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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

Piles of coal

UMWA Wants More Coronavirus Protections for Coal Miners

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The United Mine Workers of America is asking federal regulators to set uniform, enforceable guidelines to help protect coal miners from contracting COVID-19. In a letter dated Tuesday, March 24, UMWA President Cecil Roberts wrote to the Mine Safety and Health Administration requesting the agency issue a “safeguard” or “emergency standard” that would require coal mine operators… Read More

A triage tent set outside one of Brumage’s community health centers in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Ohio Valley Facing Pandemic With a Health System Hollowed Out by Hospital Closures


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As new cases of coronavirus mount in the Ohio Valley, health officials are bracing for an onslaught of patients and what could be unprecedented demand for beds, medical staff and specialized equipment. Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia have disproportionately high rates of people vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19. But the region’s capacity to treat… 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

Rural Hospital Sign

“We Can’t Get To Everybody”: Hospital Closures, Underfunded Health Centers Hinder Coronavirus Response

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Local public health departments and hospitals are on the front lines of facing the coronavirus throughout the Ohio Valley, yet the health professionals who run these facilities say years of underfunding and hospital closures have diminished these services that now face the crisis. Dan Brown, a former councilman for the riverside village of Bellaire, Ohio,… Read More

A meal being served at Beach School

Coronavirus School Closures Send Teachers, Parents Scrambling To Adjust

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School systems across the Ohio Valley are responding to the coronavirus pandemic by canceling face-to-face classes and extending spring breaks. That’s left teachers, administrators and parents scrambling to meet the unexpected challenges to care for, feed, and educate children while they are away from school. Ashley Blankenship has two school-age children in Athens, Ohio. One… Read More

Biologists tag and release a northern flying squirrel.

Glidepath to Recovery: Flying Squirrels and Spruce Forests Share Common Fate

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U.S. Forest Service district biologist Shane Jones stands on an overlook high up on West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain. Behind him lush, red spruce trees stand like sentinels on this frozen landscape. As he looks out, small patches of green dot what is largely a view of the barren, brown trunks of leafless hardwoods. More than… Read More

Chet Blankenship was buried in the lawn beside his home.

Clean Water Wanted: Contaminated Wells and the Legacy of Fossil Fuel Extraction

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“You seen that one with the tombstone up there?” seven-year-old Timothy Easterling asks, looking toward the grass just uphill from his home. “That’s my papaw.” Timothy’s grandfather Chet Blankenship died in 2016, at age 69. Blankenship lived on land he and his family have long owned at the end of a road atop Bradshaw Mountain… Read More

The coal power station on the border between WV and PA

Amid Climate Debate and Coal’s Decline, West Virginia Considers its Future

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On a recent soggy Wednesday evening, dozens of West Virginians packed a conference room inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center to discuss the need for a “just transition” for coal-impacted communities. As the nation grapples with climate change, the need for a fair transition for workers and communities that depend upon coal jobs and… Read More