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West Virginia city considers banning motorized bicycles

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia city is considering banning motorized bicycles.

City Police Chief Joe Martin says there are about 300 pocket bikes or mini-bikes in the city and they have become a safety hazard.

He said residents have complained because some riders do not obey traffic laws, zipping in and out of traffic and riding on sidewalks.

He said some will drag race down a busy road at night.

Martin said the bikes can go as fast as 20 mph.

But he said some have trouble stopping quickly because they are equipped with regular bicycle brakes instead of disc brakes.

The Parkersburg City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider the ban.

West Virginia Lottery Commission Sets Sports Betting Rules

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s lottery commission has set its rules for sports betting in the state, and its director says the goal is to have sports wagering underway by football season.

The rules were approved at an emergency meeting Thursday, media outlets reported. West Virginia Lottery Director Alan Larrick said the rules give the state’s five casinos plenty of time to become familiar with the regulations.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to get sports betting available by football season — that’s what our goal is,“ Larrick said. “We don’t know if we’re going to make it or not, but we’re going to try.“

West Virginia passed its sports betting law earlier this year, shortly before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that had banned most sports betting.

The rules spell out what information casinos have to supply to the Lottery and what they need to do to stay within compliance, Larrick said.

“Our focus is going to be auditing, so we can be sure the numbers that are given by the casinos are accurate,“ he said. “Then, we can base our (tax collection) on the correct number.“

Regarding security, the rules task casino operators to have controls in place to uncover any unusual betting activity “and report such activity according to the integrity monitoring system procedures” that were approved by the commission.

Additionally, casinos have to make sure off-site wagers are from people actually present in West Virginia at the time of the wager. The operator is required to use geolocation technology “to reasonably detect” the location of whoever is accessing sports betting online.

Sports betting on casino premises has to be done from a booth located in a sports wagering lounge, or sportsbook, that meets necessary requirements, or other locations as approved by the Lottery, the rules say.

But casinos need to construct those facilities first, so the rules also address interim sports betting licenses for casinos. This allows them to get in on the sports betting action even if their sportsbook is still under construction, Larrick said.

Federal Study: Chemicals Toxic at Levels EPA Thought Safe

The Free Press WV

The chemicals used by a West Virginia factory to make non-stick products are dangerous at levels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had thought were safe, according to a federal study that had been previously blocked from publication.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released the study on PFAS chemicals Wednesday, news outlets reported. It said the chemicals are dangerous at levels around 10 times lower than the EPA’s advised exposure of 70 parts per trillion.

The DuPont Co., which used the chemicals to create non-stick products such as Teflon, now faces thousands of lawsuits from people living near its Parkersburg-area Washington Works plant who say their water was contaminated. The chemicals have been linked to cancer, immune effects and adverse developmental effects on fetuses during pregnancy.

Lawmakers had urged the EPA in May to publish the study after Politico reported it had been blocked. Politico said the Trump administration blocked the study, concerned that it could result in a “public relations nightmare.“

Before it was released, the state’s U.S. senators —Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito — had urged the EPA to come forward with the study.

Manchin said Wednesday that the study paved the way for “additional steps to address these issues in West Virginia and continue to pursue a definitive rule that sets maximum limits on these chemicals.“

Capito said the report was “critical to ensuring the health of West Virginians.“

Justice orders that Capitol parking rates will not increase

The Free Press WV

Parking rates at the Capitol Complex will stay the same as they currently are, thanks to Gov. Jim Justice ordering the withdrawal of a proposal to increase the rates.

The Department of Administration filed a notice of public comment on June 11, 2018, with the Secretary of State which proposed to amend a state regulation that sets the parking rates and fines on lots at the State Capitol Complex.

This proposed amendment would have raised parking rates and fines by a significant amount.

The Governor ordered this proposal to be withdrawn as soon as he became aware of it.

The withdrawal is effective Thursday, June 21, 2018.

Lawsuit Seeks Protections for Crawfish Imperiled by Coal Mining

The Free Press WV

A federal lawsuit filed this week by an environmental group alleges two protected crayfish species are being harmed by coal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

The suit, filed Wednesday in West Virginia by the Center for Biological Diversity, alleges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has missed the one-year time frame set under the Endangered Species Act in which to designate habitat areas for the two crayfish species.

The Big Sandy crayfish and Guyandotte River crayfish were protected by the Endangered Species Act in 2016 because of habitat loss and water pollution.

The species are endemic to the Appalachian region. Crayfish are scavengers and play a key role in keeping streams healthy by eating decaying plants and animals. They are an important source of food for birds, fish and mammals.

The suit says the crayfish are “highly imperiled due to declining water quality and habitat loss from coal mining and urban development within their watersheds.“

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

The Center for Biological Diversity wants a judge to compel the agency to designate habitat areas.

Justice Issues Statement on Indictment of Justice Loughry

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice issued this statement:

The federal indictment of Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry today saddens me. This casts another shadow of negativity on West Virginia, which is certainly something we just plain don’t need.

Justice Loughry should immediately resign from office and spare our state any further embarrassment.

So many elected officials throughout West Virginia’s history have chosen to do things that are unethical and self-centered. Politicians today are too concerned with getting re-elected and end up doing things that only benefit themselves. We need to change that. We need people in government who genuinely want to serve the people of our state and aren’t concerned with their own self-interest.

It’s incredibly sad on the 155th birthday of our Great State that we have to face this issue, but West Virginians should not let these actions by a public official damage their confidence in our state. We are on the move, no matter what anybody says. There are so many great things happening in West Virginia, and I will continue to work every day to move our state forward.

2 more violation notices issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Free Press WV

West Virginia regulators have issued two additional violation notices to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

The two additional violation notices to the pipeline project are for water pollution violations in Nicholas and Harrison counties. In all, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has cited the pipeline project four times for breaking water pollution rules.

The most recent notice was issued June 06 for failing to comply with the project’s stormwater permit and general permit.

A violation notice that was issued May 09 was for failing to implement controls, failing to keep sediment-laden water from leaving the site and failing to modify the project’s water pollution prevention plan for construction in Nicholas County.

Mountain Valley Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox says crews were fixing the problems.

Family says West Virginia hospital gave them the wrong baby

The Free Press WV

A family says they held the wrong baby for nearly two hours days after his birth at a West Virginia hospital.

Crystal and Arnold “Junior” Perry gave birth to Dawson at Logan Regional Medical Center on June 12.

Grandmother Barbara Colegrove says on Thursday Junior Perry went to the nursery to get the baby. Crystal Perry says Dawson’s basket was in the same spot, and it said Perry on the ID card. She says a nurse said it was their baby.

However, Crystal Perry says a nurse asked her to read her armband number and then returned with Dawson. Relatives had the baby of someone else with the same last name.

Heather Perry believes her son Colton had been in the room for seconds and says it was an honest mistake.

Tiered Raise Sought for West Virginia Public Workers’ Insurance Program

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice is seeking a $2,700 increase in the tiers for health insurance premiums to avoid bumping teachers and other public employees into higher tiers from a recent 5 percent pay increase.

Justice announced at a news conference Monday he will ask the Public Employees Insurance Agency for the change.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says it’s meant as a short-term solution until a permanent one can be found.

A task force held public meetings around the state on PEIA. The goal is to have a report ready by December’s interim legislative meetings.

Justice and the Legislature agreed to freeze PEIA premiums, deductibles and co-pays for the coming year and provided $29 million in supplemental funding. Justice also signed the 5 percent pay raise for teachers to end their nine-day strike in March.

Woman steals DOH truck crashes through gate

The Free Press WV

A woman stole a state Division of Highways truck Saturday and crashed through the locked gate at a DOH garage just outside of Charleston, deputies said.

It happened at noon when the woman entered the property along U.S. Highway 119 north.

According to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, she first stole several items, including a leaf blower, put on a DOH reflective shirt and hat and then got in a white 2013 Ford F-350 and took off, crashing through the locked gate causing thousands of dollars in damages.

The truck had a green state plate with the number 77894. The vehicle also had the identification number 2015621 on both front doors.

Deputies said she was last seen driving south.

The suspect is white with dark hair with tattoos on her breast, back and right arm.

Anyone with information on her identity or the whereabouts of the truck is asked to contact the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office at 304.357.0169.

West Virginia to open Senator Jennings Randolph collection

The Free Press WV

West Virginia is unveiling the Senator Jennings Randolph collection, featuring almost 900 boxes of correspondence, photographs and other materials that document his long political career.

A public ceremony will take place Wednesday at the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center on the state Capitol complex. It will feature prominent speakers, an online exhibit, a review of the collection finding aid, and a small exhibit of items and dozens of photographs to view.

Frank Randolph, Jennings Randolph’s younger son, and Brian Randolph, the senator’s grandson, will attend.

A Salem, West Virginia native, Randolph spent two and a half decades in the U.S. Senate after winning a special election in 1958.

He’s best known for securing passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

Rover Pipeline Fined For Water Pollution Violations

The Free Press WV

State regulators are fining the operators of the natural gas Rover Pipeline more than $430,000 for water pollution violations.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Tuesday that Rover Pipeline LLC, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, violated its permit and state laws on multiple occasions.

The 713-mile pipeline is 99 percent completed, according to the company. Ultimately, the pipeline will be used to transport more than three billion cubic feet of natural gas daily from processing plants in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

DEP says inspections by the agency over the course of a year beginning in April 2017 revealed pipeline operators failed to maintain erosion controls, improperly installed silt fences and other perimeter controls. The company also abandoned trash and debris during construction of the pipeline.

In total, the company received 18 violation notices and two cease-and-desist orders from DEP, according to the consent decree made public this week.

Angie Rosser, executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said many of the things the Rover Pipeline was cited for were repeated violations.

“It’s just like the message wasn’t getting across,“ she asid. “I’m glad to see the DEP out there frequently and scrutinizing this closely, but it’s frustrating and insulting, I think, that this company just kept causing problems.”

As a result of the violations, many streams were flooded with dirt and debris. According to the consent decree, the company has agreed to immediately take measures to comply. The public comment period on the agreement is open until July 13.

Governor Justice requests the resignation of Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice today asked for and received the resignation of Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher.

The Governor expressed his appreciation for Woody’s service to the state of West Virginia.

“I consider Woody a friend, and he’s done a solid job in the area of economic development, Governor Justice said. “Thrasher expressed to me that recent media attention had distracted from what he believed was his core mission, economic development and business opportunities for West Virginia.”

“I hope this allows us to turn our attention to the full recovery of all of the victims of the 2016 flood,” Governor Justice added.

“I accepted this appointment because of my love for the state, and because of Governor Justice’s vision that West Virginia and its citizens should not settle for 50th, Thrasher said. “I want the Governor and this state to be successful, and I welcome the opportunity to help any way I can in the future.”

Six Restaurants Ordered to Pay Over $100,000 in Back Pay and Overtime

The Free Press WV

Six restaurants in West Virginia and Ohio have been ordered to pay $111,000 in back pay and damages to 27 workers for minimum wage and overtime violations.

The U.S. Department of Labor says in a news release a federal court for West Virginia’s southern district also imposed a $20,150 civil penalty on four Las Trancas restaurants and a Plaza Maya restaurant in West Virginia and a Las Trancas restaurant in Ohio.

The order also covers Las Trancas corporate officers Lorena Arellano and Martin Arellano.

The statement says an investigation found the restaurants willfully violated minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping requirements from May 2014 to October 2017. It says the restaurants paid some workers only for their scheduled hours without regard to hours actually worked.

Plans Underway to Develop Multi-Cottage Resort

The Free Press WV

Plans are underway for a new multi-cottage resort in West Virginia that a developer says will cater to the needs of ATV riders.

Developer Todd Boggess says the ATV Outpost at Pocohontas is envisioned as a family friendly facility with 22 cabins, a restaurant, general store and more.

Mercer County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Jamie Null says they are very pleased and excited to see this investment in ATV tourism in the county.

The lodge was one of 15 projects to receive an Abandoned Mine Land grant award that will be used for the development.

In 2017, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority board of directors gave preliminary approval of a $1.15 million loan to Boggess’ company, B&O Development of Princeton, for the project.

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