Ohio Valley ReSource

WKU Public Radio is part of a new regional journalism collaborative known as the Ohio Valley ReSource.  It's made up of public media stations across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.  The collaborative will focus on the changing economy in the region and its effect on jobs, healthcare and infrastructure. 

Each station taking part in the Ohio Valley ReSource is hiring a reporter to contribute to the effort.  WKU Public Radio's reporter is Becca Schimmel, who will be based in the Bowling Green newsroom. 

The Ohio Valley ReSource is made possible by member stations and through a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 

Ways to Connect

Mary Meehan

Health officials in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia say the number of overdose deaths related to the opioid crisis continued to rise in 2017 as state data began to reflect the fatalities related to the powerful drug fentanyl.

A new report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy found 1,565 died from drug overdoses last year, up 11.5 percent from 2016.

Fentanyl played a factor in more than half of the overdose cases in which a toxicology report was available.

SkyTruth

An area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined for coal in Appalachia using mountaintop removal, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers from Duke University and nonprofit organizations SkyTruth and Appalachian Voices developed an open-source mapping tool drawing on satellite imagery. The new data show the amount of land disturbed by mountaintop removal mining across Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia between 1985-2015.


Mary Meehan

The low rumble of industrial fans fills the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, a shelter that provides meals and other services for homeless people.

It’s mid-morning on a hot July day and dozens of people sit camped on couches in the entryway, or slouch at tables nearby. Despite the fans the air is stale from too many bodies too close together -- ideal conditions for the spread of disease. The region’s Hepatitis A outbreak is approaching 2,000 confirmed cases in the Ohio Valley, with the bulk of them in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Health officials say the number of undiagnosed infections is likely far higher.


Brittany Patterson

A pilot-scale facility that extracts valuable rare earth elements from coal waste byproducts officially opened its doors this week at West Virginia University.

Advocates of the project are hopeful that environmental waste left by Appalachia’s coal mining legacy could one day fuel an economic boom in the region while also providing some national security.

"This could go a long way forward in creating new economic opportunity for West Virginia and this region and treat acid mine drainage, and turn it into a financial boon instead of a financial burden," Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute told the crowd.


Aaron Payne

United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts fired up a crowd of thousands of union workers in Columbus, Ohio, with a simple chant: “Fix it!”

The rally last week came on the eve of a Congressional field hearing on problems plaguing multiemployer pension programs like the one retired miners depend upon.

“When the people get to marching, the politicians get to listening,” Roberts roared.


Nicole Erwin

Jimmy Tosh sells a lot of pigs. He is owner and CEO of Tosh Farms, Tosh Pork, and Bacon By Gosh, in Henry County, Tennessee, and has 84 contracted barns in the region where farmers grow pigs for his products.

On a recent July day, Tosh craned over some 1,200 piglets and reflected on how recent market disturbances have affected his business.

“These pigs in January were selling for the $75 to $80 dollar mark,” Tosh said. “Because of seasonality and the effect of the tariffs these pigs now are in the $16 to $18 dollar range.”


Adelina Lancianese

Western Kentucky District U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman didn’t hide his emotion when announcing federal charges against a coal company for faking coal dust samples.

“This is one of those that just made me angry, it just made me angry to see the impact on these miners,” Coleman said.

 

Coleman unsealed indictments Wednesday against eight employees of the now-bankrupt Armstrong Energy coal company for falsifying dust monitoring samples in two of its Kentucky mines.


Nicole Erwin

"Be brave, have fun,” Jennie Boggess instructs as she leads a room full of young students at Camp Curiosity, hosted by the Daviess County, Kentucky, Public Schools.

Boggess is the development director for the Owensboro Dance Theatre and today she is preparing students for a finale performance to cap the four-week summer camp.

“The idea of being brave is sometimes difficult for kids between 4th and 8th grade,” Boggess said. “You start to worry about people who are around you, the fear sets in.”


Still from White House video

President Donald Trump’s desire to help boost the Ohio Valley’s energy industry and bring back mining jobs could be stymied by the administration's escalating trade battle with China and other trading partners across the globe.

The Trump administration announced in June $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, which are set to go into effect on Friday. In return, China has committed to its own $50 billion in tariffs on U.S. exports, which may include U.S. energy exports.


Becca Schimmel

The Ohio Valley’s auto manufacturing industry is growing increasingly nervous about the Trump administration’s trade policy. First came tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, key materials for vehicle makers. Now the Commerce Department is looking into taxes on imported automobiles and automotive parts. Both are ominous signs for an industry that employs more than 1.5 million people in the region. Ohio and Kentucky are the nation’s second and third biggest auto-making states, respectively.


Lisa Graves-Marcucci, Environmental Integrity Project

Curt and Debbie Havens’ ranch style home is the gathering place for their family. Their two boys grew up playing in the streets in this quiet neighborhood in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Now, their grandchildren do the same.

“They played ball, all kinds of games,” Debbie recalled during a recent interview. Family photos and knick-knacks line the walls. One heart-shaped sign reads “May love be the heart of this home.”

“Everybody wants to come to grammy’s and pappy’s,” she added.


Adelina Lancianese NPR

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences says the coal mining industry needs a “fundamental shift” in the way it controls exposure to coal and rock dust in order to prevent lung disease among miners.

Despite improvements such as an Obama-era rule to strengthen monitoring and control of dust in mines, the experts on the National Academies panel said more work is needed to address the deadly surge in cases of severe black lung disease, which is especially prevalent among Appalachian miners.


Erica Peterson

For decades, Kentucky’s own coal stoked the fires that generated most of its electricity. And while some of those power plants have shut down or switched to natural gas, their legacy remains today in the leftover coal ash that’s stored all over the commonwealth.

Now, new data show the coal ash buried in landfills and submerged in ponds at many of these sites has contaminated local groundwater.


Coal Ash Uncovered: New Data Reveal Widespread Contamination At Ohio Valley Sites

Jun 18, 2018
Google Earth Engine

For generations, coal power has fueled American prosperity. But for each shovelful thrown into the furnaces, a pile of ash was left in its place.

Today, as coal’s dominance in the power sector wanes, those piles of ash have grown into mountains as coal ash became one of the largest waste streams in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


How We Made Sense Of Confusing Coal Ash Data

Jun 18, 2018
Alexandra Kanik

The Environmental Protection Agency describes the 2015 coal ash rules as “self-implementing,” meaning utilities had to comply with the rules but the federal government would not oversee or enforce them. Instead, the EPA required utilities to publish the results of their groundwater testing on their websites.

The rules were written that way so that citizens could file lawsuits against utilities for contaminating groundwater or not following the regulations.

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