WV to get $302,500 in Fiat Chrysler emissions settlement

The Free Press WV

West Virginia will receive $302,500 as part of a multistate settlement with Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheating allegations.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the state’s portion of the settlement Tuesday.

Authorities say the Italian-American automaker equipped more than 100,000 vehicles with diesel engines programmed to run pollution controls during lab tests that would turn off under certain conditions on the road.

Fiat Chrysler says it didn’t deliberately install devices to cheat emissions tests. The company didn’t admit wrongdoing in the settlement.

The models involved were 2014 through 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles.

Teacher aides resign following mistreatment allegations

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia school district has scheduled a special meeting to accept the resignations of two teachers’ aides following allegations they mistreated a nonverbal, autistic child.

Berkeley County Schools posted notice on Monday of Thursday’s meeting.

The child’s mother, Amber Pack, said she put a recording device in the girl’s hair before sending her to school and in a clip she posted on social media, an adult can be heard telling the child that she’s going to punch her in the face and another tells the girl to “shut up.”

Berkeley County Schools said the employees involved were placed on administrative leave after the incident was reported in the fall. The teacher resigned shortly afterward and the aides’ resignations will be effective Thursday.

Bill to Let Drug Felons Get Food Stamps Passes WV Senate

The Free Press WV

A bill to allow drug felons to receive food stamps has passed the West Virginia Senate.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill Tuesday. The House of Delegates has already passed the bill but now must concur on a Senate amendment that would exclude felons whose crimes involved death or injury.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s West Virginia chapter says West Virginia is one of three states with a food stamp ban for drug felons.

ACLU West Virginia executive director Joseph Cohen says in a statement West Virginians who have served their time for drug-related crimes “should not be perpetually punished.“

“We cannot expect anyone to successfully reintegrate into society and avoid recidivism when they’re exiting the criminal justice system with both hands tied behind their back,“ Cohen stated.


The Free Press WV

The Department of Justice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced that they have reached a settlement with Antero Resources Corporation resolving alleged violations of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at 32 sites in Harrison, Doddridge, and Tyler Counties in West Virginia.

The settlement filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia requires Antero to pay a civil penalty of $3.15 million and to conduct restoration, stabilization, and mitigation work at impacted sites. Antero will also provide mitigation for aquatic resource impacts.

“The Department of Justice is pleased to join with the EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in reaching this settlement and will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold corporations accountable for violating the nation’s environmental laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“This settlement seeks to rectify harm done to U.S. waters from unauthorized activities undertaken by Antero, and demonstrates that federal and state regulators are committed to pursuing violations that threaten human health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.

Impacts to aquatic resources will be partially offset at a 51.5-acre permittee-responsible mitigation site that will restore, enhance, create, and preserve over 11,500 linear feet of streams and more than 3 acres of wetlands. The EPA-estimated value of the proposed mitigation and restoration is $8 million.

The violations involved the unauthorized disposal of dredged and fill materials into waters of the United States at or near sites where Antero had constructed well pads, compressor stations, impoundments, pipeline crossings, access roads, and other structures associated with Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction by means of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

While each of the 32 sites varied regarding the extent of the impact to wetlands and streams, the unauthorized activities impacted more than 19,000 linear feet of streams and over four acres of wetlands and included:

  • Stream impoundments;
  • Filling wetlands and streams for compressor station pads;
  • Realigning and culverting stream segments; and
  • Failing to fully restore “temporary” impacts.

Approximately half of the sites were identified by Antero through a self-audit. Several of the sites were associated with construction failures or “slips” from access roads and pads.

The proposed settlement which is subject to a 30-day public comment period is available at:

For more information about Clean Water Act Section 404 protection of wetlands and waterways, visit

Education workers give union leaders work action “authorization” in statewide vote

The Free Press WV

Education workers in West Virginia have voted overwhelmingly to give their leaders the authorization to call for statewide work action in connection with the education reform bill moving through the state legislature.

The West Virginia Education Association, American Federation of Teachers-WV and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association met with their county leaders Saturday in Flatwoods. They counted the authorization votes that have been cast during the last week by members and non-members in public schools across the state.

“We have overwhelming approval to call work action as needed,” WVEA President Dale Lee said after the meeting. “The three organizations stand united.”

Senate Bill 451 was approved by the House Education Committee on a 15-10 vote Friday night. The committee made significant changes to the bill that originally passed the Senate. The charter school provision has been limited to a pilot project for two counties, the education savings account language was eliminated while innovation zones, which teachers support, were given $5 million in state funding.

The committee fully removed Senate language that would have put off paying teachers during any work stoppage. Members also changed reduction in force language that was originally in the Senate bill. Things teachers favor remain in the bill including a 5 percent pay raise.

There’s neither a date nor specifics on what kind of work action may be taken, AFT-WV President Fred Albert said Saturday.

“We are watching this bill as it passes through the process. As leaders we are standing together and are in constant contact with our members. We are watching every day, every hour with this bill,” he said. “Public education is thriving in our state and we know we are doing a great job contrary to what others may say.”

As was the case during last year’s 9-day work stoppage, school service personnel are with the classroom teachers, according to service personnel president Joe White.

“The overwhelming response is huge. It’s huge,” White said Saturday in Flatwoods.

Lee called the vote results “a big vote of confidence” for education leaders.

“’They know we will do the best for the children of West Virginia. Our educators put our children first and they will make sure every child in West Virginia will have access to the best possible public education,” Lee said.

The statewide vote was called before the House Education Committee began working on the bill. Lee said it’s a better bill but many things could still happen to it.

“We have to be prepared for any action that may come,” he said.

The education leaders said they believe their members will be well-represented at two public hearings on the bill scheduled for Monday in the House Chamber. The first starts at 8:00 a.m. and the second at 5:30 p.m.

The education reform bill is now in the possession of the House Finance Committee.

“This bill still has a long way to go,” Lee said. “We discussed (Saturday) all of the options that can happen each step of the way. We have an overwhelming vote of confidence to the leadership to do what we have to do.”

~~  Jeff Jenkins ~~

Mother pleads no contest to killing young sons

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia woman accused of setting fires that killed her two sons has pleaded no contest to murder charges.

The Journal reports the plea means 30-year-old Molly Jo Delgado of Martinsburg neither disputes nor admits to the two murder charges, but agrees prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction.

A criminal complaint says Delgado lit fires on the beds of 5-year-old Justin Delgado and 3-year-old Delmar Degato on January 24, 2017, locked their door from the outside and left.

The newspaper reports the plea agreement reached Tuesday calls for a jury to decide the issue of mercy. An individual serving a life sentence with mercy would be eligible for parole after 15 years.

The jury trial is scheduled for March 04.

West Virginia woman accused of threatening to kill Trump

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia woman has been indicted on charges of threatening to kill President Donald Trump.

A federal grand jury in Wheeling on Tuesday indicted 25-year-old Taryn Corrinne Henthorn of Middlebourne.

Prosecutors say Henthorn made the threat on Facebook and elsewhere last month.

Henthorn faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of three counts if convicted.

It’s unclear if Henthorn has a lawyer.

Complex education bill read in West Virginia House committee

The Free Press WV

A version of a comprehensive education bill being considered by a House of Delegates committee would remove some components that were opposed by teachers’ unions.

The bill was read in the House education committee Wednesday and no action was taken. The state Senate passed its version Monday.

The House version would remove a provision to require teachers to sign off annually on union dues and a clause that would invalidate the entire bill if any part is struck down.

The House bill also would cap the number of statewide charter schools at six.

The Senate version would withhold teacher pay in the event of a strike. The House version would allow those wages to be repaid after those school days are made up.

Some opponents say the bill is retaliation for last year’s nine-day teachers’ strike.

WV’s January revenue collections come in slightly under estimates

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice emphasized at a press conference Monday that he remains optimistic even though the state’s January revenue collections came in under estimates following nine months of surpluses.

“For the month of January, we’re coming in at about $3 million below our estimates,” Justice said.

The shortfall comes on the heels of not just nine months of surpluses, but also December revenue collections that came in at a record $44.5 million above estimates.

Justice said he is still pleased with where the state’s revenue numbers stand.

The governor said the dip in January collections is a good reason to continue fiscal conservatism even as revenues increase.

“Here’s how I see this as a good thing,” he said.

“We very conservatively ... raised the revenue estimate $142 million,” Justice said. “Now, we had a revenue estimate surplus of $185 million for the first six months (of fiscal year 2019), and we believe that things are going to continue to be good.

“The good part about coming in a little short is it’s a little bit a shot across the bow for all of us in government to say, ‘Let’s don’t get carried away upstairs and think the money is coming from everywhere under the sun and get, as a skier would be, in front of our skis.’”

Justice said that, across the board, the state’s revenue numbers are still “spectacular.”

He also said state officials had anticipated a small revenue decline in the first month of the quarter because of money going out to the counties.

“As we are doing better in the first month, there is a big amount of monies that are going out, which ... lead to your surplus, and that’s why October’s numbers were not very good,” he said.

The biggest shortfall in January revenue collections came in personal income tax collections, which were $10.7 million below estimate.

One major factor in the lower income tax collections is the impact that a new $10,000 limit on federal itemized deductions for state and local taxes has had on quarterly estimated payments and other return payments, according to Mark Muchow, deputy secretary for the state Department of Revenue, who was among officials with Justice at the press conference.

Quarterly estimated tax payments were down for both December and January compared to the previous year, Muchow said.

“That money’s still going to be paid, but it may be paid in April or some other time,” he said. “People used to rush to get their payments in in December to maximize that state tax deduction on the federal level, but that’s no longer necessary” because of the new limit.

The partial shutdown of the federal government may have also contributed, he said.

Justice also touched on the status of the West Virginia Turnpike, which saw toll rates increase last month.

Before the toll increase, the state offered the E-Z Pass option at a greatly reduced rate in an effort to allow state residents to travel the turnpike at a lower cost.

The governor reported that around 110,000 E-Z Pass transponders had been distributed, largely to West Virginia residents. Attached to vehicles, the transponders allow EZ Pass users to pay tolls via an electronic collection system.

“The overwhelming majority of (transponders were) bought by West Virginians, which was exactly what we wanted to have happen. We had to offer them to others out of state, but we wanted it to be ‘Mountaineers go free,’” Justice said.

He added that there had already been around 40,000 transponders distributed, bringing the total to more than 150,000. Justice said he believes the revenue increase will be even greater than earlier projections.

“As far as the study that was done before we said the revenues would increase from $90 to $115 million, well, we’re going to blow that away,” he said.

During the press conference, Justice was asked about education reform and Senate Bill 451, an omnibus education bill that passed its final vote in the Senate later Monday. He responded that his position on the bill has not changed.

Among points he reiterated from a press conference last week, Justice said he thinks all parties need to remain respectful of the legislative process, and he thinks Senate Republicans are doing what they believe is right in helping to improve the state’s education system.

On the topic of teachers potentially striking, Justice said that although he feels it is important for people to make their voices heard, he hopes there won’t be another work stoppage.

The eduction reform bill still needs to pass the House of Delegates before it can reach the governor’s desk. Justice said he remains committed to his belief that “everything will be all right at the end of the day.”

Justice has previously said he agrees with some of the bill’s provisions, including his proposals for public employee raises and funding to shore up the Public Employees Insurance Agency, but he opposes others.

On the topic of charter schools, the governor said Monday he is opposed to immediate statewide implementation but would be OK with trying “watered-down” charter schools as a “pilot-type project.”

Education bill opposed by teachers advances to WV House

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Senate has approved a complex education bill opposed by teachers’ unions.

The bill with components including teacher pay raises and a plan to open charter schools passed the Republican-led Senate 18-16 Monday. It now goes to the GOP-led House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has vowed to veto it.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael has said a main intent of the bill is to improve student test scores and performances.

The bill also would establish savings accounts for families to pay for private school and require teachers to sign off annually on union dues, among other things.

Teachers’ unions plan statewide votes in the coming week to authorize a strike if necessary. Some opponents say the bill is retaliation for last year’s nine-day teachers’ strike.

School groups say they’re ready to act against WV bill

The Free Press WV

Three groups critical of an education reform bill moving through the West Virginia Senate say they’re ready to take statewide action.

The West Virginia Education Association, West Virginia School Service Personnel Association and American Federation of Teachers say they’ll take action if it’s merited. The groups are opposed to the bill, which would offer a 5 percent pay raise but also clear the way for other reforms, including charter schools.

The Republican-led Senate voted 18-16 as a committee Thursday to advance the overhaul package to the full Senate. WCHS-TV reports the Senate adjourned Friday after rejecting several amendments, including one that would have removed everything except a pay raise for teachers and school service personnel.

Education Association Executive Director David Haney says the groups have sent language to leadership authorizing statewide action if needed.

Town of Ceredo releases pot hole claim information

The Free Press WV

The Town of Ceredo is giving drivers who suffer vehicle damage due to pot holes directions on options that could lead to payment for the damages.

If a driver sustains damage to a vehicle due to a pothole located on a road in the town, he or she is directed to file a claim with the West Virginia Court of Claims online or by mail.

In WV, depending on where the pothole is located, you can file a claim for the damage to your vehicle.

Those interested in filing a claim will need to submit a claim form to the West Virignia Court of Claims by obtaining a copy of the document from Town Hall or visiting the West Virginia Legislature website.

Those filing a claim should be prepared to detail the accident with photos and provide auto insurance information, along with damage estimates.

It can take over a year to receive payment for the damages.

Since insurance companies and policies vary when it comes to what pothole related damages they will cover, it is important to check with insurance providers as well.

For more information, call 304.347.4851.

To download the claim form, click HERE.

House Committee Advances Medical Cannabis Banking Bill

The Free Press WV

A proposed banking solution to West Virginia’s medical cannabis law has cleared its first hurdle in the House of Delegates.

The lower chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee approved House Bill 2538 Thursday.

The measure seeks to find a way around federal law that prohibits states and businesses from depositing money from the cannabis industry. Under the House proposal, the Treasurer’s office would create two funds for West Virginia’s medical cannabis program.

If the bill goes into lawThe Treasurer will request bids to have one or more financial institutions handle services for the funds. The institution may be a bank, credit union, or third party.

Before taking up the bill, the committee had removed a provision that would have protected employees of the state Treasurer’s office from federal prosecution. The committee adopted an amendment to reinstate that provision.

U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District Mike Stuart has been a vocal opponent of cannabis legalization, for both medical and recreational use.

As was pointed out in an opinion by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Congress has not recently appropriated funds for prosecuting the matter in states where medical cannabis is legal.

House Bill 2538 now heads to the chamber’s Judiciary Committee for consideration.

WV Senate committee OKs education bill jeered by teachers

The Free Press WV

West Virginia senators have advanced education legislation viewed by teachers as retaliation for last year’s nine-day statewide strike.

The Republican-led Senate voted 18-16 as a committee Thursday to advance the comprehensive bill to the full Senate, where it later underwent a first reading. Republicans Bill Hamilton and Kenny Mann joined Democrats in voting against it.

On Monday, the Senate approved a rare motion to have the entire chamber consider the bill as a committee rather than send it to the finance committee, where there may not have been enough votes to pass it.

In addition to providing an additional 5 percent pay raises to teachers and other state employees, the bill also would create public charter schools, establish savings accounts for families to pay for private school and require teachers to sign off annually on union dues.

Focused Management Audit will look at the quality of Frontier’s landline service in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

March 4th is the deadline for bids from companies interested in reviewing the landline operations of Frontier Communications through a Focused Management Audit the state Public Service Commission has ordered.

Earlier this month, a request for proposals for the audit went out late which prompted a PSC response.

“The Commission issued an order that said, ‘Okay, guys, we’re serious about this. We want you to stick to the timeline and, if you’re going to have any additional problems, you need to let us know right away,‘” said Susan Small, communications director for the PSC.

The state PSC initially called for the audit last year after receiving “numerous and increasing complaints” about the quality of Frontier service.

“We have 165 active complaints about phone service with Frontier in front of the Commission right now,” Small told MetroNews on Thursday.

“The Commission just wants to have people pick up the phone and the phone work.”

Frontier took over the Verizon network in 2010.

Under the order, Frontier has to pay for the audit from a qualified outside auditing firm.

The following is to be covered in it:

– the current status of the copper network;

– adequacy of staffing levels dedicated to the copper network;

– adequacy of capital investment in the copper network since 2010;

– adequacy of policies and procedures impacting the quality of service;

– adequacy of metrics currently in place to measure the quality of service;

– impact of the declining customer base on internal cash flow from operations relative to historic and current copper infrastructure maintenance and capital investment;

– and the impact of the current bargaining agreement and ongoing relations between management and labor on customer service quality and response timing.

“In the Focused Management Audit, they are trying to determine if Frontier is operating efficiently, utilizing sound management practices and to identify those areas where Frontier is not operating efficiently,” Small explained.

The audit is mandated to include recommendations for areas identified as needing improvement.

An adjusted timeline for the audit has been established and Frontier is being told to proceed without any additional delays.

In a previous filing, an attorney for Frontier Communications said Frontier stood “ready to work with staff.”

“Frontier intends to be open and to cooperate in good faith with staff, and naturally will expect the same in return.”

A PSC staff attorney wrote this in a Tuesday letter agreeing to the changes:

“Staff is concerned that Frontier management is not taking this Focused Management Audit seriously. To delay issuing the RFP by two weeks because certain members of management were unavailable or had limited availability is unacceptable when Frontier customers are without service for days, weeks and sometimes months at a time,” it read.

“The delay is further unacceptable in light of the fact that a number of 911 centers have been without service due to Frontier’s failure to timely maintain and/or repair its equipment or ensure the redundancy of its systems were in place.”

Small said Frontier’s phone service is critical for many West Virginians.

“We have a lot of pockets in the state that are not covered by cell phone service, so landline phone service is a lifeline for people. It needs to work,” she said.

~~  Shauna Johnson ~~

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