Breaking Local News

Trials Moved to December for Freedom Officials

Three Freedom Industries officials are scheduled for December sentencing hearings for charges in a massive chemical spill last year. In Charleston federal court Tuesday, Judge Thomas Johnston moved June hearings to December for William Tis, Charles Herzing and Robert Reynolds. A June hearing for ex-Freedom official Michael Burdette has not been rescheduled.
The four men and the company itself have pleaded guilty to pollution charges. Federal prosecutors wrote that the four are willing to testify for the federal government in cases against fellow ex-Freedom executives Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell. Prosecutors wanted sentencing hearings after the Oct. 6 trial for Southern and Farrell. Southern and Farrell pleaded not guilty. Southern also faces bankruptcy fraud charges.

Pipeline Opposed in Virginia

Opponents of a natural gas pipeline through Virginia are pressing Gov. Terry McAuliffe to join forces with them. They planned to deliver more than 5,000 signatures to the governor yesterday demanding that he rescind his support of the $5 billion project. McAuliffe and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, support the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. McAuliffe calls it a "game changer" that would bring deliver cheap natural gas and jobs. Dominion Resources and its partners in the pipeline are proposing to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Southeast. The pipeline would run from West Virginia to North Carolina, with much of its path through Virginia.

Mingo County Pollution Settlement Reached

Environmental groups and Pocahontas Land Corp. have settled a lawsuit over pollution at two former coal mines in Mingo County. Under a consent decree, Pocahontas agreed to apply for a permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection that would cover discharges of pollutants from valley fills at the sites. The company also agreed to monitor selenium pollution and report the results twice a month. Pocahontas did not admit any liability. The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy filed the lawsuit in 2013. The groups said discharges from the valley fills continued to pollute streams after the mines closed and regulators released their permits.

Elkins Man Enters Plea After Courthouse Threat

Jonathan Schrader of Elkins has pleaded guilty to possessing stolen explosives that authorities said he planned to use to blow up a federal courthouse. U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld says the C4 plastic explosives were discovered in February. According to a previous FBI affidavit, a witness told investigators Schrader had discussed detonating explosives in front of the Jennings Randolph Federal Center in Elkins and at the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins. Federal agents found the explosives in an outbuilding during a search. The affidavit says Schrader obtained the explosives from a juvenile who had stolen the material from his father's office. Schrader faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

New Electronic System to Help Hunters

West Virginia is making it easier for hunters and trappers to check in their game. A new electronic system allows hunters to check game in by phone or computers. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says the system will take effect in time for the 2015 spring gobbler season, which begins April 27. The new system also will be available for the one-day youth hunter season on April 25. The DNR says hunters using the electronic system won't have to worry about finding an open check station if they hunt later in the day. Natural Resources director Bob Fala says hunters can still check in their game at one of about 180 official license agents in the state. But they don't have to bring the animal in with them.

Raleigh County Coal Camp to be Restored

An apartment building in a former Raleigh County coal camp has been saved from the wrecking ball. A coalition of preservation, development, community and government agencies are working to preserve the Helen Apartments in Helen. Raleigh County extension agent David Rotenizer tells The Register-Herald that the building had been marked for demolition as a dilapidated and abandoned structure. The County Commission agreed last December to pay back taxes on the property and transfer it to a local community group. This weekend, agencies and volunteers will remove trash from the building and secure the structure against further damage from rain, vandalism or vagrants until it can be restored.

Disaster Loans Available

Federal disaster loans are available for schools, homeless shelters and other nonprofit organizations in 29 West Virginia counties. The loans are being offered following a federal disaster declaration that made public assistance available to the counties for infrastructure and cleanup efforts. The U.S. Small Business Administration says nonprofits that don't provide critical services of a governmental nature may be eligible for the low-interest loans. The storm brought heavy snow and rain, knocked out power to more than 80,000 customers and causes flooding, landslides and mudslides.

Gov. Tomblin Finishes Signing Bills

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed 32 bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature, the most by a West Virginia governor in decades. Tomblin finished deciding Friday on bills that passed during this year's 60-day legislative session. The vetoes killed bills letting people carry concealed handguns without permits, drink raw milk and write checks to the state to fill potholes outside their businesses. Tomblin nixed 17 bills because he disagreed with their policies. The other 15 were due to technical errors, including a bill that gave authority to a board that hasn't existed in 15 years. Lawmakers re-passed 12 of those bills before leaving town. The rest are dead until next year. Tomblin still found middle ground with lawmakers. He signed 243 bills, from legal reforms to help for craft brewers.

Patriot Coal has New Leader

Robert W. Bennett has been named president and CEO of Patriot Coal. Bennett succeeds Bennett K. Hatfield, who resigned. The company is based in Scott Depot. Bennett has served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer since 2009. Patriot Coal has eight mining complexes in West Virginia and employs about 2,900 workers.

Floodwaters Lead to Woman's Death

A 62-year-old West Virginia woman drowned after she was swept away by flood waters near her home in rural Wayne County. West Virginia State police identified the victim as Readith Hughes, and said she was attempting to go church Friday night despite flood waters outside her home. Hughes's body was recovered about one-quarter of a mile downstream from her home.

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