in UBB Film Work to Separate from Don Blankenship

Credit Adroit Films, LLC

Families of the victims are bracing for another anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Disaster; an explosion that ripped so violently through an underground coal mine in Raleigh County it left metal and sent a blast of air miles from the source.

Former UBB miner and survivor of that fateful day, Stanley “Goose” Stewart remembered during a speech he gave about a year after the blast.  

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Upper Big Branch
3:56 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Senator Claims Misrepresentation in UBB Film

Credit Ellen Smith

Updated Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 9:27 a.m.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin wants the company to pull the entire documentary from the internet, discontinue distribution, and remove all references of the Senator. According to a release, Manchin today sent a letter to Adroit Films, the firm that filmed and produced the Don Blankenship-funded documentary, demanding the company to remove what Manchin is calling "propaganda" from all websites.

Senator Manchin wrote, in part: “Your fraudulent behavior in securing the interview and your misrepresentation of my interview are actionable offenses. I expect you to cease distribution of this film and remove any references to my name, image, and likeness.  Please respond to this letter in writing immediately to confirm what actions you are taking in response to my request.”

The release goes on to say Senator Manchin’s office has repeatedly attempted to contact Adroit Films via phone and email. Adroit did not immediately return our requests for comment.

Updated Monday March 31, 2014 at 5:24 p.m. 

It appears that Adroit Films has pulled the individual interviews recorded for Upper Big Branch: Never Again.

The interviews were available earlier today to watch on YouTube along with the full documentary earlier today.

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship released a documentary today claiming it “looks at what really happened at the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.”

The film, released on YouTube Monday, is titled Upper Big Branch: Never Again, debuted just days before the fourth anniversary of the mining disaster that took lives of 29 miners.

Produced by Adroit Films, the documentary disputes the findings of the Mine Safety and Health Administration following the 2010 accident.

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Carrying Jewish Traditions
8:49 am
Fri March 28, 2014

College Student Finds Temple Away From Home

Concord University baseball player lives for a higher power.

This article is part of a special series highlighting the Jewish experience in West Virginia. It's a companion to the television series The Story of the Jews, airing March 25 and April 1 at 8 pm on West Virginia PBS.

We conclude our series on West Virginia's Jewish community - with a story of hope at the Congregation Ahavath Shalom in Bluefield a place where the enthusiasm of youth is bringing a new energy to the older congregation, even if it may be short lived.

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Climate Change
7:30 am
Wed March 26, 2014

'Can Coal Ever Be Clean?' NatGeo Explores Role in Climate Change

Juliette, Georgia Steam and smoke rise from the cooling towers and chimneys of the Robert W. Scherer power plant, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. It burns 12 million tons of coal a year.
Credit Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

A feature article in April’s edition of National Geographic Magazine examines what America and other key countries are doing to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

The article comes as new regulations from the Obama Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are up for public comment. 

The article assumes that humans are inducing global climate change, an idea that some Republicans as well as the West Virginia Coal Association, still question. 

Wacky Weather

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Budget Priorities
8:55 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Child Advocacy Groups Question Priorities in Governor Tomblin's Vetoes

Credit Gov. Tomblin's office (@GovTomblin / Twitter)

Child abuse and poverty prevention advocates are questioning Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s priorities.

Among the $67 million worth of cuts from the budget bill Thursday was about a $1 million reduction in funding for programs meant to prevent child abuse and child poverty.

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W.Va. Budget Reactions
3:59 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Child Advocacy Groups Question Governor's Priorities

Credit Gov. Tomblin's office (@GovTomblin / Twitter)

Child abuse and poverty prevention advocates are questioning Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s priorities.

Among the $67 million worth of cuts from the budget bill Thursday was about a $1 million reduction in funding for programs meant to prevent child abuse and child poverty.

Governor Tomblin started the 2014 session with a budget that cut funding for programs like In Home Family Education, Family Resource Networks, Child Advocacy Centers and other child abuse prevention programs.

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Lochghelly Injection Well
8:08 am
Fri March 14, 2014

W.Va. DEP Orders Fayette Co. Frack Waste Permit Revoked

Above ground waste pits sit close to the underground injection wells in Fayette County.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has ordered a permit for an underground injection well in Fayette County to be revoked.

The DEP renewed the permit for a class two (UIC), or underground injection control disposal well owned by Danny Webb Construction on February 6.

The permit allows the company to accept fluids from oil and gas exploration, development drilling, and production fluids for another five years. 

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5:09 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Groups Appeal Lochghelly Injection Permit

Credit Jessica Lilly

A law office in Fayette County says the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection violated state and federal law.

The Rist Law Office in Fayetteville wants the DEP to reverse a permit for an underground injection well the DEP granted for Danny E. Webb Construction Incorporated. Residents have been concerned about this site in Lochghelly for years.  

According to court documents, the Rist Law Office is representing the Natural Resource Defense Council, the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization, the Plateau Action Network and citizen Brad Keenan.

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Childhood Obesity
4:00 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Some W.Va. Teachers Already "Move to Improve"

Mrs. Brenda Lee leads her class as they spell out words while participating in physical activity. Brenda is West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee's wife.
Credit Chuck Frostick

The Senate recently passed the “Move to Improve Act” which could change the daily grind in state classrooms. The bill is in response to the Healthy Lifestyles Act, which was passed by the legislature in 2005 without a mechanism to assure implementation. Lawmakers say they’re trying to address an epidemic of childhood obesity in West Virginia. 

Children and teens spend more than half of their waking hours at school.

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Bad Water
7:30 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Northfork Water Woes: A Failing System

Upstairs in the Northfork water pump-house is access to two water filters. This is where workers add chemicals.
Credit Jessica Lilly

Northfork has been on a boil water advisory since July 2013, even longer than the folks in neighboring Wyoming County in Bud/Alpoca. It’s the seventh boil water advisory since 2009. Some residents in higher elevations have gone more than five weeks without water in their homes.

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Northfork Water Woes
9:37 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Living Without Consistent Water Service: A Northfork Way of Life

Micole Bright and her family keep plastic containers filled with water stacked just outside the hallway to prepare for the next water outage. This water is used to flush the toilets.
Credit Jessica Lilly

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin lifted the state of emergency for nine counties on Friday. It’s been about seven weeks since 300,000 customers lost access to clean water after a chemical leaked into the Elk; a river upstream from the intake to West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant.

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Bud/Alpoca Water Woes
11:45 am
Thu February 27, 2014

State Public Service Commission Pushing Alpoca Water Deal

The road leading to the Alpoca water tank threatens to call the police on trespassers.
Credit Jessica Lilly

The West Virginia Public Service Commission is just days away from issuing a final order that is expected to bring some folks in Wyoming County closer to clean water. Folks in Alpoca and Bud including Herndon Consolidated School have been on a boil water advisory since September with water running a dark brown at times.

Part of the holdup has been a business deal with the current owners and the Eastern Wyoming County Public Service District.  Public Service Commission orders issued this week are helping to move the sale along.

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Alpoca/Bud Water Donation
8:32 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Meet a W.Va. Water Hero

Ms. Haymond's third grade class collected water to send to a town in Southern W.Va.

Water donations from across the country have poured into Wyoming County since our original report.  The folks in Bud and Alpoca were dealing with unpotable water, running a dark brown at times, months before the chemical spill in Charleston.

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Teacher Pay Raises
11:35 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Improving Education in W.Va. "You Get What You Pay For"

Teacher Edward Evans gives a lesson on electricity during class at Mt. View Middle in McDowell County.
Credit Jessica Lilly

The legislative session last year is often referred to as the "year of education reform" as lawmakers looked for ways to improve education quality.

West Virginia is ranked 48th in teacher pay and right around the middle of the road compared to other states for cost of living. Educators say there is a connection to quality.

Although West Virginia teachers get a 1.5 percent pay increase each year until they reach 35 years, teacher salaries are among the lowest paid in the nation.

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Water Woes
1:54 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

What Is Being Done to Help Folks Without Potable Water in Wyoming Co.?

This is what water looks like in the towns of Bud and Alpoca in Wyoming Co., W.Va.

The folks in a Wyoming County community were dealing with unpotable water months before the chemical spill in Charleston.

About 170 customers, around 500 people, have been on a boil water advisory since September.

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Winter Weather
12:40 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Listen: A West Virginia Superintendent Sings to Announce Closings, Delays

Fayette County Superintendent of Schools Keith Butcher

Winter weather has shut down government offices, shopping malls and, of course, public schools. School was in session for President’s Day in some schools systems in order to make up for snow days.

There’s no doubt that children look forward to the automated calls from school administrators canceling or delaying school days. But some working parents dread those calls since another snow day means another day to find child care or even miss work.

Fayette County Superintendent Keith Butcher is hoping to ease the tension by adding a melody to the message.

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