Muhlenberg County

Becca Schimmel

White signs advocating for the protection of pension and healthcare benefits were waived at a United Mine Workers of America rally in Lexington Tuesday. An estimated 4,000 miners, retirees, and family members filled the city’s convention center. They gathered to demand that Congress pass legislation protecting pensions and health care benefits for miners and their families.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said miners have earned what they’ve been promised.

“We have stood up for America and it’s time America stood up for us! America owes us! And we will collect on that debt!” Roberts told the crowd.

Miners could lose their retirement benefits this fall if Congress doesn’t act. Roberts says union members will march on Washington D.C. and risk being arrested if that’s what it takes. He told miners to go home and find at least five others that would be willing to rally at the nation’s capital.

Spouse Becky Gardner says she wants what the miners were promised.

Lisa Autry

The two surviving members of a 2014 Muhlenberg County house fire are filing a lawsuit against a construction company.

The fire killed LaRae Watson and eight of her children after an electric heater ignited combustible materials inside the home. Chad Watson and his daughter, Kylie, are suing Owensboro-based Jagoe Homes, claiming the company hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build the Watsons a new home at no cost.

The lawsuit was first reported by WFIE-14 TV in Evansville. The suit claims the Watsons suffered “severe emotional harm and distress” when they didn’t receive the home they say they were promised.

Owensboro attorney Travis Holtrey is representing Jagoe Homes, and says a response to the lawsuit will be filed soon.

“We have full confidence that after that answer is filed, and after the matter is presented in the proper format, it will be determined that Jagoe Homes did not violate any law," he told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

Holtrey wouldn't comment on whether or not Jagoe had made a promise regarding the building of a new home for the Watsons.

ACLU of Kentucky

The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit for a case in Muhlenberg County over song lyrics in a Facebook post.

In August, James Evans of Central City posted lyrics on his Facebook page from a song called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” by the band Exodus. The 2010 song is about the Virginia Tech shooting.

Evans was arrested that month on a criminal charge of first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony. The charge was eventually dismissed.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming Muhlenberg County Police Officer Michael Drake falsely arrested Evans for posting those lyrics. Evans’ attorneys—Brenda Popplewell and William Sharp—claim that arrest was illegal and violated their clients’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed at a U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky and names Muhlenberg County and Officer Drake as defendants.

Although the numbers are expected to change slightly over the next few months, the board agreed to cut 50 jobs and slice teachers' pay by 9.8%.

According to WBKO-TV, an estimated 500 people jammed into Muhlenberg County High School's auditorium Monday night, mostly teachers and their families opposed to the cuts. Both in their comments and on printed signs, members of the public said the cuts would lead to increased class sizes within the district and impact learning.

Muhlenberg County is hosting a show this weekend that pays tribute to the area’s most famous musical sons. The show, called “Walk Right Back”, honors the music of the Everly Brothers.

Don Everly was born in Muhlenberg County in 1937, and during 15 years beginning in 1988, he and his brother Phil performed an annual “homecoming” concert in Central City.

Joe Hudson, the executive director of the National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame and the organizer of Saturday’s concert says the influential harmonies that the Everly Brothers sang in the late 1950s and 60s played a major role on future musical acts.

“The significant impact that the Everly’s harmonies had on other bands, even The Beatles, is really humbling when you look at the fact that it all roots back here to a small town in the middle of Muhlenberg County," Hudson told WKU Public Radio. "They had that family harmony that you just cannot reproduce, and their harmonies are still known as some of the best and tightest harmonies that have ever been recorded.”

Plans have been scrapped for a proposed natural gas power plant in western Kentucky. 

Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric announced plans last year to construct a $700 million facility in Muhlenberg County. 

The utilities announced this week the project was canceled because nine municipalities have chosen to terminate their contracts with the utility companies. 

State Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville is disappointed by the loss of construction jobs.

"It would have brought people into the county to live, to work, and maybe even settle here at some point in time," said Yonts. "It will have a substantial negative impact on the county because we will not be getting the benefit of that work."

A new natural gas plant would have made up for the loss of an old coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County that’s slated to close next spring. 

KU and LG&E still plan to build a solar-generating plant, but Yonts believes it would have less economic impact.

A Muhlenberg County woman has been indicted on multiple charges, including murder, in connection with the death of her ex-husband last month. 

Attorney General Jack Conway says 61-year-old Central City resident Brenda Hardin will be arraigned in court on Wednesday.  She’s accused of fatally shooting her husband, 64-year-old Ronnie Hardin. He was found July 7 in the outbuilding of his former home. 

Conway’s office also says Ms. Hardin is also charged with tampering with physical evidence, after they say she moved her former husband’s truck.

A Canadian mining company will pay $3.2 million to settle allegations of Clean Water Act violations in Muhlenberg and Crittenden counties.

Elgin Mining of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville reached the agreement Thursday. Under the terms of the settlement, Elgin Mining will pay $3,071,292.00 to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' Wetland and Stream Mitigation In-Lieu Fee Program, which provides mitigation credits for impacts to Kentucky's wetlands and streams associated with discharges of dredged or fill material.

Elgin Mining is also required to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 to the United States.

The government alleged that the company failed to mitigate the dumping of waste into streams and wetlands in Muhlenberg and Crittenden counties, resulting in the loss of the waterways.

Tennessee Valley Authority

Construction crews have cleared about 60 percent of the land needed to begin building a new natural gas facility at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County. The new plant is scheduled to open by spring of 2017, and will take the place of two coal burning units currently in operation at the TVA facility.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the future site of the new gas-burning unit, Transition Manager Billy Sabin said this week’s announcement of new E.P.A. regulations on power plant emissions won’t impact the Paradise Fossil Plant, because the TVA had already decided to reduce carbon emissions at a much faster rate than what the federal government is now seeking.

“We will have a reduction of about 50 percent of coal. Because Unit 3 will continue to run, it’s going to burn about 2.7 to 3 million tons of coal a year,” Sabin said. “So it’ll be about a 50 percent reduction from what we do now.”

Sabin says the excavation stage of the new cleaner-burning gas plant project will be completed by early 2015, with construction of the facility following. He says the new facility, known as a combined-cycle gas plant, has several advantages over the older coal-burning model.

Utilities Ask For Delay on Power Plants Request

May 1, 2014

Kentucky Utilities Co. and Louisville Gas and Electric Co. say they want to delay a request to build a natural gas power plant in Muhlenberg County and a solar facility in Mercer County because nine municipal customers plan to cancel their wholesale power contracts with KU.

KU and LG&E say the cancellations are effective in 2019 and total approximately 320 megawatts of load. The companies asked the Kentucky Public Service Commission in January for approval for the two facilities. The companies asked the PSC to delay the case for up to 90 days while it considers the effect of the termination notices.

The companies said the potential loss of the nine customers won't affect service to their remaining 1.2 million customers but could have an effect on the cost to serve the customers in the future.

Tennessee Valley Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court is upholding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines.

Tuesday’s 6-2 decision is being called a major victory for the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and will likely have a major impact on coal-fired power plants in Kentucky and other states.

The White House has put forth a set of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. Coal industry advocates and many Republican lawmakers—including Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell—have sharply criticized those regulations, describing them as government overreach and a “war on coal.”

The EPA is expected to unveil new climate control regulations in June to cut down on carbon pollution from coal plants. Kentucky gets an estimated 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, such as the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

Many power suppliers have been anticipating increased scrutiny of coal pollution, and have been implemented changes at their plants to make their coal-fired operations more environmentally-friendly.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks told WKU Public Radio that Tuesday's Supreme Court decision has "no impact" on the utility's plans for the Paradise plant.

Emil Moffatt

The Library of Congress has unveiled the list of this year’s 25 additions to the National Recording Registry.

Among the recordings – the Everly Brothers 1960 hit “Cathy’s Clown”, which was recorded at the RCA “Studio B” in Nashville.

Earlier this year, Muhlenberg County held a celebration of life for Phil Everly, who died January 3rd.  Everly and his brother Don held a series of charity concerts in their family’s hometown in Western Kentucky in the 1980s and 1990s.    

Muhlenberg Community Hospital

A new multi-year agreement means Owensboro Health will be taking over operations at Muhlenberg Community Hospital.  The three-year contract officially takes effect May 1st, but hospital officials say the transition process has already begun.  Owensboro Health President and CEO Philip Patterson says his company was looking for a “new and emerging” partner. 

“We, as Owensboro Health are not looking to own all the hospitals and health networks of western Kentucky,” said Patterson "We’re looking for those established networks that will allow us to partner and bring the best and highest-quality of care to western Kentucky." 

Patterson says residents in Muhlenberg County won’t notice any drastic, immediate changes. 

“Our hope is that they will not see any significant change when it comes to the staffing or the look of Muhlenberg Community Hospital, unless it’s to the betterment of the hospital itself,” said Patterson.

Ed Heath, who has been with Owensboro Health since 2008, has been named the CEO of Muhlenberg Community Hospital. He’ll oversee the hospital’s 450 employees. 

Lisa Autry

For the first time since a house fire killed his wife and eight of his nine children, Chad Watson shared his story Sunday, just days after leaving the hospital and returning home to Muhlenberg County. 

A packed auditorium at Muhlenberg County High School sang worship songs and joined in prayer, but when Chad Watson took the stage, you could hear the proverbial pin drop. 

With his burned hands still bandaged, Watson said as the father of nine healthy and vibrant children, he considered himself the most blessed man on earth.

"That night as Kylie and I waited for an ambulance to come, all I could think of was 'It's being taken away,' and the only one who can stop it is allowing it to happen," Watson said passionately.

He choked back tears, but otherwise the preacher by trade was right at home as he read scripture and spoke of his unwavering faith in God in the most trying time.

“He is the one, no matter what happens, no matter what we think He should have done, no matter what we think He could have done, no matter what we think of His plan, He is the only one that has any true comfort to offer," Watson told the audience.

A father and daughter who were injured in a tragic house fire that killed nine other family members returned home Saturday to a community parade.

Chad and 11 year old Kylie Watson arrived in Greenville to signs, balloons and cheers from well-wishers. The parade ended at Calvary Baptist Church in Central City, where there was a celebration for their return.

Kylie and her father were injured on January 30 when some type of combustible material fell against a baseboard heater in a bedroom. the blaze killed La Rae "Nikki" Watson and eight of her children aged 4 to 15.