Ohio Valley ReSource

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.

Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus

Anti-poverty activists say they will continue a campaign of demonstrations and civil disobedience throughout the Ohio Valley despite arrests at some events and being blocked from Kentucky’s capitol building.

The Poor People’s Campaign has rallied in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia and campaign leaders returned to Kentucky Wednesday after the group was denied access at earlier demonstrations.


Still from White House video

President Donald Trump told the Department of Energy to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the Ohio Valley region that are no longer economical to operate.

But a number of energy analysts say the administration’s unprecedented effort to prop up struggling utilities will do little to solve their underlying problems and will likely end up costing consumers more.  


UN Jean-Marc Ferre

The United Nations has just published a report on poverty in the U.S. based on a fact-finding tour that included parts of the Ohio Valley.

The UN report says that of the 40 million poor Americans about 5.3 million live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”

 

The study also suggests recent tax reforms will worsen the situation for U.S. citizens and ensure that the country remains the most unequal society in the developed world. UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Philip Alston was the report’s lead author. In an interview with the Ohio Valley ReSource, he said poverty has significant human rights implications.

“I think that if people are really living in very poor circumstances their ability to exercise a lot of their basic civil rights is greatly impaired,” he said.


Benny Becker

A new study from the Government Accountability Office finds that the federal fund supporting coal miners with black lung disease could be in financial trouble without congressional action. As NPR has reported, the GAO found that the fund’s debt could rise dramatically at the same time that black lung disease is surging.

Most federal benefits for coal miners disabled by back lung are paid from the Department of Labor’s Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which covers the cost for companies that have gone bankrupt.


Bruce Parsons, KVEC

Student teams from across the coalfields of eastern Kentucky came together at the Knott County Sportsplex, bringing with them drones that they themselves had built. It was time for the climax of this year-long project. A basketball court had been separated with nets, and padded gates marked a circuit course for the little flying machines.

Seth Hatfield was one of dozens thumbing the joysticks on a remote control, and making last minute adjustments to four colorful propellers on top of a machine that had taken a full school year of teamwork to build. It was time for the drone race.


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