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.

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.

51fifty at the English language Wikipedia

Beginning this week doctors fighting the region’s opioid addiction crisis will have a little more to work with. The federal government will allow doctors to treat more patients with a drug called Buprenorphine.      


With the mining industry in sharp decline, some coalfield counties are hoping new prisons can generate jobs. Eastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District is already home to three federal penitentiaries and could soon see construction of a fourth in Letcher County. 

As Benny Becker reports, the proposal has sparked sharp debate over the economics and ethics of prisons.

Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

As the opioid epidemic continues to plague the Ohio Valley with addiction and death, the search for safer methods of pain management has become increasingly urgent. 

Advocates for medical marijuana have recently made inroads in the area with growing scientific evidence that the substance currently considered of no medical value by the federal government might be a tool to wean those suffering from chronic pain off of more dangerous drugs.

 

Shafted: Dark Future Possible For Miners Who Kept Our Lights On

Jul 11, 2016
Rebecca Schimmel/Ohio Valley ReSource

Miners in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia who helped keep the country’s lights on are worried that their retirement benefits could go dark as a result of a wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry. They hope Congress will approve a bill called the Miner’s Protection Act to shore up the pensions and health benefits promised to union miners.

Benny Becker

Kentucky is working on a multimillion dollar plan to bring broadband internet to the eastern part of the state, home to some of the country’s most impoverished places. A federal report released this year found that from around a third to nearly half of rural residents in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia lack high-speed internet and the job opportunities that come with it. But a few areas are ahead of the curve. In Kentucky’s Jackson and Owsley Counties, broadband has already arrived and is already creating jobs.

Region's Farmers Have High Hopes for Hemp

Jun 27, 2016

Farmers throughout the Ohio Valley want to revive a crop that was once a staple in the region: hemp. After a ban that lasted more than half a century, the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to grow hemp in research programs. Growers and processors in Kentucky are aggressively putting that research program to work in hopes of winning a share of the booming market for hemp products.   

Hot Mess: How Fracking's Radioactive Waste Wound Up Near Homes & Schools

Jun 20, 2016

The energy that lights up, turns on, cools and heats our lives leaves... a trail of waste. And the waste from the gas drilling known as “fracking” is often radioactive. Reporter Glynis Board and the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity found that spotty regulation of this “hot” waste creates ripe conditions for improper disposal. 

 

  Link to Ohio Valley ReSource

*** 
FULL SCRIPT

Pages