Ohio Valley ReSource

JESSE WRIGHT / WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING

The Justice family companies’ difficulties paying taxes over the years are well documented. But tax collectors haven’t been the only ones trying to recover debts from companies once operated by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and now in control of his family.

A review of court documents by the Ohio Valley ReSource found at least five cases in which judges ruled that Justice family companies failed to pay suppliers for goods or services. When compelled by courts to pay, the companies either refused or failed to meet agreed upon payments.


JAGA / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A multi-state commission charged with protecting the Ohio River decided Thursday to postpone a decision to dramatically alter pollution controls.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, has been considering a proposal that would reduce its oversight of water pollution control standards along the Ohio River. The proposal, called "option 2" would eliminate the body's water pollution control standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the river.

U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Trevor Rhynes

New research this month shows that West Virginia and Kentucky have some of the nation’s worst rates of student loan defaults.

West Virginia had the highest and Kentucky the fourth-highest rate of student loan defaults, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education.

In West Virginia, 17.7 percent of students who entered loan repayment in 2015 had defaulted three years later. New Mexico and Nevada were second and third, and Kentucky came in fourth, with 14.3 percent of students unable to pay back their loans. At 12.2 percent, Ohio ranked near the middle, tying Michigan for 14th place.


Rebecca Kiger

After decades of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, Wendy Crites finally made a clean break.

“For the first time in my life I just wanted to be off of it,” she said from her home in Ranson, West Virginia. “I hit rock bottom.”

Last year the ReSource profiled Crites, a single mother getting by on low-wage jobs during her first year of sobriety. Crites has had success with a combination of counseling and a medication called Suboxone.


JESSE WRIGHT / WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration's priorities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

The West Virginia native and former coal mine executive addressed students, faculty and industry representatives at the annual William Poundstone lecture series at West Virginia University.


office of the Surgeon General

In a comprehensive new report on the opioid crisis, the U.S. surgeon general writes that stigma remains a major barrier to treatment and urges a more supportive approach to those in need.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote in his Spotlight on Opioids report that stigma has prevented people with opioid use disorders from seeking treatment.

“The way we as a society view and address opioid use disorder must change,” Adams wrote. “Individual lives and the health of our nation depend on it.”

Senate Opioids Bill Takes Aim At Fentanyl Imports

Sep 19, 2018
Mary Meehan

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan package to address the nation’s opioid crisis with more resources for addiction treatment and recovery and an emphasis on stopping the flow of the the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The Senate approved the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 by a 99-1 vote Monday night including a version of Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention, or STOP, Act. Portman said he hopes to address the impact fentanyl has had on his constituents. Ohio has some of the nation’s highest overdoses death rates.


Aaron Payne

New data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Fewer high schoolers in the region appear to be using opioids.

School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But these are not the same drug prevention programs many people remember from their school days.

These new prevention efforts use a different approach as officials learn from past mistakes. Drawing on evidence from prevention science, these programs emphasize the behavioral health issues tied closely to addiction, rather than focusing on the drugs themselves.


Toxic “Teflon” Chemicals On EPA Regulatory Agenda

Sep 10, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

Environmental Protection Agency officials told a Congressional panel Thursday that the agency will announce by the end of the year whether it will take the next step to regulate a group of toxic fluorinated chemicals found in some water systems in the Ohio Valley.

The PFAS group of chemicals, which include PFOA or C-8, were widely used to make nonstick products and flame retardants and have been detected in at least 10 water systems in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Exposure has been linked to a number of health effects.

EPA’s Director of the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, Peter Grevatt, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that the agency will decide if some of those chemicals should be declared “hazardous” under federal law.


Brittany Patterson

William Suan is no stranger to the problems abandoned oil and gas wells can cause.

“It's just an eyesore,” he said, standing inside a barn on his cattle ranch near Lost Creek, West Virginia. “I had to fence one off because it's leaking now.”

There are five inactive wells on his land, most installed in the '60s and '70s, and the companies that owned the wells have long since gone out of business.

On a recent rainy Monday, Suan treks down a muddy hill on the backside of his property. Hidden in the wooded thicket is a three-foot-tall rusted tube jutting out of the ground.


Nicole Erwin

Suzanna Johnson is an education officer with the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue in Camner, Kentucky. Johnson is looking after a pregnant horse she rescued recently.

“Be good,” she instructs the mare, named CC, and pats her belly. 

CC is an elderly horse that has been pregnant for 18 of her 21 years. Now she is chowing down on grass, recovering from what Johnson described as her previous owner’s negligent care. Before CC was rescued her teeth were in such poor condition she could not chew and digest her food, leaving her in state of starvation.


JESSE WRIGHT / WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING

A federal court has ordered the U.S. Marshal to collect more than $1 million owed by two coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia issued the writ of execution Wednesday, giving the U.S. Marshal the go-ahead to tap into multiple bank accounts associated with two Justice family-controlled coal companies, Southern Coal Corporation and Kentucky Fuel Corporation.

Paper company WestRock CP LLC and Southern Coal Corp. have for years been fighting in court over a coal supply agreement for a paper mill in Florida. The parties had settled, but after making three payments, Southern Coal Corp. stopped. This year, a federal court awarded WestRock a settlement totaling just over $1 million.

Becca Schimmel

After nearly 30 years of construction and a budget that rose into the billions, Olmsted Locks and Dam passed the first tow barge through its system at a ceremony Thursday on the Ohio River.

The $3 billion infrastructure improvement by the Army Corps of Engineers is the most expensive inland waterway project in U.S. history and is touted as the hub of the nation’s river navigation system.

“We know that this lock and dam is going to be here for decades and that’s a big deal,” Matt Lowe said. He was the project manager for Olmsted from 2012 to 2016 and he was in the crowd of dignitaries to dedicate the project at a ceremony Thursday. 


Becca Schimmel

The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary deal to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The emerging agreement has big implications for agriculture and automakers in the Ohio Valley.  

President Trump has played up his tentative agreement with Mexico’s president, but NAFTA partner Canada has only recently been included in the weeks of negotiations. At an automotive conference in Lexington, Kentucky earlier this month Auto industry representatives stressed the importance of trade with Canada and Mexico.


Kara Lofton, WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

Earlier that day the Environmental Protection Agency released the new Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE, to replace the Clean Power Plan.


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