Monday, October 5, 2015

Jury selection to resume in trial of ex-Massey Energy CEO

(AP) — Jury selection for the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will enter its third day on Monday.

Forty-two prospective jurors were excused on Thursday and 16 were dismissed on Friday.

Potential jurors are scheduled to return to the federal courthouse in Charleston at 9 a.m. Monday.

In a filing Friday afternoon, Blankenship's attorneys objected to a motion by The Charleston Gazette-Mail and West Virginia Public Broadcasting Inc. to open up the jury selection process.

The 65-year-old Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break mine safety laws and lying to financial regulators about safety procedures at the Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia. The mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 miners.

10 Kentucky schools win grants to visit state parks

Some Kentucky school students will be visiting a state park with the help of transportation grants from the Kentucky State Parks Foundation.

The third round of grants was announced recently for the following 10 schools:

—Flemingsburg Elementary in Fleming County, Brookside Elementary in Jessamine County and Southern Middle in Fayette County will visit Fort Boonesborough StatePark.

Letcher Middle in Letcher County and Tygart Creek Elementary in Carter County are going to Carter Caves State Resort Park.

—Greenup County Area Technology will travel to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park
—Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Jefferson County will visit E.P. "Tom" SawyerState Park

—Calloway County Middle plans to visit Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
—Whitney M. Young Elementary in Jefferson County will travel to Pine MountainState Resort Park

—Red Cross Elementary in Barren County will go to My Old Kentucky Home StatePark.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

KSP Investigates Robbery in Pike County

In the early morning hours of Saturday, October 4, 2015, Post 9 Pikeville received a 911 call of a robbery at the Belfry Seven Eleven in Pike County. 

Troopers responded to the scene and determined that three unidentified subjects entered the business and assaulted a male customer with a baseball bat.  The subjects proceeded to steal tobacco products before fleeing the scene on foot.

The initial investigation at the scene indicates all three subjects were male. One male was described as wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a white mask covering his face.  The second subject was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt with the third wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt.

The Kentucky State Police is asking the public for any information relating to this case, and can call the Kentucky State Police Post 09 at (606) 433-7711.  Callers can remain anonymous.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Jones’ bill returns 100 percent of coal severance revenue to coal producing counties

FRANKFORT –Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones pre-filed legislation today that would help create jobs and boost the economy in the state’s coal producing counties. His bill, cosponsored by Senator Johnny Ray Turner, would require that 100 percent of revenue from the coal severance tax return to Kentucky’s coal producing counties for that very purpose.
“The country may be recovering from the recession, but Kentucky, despite an overall increase in employment, still has regions where people are going through hard times,” said Jones, D-Pikeville. “That is especially true in eastern Kentucky where mining has played a vital role in the economic makeup of our area. Returning the coal severance money to these counties could be a critical step in job creation, economic development, and, frankly, in the future of eastern Kentucky.” 
The coal severance tax is approximately 5 percent levied on every ton of coal mined in Kentucky.   
In the past, 50 percent of revenue from the coal severance tax has been prorated for expenditures in coal producing and coal affected counties. However, with the declining tax receipts, Jones said all the tax revenue need to go to these counties to allow them to focus on creating jobs – the original intent of the tax.
“The coal severance revenue should be allocated for improvements to the infrastructures to better equip these counties to attract new business and industry,” he said. “Better roads and bridges, modern water and sewer lines/facilities, and enhanced public safety are components necessary for developing an area and making it a viable place for new businesses and industry to locate. We need them to come to eastern Kentucky and we need them to bring more jobs. Jobs are the lifeblood of our community’s success and we need to create more of them to address the deficiency in our job market.”
Jones’ legislation mandates that all the revenue return to the coal producing counties.
“With mining communities suffering, we must take a more aggressive stance in creating new jobs,” said Jones, who represents the 31st district that includes Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan and Pike counties. “As a lifelong resident of a coal-producing region, this Pike Countian can tell you unequivocally that we cannot afford to lose any more jobs in our coal producing counties. Now, perhaps more than ever, all the coal severance tax revenue needs to return to the counties from where it generated. And, truthfully, this legislation is long overdue.”
Turner, D-Prestonsburg echoes the importance of this piece of legislation
“The loss of mining jobs and decline in coal severance revenue puts us at a crossroads in eastern Kentucky,” said Turner, who represents the 29th District that includes Floyd, Letcher, Knott and Harlan. “We have to have the infrastructures in place in order to get companies and investments to locate in our region. The improvements from these funds will lead to the creation of new jobs. The intent of the coal severance tax was to increase job opportunities in our coal counties. This legislation will result in new jobs and more economic development."
County judge executives from the coal producing counties support the legislation and agree on its impact and importance in creating more jobs.
“I have seen the decrease in our coal severance money and the results thereof.  It is very difficult to continue to fund our much needed road and bridge projects with half the money we used to receive to work with,” said Lawrence County Judge Executive John Osborne.  “I support having 100 percent of coal severance revenue be returned to coal producing counties.”
“We are seeing a strain on budgets in coal producing counties because of the reduction in the LGEA and coal severance funds due to the loss of coal production and jobs,” said Floyd County Judge Executive Ben Hale.  “Returning 100 percent would be a big boost to coal producing counties.”
“I admire Senators Turner and Jones for filing this piece of legislation for coal producing counties during these difficult times,” said Harlan County Judge Executive Dan Mosley. “This is a very meaningful piece of legislation for us as we’re trying to balance our budgets.  For many years, money has been taken out of coal producing counties. Today, we still have counties that are underserved I the areas of water and sewer. One hundred percent would definitely help our region with economic development and infrastructure.”
“Returning 100 percent of coal severance tax dollars back to the communities in which the coal is mined is not only the fair thing to do, but also financially prudent,” said Letcher County Judge Executive Jim Ward.  “This will help us diversify our economy and increase job prospects while also ensuring basic services are provided to our citizens.”
"In Knott County, our severance tax proceeds have dropped from $5 million to $1 million in the last two years alone,” said Knott County Judge Executive Zach Weinberg. “This drastic drop in revenue has hit every coal producing county in eastern Kentucky. We need the return of all of our severance tax dollars to our counties to provide essential services to our citizens. Support for a bill to return all severance taxes to the county of origin is the best economic development tool available to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It will drive economic growth in both eastern and western Kentucky in this time of transition.”

The Kentucky General Assembly may consider this coal severance legislation when it convenes in January.

KSP Investigates Double Fatal Collision in Magoffin County

The Kentucky State Police is investigating a two vehicle, double fatality collision that occurred in the afternoon hours on Thursday, October 1, 2015. It occurred approximately seven miles west of Salyersville on the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway.

KSP Pikeville Post received a call from Magoffin County 911 requesting assistance with the collision. The preliminary investigation at the scene revealed that Alma Elliott, 20, of Martin, was operating her vehicle on KY 114. Kayla Allen, 22, of Van Lear, was a passenger in the vehicle. As Elliott was traveling west, her vehicle entered the east bound lane, striking a vehicle operated by Janet Stephens. Stephens was transported from the scene by Trans Star EMS to UK Hospital for injuries sustained in the collision.

The Magoffin County Coroner, Mark Jenkins, pronounced both Elliott and Allen deceased at the scene. Evidence at the scene indicates both Elliott and Allen were wearing their seatbelt at the time of the collision, and alcohol does not appear to be a factor.

Post 09 Accident Reconstructionist Trooper Jonathan Dixon is investigating the collision. 

Slow job growth predicted in West Virginia through 2020

(AP) — West Virginia University researchers are forecasting continued high unemployment in West Virginia.

The WVU College of Business and Economics released its annual West Virginia Economic Outlook report at a conference in Charleston.

West Virginia's unemployment rate in August was at 7.6 percent, the highest in the nation. The report says the unemployment rate is expected to remain at or above 7 percent through early 2016 before falling under 6 percent by 2019.

According to the report, jobs growth in West Virginia is estimated to increase by an average of 0.5 percent annually through 2020, far below the expected growth nationally of 1.2 percent.

The report says only 53 percent of the state's adult population is working or looking for work, the nation's lowest rate of labor force participation.

Feds, states, others oppose Patriot Coal reorganization plan

(AP) — Patriot Coal's latest reorganization is drawing opposition from the federal government, regulators in four states, environmentalists and others ahead of a bankruptcy court hearing on whether it should be approved.

Opponents say in motions filed this week that the plan is not feasible and contains provisions that violate bankruptcy law. A hearing on the plan is set for Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy in Richmond, Virginia.

The federal government and regulators in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia questioned how the company's environmental obligations will be fulfilled. They also criticized as overly broad provisions that would release future owners or operators from obligations, liabilities and causes of action.

Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 12. Blackhawk Mining won an auction for a majority of Patriot's assets.