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President Donald Trump speaks from the South Lawn of the White House on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Washington.

“False Hope” or Four More Years? Ohio Valley Stakeholders Reflect On Trump Energy Policy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) — In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump was all-in on the fossil fuel industry. In a 2016 rally in Charleston, West Virginia, the candidate proudly accepted an endorsement from that state’s coal association, donning a hardhat while he mimed digging coal. To thundering applause, he promised to bring back coal jobs to the struggling… Read More

Piles of coal

Mine Safety Officials Won’t Do More To Protect Coal Miners From COVID-19, Letter Says

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) —The Mine Safety and Health Administration is declining to issue an emergency temporary standard that could protect coal miners whose jobs make them vulnerable to the coronavirus. That’s according to an August 14 letter from Department of Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Wheeler to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. MSHA can issue emergency temporary… Read More

This Aug. 22, 2018, file photo shows a sign declaring the future home of Braidy Industries' aluminum mill in Ashland, Ky.

Report On Russian Interference In Elections Raises Questions About KY Project

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ASHLAND, Ky. (OVR) — A new report from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in U.S. elections raises new questions about a struggling eastern Kentucky development project with ties to both Senator Mitch McConnell and the Russian government. The 966-page document, the result of a years-long bipartisan investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee,… Read More

Courtesy of Madison Buchanan

Student Journalists Document The Pandemic in Appalachia

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — “Hello,” the call began. “This is a prepaid debit call from an inmate at the Virginia Department of Corrections.” Madison Buchanan, a 19-year-old college student, pressed 0 to accept the call and was connected to Jacob Alan Shouse, Offender Number 1101441. “I want to thank you so much for helping me… Read More

Piles of coal

Oversight Office: MSHA Should Do More To Protect Miners In Pandemic

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) — The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has not done enough to protect coal miners during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from an oversight agency released Tuesday. Through interviews with MSHA officials and union representatives, as well as reviews of state and national policies, the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector… Read More

Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.

No Pay, We Stay: A Look Back at the 2019 Protest that Rocked Appalachia

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CUMBERLAND, Ky. (OVR) — It’s a quiet, foggy morning on Highway 119 in Cumberland, Kentucky. A railroad track runs along the highway, and here, Sand Hill Bottom Road crosses the tracks and turns to the right, leaving a rough triangle of gravel spattered with trash. You can hear crickets chirping, birds twittering, cars passing on 119…. Read More

Piles of coal

Ohio Valley Coal Companies Scored Tens Of MIllions In Paycheck Protection Loans

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — More than 50 Ohio Valley coal companies received loans totaling as much as $119 million through the Paycheck Protection Program meant to keep people employed during the pandemic’s economic downturn. Congress passed the PPP in March to help businesses keep employees on the payroll and out of unemployment lines. The data released… Read More

Advocacy Groups Unveil Plan For A 21st Century Coal-County Economy

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Environmental and economic advocacy groups from coal-producing parts of the country unveiled a policy agenda on Monday to help coal-reliant communities make a transition to a more sustainable future. The plan includes items that have long been on the wish list for groups like Appalachian Voices and the Just Transition Fund, both of which were… Read More

A caregiver tests a patient for coronavirus at University Hospitals, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

Rural Ohio Valley Counties Lack Sufficient Coronavirus Tests, Report Says

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — Just 15 percent of Kentucky counties meet minimum recommended coronavirus testing levels, according to a new report from health care company Castlight. Sixty-seven percent of West Virginia counties and 31 percent of Ohio counties met the threshold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that states have the capacity to test 1 percent… Read More

Federal Judge Threatens Jail Time as Coal Company Flouts Court Orders

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Coal company American Resources Corporation, which owns mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, is facing sanctions after failing to comply with a bankruptcy court’s orders, even after the company received $2.7 million in government aid meant for companies harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Indiana-based ARC purchased coal mines and equipment from bankrupt coal company Cambrian… Read More

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

Coal and COVID-19: Lung Impairment Makes Miners Especially Vulnerable to Coronavirus

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind… Read More

A screenshot of four people in a video conference

“We Belong to Each Other”: Appalachian Youth Build Support Amid Pandemic Uncertainty

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On March 17, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam banned gatherings of 10 or more people to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Mekyah Davis, 23, was in his second week of a new job waiting tables at the cryptid-inspired Wood Booger Grill in Norton, Va. “That week, [my boss] cut the schedule,” Davis recounted. “Everybody only had one… Read More

David Pratt Jr. and Sr., right and second from right, protest former employer Blackjewel in summer 2019.

‘There’s Going To Be Something Better for Him’: Former Blackjewel Miners Reflect on Changes in Coal Country

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On a blistering August afternoon in Cumberland, Kentucky, David Pratt, Jr. stood in the middle of a two-lane highway, holding a sign that read “COAL MINERS AND TRUCKERS AGAINST CORPORATE AMERICA.” A few yards away, his father, David Pratt Sr., who is graying but still muscular, leaned back in a lawn chair perched precariously on… Read More

Coronavirus

Anxiety In Appalachian Coal Country: First The Mines Closed, Then Came Coronavirus

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As the economic fallout from the coronavirus continues to reshape our lives, small-town business owners are worried about the future. Whitesburg, Kentucky —  a town already struggling from the decline in the coal industry — is grappling with a new and serious challenge as the effort to contain the disease brings deep economic pain. The… Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

Scientists, Mine Safety Officials Discuss Black Lung Protections

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Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration met for the first time with miners’ health researchers Wednesday in a new partnership designed to discuss ways to better protect coal miners from the dust that causes black lung disease. In future meetings, representatives from the two agencies will discuss recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences… Read More

The site near Ashland, KY, where Braidy plans a new aluminum facility.

CEO Ousted at Kentucky Aluminum Company Amid Questions About Controversial Funding

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A controversial economic development project in Ashland, Kentucky, hit a snag last week as aluminum company Braidy Industries ousted CEO and board chairman Craig Bouchard. In a statement, Braidy Industries’ interim CEO said he appreciated Bouchard’s hard work for the company. Bouchard says the firing was improper and is refusing to step down. The dueling… Read More

Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.

Bankrupt Blackjewel Coal Still Racking Up Environmental Violations, Officials Warn

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An attorney for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet told a federal judge Wednesday that the bankrupt coal company Blackjewel has accrued nearly 300 environmental violations since it entered bankruptcy in July. “It’s essential that these violations are addressed, abated, and that they stop accruing,” Cabinet attorney Lena Seward told bankruptcy judge Frank Volk in the… Read More

A grocery store

Grocers in Rural Coal Country Struggle to Stay in Business

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There’s a picture frame on the wall next to the customer service desk in the IGA in Inez, Kentucky. Inside the frame is a scrap of beige meat-counter paper, on which a man named Derle Ousley sketched the layout for an ad announcing the opening of his very first grocery store. “Inez Supermarket Grand Opening,”… Read More

Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., KY

More Unpaid Appalachian Miners Stage a Coal Train Blockade

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For the second time since summer, eastern Kentucky coal miners are blockading a railroad track to protest unpaid wages. The new blockade, which was started Monday afternoon by Quest Energy miners, echoes the months-long blockade by Blackjewel coal miners over the summer and speaks to a growing discontent in Appalachian coal country. “It’s hard to go… Read More

A mountaintop removal mine site in southern West Virginia.

Study Shows Surface Coal Miners are Exposed to Toxic Dust that Causes Black Lung

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Appalachian surface coal miners are consistently overexposed to toxic silica dust, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and surface mine dust contains more silica than does dust in underground coal mines. The research is the first to specifically analyze long-term data on exposure to toxic silica dust for workers… Read More

Participants documented many exposures to cigarette smoke. Kentucky and West Virginia have the nation’s highest smoking rates.

Mountain Air: Youth Help Identify Causes of Ohio Valley’s High Lung Disease Rates

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Isabella Back, 18, pulls her jacket tight around herself as she crosses the gravel driveway. “So we’re going about 10 feet from my house to my dad’s workshop,” she says, and pushes through a door in a big, red barn. The Kona, Kentucky, shop is crowded with cluttered work tables and hulking machines, and the… Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

MSHA Comment Period Shows Divide on Measures to Protect Miners Health

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The comment period has closed for the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rule on respirable silica, a major contributor to skyrocketing rates of lung disease among coal miners. The 49 relevant comments included a striking testimony from an anonymous coal miner sharing details of the ways in which current mine operators cheat on dust… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Black Lung Trust Fund Likely Burdened by Murray Bankruptcy

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The recent bankruptcy of Murray Energy is likely to significantly increase the debt of a struggling federal trust fund that supports disabled miners’ health care expenses. According to court filings, Murray Energy could be responsible for as much as $155 million under the Black Lung Act and general workers’ compensation, but testimony from the Government Accountability… Read More

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Blackjewel Miners Get More of Their Pay as Labor Dept. Acts Against Bankrupt Company

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Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month… Read More