Advocacy Group Says Kentucky ‘A Center’ For Illegal Cockfighting Breeding Thursday, Aug 6 2020 

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An animal rights advocacy group published a report Thursday that says Kentucky is “a center” for illegal cockfighting breeding that ships tens of thousands birds across the world to the Philippines, Mexico, and other countries.

The Animal Wellness Action report details video interviews and social media posts of seven suspected breeders, ranging from Bowling Green in west Kentucky to Manchester in east Kentucky, as evidence of these operations.


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Poultry Plants Allowed To Operate Faster Amid COVID-19 Outbreaks Among Workers Thursday, Aug 6 2020 

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Tyson Foods sought and received federal permission to increase the operating speed at poultry processing plants in Kentucky and southern Indiana even as public health officials reported dozens of coronavirus cases among Tyson workers. Now, a union representing workers at meatpacking plants in Kentucky and southern Indiana is one of several plaintiffs suing the federal government over waivers that allowed Tyson Foods and other companies to operate faster.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) granted waivers in April to several plants across the country, including to Tyson Foods plants in Henderson County, Kentucky, and Corydon, Indiana, near Louisville. The waiver program, which started in 2018 following USDA denying a petition from an industry group to remove processing limits, allows select poultry slaughterhouses to increase their top processing speed from 140 to 175 birds per minute.


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Mine Safety Agency Should Do More To Protect Coal Miners In The Pandemic, Oversight Office Finds Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 

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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 General concluded that MSHA could do more to track coronavirus cases among coal miners, address a growing backlog of inspections, and mandate safety precautions underground.


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‘No Pay, We Stay.’ A Look Back At Miners’ Protest That Rocked Appalachia Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 

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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. A billboard advertises Portal 31, a coal town tourist attraction. 

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.


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Power Failure: A Massive Bribery Scheme Could Change Ohio Valley Energy Systems Monday, Jul 27 2020 

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One of the country’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, with a large presence in the Ohio Valley, has emerged at the center of a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme related to Ohio’s controversial energy bill that bailed out several struggling nuclear and coal plants 

On Tuesday, federal investigators arrested one of Ohio’s top lawmakers, House Speaker Larry Householder and some of his associates, in connection with the scandal. Dave DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said that in exchange for the $1.5 billion bailout contained in the controversial legislation, known as H.B. 6, utility FirstEnergy Corp., identified as Company A, funneled nearly $61 million into a dark money group controlled by Householder and his political allies. 

FirstEnergy Corp. executives ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2018.


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Plan To ‘Reimagine Appalachia’ Touts Jobs, Justice And Sustainability For The Ohio Valley Wednesday, Jul 22 2020 

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A coalition of progressive policy and environmental groups has released a “blueprint” that provides a framework for how Ohio Valley communities could reap the benefits of federal action to address climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, titled “Reimagine Appalachia” envisions a future economy for the traditionally extraction-based economies of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania that builds on the region’s other natural resources, creates well-paying jobs and positions the Ohio Valley at the forefront of addressing climate change.


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Q&A: Pandemic Expert On Ohio Valley Mask Orders, School Reopening Monday, Jul 20 2020 

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Dr. Gerald Keusch is a professor of medicine and international health at Boston University, and the director of the Collaborative Research Core at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory. He answered your questions back in April, and joined us again to discuss masking orders, school reopening, and the politicization of science.

The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

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Surging Coronavirus Cases Threaten To Derail Reopening In Ohio Valley Monday, Jul 20 2020 

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At the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green, Kentucky, vendors and shoppers are adjusting to the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes wearing face coverings, maintaining distance, and taking other precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

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Ohio Valley Coal Groups React To Biden’s Clean Energy, Climate Plan Thursday, Jul 16 2020 

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Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s $2 trillion clean energy plan is drawing praise from organizations that work with coal communities on economic transition, but mixed reactions from union officials and industry groups.

The plan, released Tuesday, would boost investment in clean energy and rebuild infrastructure in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.The platform frames decarbonizing the economy as a jobs creator. Of note, the plan calls for a carbon-free power sector by 2035, upgrading 4 million buildings and weather proofing 2 million homes, and boosting investment in zero-emissions transportation.

It also includes environmental justice components and explicitly mentions a commitment to invest in coal country and workers who may be displaced by a shift away from fossil fuels.


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Fees Could Go Up By More Than 1,000% For Some Kentucky Food Producers Under New Rule Wednesday, Jul 15 2020 

A proposed rule in the Kentucky Department of Public Health would raise the permitting fees for small-scale food producers in the commonwealth. Some producers worry the increase could put them out of business.

The regulation would impact 536 food producers and would change the fee structure for food safety inspection from one based on the size of a facility to one based on risk. Inspection fees for low-risk products like coffee, cosmetics and grains would cost $750 each year; medium-risk producers, such as those making baked goods, jams and jellies, syrups and candy, would pay $1350 each year; and high-risk products including peanut-butter, pickles, salads and sandwiches would set producers back $2,400 annually.

The rule would affect producers operating out of commercial kitchens who have permits to sell online, wholesale, or across state lines. It would not affect producers operating out of unpermitted home kitchens.

“We’re hardly breaking even, so for them to try to raise this [fee], it’s going to shut us down,” said Sheryl Long, who produces maple syrup and other value-added goods at SouthDown Farm in Letcher County. The regulation would raise the yearly fee to inspect their sugar shack from $120 to $1,350, an increase of 1,035 percent. Sheryl and her husband Seth Long also produce some goods at a nearby community kitchen, which would mean another $1,350 expense each year.

Documents filed with the Legislative Research Commission show that the regulation would raise more than $1 million per year from 613 food manufacturers and cosmetics producers.

The potential fee increase has raised concern in the Department of Agriculture, where Commissioner Ryan Quarles has committed to filing a formal comment with his colleagues at the Department of Public Health.

“When we first learned about a potential fee increase on our food-based processors across the state, of course we were concerned,” Quarles said in an interview with the Ohio Valley ReSource. “As we open up our economy, a lot of these small businesses are already in a fragile financial state, and so we need to have extra caution about any cost of business changes.”

The rule would add new types of facilities to those that require food safety inspection by the Department of Public Health. Those include grain elevators, which are currently overseen by the Department of Agriculture, and food banks, which are not currently subject to inspection by DPH.

Tamara Sandberg is the Executive Director of Feeding Kentucky, a network of seven food banks and 400 food pantries across the commonwealth. She said since she learned of the proposed rule, she polled Feeding Kentucky members, and only one respondent had heard anything directly about the proposal.

“We’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to make sense of it and where food banks fit. It’s kind of hard to understand if and how food banks are included,” Sandberg said. “The larger regional food banks that make up our network may be more likely to absorb some of the additional costs if they’re implemented, but we’re particularly concerned about smaller, more rural food pantries throughout Kentucky that are run completely by volunteers. This is something that could be very problematic for them to address, at the same time we’re already struggling because of the pandemic.”

In addition to running SouthDown Farm, Seth Long is the president of the Kentucky Maple Syrup Producers Association, which believes maple syrup could become a valuable niche crop in Appalachian Kentucky. He worries the new regulation would be a powerful disincentive for a small farmer thinking about getting into the maple syrup industry.

“In this post-coal economy, especially here in central Appalachia, we seek to diversify our economy. And I think agricultural pursuit can be a real economic driver,” Long said. “I think when starting producers see $1,350 to get started, it’ll be a limiting factor for them.”

DPH did not respond to emailed questions about this story. The department is accepting public comment on the rule until August 31.

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