environment

Erica Peterson

Environmental and community advocates in Appalachian coal communities are concerned about a new federal rule, finalized this week, that is changing the process that allows citizens to file complaints about polluting coal mining operations.

The Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement said in a Tuesday press release that the changes to the 10-Day Notice policy would “streamline” the complaint process. 

Under federal law and agency regulations, anyone can notify the agency about alleged mining violations. Under the original rule, the agency would share the complaint with state regulators. That kicked off a 10-day clock for the state to take action, either by forcing the company to fix the problem, or showing why action wasn’t necessary.

Ned Pillersdorf

Environmental advocates worry a coal company liquidation plan will leave dozens of coal permits in eastern Kentucky unreclaimed, according to filings in the bankruptcy proceedings of Blackjewel L.L.C.

The bankruptcy case has dragged on since last July, when the once-mighty coal company’s Chapter 11 filing left hundreds of Appalachian coal miners suddenly without work, and without weeks of pay. Now the company has until the end of 2020 to exit bankruptcy, and to do that, it needs the court to approve the very liquidation plan that has environmentalists concerned.

Benny Becker

Ohio environmental regulators have canceled key permits needed for an underground natural gas liquids storage facility proposed along the Ohio River. 

According to an order from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, permits to drill three three Class III solution mining wells in Monroe County, Ohio were cancelled on Sept. 21. Cancellation was requested by Powhatan Salt Company LCC. The proposed wells are associated with the Mountaineer NGL Storage project, a multi-million dollar underground natural gas liquids storage project. 

Experts say natural gas liquid storage — like the proposed Mountaineer project — is crucial to building out the Ohio Valley’s petrochemical industry.

J. Tyler Franklin

As the nation decides which party will control the Senate this November, the race in Kentucky stands out for one big reason: It features Mitch McConnell.

Loathed by Democrats across the country as a cynical power broker, but praised by Republicans as a shrewd political tactician, the GOP’s longest-serving Senate majority leader faces a challenge from a well-funded retired Marine lieutenant colonel and fighter pilot who flew in 89 combat missions, including bombings of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

DNC video

Democrats made their pitch to the American people during a largely virtual Democratic National Convention and addressing climate change emerged as a central tenet of the party’s plan. 

The party platform spells out a major investment in green energy jobs and infrastructure in order for America to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emission no later than by 2050. Environmental justice is a key component of the Democrat’s climate plan and it references ensuring fossil fuel workers and communities receive investment and support during this clean energy transition.

 


Jeff Young

A proposal to repurpose a docking facility near Marietta, Ohio, to allow for the barging of oil and gas drilling waste on the Ohio River is drawing concern from environmental groups and local residents.

Ohio-based DeepRock Disposal Solutions LLC is seeking approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District to operate a barge offloading facility to transfer the waste to existing storage tanks. The proposal indicates the loading facility can accommodate a 300-foot-long barge that is 54 feet wide. 

It is the third barging proposal this year being considered by federal regulators. A proposal near Martins Ferry, Ohio, and one near Portland, Ohio, both to build new barging loading facilities have already been approved.

Brittany Patterson | Ohio Valley ReSource

On a recent sticky July afternoon, Diana Green stands on the muddy bank of lower Davis Creek in South Charleston, West Virginia.  

As a child, she enjoyed wading in the nearly 10-mile-long stream in search of crayfish and salamanders. As an adult, Green set down roots there, purchasing a farm that backs up to the creek. Seeing the waterway choked with trash and pollution, Green helped form a small community-based watershed group in the 1990s.

The Davis Creek Watershed Association has been dedicated to improving the environmental quality of the watershed, and 25 years later, she says they have largely succeeded. Several different fish species, from skipjack to bass live in the stream. 

 


Pulaski County Recycling Center

Recycling in the U.S. has become more difficult since China stopped accepting plastic in 2018.

Counties and cities across Kentucky are choosing differing ways to handle, or not handle, the recycling of plastic, cardboard, paper, glass, and aluminum and metal cans.

The scarcity of markets for recycled plastic and the cost of recycling overall add to the obstacles for communites, at the same time landfills continue to run out of space, and changes in packaging by manufacturers, which would reduce waste, move along at a slow pace.  The challenges to recycling have mulitpled with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Southern Recycling

Warren County residents can drop off recyclables for the next few weeks even though curbside pickup has stopped.

It’s only a temporary way to recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum cans and tin cans for Warren County residents.

But for those who have had their recycling habits in limbo since curbside pickup stopped on March 31, Southern Recycling is accepting those materials at its Warren County location on Graham Drive. 

To make it easy to find, the company has put up green signs at the intersection of Louisville Road and Plum Springs Road pointing people to the recycling site. 

Customers will be responsible for sorting the materials and putting them in designated bins. 


Kentucky Heartwood

The U.S. Forest Service has marked and illegally sold thousands of trees in excess of its own plans for the Daniel Boone National Forest, according to a survey from the Kentucky Heartwood forest advocacy organization.

You know that old saying about a tree falling in the forest? Kentucky Heartwood Director Jim Scheff may not hear it fall, but he can tell you which one is marked for felling.

It’s not because Scheff did his graduate research on forest and old growth ecology in the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky (He did). It’s because you don’t need a master’s degree to see the blue spray paint.

 


Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., coal mines across the country have begun shutting down, laying off workers and slowing production.

Ryan Van Velzer

The first Earth Day was 50 years ago today, April 22, 1970. Marking the anniversary and celebrating the planet present unique challenges for people around the globe while social distancing in the middle of a pandemic. But some young activists in Kentucky believe they’ve found a way, through technology.

Organizers at Kentucky Youth Climate Strike are calling on their peers to join in a week of digital action to combat Climate Change and the coronavirus.

“I think both crises that we’re seeing, of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, create a unique opportunity for a regained sense of shared humanity, where people realize what matters most,” said Kentucky Youth Climate Strike State Director Fernanda Scharfenberger.

Updated Friday, 6:45 p.m. ET

This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Instead of feeling gratitude and oneness with the planet you may have experienced darker emotions as we weather the pandemic: a fear that more disruptive events are on the horizon due to climate change.

For some, feelings of sadness about the state of the planet aren't new — they're constant and at times debilitating. This experience goes by many names, among them eco-anxiety, climate grief and climate despair.

Rhonda J. Miller

The future of recycling in Warren County remains unclear, now that residents no longer have curbside pickup of recyclable aluminum, glass, paper and plastic.

Changes in the international market for scrap materials and the coronavirus have created “double trouble” for recycling.

The international recycling market ran into a roadblock when China stopped importing plastics and other materials in 2018.

That roadblock has hit in Warren County, which stopped curbside recycling pickup on March 31.

Southern Recycling General Manager Keith McKelvey said the challenge of finding markets is the main reason the company decided not to seek to renew its contract  with the county. 


Barb Sargent, Courtesy WV DNR

U.S. Forest Service district biologist Shane Jones stands on an overlook high up on West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain. Behind him lush, red spruce trees stand like sentinels on this frozen landscape. As he looks out, small patches of green dot what is largely a view of the barren, brown trunks of leafless hardwoods.

More than a century ago, this high-elevation ecosystem, now located inside the Monongahela National Forest, would have been dominated by the evergreen spruce. After being logged and suffering from fires in the 1880s through early 1900s, today an estimated 90 percent of this ice age-relic of an ecosystem has been removed from West Virginia.

And that has been a challenge for another iconic species: the West Virginia northern flying squirrel.


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