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

Toyota

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.

“It gives me much pleasure to announce that beginning in May, TMMK will begin producing the Lexus ES 300 Hybrid,” said Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.

Toyota Driving Demand For Solar Power In Ohio Valley

Mar 13, 2019
Sydney Boles

Automaker Toyota is planning to announce a major investment in solar and other renewable energy in Appalachia and the Southeastern U.S. The plan includes a massive new solar facility on an old surface coal mine property in Kentucky.

Sources close to the deal tell the Ohio Valley Resource that the Kentucky site is part of a much larger plan. Toyota plans to purchase as much as 800,000 megawatt hours per year, or roughly 365 megawatts, of renewable energy, primarily from developers in Appalachia and the South.


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.

About 2,500 people work here. But looking out across the floor it’s sometimes hard to find a human among the boxes, bins and conveyor belts. Often they’re working closely with the machinery. At a packing station an employee is surrounded by boxes and envelopes of different sizes.


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.”

For the last decade, Gray and graduate students have bridged the space across the high plains with a digital connection in order to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.


Pixabay

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.”


Becca Schimmel

One of the Kentucky mine workers charged in a coal dust fraud case last year wants to change his “not guilty” plea to “guilty,” a possible indication that the defendant will cooperate with prosecutors in the case.

Court documents show defendant Ron Ivy, a former employee of Armstrong Coal, is scheduled to change his plea on April 1. Ivy pleaded guilty last year along with eight others charged in an indictment. 

Western Kentucky District U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman says the case remains open and active.

Becca Schimmel

A federal prosecutor announced new charges against a senior coal company official for conspiring to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust. The case comes amid a surge in cases of black lung disease and widespread allegations from miners that cheating on dust monitors is common in the mining industry.

Western Kentucky District U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman unsealed a new indictment Wednesday against the former manager of all of the western Kentucky mines belonging to the now-bankrupt Armstrong Energy coal company. Glendal “Buddy” Hardison is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency in charge of enforcing dust controls in coal mines.


The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH

On the night of July 24, 1916, a natural gas explosion near Cleveland trapped workers in a waterworks tunnel beneath Lake Erie. Rescuers sent in to recover the trapped men were themselves felled 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.


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.

The awards are the latest in the ARC’s POWER Initiative, an acronym for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. Congress has funded the initiative for four years specifically to help communities affected by job losses in the Appalachian coal industry.


Aaron Payne

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.

“Children that appear to be neurologically very overstimulated,” she said. “They often aren’t social in your typical way. They don’t respond to trying to calm them or trying to divert their attention to something else, laughing with them, or getting a response from reading.”

  

Flickr/Creative Commons/Joost Nelissen

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.

Those chemicals include PFOA, or C8, which has been detected in several water systems in the Ohio Valley. The chemicals were used in a variety of products, including non-stick cookware, stain resistant clothing, and flame retardants.


Glynis Board

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.


Coal Comeback? Coal At New Low After Two Years Under Trump

Feb 4, 2019
Kara Lofton, WVPB

It’s been two years since President Donald Trump took office and began rolling back environmental regulations on the coal industry.

At a November rally in Huntington, West Virginia, the president took credit for a coal comeback in front of a cheering crowd.

"We've ended the war on beautiful, clean coal and we're putting our coal miners back to work,” he said. “That you know better than anybody."


Kentucky Labor Cabinet

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has announced plans to increase salaries, provide more training and buy more equipment for its occupational safety and health compliance officers.

The changes come on the heels of an investigative series by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, the Ohio Valley ReSource and the Center for Public Integrity, which first publicly revealed the state’s program was under serious federal scrutiny.

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.”

She said her operation has been receiving about 8,000 of these containers, about a truck load, every couple of weeks since November. She expects to continue receiving the products from the federal government through March.


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