Erica Peterson (KPR)

Kentucky Public Radio Correspondent

Erica Peterson is a reporter and Kentucky Public Radio correspondent based out of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky poet, farmer and activist Wendell Berry will be honored in Washington D.C. tonight as the 41st Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. The honor is the highest one the government bestows in the humanities. Over his long career, Berry has written fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He’s also a farmer and environmentalist, and most recently has channeled his activism into protesting mountaintop removal coal mining. National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach says besides being a wonderful poet and prose writer, Berry’s lifestyle makes him a modern-day Henry David Thoreau.

Nearly 90 percent of the corn in this country is genetically-modified. And as using genetically-modified—or GM—corn becomes increasingly popular in everyday foods, more people are becoming concerned about potential ill effects on human health and the environment.

Besides being used in food, that corn is also finding its way into Kentucky’s signature spirit: bourbon.

In the grain room at the Four Roses Distillery, master distiller Jim Rutledge is pours corn kernels into a small glass.

“I’m just going to heat this up,” he says.

A bill that would require a certain percentage of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources is scheduled for a hearing in the Kentucky House of Representatives tomorrow. The bill has little chance of passage this late in the session, but its advocates are hoping to set the stage for next year.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would designate some coal severance tax money to scholarships for coalfields residents; the measure has already passed the House. But a report by a non-profit group warns that Kentucky needs to think about the long-term future of the state’s coal severance fund. Coal producers pay a tax of four and a half percent value of coal that’s sold into the state’s coal severance fund. Half of that money goes to Kentucky’s general fund, and the other half goes to various programs in coal-producing counties.

There have been twenty-one confirmed deaths in Kentucky after tornadoes tore through the state on Friday. Seven of those deaths were in Morgan County, where the county seat, West Liberty, was leveled by the storms. Louisville resident Alex Wright is a doctor with Norton Healthcare Systems. West Liberty is his hometown, and his extended family still lives there. He headed to the town Saturday morning to see how he could help, and described the scene he saw driving through downtown to Kentucky Public Radio’s Erica Peterson.

Ryan von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Since 2006, White Nose Syndrome has been decimating bat populations east of the Mississippi. Last month, the disease was found in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, and biologists expect it to spread further. Kentucky Public Radio’s Erica Peterson went with state researchers into a Meade County cave to see what’s being done to stop White Nose Syndrome.

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Environmental activists are urging state lawmakers to stop supporting mountaintop removal coal mining and throw their weight behind renewable energy legislation. Today is I Love Mountains Day at the state capitol, and more than one thousand are expected to attend a rally. They’re supporting the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, which would mandate a certain percentage of energy in Kentucky come from renewable or efficient sources. Recent studies have linked mountaintop removal to birth defects, cancer and other diseases.

U.S. House Republicans are again attacking new environmental regulations that limit the amount of mercury and other pollution power plants can emit. The new rules were the subject of a House subcommittee meeting today. The hearing, led by Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield, essentially can be summarized like this: Republicans question all of the data released by the Environmental Protection Agency, including the cost of the regulations and their effect on the economy.

Kentucky author, farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry has been named the 41st Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities. As part of the award, Berry will deliver a lecture on April 23 in Washington, DC.  The speech’s title is “It All Turns on Affection,” and in it Berry will discuss human beings’ interaction with nature.

Department of Energy

Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield says a bill to allow re-enrichment of uranium at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant has reached a stalemate in Washington.

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