Ohio Valley ReSource

Fracking Waste Disposal: Still A Hot Mess

Feb 16, 2018
Bill Hughes

The slogan for Estill County is “where the bluegrass kisses the mountains.” But since 2015 the county, population 15,000, is widely known as the place where radioactive material generated by the oil and gas industry in a process known as fracking was dumped near some schools.

As the Ohio Valley ReSource reported in 2016, tons of waste from the drilling practice known as fracking was hauled from state to state before being improperly disposed of in a county landfill not designed to hold radioactive material.


Adelina Lancianese, photos; Alexandra Kanik, illustration.

The central Appalachian coalfields are in the middle of an unprecedented epidemic of severe black lung disease. In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association federal researchers released the results of a study conducted at just three black lung clinics. The study confirmed 416 cases of the most severe form of black lung disease, Progressive Massive Fibrosis.

According to the authors, it’s the largest number of severe black lung cases ever documented, and one of the worst industrial epidemics in American history.


ICE

With Congress in a heated immigration debate, the Ohio Valley region is adding to its immigration courts. Sources within the Justice Department say Kentucky will have a new immigration court operating in Louisville as soon as April, and Ohio is adding additional judges to handle deportations and other immigration cases.

Recent immigration changes and heated rhetoric have left many people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia with an uncertain future and lawyers and courts with a backlog of cases.


Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

At a recent conference in Lexington, Kentucky, economists and community leaders gathered to talk about the state’s current budget crunch and possible economic future. Peter Hille, president of Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, said Kentucky and other Appalachian states need to do more to build a new economy and move from dependence on a single source.

“Because coal played such a dominant role, it took the oxygen out of the room for the development of other sectors of the economy,” he said.


USDA/Bob Nichols

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied a petition by the National Chicken Council to remove the speed limit on work at some slaughterhouses, a move that food safety advocates are calling a victory for workers and consumers.

As the Ohio Valley ReSource reported in October, the National Chicken Council proposal could have increased the line speed for some workers in processing plants where accidents and injuries are already a concern.

Since then the USDA received more than 100,000 public comments and this week the department’s Food Safety Inspection Service turned the petition down. 


Trump Takes Enforcement Approach To Opioid Crisis

Jan 31, 2018
c-span video

President Donald Trump addressed the opioid crisis affecting the Ohio Valley region in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” he said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

But with few specifics and little money so far to carry out  the president’s plans, the public can only go off of what those in his administration have said. And that indicates an approach emphasizing law enforcement rather than funding for treatment.


White House video

When President Trump spoke to the American Farm Bureau annual convention this month he focused on the regulatory rollbacks and tax cuts that motivated many farmers to help vote him into office.

“We are doing a job for you,” Trump told an auditorium filled with farmers. “You’re seeing it like nobody else: regulation, death tax, so much.”

Dale Moore said farmers look to Trump for a better deal. Moore directs public policy for the Farm Bureau. He said net income for farmers hasn’t been this low since the Great Depression.


Mary Meehan

Remember the American Health Care Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or the Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act? They were among the many Congressional proposals to end the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

If 2017 was the year of endless Obamacare debates, 2018 could be the year when we see the effects on people who need health care the most. Some health experts in the Ohio Valley are concerned that the “forgotten” folks in rural America could lose access to basic health care as efforts continue to weaken the Affordable Care Act.


White House

Donald Trump told supporters on the campaign trail his plan to combat the opioid crisis. It included stopping the flow of drugs into the country, increase the penalties for drug trafficking, and make treatment more accessible.

“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” then-candidate Trump said.

In the first year of his presidency, that plan has developed partially due to the influence of people working on solutions to the epidemic in the Ohio Valley region. But as the one-year mark for the Trump administration approaches, public health officials in the region offer a mixed view of the president’s action.

Still from White House video

Donald Trump loves coal.

He campaigned on a promise to put miners back to work and his first year in office included numerous Ohio Valley visits to highlight coal’s importance.

“I love our coal miners and they’re coming back strong!” Trump said to a roaring crowd at an August rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

At a March rally in Louisville the message was the same. “We are going to put our coal miners back to work! They have not been treated well but they are.”


Mary Meehan

A small gaggle of reporters points their microphones at reproductive rights activist Marcie Crim as she bluntly decries  the shrinking access to abortion in the region. Crim stands just a few feet from the open door of the office of Governor Matt Bevin near the Capitol rotunda.

Crim and Bevin may be physically close in this situation, but they could not be further apart on the issue. They personify the opposing poles of the decades-old debate surrounding abortion.

Mary Meehan

Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

According to the Madison County jail task force, roughly 80 percent of the people incarcerated there are jailed on charges that somehow relate to addiction. County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor wants to try a different approach.


Analysis Shows Toxic Sites In Flood Zone

Jan 2, 2018
Wikimedia Commons User Markzvo

The Ohio Valley has long been home to some of the dirtiest industries in the nation. Coal, plastics, and chemical plants and their waste sites dot our river valleys. Even those no longer operational leave their legacy in the soil and water.

Distler Farm sits on the outskirts of Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Its pastoral name is misleading. During the 1970s it served as a landfill for liquid waste, including medical and agricultural refuse.


Mimi Pickering, WMMT

One evening this past November, angry customers and public officials filled a high school auditorium in Hazard, Kentucky, and took turns pleading with three members of the state’s public service commission.

Angie Hatton, a state legislator representing Letcher and Pike counties, presented the situation in historical terms. “This community that for two centuries has been powering our nation, we’re now struggling to keep our own lights on.”


Vivian Stockman and Southwings

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences is pursuing private funding to complete a study of the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining after the Trump administration ordered a halt to the scientific work.

The panel of scientists assembled by the National Academies was months into a study of the health effects of surface mining when the Trump administration’s Interior Department told them to stop work.  


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