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.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

 

  Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. 

“It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a fourth-generation coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, who made the trip to Washington with his oxygen tank in tow. 

Becca Schimmel

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current $7.25 rate, which has not changed in a decade. The bill is unlikely to clear the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he will not take it up.

American Medical Association

Dr. Patrice Harris took the oath in June to become the first African-American woman to serve as president of the powerful American Medical Association, the largest professional association for physicians in the United States.

Harris also brings another unique perspective to the task as someone who grew up in rural Appalachia.

"I was born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia, in the heart of coal country," Harris said. "My father worked on the railroad. My mother taught school. So I have a unique and personal connection and understanding of the region."

She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, a master's degree in counseling psychology and medical degree from West Virginia University. Though she has long practiced psychiatry in Atlanta, Georgia, she keeps her connection to the region with regular home visits and by serving on the WVU Foundation board.


Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

Declining coal tax revenues place coal-reliant counties in Appalachia at risk of fiscal collapse, according to new research from the centrist Brookings Institution and Columbia University. Policies designed to prevent further climate change would accelerate that decline, the report found, but could also provide a new stream of revenue to help communities rebound from coal’s demise.

The report published by Brookings and the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia quantified how much of a coal-producing county’s budget came from coal, via severance taxes, property taxes, and contracts such as royalties and lease bonuses. Then authors analyzed what it might mean for those county governments if the U.S. instituted a modest price on carbon emissions. The report found that under such a policy, counties that are reliant on coal would be at risk of defaulting on bonds, failing to provide basic services such as waste removal or infrastructure maintenance, and even bankruptcy.


Steve Rhodes via Creative Commons

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would boost the wages of 17 million workers and lift about 1.3 million people out of poverty. But the CBO warns that could also result in more than one million lost jobs and could diminish overall income for others.

Alexandria Kanik/Ohio Valley ReSource

Soybean farmer Larry Thomas with an old tractor on his farm in Hardin County, KY.Credit Liam Niemeyer/Ohio Valley ReSourceEdit | Remove  West Liberty University Professor Zachary Loughman has dedicated his professional life to crustaceans – specifically freshwater crayfish. He dips his hand into one of the water tanks at his laboratory near Wheeling, West Virginia, to pick up a teal crayfish the size of a dollar bill.

Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky's Attorney General said on Friday he is investigating complaints from miners who say they are not receiving pay following the fast-moving bankruptcy negotiations for Blackjewel mining, which employs some 1100 people in central Appalachia.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a statement he has received "numerous troubling complaints" related to the company, "ranging from clawed back paychecks to child support issues.

"I have therefore instructed my office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed," Beshear said. 

Alexandria Kanik/Ohio Valley ReSource

An annual report from the Appalachian Regional Commission shows that while Appalachia is seeing some economic improvement, the heart of the region and its coal-producing communities are still struggling. Several counties in the Ohio Valley are moving in a negative direction in this year’s report.

Mary Meehan

Charles “Country” Bowers takes long, quick strides down a worn dirt path and is soon in front of a thicket of bushes made deep and tall by spring rains.

He’s leading me on a tour of camps made by homeless people in wooded corners of Fayette County, Kentucky. He stops and lifts a hand to signal that he’s spied something.

Framed by leaves, slightly up the hill, there’s a patch of blue. A tent. He keeps his voice low to avoid startling those inside.

Screen shot livestream from Congressional hearing.

A Congressional panel heard testimony and had some sharp questions Thursday about the epidemic of black lung disease among Appalachian miners. Labor leaders are calling on federal regulators to strengthen protections for miners and several lawmakers wanted to know why the country’s top mine safety agency is not doing more in response to the dramatic increase in the preventable but deadly disease.

Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday released its long-awaited final replacement for the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, which sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by one-third by 2025.

Kentucky Hospital Association

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan announces an opioid prevention summit later this year.Credit Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSourceEdit | Remove

West Virginia officials say the state’s passion for sports can be used to influence young people to learn about opioid use disorder and help prevent the next generation from entering the epidemic. 

ASAM

A Louisville treatment center is among the first programs in the nation to be certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

The Volunteers of America Mid-States’ Freedom House serves women with substance use disorder and who are also pregnant or have young children.

Brittany Patterson/OhioValleyReSource

Brittany Patterson/OhioValleyReSource

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

 

Addiction specialists, business leaders, law enforcement officials and other community members gathered around tables at Shawnee State University to talk about two big challenges in Scioto County, Ohio: a shrinking economy and a growing addiction crisis.

The Appalachian Regional Commission brought them together as part of a listening tour to learn about connections between addiction recovery and economic recovery.

Several speakers pointed out how the opioid epidemic has left employers with job openings and a workforce unprepared to fill them. 

WFPL

This week in Kentucky politics, a very interesting primary election took place. We learned that Gov. Matt Bevin will be facing off against Attorney General Andy Beshear in this year’s race for governor. But the results of the election show that both candidates have some work to do to unite their parties behind them. Jean West from member station WFPL talked to Ryland Barton for this week’s edition of Kentucky Politics Distilled. 
 

Liam Niemeyer/Ohio Valley ReSource

The U. S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday details of a second round of aid totaling $16 billion for farmers affected by the trade war with China. But some Ohio Valley farmers worry about the ongoing consequences of these payments and tariffs.

Rebecca Kieger

 Washington Post investigation finds the Ohio Valley is suffering the most from the surge in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, even as deaths from other substances are falling. 

The Post analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and found the region has the nation’s highest rates of death due to fentanyl.

Courtesy office of WV Governor

n apparent anticipation of a federal lawsuit seeking recovery of overdue penalties, coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have filed a lawsuit of their own against federal surface mining regulators.

Appalachian Regional Commission

 

Central Appalachia lags behind other part of the region in employment, household income and other key measures. That's according to a new study from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The data comes from the American Community Survey, that’s like a smaller version of the census. It is conducted every five years.

Within Appalachia, different subregions have very different outcomes. In many cases, Central Appalachia, which includes parts of Kentucky and West Virginia, lagged behind other subregions.

 

Associated Press

Kentucky’s largest aluminum producer supports the Trump administration’s decision to keep steel and aluminum tariffs on most countries. Those import taxes were recently removed on Canada and Mexico, but remain in place for other countries.

A Growing Recovery: Food Service And Farming Jobs Provide A Path Out Of Addiction

May 20, 2019
Brittany Patterson/OhioValleyReSource

Located in South Charleston, West Virginia, the former church turned restaurant has a funky, yet calming vibe. Twinkle lights and mismatched dining room sets dot the space. For $8 to $10 a plate, diners can enjoy a locally-sourced meal. The menu today is apple sage pork tips, spiralized zucchini (or “zoodles”), roasted broccoli, and a salad of spinach grown just a few miles away.

Autumn McCraw helped prepare today’s meal. The 35-year-old Charleston resident sports a maroon apron and greets every customer with a smile. Her days here typically start around 8 a.m.

Dave Mitsch/WVPB

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito this week introduced two bills aimed at further regulating a group of toxic chemicals known as PFAS.

The chemicals include PFOA, or C-8, used to make nonstick products and other similar chemicals used in flame retardants. They have been detected in at least 10 water systems in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Exposure has been linked to some cancers and thyroid problems at very low levels.

PTTG

As a new plastics industry emerges in the Ohio Valley, a report by environmental groups warns that the expansion of plastics threatens the world’s ability to keep climate change at bay.

From MyTownTV streaming of event

A large whiteboard in an Ashland, Kentucky, unemployment office is covered with a list of companies that are currently hiring. Senior career counselor Melissa Sloas said that just a few years ago, that board was a lot emptier.

Jessica Lilly

Robert Bailey started mining coal in southern West Virginia’s McDowell County in the 1970s. By the time he retired from the Patriot Coal Company 36 years later he was already having trouble breathing. By the time I first interviewed Bailey in 2014, his black lung disease had become severe.

“I’m in the process of a lung transplant,” he explained. But an insurance company was protesting further treatment.

J. Tyler Franklin/WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin has crafted a new version of the pension bill he vetoed last month and is expected to call a special session for lawmakers to consider the issue soon.

The measure is similar to the one that Bevin rejected last month. It allows regional universities and agencies like health departments to exit the state’s pension system to avoid a spike in the amount of money they have to contribute to it.

  A major drug company has agreed to settle a lawsuit accusing it of contributing to the opioid epidemic in one of the Ohio Valley's hardest hit states. 

It's the largest settlement against a single pharmaceutical distributor for the state.

The McKesson Corporation agreed to pay $37 million to settle a 2016 lawsuit filed by West Virginia.

The suit, originally filed in Boone County Circuit Court, accused one of the nation's largest drug distributors of filling suspicious orders and shipping millions of prescription painkillers to the state.

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