Ohio Valley ReSource

A regional journalism collaborative reporting on economic and social change in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, seven public media outlets across the three states have partnered to form the ReSource in order to strengthen news coverage of the area’s most important issues.

Special Project: Coal Ash Uncovered

Jun 16, 2018
Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal has long powered the Ohio Valley. But it left behind a legacy of waste: dozens of massive coal ash disposal sites. As the Trump administration changes the regulation of coal ash, the Ohio Valley ReSource and partner station WFPL have analyzed new data from the region’s waste sites. The analysis found widespread evidence that coal ash sites are leaking contaminants into surrounding groundwater. 

In the first of a three-part series, reporters Brittany Patterson and Ryan Van Velzer share what they found and what it might mean for nearby communities.

Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus

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.

 

Public Radio East

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has passed it’s version of the Farm Bill with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s provisions to remove hemp from a list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. 

McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act of 2018 legalizes the growing of hemp and also allows hemp cultivators to receive federal crop insurance. Lawmakers made amendments during Wednesday's Agriculture Committee meeting and passed the revised version of the bill with only one dissenting vote from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. 

White House

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.   

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 Parons, 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.

Brittany Patterson

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.

LeJay Graffious with the Mountaineer Audubon chapter led the bird walk.

Henderson is a small city of about 30,000 people on the Ohio River. 

For most of the last 50 years, the city has run on coal power. And the coal is locally sourced: all of it comes from Western Kentucky coal fields from within a 30 miles radius. 
Henderson Mayor Steve Austin is giving a tour around downtown. He remembers growing up beside the plant. 

Rebecca Kiger

Far from the ocean and Puerto Rico’s famous beaches, narrow roads wind into mountains not unlike the country roads of our home, West Virginia. After hours of driving we reach a rural community in the island’s center called Tetuan Tres. Like so many places in rural Appalachia, you don’t come here accidentally.

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.

That’s how long the farm has been in his family. While the land has turned out tobacco, soybeans and other crops over the years, since 1980 dairy has nourished the family in and out of tragedy.

EPA Administrator Faces Questions Over C-8 Report

May 16, 2018
Kentucky.com

 

EPA Administer Scott Pruitt today faced questions over recently released emails that show White House and EPA officials attempted to delay a new federal standard for toxic chemicals in drinking water. Brittany Patterson reports the chemicals includ the compound C-8 and other similar substances detected in several water systems in the Ohio Valley, 

At a Senate hearing, Republican West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito pressed Pruitt on the emails.

Dairy Farmers Look For Lifelines In Flooded Market

May 13, 2018
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.

That’s how long the farm has been in his family. While the land has turned out tobacco, soybeans and other crops over the years, since 1980 dairy has nourished the family in and out of tragedy.

Courtsey 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.

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.

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.

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.

This week in Kentucky politics, speculation flared that Kentucky’s new education leaders would try to take over Louisville’s public school district. Plus, a judge ruled that Attorney General Andy Beshear  can sue the governor over the pension bill that was signed into law earlier this month. Capitol reporter Ryland Barton has this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled. 

Separating parents will get joint custody of their children by default under a bill signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin last week. although the new law creates an exception if a parent has a recent history of domestic violence. 

Kentucky is the first state in the country to create a “legal presumption” for joint custody in divorce proceedings. 

Supporters of the measure say that joint custody allows for more stable upbringing of children, but critics argue that it unravels protections against abusive parents

Wikimedia Commons

A Hepatitis A outbreak growing in the Louisville area since last summer reached a new peak recently with a travel advisory from Indiana health officials. They told Hoosiers heading to Kentucky to get a Hep A vaccine.

Soon, Kentucky’s Acting Commissioner for Public Health Dr. Jeffrey Howard was pushing back.

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.

The president visibly warmed to the question. Arms crossed, he answered, “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’”

 

President Trump’s recent rhetoric has raised speculation th

New Map Shows Explosion of Fluorinated Chemical Contamination

Apr 20, 2018

 

The non-profit Environmental Working Group and a team of environmental health researchers at Northeastern University in Boston developed the map, which tracks publicly-known contaminated sites reported from both EPA testing and state and local agencies.

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.”

 

 

Billy and Barbara were in Cadiz, Kentucky, about 20 miles from their home in Princeton so that the 86-year-old pool player could compete in a weekly tournament.

Trump Visits West Virginia Hints at Utility Bailout

Apr 5, 2018
Associate Press

President Donald Trump today visited West Virginia for a roundtable discussion on the recently-passed tax bill. The president also indicated the administration is looking closely at a recent emergency request made by regional electric utility FirstEnergy.  

Trump told a crowd in White Sulphur Springs he is looking closely at a request by the Ohio-based utility for emergency aid to keep its struggling coal and nuclear plants running.


Soy Vey! Ohio Valley Farmers Caught Up in Trade War

Apr 5, 2018
Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource

 

China buys more than half of the soybeans produced in the Ohio Valley. While a new 25 percent tariff is just a threat from the region's largest buyer, the signs of a trade war between President Trump’s tariff list and China’s has farmers caught in its crosshairs. This all comes as the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visits the region this week.

Each morning Davie Stevens wakes up to check commodities online, Wednesday morning was no different, except the market price of soybeans had dropped almost 40 cents.

“At a projected crop of 4.3 billions bushels of soybeans this year. Soybean farmers by overnight have lost 1.72 billion in value. So is it a big deal? It's a huge deal.”

 


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.

Poor People's Campaign Stops in Kentucky, West Virginia

Apr 2, 2018
REDIT JOEY ALOI VIA WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTINg

A national campaign that aims to unite disenfranchised populations across the U.S. held events in Kentucky and West Virginia late last week.  Meetings are part of a two-month tour designed to highlight social inequity, and build on a movement begun 50 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mary Meehan/Ohio Valley ReSource

Howard Berkes/NPR

William McCool is a 64-year-old former coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, with an advanced form of black lung disease. Health experts say the condition is entirely preventable with dust control measures in mines. But today, more miners in Appalachia are being diagnosed with severe black lung than ever before.

Gov. Matt Bevin says it’s too early to say what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum even though the policy could have a big impact on Kentucky. 

The tariff could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries—the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives—and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect. 
 

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