Ohio Valley ReSource

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the seven stations involved in the Ohio Valley ReSource will be taking a look at the big stories in a regional community, from large focus issues in economy, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and agriculture. Each station has a reporter collaborating to this initiative, working together to tell these stories.

The region is undergoing huge changes in all of these large focus areas. OVR Managing Editor Jeff Young states, "Just look at how dramatically the energy marketplace has changed or what a crisis opiate addiction has become affecting healthcare. Some communities are really struggling while others are finding creative approaches for new economic development, or coming up with new ways to deliver health services in rural areas."

Young says he hopes the resource will offer storytelling that allows people in one community to learn from people in another.

http://ohiovalleyresource.org/

Water
Jasonanaggie / Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration today released a politically charged study on the health impacts of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, including the compound known as C8, which has been detected in some water systems in the Ohio Valley.

 

The draft report, released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), finds these fluorinated chemicals, which are used in some nonstick products and flame retardants, can endanger human health at levels 7 to 10 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency has previously said were safe.

Curt and Debbie Havens’ ranch style home is the gathering place for their family. Their two boys grew up playing in the streets in this quiet neighborhood in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Now, their grandchildren do the same.

“They played ball, all kinds of games,” Debbie recalled during a recent interview. Family photos and knick-knacks line the walls. One heart-shaped sign reads “May love be the heart of this home.”

“Everybody wants to come to grammy’s and pappy’s,” she added.

Coal Ash Uncovered: Polluted Groundwater Found At 14 Kentucky Sites

Jun 19, 2018
Erica Peterson

For decades, Kentucky’s own coal stoked the fires that generated most of its electricity. And while some of those power plants have shut down or switched to natural gas, their legacy remains today in the leftover coal ash that’s stored all over the commonwealth.

Now, new data show the coal ash buried in landfills and submerged in ponds at many of these sites has contaminated local groundwater.

Coal Ash Uncovered: New Data Reveal Widespread Contamination At Ohio Valley Sites

Jun 18, 2018
A 2011 aerial photo of Little Blue Run, the largest coal ash waste site in the country.
Robert Donnan

For generations, coal power has fueled American prosperity. But for each shovelful thrown into the furnaces, a pile of ash was left in its place.

Today, as coal’s dominance in the power sector wanes, those piles of ash have grown into mountains as coal ash became one of the largest waste streams in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource

Anti-poverty activists say they will continue a campaign of demonstrations and civil disobedience throughout the Ohio Valley despite arrests at some events and being blocked from Kentucky’s capitol building.

The Poor People’s Campaign has rallied in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia and campaign leaders returned to Kentucky Wednesday after the group was denied access at earlier demonstrations.

Still from White House video

President Donald Trump last week told the Department of Energy to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the Ohio Valley region that are no longer economical to operate.

But a number of energy analysts say the administration’s unprecedented effort to prop up struggling utilities will do little to solve their underlying problems and will likely end up costing consumers more.  

UN Jean-Marc Ferre

The United Nations has published a report on poverty in the U.S. based on a fact-finding tour that included parts of the Ohio Valley.

The UN report says that of the 40 million poor Americans about 5.3 million live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”

Benny Becker / Ohio Valley Resource

A new study from the Government Accountability Office finds that the federal fund supporting coal miners with black lung disease could be in financial trouble without Congressional action. As NPR has reported, the GAO found that the fund’s debt could rise dramatically at the same time that black lung disease is surging.

Bruce Parsons / KVEC

Student teams from across the coalfields of eastern Kentucky came together at the Knott County Sportsplex, bringing with them drones that they themselves had built. It was time for the climax of this year-long project. A basketball court had been separated with nets, and padded gates marked a circuit course for the little flying machines.

Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley Resource

  The Trump administration has made good on a promise to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on some major U.S. trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Birders identify species in the WVU arboretum, a popular woods in Morgantown, WV.
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On a recent chilly Tuesday morning, about 20 people filed along a winding dirt path leading deeper into West Virginia University’s Arboretum in Morgantown.

Armed with binoculars, smartphones and hiking boots, the group had one goal — spot and identify the chittering birds hidden in the trees above.

Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

Meredith Jensen is doing some gardening on a sunny day in a secluded part of Athens, Ohio.

“I’m working on our pollinator garden beds,” she said. “Which are a bunch of fun flowers that’ll help attract butterflies, bumble bees, you name it.”

Adelina Lancianese / NPR

The Appalachian coalfields are in the midst of an epidemic of severe black lung disease. The debilitating and even deadly disease has recently begun to affect miners as young as 30. Dust from coal mines has scarred these miners’ lungs, so little of the air they breathe gets absorbed. In central Appalachia, researchers say, one in every five experienced miners have some form of impairment, and one in every 20 now have the most advanced and disabling form of black lung.

Courtesy Revolution

J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” returns to his native Kentucky this week. But Vance isn’t selling books this time. He’s leading a bus tour of well-heeled venture capitalists looking for investment options in the region.

Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

LaRue County, Kentucky, dairy farmer Gary Rock sits in his milking parlor, overlooking what is left of his 95 cow operation.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said.

pills
Wikimedia Commons

Legislators grilled representatives from five major opioid distributors Tuesday on how painkillers flooded West Virginia under their watch.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing came as part of an investigation into why Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith failed to report suspiciously large orders of opioid painkillers at the beginning of the addiction crisis.

Wendy Wasserman / ARC

Not long after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky squared off with President Trump over funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, the ARC has a new federal co-chair with strong ties to McConnell.

Long-time McConnell aide Tim Thomas said he can see a day when the Appalachian Regional Commission is no longer needed. But that’s not something he expects to come any time soon.

Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource

Regional iron and steel industry leaders say they are disappointed by the Trump administration’s delay on a decision about which countries will face new import tariffs. President Trump has postponed until June a decision on which countries will be subject to new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The decision had been due May 1.

Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource

With sunglasses perched atop his camouflage cap, Brady Carwile filled out an application at a job fair in a community center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Carwile works at a local auto parts maker but he’s hoping for a maintenance position at Century Aluminum’s Hawesville Smelter.

“It’s one of the best jobs you can find around there,” Carwile said

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

A natural gas energy processor has agreed to pay a $610,000 civil penalty and install millions of dollars worth of equipment to reduce harmful emissions at hundreds of facilities across western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Trump
Still from White House video

“Why don’t you just fire the guy?”

The question came in a press availability with President Trump soon after he learned that federal agents, acting on information from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, had raided the offices of his personal lawyer, Robert Cohen.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For decades, communities in the Ohio Valley have grappled with water contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals, sometimes called PFOA or C-8 that are often used to make non-stick pans and other items, but this type of contamination isn’t limited to the region.

A newly-updated map shows the number of contaminated sites that are known to exist around the country has nearly doubled in the past year.

Rick Perry at Longview Power Plant
Glynis Board

Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy Solutions made waves last month when it asked the Department of Energy to grant it an emergency order to help keep coal and nuclear plants operating across the Ohio Valley.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When Oklahoma teacher Sally Salmons saw momentum building toward teacher protests in her state, she immediately reached out to family ties and educators in West Virginia. She said teacher walkouts in the Mountain State provided her and colleagues across the state with the courage they needed to take a stand.

Courtesy Office of the Surgeon General

  U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams threw his support behind syringe exchange services as an important tool to address the Ohio Valley’s high risk of needle-borne disease associated with the opioid epidemic.

Trade War Fears Have Ohio Valley Soy Growers Nervous

Apr 10, 2018
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

China buys more than half of the soybeans grown in the Ohio Valley. So China’s threat this week to place a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soy means farmers would be caught in the crosshairs of a trade war.

Even though tariffs haven’t taken effect, markets are already showing signs that commodities traders are growing nervous. The tariff anxiety comes as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visits the region this week.  

Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

Billy Hobby’s days are largely filled by two things: church and pool.

“I play everyday, mostly,” Hobby said, sitting next to his wife, Barbara.

“Well, I enjoy watching him play,” Barbara Hobby said. “He’s got health problems, can’t go out of town and play all the time.”

Evan Vucci / Associated Press

President Donald Trump visited West Virginia Thursday for a roundtable discussion on the recent tax bill.

 

In his wide-ranging remarks, Trump also indicated the administration is looking closely at a recent emergency request made by regional electric utility FirstEnergy Solutions.

 

Courtesy Bureau of Prisons

The Bureau of Prisons has issued a record of decision signaling that it is moving ahead with plans to build a federal prison on the site of a former strip mine in the hills of Letcher County, Kentucky. But local opponents of the prison say they’re not giving up and are considering a legal challenge to prevent the construction of a new prison.

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