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.

Liam Niemeyer/Ohio Valley ReSource

As the Trump administration’s trade talks continue with China and other countries, farmers are feeling the pain from the president’s year-long trade war. Tariffs on agricultural goods are compounding problems caused by low crop prices and over-production, and small farmers are suffering the most.

Mary Meehan

The automaker Toyota announced Thursday major new investments in facilities in Kentucky and West Virginia to increase production of hybrid vehicles. Toyota plans to invest about $750 million in facilities in five states with almost half of that going to its plants in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, already the largest Toyota facility in the world, will get a $238 million boost.

J. Tyler Franklin

Amazon employee Andre Woodson made his way among yellow bins traveling through a vast warehouse filled with boxes and envelopes to be packed, sorted and shipped. In Amazon-speak, this is a “fulfillment center.”

“Our Jeffersonville, Indiana, fulfillment center is about 1.2 million square feet, which is equivalent to about 28 football fields,” Woodson explained.

Thinkstock

  Rural jails in Kentucky are increasingly relying on income derived from payments for holding state prisoners in county facilities, according to a new report by a think tank that advocates for criminal justice reform.

To address overcrowding, states make payments to counties to hold convicted prisoners and pretrial detainees. States save money, and counties get an extra influx of cash.

 

OVR

  A new study finds more than 90 percent of the nation’s coal ash repositories are leaking unsafe levels of toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater. More than 30 coal plants in the Ohio Valley are on the list.

 Coal ash is formed when coal is burned at power plants to create electricity. It’s one of the largest waste streams in the country and full of toxic pollutants like lead, arsenic and mercury.

Mary Meehan

Gillette, Wyoming, isn’t the kind of place you just happen to come across.

“It’s about a four hour drive through vast, unimpacted, wide, sweeping plains,” said Matt Gray, a professor at University of Wyoming in Laramie, explaining the trek from his office to his clients.

Plains, he said, “and lots and lots of antelope.”

Wikimedia Commons

Kentuckians wouldn’t need a permit to carry concealed firearms under a bill that is nearing final passage in the state legislature. It now only has to pass out of the state House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Currently, concealed-carry holders have to take an eight-hour training course and have a background check to receive a permit.

Rep. Charles Booker, a Democrat from Louisville, said he was worried that the measure would lead to more gun violence.

Vivian Livingood is the mayor of Gilbert, a southern West Virginia  town of under 500 people that has struggled for years without reliable internet. Livingood said that hampers Gilbert’s tourism, businesses and schools.

“We get kicked off the internet here every two minutes, and that’s if we can afford the internet,” Livingood said. “And it’s just pitiful service. It’s not fast.”

The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH

 On the night of July 24, 1916, a nautral gas explosion near Cleveland trapped workers in a waterworks tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Rescuers sent in to recover the trapped men were themselves by "noxious fumes"
The Cleveland authorities knew just who to call: Garrett Morgan, an inventor who had recently given a demonstration of his breathing contraption.

Morgan arrived at the scene still wearing his pajamas. With his strange breathing device strapped to his face, Morgan, along with his brother and another brave volunteer, descended into the muddy disaster site.

New ARC Grants Combine Economic Recovery And Addiction Recovery

Feb 22, 2019
Rebecca Kiger

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Thursday another $22.8 million in funding to 33 projects aimed at revitalizing economies in places affected by the decline in the coal industry.

Courtsy of EnerBlu

When battery manufacturer EnerBlu announced it would suspend plans for a new factory in Pikeville, Kentucky, the company used an intriguing phrase. “Unexpected geopolitical factors,” the company said, had soured the deal.  

  According to a former executive at the company, those factors tied the rural eastern Kentucky development project to one of the world’s largest companies, the Saudi Arabian royal family, and the international uproar resulting from the murder of a prominent journalist.

Since it announced in 2017 its plan to build a $372 million

 

Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

Sue Meeks has worked with children for years as a registered nurse.

Meeks manages the family navigator program at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, Ohio.

Several years ago, she started noticing three and four-year-olds coming into the program with certain distinctive behaviors.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will move forward with a series of actions to regulate toxic fluorinated chemicals, including proposing drinking water limits by the end of this year. But environment and public health advocates say that timeline is unacceptably slow given the health risks and extent of contamination.

In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today said it will move forward with a series of actions to regulate toxic fluorinated chemicals, including proposing drinking water limits by the end of this year.

In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

Wikimedia Commons

Infectious disease experts say poor practices in vaccine delivery are the likely cause of infections reported by some people who received vaccine shots at their places of employment in the Ohio Valley.

Glynis Board/Ohio Valley ReSource

Inside Winkin’ Sun Hemp Company in downtown Wheeling, West Virginia, store owner Doug Flight tries to position himself in front of a camera crew.

His experience with growing and selling hemp spans years. But memorizing lines for what he says could be the first hemp TV commercial in the state is another issue.

“I know, I grow,” Flight says to the camera. “Is that it?” Flight asked.

“It’s ‘I know because I grow,’” someone with the camera crew said back.

 

Jessie Wright/WVPB

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will begin holding full hearing this week with a new top Democrat: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. 

 Manchin’s ascension to lead the Senate committee devoted to energy issues drew concern from environmental groups and more left-leaning members of his own party who fear the centrist Democrat may not be a strong climate advocate.

Nicole Erwin/Ohio Valley ReSource

The federal government shutdown is over but some Ohio Valley farmers are still dealing with its effects as they try to sign up for federal relief payments and find ways to substitute for  missing information caused by a delay in important government reports.

Black Lung Clinics Call For Action

Jan 29, 2019
Ohio Valley ReSource

In the wake of an NPR and Frontline investigation into the surge in black lung disease, a coalition of black lung clinics is calling for action from federal regulators. The government’s top mine safety official says he has no plans to change rules on dust exposure.

The National Coalition of Black Lung Clinics said in a statement that the federal government has more than enough data on the risks of current mining practices to justify implementing new measures.

Glynis Board

Cyndi Kirkhart has some 26,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Facing Hunger Food Bank in Huntington, West Virginia, where she is executive director. That sounds like a lot of space. But very little of it is cooler space.

"This is the only cooler we have,” Kirkhart said, stepping into a walk-in cooler the size of a large closet filled with half-gallon containers of milk. “This is Kentucky milk, and this is West Virginia.”

By Mary Meehan

CEO Mike Halligan pushed open the door to a huge warehouse serving 50 Kentucky counties. Pallets of beans, pineapple, bottled water, and rice wrapped in a clear plastic stretch to the top tier of the scaffolding, which warehouse workers call “the sky”.

Similar pantries serve 2.5 million people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, of SNAP, benefits across the Ohio Valley.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

Nancy and Rich Potter had the kind of marriage that made other couples jealous. He’d take her on spontaneous trips. She’d wear her Daisy Dukes just for him.

Joyce Birman said her late husband, George, made a terrible first impression. It was his apology for it that made her fall for him, hard.

Vickie Salyers’ husband, Gene, loved hunting and fishing, but he loved being a father and grandfather most of all.

 

FSA Offices Reopen To Confusion and Disarray

Jan 17, 2019
USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture is reopening Farm Service Agency offices across the country Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. Agency staff will help process loans affected by the federal government shutdown. There are reports that many Ohio Valley farmers showing up were turned away.

The Farm Service Agency office in Mayfield, Kentucky, is so quiet you can hear the tick of the Department of Agriculture-branded clock on the wall. Eleven employees usually make up this busy office. Only three were called in Thursday morning.

Senate Committee Video

During a sometimes contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday on his nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler was pressed by members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the impact of the government shutdown on the agency.

Wheeler noted one casualty of the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its fourth week, is that a long-awaited plan on regulating the PFAS group of chemicals has been delayed.  

Mary Meehan

  A slender, black, rectangle, the Juul fits easily in the palm of your hand. You don’t light it, you trigger it with a click of a finger. The mist that is exhaled is so fine it’s hard to see. The nicotine is delivered via a pod the size of a AAA battery, with each pod containing the equivalent of 20 cigarettes.

That combination of small size and potent power have made the Juul the vaping device of choice for many teen users. A group students from Casey County, Kentucky, affirms those features make “Juul-ing” – yes it has become a verb – rampant in class.

Trump Doubles Down On Trade War As Farmers Feel Pain From Tariffs

Jan 15, 2019



As President Donald Trump addressed farmers at a national conference Monday Ohio Valley agriculture leaders said they are standing by his effort to renegotiate trade deals. But some leaders cautioned that costly tariffs on farm products need to end soon.

President Trump doubled down on his fight for better trade deals during his speech to American Farm Bureau Federation members at their convention in New Orleans.

“We’re turning all of that around with fair trade deals that put American farmers, ranchers and in fact put America first,” Trump said.

MSHA

 This year, under the Trump administration, MSHA decided to remove POV status for the Affinity mine in an agreement with the company that resolved litigation on the matter, despite a continued record of spotty safety performance at the mine.

Courtesy Merritt Family

I’m not usually one to name-drop but my brother Pat Meehan is Santa Claus. A real, professional Santa.

Sitting in his home office fresh from work, he’s wearing black suspenders and a red T-shirt. There at least six other Santa outfits in his closet including beach Santa. His thick, white beard (yes, a real one) shimmers faintly with glitter.

It goes without saying that Pat is really into being Santa. He’s been doing it for 40 years.

But even Pat understands how the 

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

With just days left before a Congressional deadline, advocates for black lung treatment are still pushing Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to secure funding for miners’ benefits.

About two dozen people demonstrated Wednesday near McConnell’s regional office in London, Kentucky, carrying placards reading “Black Lung Kills” and singing along with a banjo tune modified for the occasion.

Sydney Boles/Ohio Valley ReSource

On a cool but clear November day about a dozen residents from eastern Kentucky’s coal mining region crowded into the lobby of an office building in the small town of London, Kentucky. That’s where Kentucky’s powerful senior senator, Mitch McConnell, has his local field office.

McConnell’s staff let the local advocates for black lung treatment into the office a few at a time to make their case for funding the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

 

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