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.

Trump's EPA Pick Questioned In Confirmation Hearing

Jan 19, 2017
West Virginia Public Broadcasting/Associated Press

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt faced questions from Senators in his confirmation hearing Wednesday. 


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mary Meehan/Ohio Valley ReSource

Sitting on top of the Bible on Pastor Brad Epperson’s desk at the Clay City First Church of God is a list of goals for his small congregation written in a looping cursive hand.


Picturing The Future: A Coal Community’s Comeback

Jan 3, 2017
Rebecca Kiger

  

 Can photography help a community grow? One photographer is shedding some light on ongoing efforts in a region looking for some new ways to sustain itself.

Rebecca Kiger is a documentary and portrait photographer born and raised in West Virginia. The images she captures are often exceptionally emotionally evocative. She says it takes a lot of patience, and a little faith in both her process and her subjects.

CASA: Caring For Kids Caught In Addiction Crisis

Dec 27, 2016
Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

The Ohio Valley’s opioid epidemic has effects far beyond the individuals struggling through addiction, with families and children suffering as well. An organization that helps children in abuse cases now sees substance abuse as a leading contributor, and could be overwhelmed by the addiction crisis.

Benny Becker - Ohio Valley ReSource

At the age of 38, a coal miner named Mackie Branham Jr. was diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis, a debilitating and terminal form of an illness that was supposed to be a disease of the past — black lung. But Branham is among many miners afflicted by a resurgence in the disease, and officials are just beginning to realize the scope of the problem. A review of health clinic records shows roughly a thousand such cases, many times more than federal officials had thought existed.

 

Howard Berkes - NPR

NPR is reporting this week on a sharp increase in the number of Appalachian coal miners with the worst form of black lung.

The Ohio Valley ReSource partnered with NPR to better understand what this means for miners and mining communities. Jeff Young spoke with NPR investigative reporter Howard Berkes about why this deadly but preventable disease is on the rise.  

Roger McGraw/WOUB

During the presidential campaign I visited two regional manufacturing executives who do business in the same county but hold views on trade that are worlds apart. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I asked them and some regional economists how the new administration’s approach to trade might affect the Ohio Valley region.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

On Nelson Key Road in Murray, Kentucky, lies a 30-acre tobacco farm and there sits the road’s namesake, Nelson Key himself. He’s just at the end of this year’s harvest, which was brought in with the help of migrant workers.

 

“I used American workers up until 1991 then I went to the migrant workers and I’ve had them ever since,” he explained.

Sarah Jane Sanders

Candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Those are the four basic food groups according to Buddy the Elf. And this time of year, the gluttonous season, it seems like he is onto something.

 

But researchers say that mindful eating –choosing quality over quantity and savoring your meals instead of, say, plowing through another pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching “Westworld” — can make a difference.

Trumped: Coal’s Collapse, Economic Anxiety Motivated Ohio Valley Voters

Nov 21, 2016
Photo: Robert McGraw/WOUB

The electoral map of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia is a sea of red with a few islands of blue. Of the 263 counties in the three states only nine went for Hillary Clinton, most of them around the region’s cities.

The Ohio Valley ReSource looked to voters and voting data to learn more about what motivated Donald Trump’s supporters and what they hope he will do as president. 

“More than Obama did!” Judy Collier said from a grocery story parking lot in Whitesburg, Kentucky. “We need jobs.” 

Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource

A recent breakdown at an Ohio River dam served as a wake-up call about the aging infrastructure that keeps river commerce flowing. The Ohio is one of the country’s busiest working rivers and some navigation controls are approaching the century mark. I went to see these ailing structures and a new multi-billion dollar project in the works.  

Critical Stretch of River

Election Day 2016: 'Ad it Up'

Nov 8, 2016
Ohio Valley Resource

If it seems like your TV time has been carpet-bombed with campaign ads, some data shows that you’re right.

Jeff Young reports that parts of the Ohio Valley region stand out in analysis of big campaign spending and high volume TV spots.

Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

The opioid epidemic is on the agenda for political campaigns from the presidential race down to the local level in the Ohio Valley region. Election Day could shape the response to the crisis in states with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdoses.


One look at the recent arrivals shelf at Carmichael’s Books, in Louisville, and I knew something was up. 

 

Titles like “White Rage,” “White Trash,” and “The End of White Christian America” were piling up.

“And then this has been the surprise,” Carmichael’s co-owner Michael Boggs said, picking up another hardcover. “This actually hit the Timesbestseller list: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by J.D. Vance.”

Boggs has been in the book business nearly four decades, so he’s seen publishing trends come and go. This trend is built on something that hits close to home.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Radio

 

For more than half a century along the Ohio River, the chemical company DuPont provided jobs for thousands of people. One chemical they produced is PFOA, commonly known as C8. It was a remarkably useful compound, used in “Teflon” non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even in some food wrappers.

 

Nicole Erwin/Ohio Valley ReSource

 Mount St. Joseph in Daviess County, Kentucky, may appear calm with the Green River flowing past  homes that dot the farmland here. But there is trouble in the air and it comes along with the smell of a large hog farm.    

Sixty-three year old Jerry O’Bryan was born and raised on a farm in Daviess County. By the time he was 22 he had lost both parents and was left 150 acres to support his family.

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

The sound of sirens in Cabell County, West Virginia, has a good chance of indicating an overdose these days.

The county’s Emergency Medical Service had responded to 622 overdose calls this year as of September 24, according to Emergency Services Director Gordon Merry. Last year it was more than 900 overdoses, which surpassed the total of the previous three years combined.   

npr.org

(Note: This is one of two stories on this topic produced as part of a collaborative effort between The Ohio Valley ReSource and NPR)

A joint investigation by NPR and the Ohio Valley ReSource finds that billionaire coal operator Jim Justice’s companies owe more than $12 million dollars in county, state, and federal taxes. Justice is running for governor in West Virginia but has debts in five other states.

The investigation also found that companies owned by Justice also owe more than $2 million in delinquent fines for mine safety violations.  

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch/NPR

(Note: This is one of two stories on this topic produced as part of a collaborative effort between The Ohio Valley ReSource and NPR)

The Democratic candidate for governor in West Virginia has never held public office. Jim Justice is instead running on his record as a businessman. He runs coal mines, farms, and a luxury resort, andaccording to Forbes, he’s also the wealthiest person in the state, worth $1.56 billion.  

WOUB Public Media

The husband of the democratic presidential nominee is on the campaign trail. Aaron Payne reports a big part of the former commander-in-chief’s speech in Ohio yesterday (Tue) dealt with revitalizing the economy in Appalachia.

President Bill Clinton kicked off his Ohio leg of the “Stronger Together” bus tour on the campus of Ohio University in Athens.

Athens resident and West Virginia native Barbara Fisher waited in the unseasonably warm weather to hear more about Hillary Clinton’s plan to stimulate the economy in rural Appalachia.

Becca Schimmel/Ohio Valley ReSource

The international refugee crisis caused by people fleeing the war-torn Middle East has been a high-profile issue in the presidential campaign.

 

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” last year that “the U.S. has to do more” to meet what she called the worst refugee crisis since the end of WWII.

Republican opponent Donald Trump told a rally in New Hampshire that as president he would turn away refugees from nations such as Syria. “If I win, they’re going back!” he said.

The U.S. Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., hears arguments Tuesday Sept. 27, in the case West Virginia v. EPA, challenging the federal Clean Power Plan. That’s the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s attempt to address climate change by limiting CO2 emissions from power plants. 

The challengers include 27 state attorneys general. One in particular, West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, has positioned himself as the champion of fossil fuel interests fighting government regulation.

Data Farming: How Big Data Is Revolutionizing Big Ag

Sep 19, 2016
Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

It’s harvest time and a semi full of corn just pulled onto the scales at Seven Springs Farm in Cadiz, Kentucky. On the scale, the analytics work begins: moisture content, weight, production rates, and more are all recorded.     

This is just one truck and many more will follow with much more to be stored and later sold for ethanol production. Just one of the farm’s bins can hold as many as 350,000 bushels, or 16.8 million pounds.

Opioid High: Students Face A Different Kind of Test

Sep 12, 2016
Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource

t’s not just about notebooks and pencil boxes anymore: the opioid epidemic means back-to-school supplies now include things like emergency overdose treatments and drug prevention plans.

Many schools in the Ohio Valley region are using random drug testing despite doubts from addiction treatment experts about whether the tests really work to deter abuse.

 

A Tragedy, Then Testing

Miners to Rally for Pension Protection

Sep 8, 2016
U.S. Senate

Thousands of retired coal miners will rally in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to urge Congress to shore up a fund that supports their pensions and benefits. Area lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were at the National Press Club in Washington to speak in support of the Miner’s Protection Act.  

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences recently announced a comprehensive study on the health effects of the controversial coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal. For coalfield residents who have long questioned what impact the dust, blasting, chemicals and water contamination was having, the announcement comes as welcome news, if somewhat overdue.  

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Coal-producing states are preparing for arguments next month in the federal appeals court case known as West Virginia v. EPA, challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.  

The case has major implications for the country’s policy on climate change. But some experts and industry leaders say the outcome is not likely to bring coal back from its decline in the power market.

 

Diversifying Power 

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

On 120 acres in Marion, Kentucky, small-scale farmer Joseph Mast is taking an innovative approach to provide for his growing family of nine.

Mast belongs to an Amish community and is reluctant when it comes to media. He makes a concession, however, when the conversation involves sustainable farming.   

“I’ll talk grass any day,” said Mast.

Trade has emerged as a potent issue this election season, with the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a flash point in the political debate. The stakes are high for the Ohio Valley region, where thousands of workers and billions of dollars in goods could be affected by the outcome of this trade agreement.  

To learn more, I visited two manufacturing companies in the Bowling Green, Kentucky, area: conveyer-belt maker Span-Tech and auto parts maker Trace Die Cast.

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