Friday, May 29, 2015

West Virginia coal production to drop 39 percent by 2035

(AP) - West Virginia University researchers predict that state coal production will drop 39 percent compared with the industry's last high point in 2008.

The WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research released a report Thursday assessing coal production outlook over the next 20 years.

The forecast says production will fall from 115 million short tons in 2014, to 104 million short tons this year, to 98 million short tons in 2016.

Despite a moderate rebound from 2017 to 2020, production would drop to less than 96 million short tons in 2035. West Virginia produced 158 million short tons in 2008.

A 29-percent drop would hit the already struggling southern coalfields by 2035. Northern coalfields production would only drop somewhat.

The report attributes coal's continued downfall to various economic, environmental and regulatory factors.

80 Third District residents to lose Social Security benefits unless steps are taken

Eighty West Virginia residents in the Third Congressional District have been notified by the Social Security Administration that they will lose their disability benefits next month following an agency review of their cases.
The residents were granted benefits on appeal by former Social Security administrative judge David B. Daugherty who was caught up in a fraud scandal with Kentucky attorney Eric C. Conn and several doctors.
West Virginia Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins said Thursday those notified only have 10 days to contact Social Security or face losing their benefits as early as June 2. Jenkins said he’s fighting for more time.
“We are pushing for a window period (to give) the claimants an opportunity to truly develop their medical disability determination, not just have their checks immediately cut off,” Jenkins said.
Calls began coming into Jenkins’ office this week after the residents received their letters from Social Security. Rep. Jenkins said there was fraud in the Conn-Daugherty controversy but that doesn’t mean residents don’t have legitimate appeals.
“Clearly there were problems with the health care providers, the lawyer and the judge, but we may have individual claimants, through no fault of their own, are caught in this web of deceit,” he said.
The congressman said he did some checking Thursday and found the first time someone could get an appointment with a neurosurgeon to verify someone’s disability would be mid-August. He said more time is needed.

Approximately 1,500 cases are under review, most of those involving Kentucky residents. 

Mining Fatality in Pike County

A surface miner was involved in a accident and killed on the job in Pike County on Thursday.

The accident happened just before noon at Apex Mining in Phelps. The man died at the scene of the accident.

The name of the person killed isn't being released yet but more information will be released later regarding the accident.

Civil suit filed against Eric C. Conn in West Virginia

A civil lawsuit in Mingo County West Virginia takes aim at disabilities lawyer Eric C. Conn for an unspecified amount of damages.

The suit filed yesterday claims Conn performed legal malpractice.

The lawsuit stems from an investigation of Conn's clients who received a benefits suspension notice from the social security administration. A 2013 report by congressional investigators accused Conn of scheming with a West Virginia judge to improperly approve disability cases.

However, Conn's attorney, Kent Wicker, says that an investigation concluded no wrongdoing.

Review shows Bevin holding lead in Kentucky GOP primary

(AP) — State election officials say there are no changes to the vote totals from Kentucky's Republican primary for governor.

A review of absentee ballots and tallies from electronic voting machines confirms that Louisville businessman Matt Bevin leads state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by 83 votes.

But Comer can still challenge the results in court. He has until Friday to ask a judge to order a recount. But it will be expensive, and Comer will have to pay for it himself. The state Board of Elections will not certify results until June 8.

Thursday's review appeared to end one of the closest elections in state history. It sets up a race between Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in a rare off-year election that serves as a precursor to the 2016 presidential contest.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pike County Shooting

A police officer was involved in a shooting in the Wolfpit  community in Pike County. 

Police say the report of the shooting was received around 10:00 last night.

Authorities say they were responding to a shots fired call at the residence of 54 year old Donald May. Upon their arrival, police say May allegedly opened fire on them. Police returned fire striking May. 

May was taken to Pikeville Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. 

Authorities say May will be charged with four counts of attempted murder. May has been lodged in the Pike County Detention Center.

No additional recanvass requests following primary election

(AP) — No other candidates have requested a review of Kentucky's primary election results.

Tuesday was the last day candidates could ask the secretary of state to review the voting machines and absentee ballots in all of Kentucky's 120 counties. A competitive Republican primary yielded two such challenges, one for governor and the other for agriculture commissioner.

Matt Bevin leads James Comer by 83 votes in a race for the Republican nomination for governor that was too close to call on election night. Comer has not conceded and asked for a review the next day.

State Rep. Richard Heath asked for a review after losing to fellow state Rep. Ryan Quarles in the state agriculture commissioner's race by more than 1,400 votes.

The review is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Overdose reversal kits being supplied to more Ky. hospitals

(AP) — A northern Kentucky hospital system on the front lines of treating heroin overdoses will be supplied with naloxone kits to send home with overdose patients. An emergency nurse manager says the overdose reversal kits will save lives.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and first lady Jane Beshear announced Tuesday that about 500 kits will be distributed to the five hospitals operated by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. The kits will be provided free of charge to every overdose patient discharged from the system's hospitals.

Naloxone is available in injectable or nasal mist forms. The drug can quickly reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

Conway — the state's Democratic nominee for governor — says the kits will get the medicine in the hands and homes of people who need it most.

Sen. Mitch McConnell working on memoir

(AP) — Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is working on a memoir.

The Kentucky Republican told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he planned to tell both his personal story, including overcoming polio as a child in Alabama, and the story of his long career in public life.

Known as one of Washington's savviest politicians, the 73-year-old McConnell said he wanted to share "the lessons" he has learned. He expects to meet with publishers over the summer.

McConnell: 2016 goal is to maintain, not grow, GOP majority

(AP) — Mitch McConnell says he expects to maintain but not grow the U.S. Senate's Republican majority next year.

The Senate majority leader said Tuesday the GOP's chances of gaining seats are "pretty slim" because Republicans must defend 24 seats compared to the Democrats' 10. Plus, Republicans will field candidates in several states dominated by the presidential election, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois. He said Republicans "regretfully" have an open seat in Florida because Marco Rubio is running for president and not re-election at the same time, as McConnell's fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul plans to do.

McConnell told the Elizabethtown Rotary Club that Republicans have a chance to gain seats in Nevada, where Sen. Harry Reid is not seeking re-election, and Colorado where Republicans defeated an incumbent last year.

Appalachian Power president defends rate increase

Even with this week’s approved rate increases for customers of Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, one company executive maintains thousands of West Virginians are still getting good prices for electricity.
 “Before people rush to judgment about how the company is run or what we do or think that they can do it better, they really (need to) look at the underlying costs of providing electricity because this is no longer a declining cost business,” said Charles Patton, Appalachian Power’s president and chief operating officer.
The initial hike, set to take effect immediately, will be 11.8 percent. Once fully implemented, the increases will add up to $19.50 more each month for average customers.
Such costs are paid in a largely rural state that, Patton said, poses unique problems for the power system.
The company’s original proposal was for an additional $226 million.
The $123 million rate increase the state Public Service Commission approved Tuesday for both Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power included $79 million in base rate increases for infrastructure improvements throughout the system along with $44.5 million in surcharges to fund a new vegetation management program.
There are different increase percentages for customer classifications, meaning commercial and industrial customers will not see hikes as high as 16.1 percent.
Appalachian Power last saw a rate increase in 2011, prior to the devastating storms of 2012 in the forms of the June derecho and October’s Superstorm Sandy.
Together, Wheeling Power and Appalachian Power, both American Electric Power subsidiaries, serve 24 West Virginia counties.

W.Va. joins list of states with abortion ban at 20 weeks

Abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy, in most cases, are now illegal in West Virginia. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act took effect on Tuesday, making the Mountain State one of nearly a dozen states with such a ban.
“I’m proud of our folks here in the state for passing this legislation because I think the people of the state want it,” Dr. Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life, one of the leading supporters of the legislation, said Wednesday
“This is very important legislation and a new step nationally for us in the pro-life movement.”
But Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free, a reproductive health, rights and justice organization, called it a “sad” day.
“It’s beyond politics. This is about healthcare for pregnant women. It’s a mean-spirited bill that is really going to hurt providers who bring life into this world and women who want nothing more than to be mothers,” she said of the legislation that deals with the kinds of abortions that are rare in West Virginia.
Six were performed in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new law found wide support within the Legislature where supporters of it argued the state has a duty to protect an unborn child or fetus once that unborn child or fetus can feel pain, a time that, they argued, was at 20 weeks.
“The leading medical experts in this country and this state absolutely refute claims of fetal pain at 20 weeks,” Chapman Pomponio maintained. “It does seem that the ultimate goal is to test viability, to challenge Roe (v. Wade) and, when we’ve seen these bills be challenged in the courts, they have been blocked.”
Franz said the U.S. Supreme Court should ultimately take up the issue of fetal pain.
“I believe that the case can be made. I think that the science is there and I think that the compassion is there. People do not want these babies suffering,” she said.
“As long as they thought that we just had a bunch of tissue that was being removed, like a bad tooth, then people didn’t mind the idea of abortion,” Franz said. “But, if you’re thinking of real, human, living, sentient beings who feel pain the way we do, I don’t think the American public wants those children slaughtered that way.”
Earlier this year, both the state Senate and state House of Delegates voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s 2nd veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in as many years. It was the first successful override of a governor’s veto in West Virginia since 1987.

Tomblin had said he believed banning abortions after 20 weeks was unconstitutional, though state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has promised to defend the law — if it’s challenged in court.

State officials weigh in on new EPA waters rule

After the EPA and the Obama Administration announced its final Waters of the United States rule Wednesday, state officials weighed in on the negative affects of the measure.
The rule will define which waterways fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito thought it was another example of the EPA overstepping its bounds.
“The final WOTUS rule announced today is deeply troubling,” Capito said in a statement. “Rather than incorporating input from Congress and concerned Americans, this rule doubles down on overreach and threatens to impede small businesses, agriculture, and coal and natural gas production.”
The West Virginia River coalition supported the new rule, noting that more than half of West Virginians drinking water is supplied by small streams protected under the rule.
“This is a good day for water drinkers, river users, and wildlife in West Virginia,” said Executive Director Angie Rosser. “Our state’s headwater streams supply the drinking water sources for millions of people; this rule is important for the health of our communities and everyone downstream.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin condemned the rule and urged action against it, saying it would negatively impact West Virginia’s economy.
“This rule will certainly have a significant impact on West Virginia’s economy, hindering businesses, manufacturing and energy production,” Manchin said. “The bottom line is that no federal agency should go around Congress to control what has not been legislated, especially when its actions will harm economic growth.”

U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins agreed, saying in a release that the rule was “another attempt by the federal government to impose more regulations on West Virginians.” He felt the EPA had no place imposing regulations on private lands.

State Police release Memorial Day and Buckle-Up Week statistics

The West Virginia State Police released the results of All-American Buckle-Up Week from May 18-25 and Memorial Day Weekend from May 22-25.
There were over 1,600 seat belt violations and 72 child restraint violations during Buckle-Up Week.

Memorial Day weekend saw 91 collisions, 51 DUI arrests and over 1900 speeding tickets. Eleven of the crashes were related to alcohol.

Fatal ATV Crash in Lincoln County, W.Va.

A person died Wednesday night in an ATV crash in the Sod area, Lincoln County 911 dispatchers say.

The crash was reported at 7:42 p.m. on Buckeye Fork.

West Virginia State Police in Hamlin are investigating the accident.

No other details are being released at this time.

Police Shooting in Pike County

An officer-involved shooting happened late Wednesday night in the Wolfpit area of Pike County.

Initial reports indicate one person was injured.

The incident was reported just after 10 p.m.

Kentucky State Police are handling the investigation.

No other details are available at this time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beshear leading trade mission to Canada

(AP) — Gov. Steve Beshear is leading a trade mission to Canada, which is Kentucky's largest trade partner.

The governor's office says more than a dozen Kentucky small businesses will be matched with Canadian businesses and distribution networks during the trip. The Kentucky companies represent a variety of industries.

The meetings are aimed at allowing Kentucky companies to form partnerships and begin selling products to Canada.

The Kentucky delegation will make stops in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. The group is scheduled to return to Kentucky on May 30.

State officials say Kentucky exported more than $7.6 billion in products and services to Canada last year. Top exports include motor vehicles, auto parts and aerospace products.

High concerns in Wayne County following miner layoff announcement

State Delegate Don Perdue said Wayne County’s future is in peril following the announcement of more than 400 coal-mining layoffs during the Memorial Day weekend.
“Those layoffs have an extraordinary impact on Wayne County, not only from the point of view that many of those employees are Wayne County citizens, but also from the loss in tax base that our county will accrue from these layoffs and from the shut down of that mine,” said Perdue (D-Wayne, 19).
Nearly 1,800 West Virginia miners learned Friday they will face unemployment within 60 days, according to the state’s two largest coal producers, Alpha Natural Resources and Murray Energy.
Alpha Natural Resources blamed the layoffs at its Camp Creek operation near East Lynne on a low demand for coal and federal EPA regulations.
Touting the need to establishing new job opportunities, Perdue said, “Now it’s becoming even more critical for the benefit of all those folks that are going to be laid off at least at that mine that we are able to do that.”
The outward impact of the layoffs will be huge, Perdue said, with suppliers, support services and retailers such as grocery stores and gas stations feeling the pinch.
“As that employment becomes non-existent, than so do those revenues in retail.”
Calling West Virginia’s biggest problem a “lack of diversification,” Perdue said he hopes jobs will spring from the newly completed Heartland Intermodal Gateway in Prichard, a truck-rail transfer terminal that provides most of the state with a link to international markets. He said the transportation industry is “in our future” and that they need to accelerate this outlet.

“These are people that are out of work now. They’re going to have to respond to being out of work now, so we have to respond to the business of trying to create new jobs now.”

Appalachian Power granted double-digit residential rate increase

The state Public Service Commission approved an overall $123 million or 9 percent rate increase Tuesday for Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company but residential customers will pay more.
The order spells out different percentages of increases per customer classification and for residential customers the increase is 16.1 percent a month. The average residential customer will see an increase of $19.50 to their monthly bill, which state Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts thought is too high.
“Our position was that after evaluating the filing, we thought the appropriate level of expenses for the company would result in base rate increase of 3.49 percent,” Roberts said.
AEP Communications Director Jeri Matheny maintained that even with the increase that residential customers would still be paying below the national average. She said the increase is necessary to improve their service.
“We requested this increase about a year ago and it’s finally come to fruition,” Matheny said. “We need it mainly to improve our infrastructure. We’ve got a lot of aging infrastructure out there; the lines, the towers. And we need to invest in that to insure that electricity stays reliable and improves.”
The PSC has ordered a 1-year phase-in of the residential rate increases. The move will decrease the increase to 11.8 percent, a $14.30 increase for the average customer.
Matheny was “glad that the PSC had recognized some of the increasing costs of doing business.” Roberts felt that some further evaluation was needed of the long report, but initially the increase seemed excessive.
“We need to evaluate the order and analyze the issues addressed by the commission,” she said. “But on a first blush, this seems to be a very high increase for residential customers.”
Appalachian Power and the smaller Wheeling Power received approval to increase their base rates and approval for a surcharge to pay for a new vegetation clearing program. The PSC said the base rate increase is tied to a $407 million investment by Appalachian Power to bring its power plants into compliance with federal environmental regulations. The new vegetation program was ordered by the PSC following the 2012 derecho and Superstorm Sandy that happened later that year.

Manchin, Goodwin address drug epidemic at town hall style meeting

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin held a drug summit Tuesday night at WVU Parkersburg to address what is now widely being referred to as an epidemic in the state of West Virginia.
A delegation attended the summit that included residents, including former drug users, law enforcement, police officers and elected officials to discuss issues in a town hall format. Manchin addressed the issue, saying that the widespread use of drugs has affected almost everyone directly or indirectly.
“If you look around this room, whether you’re a policeman, or whether you’re just one of us out in the crowd, there’s not one person here that doesn’t know someone in their family or extended family who has not been affected,” Manchin told the crowd. “Not one of us. It is rampant, it is of epidemic proportions.”
Goodwin talked about how prescription drug abuse has led to heroin, which is so dangerous because of the unknown element of the drug.
“It’s not in a neat little package with 30 milligrams or even 80 milligrams of a controlled substance,” Goodwin said. “It can be 20 percent potency or 80 percent potency and you won’t know. Because of that, the chances of overdosing grow exponentially.”
He said that drug abuse accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the property crime in West Virginia counties. Manchin said that it wasn’t just a West Virginia problem.
“This is a national problem. It’s not just our state and West Virginia, or just Wood County,” Manchin said. “We have 19 counties in West Virginia that are currently designated high drug-trafficking areas.”
Goodwin said that the epidemic has affected both the smallest of small towns and big cities alike, but even as a federal prosecutor he knows it’s not an issue that can be fixed by arrests alone.
“We’ve prosecuted an investigated literally hundreds of drug dealers,” he said. “But enforcement is not enough. It takes education, it takes reaching out to schools, letting kids know the dangers that they face.”
Manchin told a story of a discussion in which a group of kids told him that the easiest place to get prescription drugs was right in their homes.
“I had a group of young people in Wheeling. I said just tell me where the drugs are coming from,” Manchin recalled. “They said the medicine cabinet. Mom or grandma got a prescription for pain killers and didn’t use them all. Before you know it your kids bringing it to school and passing them around.”
A law was recently passed allowing citizens to carry Noloxone, an antidote to opiate overdoses. Previously, only medical personnel had access to the drug. Goodwin thought the drug could prove effective in the hands of family and friends, using the analogy that “like an EpiPen is to allergic reactions, Noloxone is to overdoses.”

Morrisey files suit against Simple Recovery Solutions

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Tuesday that the office recently filed a suit against Simple Recovery Solutions, a Florida company that allegedly tried to collect unverified debt or debt which never really existed from West Virginia consumers.
The suit accuses SRS of unfair competition methods and practices of deception by contacting consumers to collect debt they didn’t owe. The company is accused of violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act; the complaint also alleges that the organization operated without a valid West Virginia business license.
Morrisey said that the goal of the suit was to protect the public.
“This complaint seeks to protect West Virginia consumers from paying out money they do not owe,” Morrisey said. “Our office believes SRS and its owners have collected, or attempted to collect, unverified debts from at least 125 West Virginia consumers so far.”
He said fraudulent debt collection is a problem in West Virginia and consumers had to be made aware of “unscrupulous business practices.”

The lawsuit was filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Ex-coal boss Blankenship wants July trial delayed to January

(AP) Former coal boss Don Blankenship wants his July trial start delayed until January.

In a motion in Beckley federal court Friday, attorneys for the ex-Massey Energy CEO say they wouldn't be prepared for a July 13 trial start.

It's Blankenship's third request for a delay. The trial was last pushed back from April to July.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety standards at Upper Big Branch, a former Massey Energy mine where an explosion killed 29 men in 2010.

Blankenship's attorneys say they can't review more than four million pages of discovery produced by the government until late September.

They say they won't have time to complete fact investigation or prepare trial exhibits, witness examinations and jury presentations.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin declined to comment on the motion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Social Security Administration reviewing Eric C. Conn clients

The Social Security Administration is reviewing the status of recipients whose cases were handled by Stanville attorney, Eric C. Conn, and a number of Social Security disability recipients in Eastern Kentucky and the surrounding area have been told that their checks are going to be cut off.  The check cut-off is pending on further review of their cases.
The investigation is based on evidence handled by one of four physicians- Dr. Bradley Adkins, Dr. Srinivas Ammisetty, Dr. Frederic Huffnagle or Dr. David P. Herr.  Letters have been sent out to those recipients affected and one of the letters states that the Office of the Inspector General has determined that fraud played a role in some of those cases.  Along with that, it stated that medical evidence from those doctors and submitted by Conn or his associates must be disregarded.
Kent Wicker, Conn's attorney, said his client is innocent of allegations of wrongdoing and expects the suspensions to be a brief setback for clients.  Wicker also went on to say that Conn's office has received phone calls from "several dozen" clients who received the letters and Conn is referring all of the clients to other attorneys to handle the redetermination process.

Master sergeant credited with recruiting success for Air National Guard

Master Sergeant Richard Toby was recently named one of the nation’s top recruiters for the Air National Guard.
The officer, responsible for 31 officer accessions last year in West Virginia, said that new acquisitions were fortunate because they needed a lot of help.
“We were able to exceed our goals. We had a large need this past year,” Toby said. “We had a large need this past year: four officers, especially health professionals. And we did up a wonderful magazine highlighting the health profession careers in the air guard.”
He called avianonics a tough, technical field the air guard is emphasizing right now.
“It never stops because there’s always constant rotation,” he said. “People are retiring, moving on, and transferring units to a different base or different states. So there are always openings and we’re always looking for new talent to come on board.”
He said usually the reputation of the Air National Guard precedes them when it comes to recruiting, but West Virginia is always one of the proudest military states. He described a recent mantra of the organization.
“We may not be the greatest generation, but we’re the greatest of our generation,” Toby said. “When it comes to military veterans and current members of the military, West Virginia has always been a proud state, always been a big supporter of the military, and we get lots of people that come in.”

Goodwin, Manchin to hold summit on drug epidemic

U.S Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin will hold an open house meeting tonight on solving the growing drug epidemic in West Virginia.
The meeting will be held at the WVU Parkersburg Student Activities Center. The problem is one that both agree desperately needs attention, with overdoses occurring in the Mountain State on a regular basis. Goodwin said that what started out as a pill problem in Southern West Virginia has caused addicts to turn to the needle.
“It started out as a prescription drug problem, and unfortunately it has morphed into a heroin problem in many parts of my district,” Goodwin said.
Manchin thought it was important to figure out why prescription pain medication is so heavily prescribed.
“We have to find out why the doctors are prescribing painkillers like they’re M&M’s,” he said. “You can go (to the dentist) for a toothache and they’ll give you oxycontin. And these opiates are very addictive.”
Goodwin said that one of the best things that people can do is to get rid of any drugs that they don’t absolutely need.
“One of the critical things people can do is get prescription drugs out of their medicine cabinets,” Goodwin said. “If they don’t need them anymore, get them out of the cabinet so they can’t be diverted.”

The summit begins at 5:30 p.m tonight and is open to the public. The Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley is sponsoring the event.

Lawrence County ATV Crash sends man to hospital

Yet another ATV crash has a man recovering in the hospital.

Lawrence County Emergency Management officials say the accident occurred around 2 am Monday near Louisa.

Authorities say the man flipped his ATV of a log road and fell 40 feet down a hill injuring his leg.

The man, whose name has not been released, was flown to a Huntington, W.Va. Hospital.

Phone Scam Involving Social Security Numbers

The Attorney General's Office is warning West Virginians about a scam that puts consumers at risk for identity theft.

A spokesperson with the AG's office says people are getting calls from someone pretending to represent a well-known business who then asks for consumers to validate the last four digits of their social security number.

If the consumer says the numbers are wrong, the person on the other line offers to update the customer's file.

Scammers can recreate a person's Social Security number based on only a few digits, which can put the consumer at risk for identity theft.

In the coalfields, dilapidated sites make way for renewal

(AP) - A crew from Coalfield Development Corp. that's remodeling a former warehouse in Williamson, West Virginia, is part of a broad effort to tackle empty or unkempt buildings in Appalachia.
Rural blight is a legacy of the coal industry's boom-and-bust nature in many communities in West Virginia and its neighbors.
Earlier this year, West Virginia University began a project to help rehabbers navigate the legal web surrounding older properties. Last year marked the launch of the statewide BAD buildings project which helps towns with dilapidated properties.
While big cities have fought blight for years, experts say rural areas have lagged in creating systematic approaches. In recent years, anti-blight programs have sprung up around Appalachia.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kentucky raising pay for corrections officers

(AP) — Kentucky is increasing pay for corrections officers and hazardous duty staff in an attempt to curb high turnover rates.

Gov. Steve Beshear has approved the plan to give raises and move hazardous duty, non-security staff to 40-hour work weeks.

A state Personnel Cabinet review showed that the state's corrections officers and hazardous duty workers were paid at below-market rates compared with nearby states. A release from the state Department of Corrections says that has led to high turnover.

Starting salaries for corrections officers will be increased by 13 percent, from $23,346 to $26,400 annually. It includes higher increases for sergeants, lieutenants and captains. 

Hazardous duty, non-security staff will be converted to a 40-hour work week from a 37.5-hour schedule, meaning they will receive a nearly 7 percent raise.

State police cadet class graduates with record number of women

Chanting and stomps of marching echoed across the West Virginia State University campus after the 65th Cadet Class of the West Virginia State Police Academy graduated Friday.
The class was made up of 43 cadets this year, including a record number of six women.
The cadets completed 25 weeks of training at the academy in Institute. Phillips said there were a lot of physical and mental obstacles she had to overcome to get to graduation day.
Lt. Michael Baylous said the profession can be challenging and rewarding, but had no doubt the cadets would be able to rise to the occasion.
Baylous said with the 43 additional members, there are now over 700 troopers in West Virginia who serve 55 counties.

All of the cadets will now be sent to various state police detachments across the state. Phillips will be stationed in Parkersburg and Shaffer will be in Oak Hill. They will serve with a senior trooper during a probationary period.

Murray cuts 829 W.Va. mining jobs, 589 uncertain

More than 800 West Virginia miners face unemployment this Memorial Day weekend, with another 589 alerted they may receive layoff notices this summer, after deep cuts announced Friday by Murray American Energy.
On the heels of a report in the Wall Street Journal, Murray American said it was eliminating 829 mining positions at coal companies in Marshall County, Marion County, Ohio and Harrison County.
A Friday afternoon statement from the company faulted the Obama administration, market factors and West Virginia taxes:
The 589 workers at the Monongalia County Coal Company were told some will be laid off indefinitely effective July 21. Corporate representatives did not indicate how many of those miners could be affected.
Murray American also announced the elimination of 249 jobs at facilities in Ohio and 162 in Illinois.
The fact media reports surfaced before Murray American’s release drew criticism from Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America

Murray American already furloughed several hundred workers earlier this year because of large stockpiles.

Suddenlink could be purchased by European cable giant

One of the largest cable companies in West Virginia could be purchased by a European cable giant later this year or early next year. Several reports say Altice will purchase Suddenlink for $9 billion.
A Suddenlink spokesman was quoted in a Charleston Gazette article Saturday saying the deal was in the early stages.
Suddenlink, which is based in St. Louis, has approximately 20,000 customers in West Virginia.

Major layoffs: Coal analyst says industry facing toughest time

In what may be remembered as Black Friday for coal in West Virginia, the state’s two largest producers told 1,800 employees they would be laid off in 60 days.

Both Alpha Natural Resources and Murray Energy point toward a weak coal market and federal EPA regulations. Murray also took a swipe at President Obama, saying he has been the author of “the ongoing destruction of the United States coal industry.”

Industry analyst Bob Hodge of IHS Coal said EPA guidelines, tightened under the Obama Administration, have hurt the most.

“Even through the cheap natural gas is playing a huge role, I think if you look at the bottom of where things are right now, you’d find the (EPA) regulations are the driving force behind most of it,” Hodge said. “Then the economy and then cheap natural gas.”

The EPA’s Clean Power plan is up for final approval this summer. Critics have said the requirements make it almost impossible to have coal-fired power plants. Hodge said the role of the regulations can’t be overlooked.

“All of those things are related,” he said. “The cheap natural gas wouldn’t be such a problem if the regulations weren’t forcing utilities to close coal-fired plants and build or convert to gas-fired power.”

Alpha plans to idle its Camp Creek underground mine and preparation plant, near East Lynn in Wayne County, resulting in the furloughing of 439 workers. Alpha Chairman and CEO Kevin Crutchfield said there’s a persistent weakness in demand for coal in both the U.S. and overseas markets.

Tennant, officials file complaint against phony cancer charities

State and federal officials filed a joint lawsuit this week against four cancer charities that allegedly scammed more than $187 million from contributors nationwide, including nearly $250,000 from West Virginians last year.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, state law enforcement partners across the country, the District of Columbia and the Federal Trade Commission joined together to file the complaint against Cancer Fund America, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and the Breast Cancer Society.
The complaint alleges the charities told donors their contributions would assist cancer patients, but the money instead was misused on salaries, cruises, jet ski outings and concert tickets.
Tennant said she fears the fraudulent activity could hurt more legitimate national organizations.
Tennant advised donors to verify that the charity is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, and to question how much is being spent on administrative costs versus how much is actually distributed to the patients and families needing help.

Tennant encouraged folks to visit the Secretary of State’s Office database to understand exactly where their charitable money is going. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

W.Va. state police welcome new graduates today

The 65th cadet class of the West Virginia state police will graduate this morning at West Virginia State University, having completed nearly seven months of training.
The 43-member class includes several women and a few sets of brothers, all of whom trained at the State Police Academy in Institute.

Today’s ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m.

Kentucky's unemployment rate falls to 5 percent in April

(AP)--Kentucky's unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in April, the lowest it has been in 14 years.

It is the ninth straight month Kentucky's unemployment rate has been lower than the national average, which was 5.4 percent in April.

Kentucky's labor force increased by more than 3,500 people in April while an extra 4,984 people found work. State government jobs jumped 1.7 percent, with one-third of those in administration jobs and the rest in state educational institutions and hospitals. Construction added an extra 1,900 jobs while manufacturing added an additional 1,100 jobs.

The unemployment rate is based on an estimate of the state's current population survey of households and is designed to measure trends and not say definitively how many people are working. The rate includes those who are self-employed and work in agriculture.

Kentucky exports show strong 1st-quarter gain

(AP) - State economic development officials say Kentucky's exports were 11 percent higher through the first quarter of 2015 compared to a year ago.

The Cabinet for Economic Development says that ranks Kentucky third nationally for year-over-year export growth.

State officials say that during the first quarter, Kentucky exported more than $7 billion in products, up from $6.4 billion during the same time last year.

Top trade partners include Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and France. Exports to Eastern Europe rose significantly. Kentucky exports to Belgium were up 116 percent and to Russia by nearly 2,400 percent.

Officials say aerospace continues to be Kentucky's largest export. Also making strong gains were the export of motor vehicles and parts, chemicals and engines, turbines and power equipment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grants to expand recycling awarded in Kentucky

(AP) - Kentucky officials say grants are being awarded across the state to expand recycling and reduce the amount of solid waste going into landfills.

The Division of Waste Management says 46 recycling and 25 household hazardous waste grants totaling more than $3.3 million have been awarded.

State officials say the 71 grants are funded with grant dollars from the Kentucky Pride Fund. That fund is generated by a $1.75 fee for each ton of municipal solid waste disposed of in Kentucky landfills.

The grants require a 25 percent local match from the cities and counties receiving the awards. 

The match can be in the form of cash or "in kind" personnel, educational activities or advertising to promote the program.

Judge denies Blankenship’s request for Vegas trip

Former Massey energy CEO Don Blankenship was denied in his request to travel home to Nevada for Memorial Day on Tuesday.
Blankenship’s lawyers filed that he had personal matters to attend to, to meet with a dentist, and to meet with attorneys there. U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort rejected his request.
Blankenship is free on $5 million bond right now before his trial, which is scheduled to begin July 13, but his travel is restricted. He is facing mine safety and security charges relating to the deaths of 29 miners at Upper Big Branch mine in an April 2010 explosion.
Except to meet with lawyers, he is not supposed to leave Southern West Virginia. Blankenship never mentioned Las Vegas specifically in his request, but Blankenship was allowed to go to Nevada last Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite objections from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Prosecutors objected to this request as well, saying that Blankenship does not own a home there. VanDervort said Tuesday that he rarely permits travel on bond beyond emergencies or trips for “a short period of time.”

Comer to seek review of vote numbers in Kentucky GOP primary

(AP) - James Comer says he will ask for a review of vote totals in Kentucky's volatile Republican primary for governor.

Comer said Tuesday night that he would seek a recanvass. Unofficial returns showed him in a virtual tie with businessman Matt Bevin.

Republicans Hal Heiner and Will T. Scott conceded early.

There is no runoff election in Kentucky, and no automatic recounts. State law allows for recanvassing only if a county clerk or a county board of elections notices a discrepancy or if a candidate makes a written request to the Secretary of State.

Comer says he owes it to his supporters to request a recanvass. However, he says he told Bevin that he would help get him elected in November if Bevin is ultimately declared the winner.

Attorney General Jack Conway easily wins Democratic nomination for Kentucky governor

(AP) - - Attorney General Jack Conway has easily won the Democratic nomination for Kentucky governor.

Conway faced little opposition in Geoff Young, a former state engineer who did not raise money and was shunned by the state party. It was the first time in four decades that Kentucky Democrats have not fielded a competitive primary, allowing Conway to skip dozens of candidate forums and raise more than $2.3 million.

Conway will face a Republican nominee battered from a brutal primary campaign that will force him to spend much of his time replenishing nearly empty campaign coffers.

Democrats have won nine out of the last 10 elections for governor. But Republicans have made gains in voter registration and have had success by tying Kentucky Democrats to President Barack Obama, who remains deeply unpopular throughout the state.

Logan County Man Pleads Guilty to Mailing Threatening Letters

A man from Logan County pleaded guilty Tuesday to mailing threatening letters to public officials in Logan County, according to information from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.

Kelly Gerald Crosby, 32, pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston to mailing threatening communications. 

On Sept. 8, 2014, Crosby was incarcerated at the Southwestern Regional Jail on a state charge related to using minors to film sexually explicit conduct. 

While in custody, Crosby mailed a letter delivered to the Logan County Courthouse, in which Crosby made threats to workers, public officials and others in the Logan County area.  The letter included threats to “kill, rape and make suffer” the individuals he identified in the letter.

Crosby faces up to five years in federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19, 2015.

West Virginia Attorney General Warns of Vacation Scams

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging residents to be on the lookout for potential scams when making vacation plans for the summer.

As the summer travel season begins across the nation, so do the travel related scams.
Each year, thousands across the country report being fooled by the too-good-to-be-true deals that promise, but don't deliver.

Attorney General Morrisey warns, "Vacation scams can range from free travel offers to too-good-to-be-true prices for lodging. We urge consumers to do extensive research so their vacation can be spent creating happy memories, not trying to fix bad experiences."

While not all travel scams are easy to catch, Attorney General Morrisey offers some tips to help consumers identify scams:

·                     Do not give credit card numbers to any person or business unless you are ready to be charged for a product or service. Be wary of any company that asks to be paid via money order or pre-paid debit card.

·                     Carefully read the fine print of any ad that offers a tremendous vacation for a minimal price. Similarly, be wary of ads that only provide a few details about the offer.

·                     Be cautious of firms that ask you to pay before confirming reservations. Most travel agents will confirm before payment.

·                     Deal with an established company. If the name or reputation is not familiar to you, check with relatives, friends, or contact your local Better Business Bureau by clicking the link or by calling 1-866-228-1820.

Morrisey also adds travelers shouldn't underestimate the power of reviews from family members and friends, as well as reputable travel websites. He also reminded travelers that paying with a credit card provides consumers with certain protections that enable them to dispute certain charges for services not provided.