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A scene from inside Portal 31.

Portal 31: How A Closed Mine Opened New Prospects For One Coal Town

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Devin Mefford is sitting in the squat metal buggy of a modified mantrip, the train-like shuttle coal miners use to travel underground. Mefford is dressed for work, in a hardhat and a navy shirt and pants with lime green reflective stripes. It’s a uniform his father and grandfather — both Kentucky coal miners — would… Read More

Piles of coal

EPA Proposes Changes to Federal Coal Ash, Wastewater Rules

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Federal environmental regulators released proposed changes to two rules related to the disposal of coal ash and wastewater from coal-fired power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced its third round of changes to its 2015 rule regulating coal ash. Coal ash is one of the largest waste streams in the country and often contains toxic… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Ohio-Based Coal Giant Murray Energy Declares Bankruptcy

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Murray Energy Corp., the largest underground coal mining company in America with a substantial footprint across the Ohio Valley, has filed for bankruptcy protection. “Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers… Read More

Water pouring

Advocacy Group Finds Traces Contamination In Many Regional Water Systems

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Tap water delivered by more than 2,000 water systems across the Ohio Valley contain pollutants, many harmful to human health, even though they mostly meet federal drinking water standards. That’s according to a newly-updated database released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. Millions of residents in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are being exposed to small amounts of… Read More

The Paducah Water lab tests a variety of different water samples

Ohio To Test For Toxic PFAS Chemicals In Drinking Water

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Ohio will begin testing some public and private water systems for the presence of toxic nonstick, fluorinated chemicals, broadly called PFAS. In a press release issued Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state’s environmental and public health agencies will analyze drinking water systems located near places with known contamination. That includes near firefighting training… Read More

Norton City Manager Fred Ramey poses at Flag Rock Recreation Area.

The Coal Town Betting Big On Outdoor Recreation

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Standing on the breezy outlook at Flag Rock Recreation Area, Norton City Manager Fred Ramey is taking in the panoramic view of downtown Norton, Virginia. The brick building-lined streets are framed by the verdant, rolling Appalachian mountains. Jagged, brown scars from mountaintop mining operations can be seen in the distance, reminders of the region’s history… Read More

Environmental groups posted signs in Shadyside, OH.

Settlement Reached Over Proposed Ohio Cracker Plant Air Permit

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Environmental groups have reached a settlement agreement with a petrochemical company  in Ohio to beef up air pollution controls at a proposed petrochemical plant along the Ohio River. Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical America and South Korea-based Daelim Industrial Co. have proposed building a multi-billion dollar ethylene cracker plant on a 500-acre tract of land in Belmont County,… Read More

Near the scene of the miners’ protest in Harlan Co., KY.

Paychecks Cut For Some Blackjewel Miners; Others Still Wait

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West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1. In an agreement reached last week between the Department of Labor and the company, Blackjewel cut paper checks for all owed wages to a few dozen employees working at the… Read More

Matt Hepler of the advocacy group Appalachian Voices.

Idle Lands: Justice Coal Group Top User Of Loophole Allowing Mine Lands To Sit Idle

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Standing at an overlook on the top of Black Mountain — the tallest point in Kentucky —  the wooded Appalachian mountains stretch on like a sea of green for miles. For many, this mountain is synonymous with the coal industry. It straddles the state line separating Harlan County, Kentucky and Wise County, Virginia, two communities… Read More

Mussel Woman: Biologist Passes Along Pearls Of Wisdom About Threatened Mussels

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Janet Clayton is standing thigh-deep in a back channel of the Elk River. Clad in a wetsuit and knee pads, the silver-haired biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reaches into a bright orange mesh bag submerged in water. Inside are a half dozen mussels she plucked from the rocky river bottom. “This… Read More

Piles of coal

Major Appalachian Coal Company Files For Bankruptcy Protection

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In the latest sign of problems for the U.S. coal industry, one of the country’s largest coal producers has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. West Virginia-based Revelation Energy LLC and its recently-formed affiliate, Blackjewel LLC, began the bankruptcy reorganization process in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Monday. The companies,… Read More

Gov. Justice takes the oath of office as his son James C. Justice III (center) looks on.

Coal Companies Belonging To WV Gov. Justice’s Family Agree To Pay Overdue Taxes In KY

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Coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have agreed to a settlement covering millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in four eastern Kentucky counties: Harlan, Knott, Magoffin, and Pike. Checks totaling $1.2 million from Justice entities began rolling in last week, county officials said. According to state officials, the… Read More

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice

Federal Prosecutors Say WV Gov. Justice Responsible For Fines Against Family Company

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Federal prosecutors on Tuesday said they will seek a court ruling to hold West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his son, Jay Justice, personally accountable for a $1.23 million civil fine imposed on one of the family’s coal businesses, Justice Energy Company, Inc. In a court filing, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West… Read More

Powering Down: Ohio Community Reckons With Coal Plant Closure

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Brick buildings line the wide sidewalks of Main Street in downtown Coshocton, Ohio. On a recent spring day the dogwood trees are blooming. Bright red and white tulips dot the grassy public square, home to the local courthouse and a gazebo. There are barber shops, an optometrist, a florist, a railroad-themed steakhouse is open for… Read More

Senators Seeking Faster EPA Action On PFAS Chemical Pollution

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A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito this week introduced two bills aimed at further regulating a group of toxic chemicals known as PFAS. The chemicals include PFOA, or C-8, used to make nonstick products and other similar chemicals used in flame retardants. They have been detected in at least… Read More

As Ohio Valley Ponders Plastics Growth, Report Warns Of Threat to Climate

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As a new plastics industry emerges in the Ohio Valley, a report by environmental groups warns that the expansion of plastics threatens the world’s ability to keep climate change at bay. The report released Wednesday by the Center for International Environmental Law, Environmental Integrity Project, FracTracker Alliance, and others used publicly available emissions data and original research… Read More

Rare Conservation Win In Congress Helps Ohio Valley Parks And Monuments

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The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s namesake is apparent upon stepping outside its visitors center in Williamstown, West Virginia. Gazing past bird feeders and the forested bank of the Ohio River, a skinny island looms large. “So Buckley Island is right across the water from us,” says Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge…. Read More

A miner is tested for lung function and signs of black lung disease

West Virginia Coal Miners Rally For Black Lung Legislation

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Miners and advocates rallied Wednesday at the West Virginia Capitol in support of a series of bills aimed at preventing and treating severe black lung disease. Five bills introduced by lawmakers would make it easier to make qualify for state benefits and provide benefits to miners who have early-stage black lung. The bills come at… Read More

Water pouring into water

EPA To Limit PFAS Chemical Contaminants Found In Some Ohio Valley Water Systems

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today said 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. In its long-awaited “PFAS Action Plan,” EPA laid out a series of actions to address the widespread contamination of fluorinated PFAS chemicals. Those… Read More

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

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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… Read More

EPA Plan to Manage Toxic ‘Teflon’ Chemicals Delayed by Shutdown

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During a sometimes contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday on his nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler was pressed by members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the impact of the government shutdown on the agency. Wheeler noted one casualty of the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its fourth… Read More

Fracking’s Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution

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More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both listen and have their say in front of Ohio environmental officials at a recent hearing in Belmont County, Ohio. For the three dozen or so people who testified, the stakes were high. The hearing at Shadyside High School focused on a nearly 300-page, densely technical, draft air… Read More

Shading Out Solar: State Policies In Ohio Valley Dim Future Of Energy Jobs

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When Jennie and Brian Kahly decided to move to a 150-acre family farm in West Virginia’s Preston County, they thought a lot about what type of farmers they wanted to be. “We went ahead and made a list of values, and one of those values was to minimize our fossil fuel use,” Jennie said. “That… Read More

Groups Say Smart Reclamation Of Mine Lands Could Be “Appalachia’s New Deal”

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From solar farms in Virginia to a green energy subdivision in Kentucky, a new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations highlights 20 ready-made projects across the Ohio Valley that could give abandoned mining operations that were never cleaned up a second life, and create new economic opportunity across the region. In the report, released Tuesday,… Read More

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice

Companies Sue WV Gov.’s Family Companies Over Debts But Find Bank Accounts Empty

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The Justice family companies’ difficulties paying taxes over the years are well documented. But tax collectors haven’t been the only ones trying to recover debts from companies once operated by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and now in control of his family. A review of court documents by the Ohio Valley ReSource found at least five cases in… Read More