Tuesday, March 29, 2011
EKB Capsule News...West Virginia...3-30-'11
- The state Air Quality Board has ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to make changes to an air quality permit for a proposed coal-to-gasoline plant TransGas Development System is developing near Wharncliffe in Mingo County. The board wants developers to guarantee that controls will destroy 99.5 percent of pollutants. Project manager Randy Harris said Tuesday the changes are relatively minor. He says the project needs written guarantees from pollution control equipment and safety valve providers. It also needs more documentation about the plant's water treatment facility. The facility is expected to convert coal into 756,000 gallons of gasoline a day. The Sierra Club applauded the decision.
- Trial got underway Tuesday in Cabell County Circuit Court for Donald Good, the man accused of kidnapping two women from the Huntington Mall on separate occasions, taking them elsewhere and repeatedly raping them in 1987. The day started with the jury selection, then both sides gave their opening statements. The day then got emotional when both victims, Rebecca Mowery Hobson and Janet Johnson Smith, testified before the jury. The trial resumes Wednesday morning with testimony from West Virginia State Trooper Mike Parde, the man responsible for following a tip and a hunch that eventually led to Good’s arrest. Good, who is charged in a 22 count indictment released in October, is currently serving a life sentence for the 1992 murder of Terry Kidd in Kanawha County. Glen Dale Woodall, a Huntington cemetery worker, was convicted of the rapes in July 1987 and sentenced to two life terms without parole plus an additional 203 to 335 years in prison. During the trial, state police chemist Fred Zain testified that hair and body fluids taken from the victims matched Woodall’s. But, in May 1992, DNA evidence overturned the conviction and cleared Woodall. Prosecutors say this past summer new DNA testing showed Good committed the rapes.
- Representative Nick Rahall released a letter Tuesday asking the Obama administration to reconsider tighter water quality standards adopted last year to curb Appalachian surface coal mining. Rahall wants the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to examine the Environmental Protection Agency's clean water permit guidance memo issued April 1, 2010 before it becomes final Friday. Rahall says he hopes the White House can check what he calls the EPA's more "abusive" actions. The EPA says the policy is designed to virtually eliminate the practice of burying streams with mine waste to protect aquatic life and water quality.
- State Police Sgt. Andy Perdue says, while synthetic drugs remain legal, there's not much he or his office can do about the growing and increasingly dangerous problem associated with its use and its overdoses. In March, State Police investigated four deaths linked to bath salt and between 10 and 15 overdoses. West Virginia State Police in Boone County are taking a close look at the death of Pamela Harmon, which was initially thought to be from the use of synthetic cocaine, but police say Harmon’s death seems like it may be from prescription drug use.
- A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond has unanimously rejected Jennifer Workman's challenge against West Virginia's child immunization law. Workman sued after Lenore Pre-K to 8 School refused to admit her daughter without the vaccinations against childhood diseases. Workman claimed the law violated her religious rights, and she was concerned the vaccinations would cause her daughter to develop autism.
- West Virginia has the nation's ninth-largest percentage of veterans. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill Tuesday elevating an existing state agency to a Cabinet-level department devoted to its military veterans. The new Department of Veterans' Assistance will have an $11.5 million budget when it launches July 1st. It will succeed the Division of Veteran's Affairs, now part of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
- Bluefield Mayor Linda Whalen says the city will oppose Bluefield Gas' proposed rate increase requested Friday in a filing with the Public Service Commission. If the rate hike were approved, residential customers would pay an additional $6.78 a month on average. Commercial and industrial customers would pay more. The proposed increase would go into effect April 23rd.
- State transportation officials plan to redistribute to other road projects $80 million in federal bonds set aside to upgrade a section of U.S. 35 to four lanes. Another $30 million in federal funds earmarked for the U.S. 35 project may be used to improve the existing two-lane road.
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