Ohio Valley ReSource

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.


Kara Lofton, WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region's traditional but faltering industries -- metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

The next day, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross presided over the ceremonial start-up of a production line at a Kentucky aluminum company that has increased production in response to Trump’s tariffs on imported metals.


Courtesy Anthony Scott Lockard, KY River Dist. Health

In a room at the Letcher County Health Department in Whitesburg, Kentucky, about 20 people are learning how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.

Among them is 18-year-old Morgan Hopkins. An aspiring therapist, Hopkins said she wants to be ready with naloxone if someone overdoses around her.

“You never know what you’re going to see,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, you have it, rather than you don’t have it.”


Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Automotive manufacturing leaders met in Kentucky to discuss how changes in U.S. trade policy under President Trump affect the industry and its growing presence in the Ohio Valley.

Industry leaders gathered for the annual AutoVision conference and many don’t like what they see coming.

NAFTA 2.0 negotiations are ongoing, companies are paying tariffs for some steel and aluminum imports and domestic metals prices are increasing as demand goes up. Add to that the prospect of auto import tariffs President Trump is exploring and executives like John-Mark Hack see trouble ahead. 


Coal Miners Respiratory Clinic

When former coal mine employees in western Kentucky faced arraignment Wednesday on federal charges that they conspired to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust, the hearing brought renewed attention to the region’s surge in black lung disease.

The case highlights the many challenges miners face in the workplace. And health officials in black lung clinics say sick miners also face an increasingly Byzantine bureaucratic process that determines if those afflicted with the lung disease receive benefits.


Becca Schimmel

Eight former employees of two western Kentucky coal mines entered not guilty pleas at an arraignment hearing Wednesday. Those defendants are being federally charged with cheating on safety monitoring which is meant to reduce the risk of black lung disease.

Miners who work in the dustiest areas routinely wear monitoring devices. The indictment alleges those workers would be replaced mid-shift with miners who were not wearing the devices. Officials at Armstrong Coal Company are also accused of fabricating tests and submitting results from days when the mine wasn’t operating.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said money his family’s coal companies owe in West Virginia has been paid.

At a Monday news conference, West Virginia revenue officials said the obligations from Justice’s companies had been paid, including fines and taxes.

“The state is completely and totally satisfied with the resolution of these matters,” Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said.

Justice didn’t say how much was owed and paid or whether the debt obligations were reduced as part of negotiations. He also noted it would likely be a few days before the liens were released by the county offices, making the settlement of the debts official.

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