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

Becca Schimmel

Thelma Daulton goes to the salon to get her hair done at the same time every Friday. She gets picked up at her house and greeted by one of many familiar faces from the Rural Transit Enterprises, Coordinated, or RTEC.

Daulton is 95 years old and has been riding the public transit system in Somerset, Kentucky, for about 15 years. Daulton said her daughter would like for her to move closer to Bowling Green, but Daulton likes her community and has no intention of leaving.


Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to end the Clean Power Plan is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to support the struggling coal industry. The Department of Energy is also pushing a new way to subsidize coal power. But a new study suggests market forces -- not regulations -- will still make more coal power plants in the region vulnerable.

Ohio Valley lawmakers and industry leaders overwhelmingly support the move to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s announcement is welcomed relief.


Matewan (1987) Dir. John Sayles; Alexandra Kanik

Thirty years ago the premiere of a small-budget, independent film had an outsized effect on how many people in Appalachian coal country thought about their region and their past.

“Matewan,” directed by John Sayles, depicted a bloody chapter in the fight to organize coal miners in the 1920s, exploring themes of class struggle and pacifism in a style that evoked classic Western movies. The film earned an Academy Award nomination for its cinematography and helped establish some of its actors, including David Straithairn, Mary McDonnell and Chris Cooper.


Becca Schimmel

A bipartisan Congressional group from the Ohio Valley and beyond introduced a new bill to save pensions for retired union coal miners throughout the region.

The American Miners Pension Act, or AMP, would secure pensions for about 43,000 miners in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia whose retirement benefits have been undermined by the decline of the coal industry.

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Congress acted to protect miners’ health benefits last year but pensions got kicked down the road.


Wikipedia

When health care and law enforcement officials met recently at a health policy forum in Lexington, Kentucky, to share ideas about the opioid crisis, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear listed some groups that have benefited from money won in a 2015 settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

“We had Freedom House in Louisville and Independence House in Corbin. We had the Chrysalis House in here in Lexington. Hope in the Mountains, that was going to have to shut down, in Prestonsburg,” he said.

Manchin Opposes Trump’s Mine Safety Nominee

Sep 27, 2017
Courtesy office of Sen. Manchin

West Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin will not support the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the federal agency in charge of mine safety. 

Manchin said in a statement that he will not support David Zatezalo to lead the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. Zatezalo, a Wheeling, West Virginia, resident and former coal company executive, was named as Trump’s pick for the post in early September. 

Manchin said that after reviewing Zatezalo’s qualifications and safety record during his time in the coal industry, he is “not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Facebook Founder Visits Rural Kentucky Schools

Sep 26, 2017
Bruce Parsons

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in West Virginia and Kentucky over the weekend to see some innovative ways that schools are using new technology.

Zuckerberg has been traveling the country working on his New Year’s resolution to speak with people in every state. On Sunday, he met with educators and students from across Eastern Kentucky.

Students showed Zuckerberg a small mobile house, called a tiny home, that they built in a high school shop class. He also toured a drone assembly lab and took a moment to play a virtual reality video game with some students who designed it.

Photos by Kara Lofton, illustration by Jesse Wright, WVPB

Harvey. Irma. Maria. The hurricane season’s super-charged storms have highlighted the importance of disaster planning, and the aftermath offers a fresh lesson in just how long and difficult recovery can be.

Communities in the Ohio Valley, some still recovering from flash floods themselves, are looking at ways to prepare for what emergency management professionals warn is an era of more frequent extreme weather. 

It’s time, experts say, to get ready for the new normal.


Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Talks on renegotiating NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, are set for later this month and farm country is concerned about the potential fallout from a trade dispute. Pork producers are especially nervous about the implications of a threat from President Trump to place a 20 percent tariff on Mexican food imports.

"Mexico is one of the largest markets for pork from the United States,” said Jimmy Tosh, owner of Tosh Farms, the 24th largest pork production company in the country. “I think if Mexico doesn't get favorable treatment we may have a 20 percent tariff imposed on our pork going to Mexico."


Mary Meehan

Edwin Hall is dressed in a footed onesie covered in the pastel shades of monkeys and hippos. Although Edwin’s just seven weeks old he already tells his mom when he’s hungry with a sharp and persistent yelp.

Soon after he gets her attention, Edwin is practicing his sucking technique. His mom, Sarah, with the dazed look of the sleep deprived, talks with a La Leche League volunteer at the Madison County, Kentucky, Health Department about some breastfeeding challenges.


MSHA

Lawmakers and union leaders are raising concerns about the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s practices amid an increase in coal fatalities.  

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin asked MSHA for more information after receiving what he calls “alarming” reports about how the agency is implementing its new Compliance Assistance Program.

In a September 7th letter, Manchin wrote that he’s heard of miners being denied the ability to assign a representative to accompany MSHA inspectors and that those inspectors have been instructed to leave their credentials behind before inspecting a mine.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jon Fleshman

Another breakdown at an aging lock and dam has halted river traffic on the Ohio in western Kentucky. It’s the second such interruption in less than a year for a stretch of river that carries some 90 million tons of cargo annually.

“A lot of commerce does go through that section and delays cost the industry money,” Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District public affairs officer Carol Labashosky said. “That’s a very, very important, crucial spot on the Ohio River.”

Nicole Erwin

Jacob Goodman drove toward a soybean field in western Kentucky in hopes of seeing something different. Most of the 2,500 acres of soybeans his family farms here in Fulton County haven’t been looking so good, but trees that line Running Slough River protect this plot.

“Where I’m gonna take you to right now, we have one field that hasn’t been affected,” he said. 

It’s been a week since he last checked this area. Goodman jumped out of the truck and approached a plant.


Rebecca Kiger

It’s been nearly one month since President Trump told a group of reporters he was declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency.

"The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency,”  the president said at his golf resort in New Jersey on August 10.

But in the weeks that have passed, health officials and addiction treatment specialists in the Ohio Valley states hardest hit by the epidemic said they have not heard from the administration and are still waiting to see details of an emergency plan.


MSHA

A rash of fatal coal mining accidents in the Ohio Valley region pushed the nation’s total number of mining deaths to a level not seen since 2015, sparking concern among safety advocates.

Already this year 12 miners have died on the job in the U.S., compared to eight fatalities in all of 2016. Two miners were killed in Kentucky and six in West Virginia.

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