WMKY

Brittany Patterson

Brittany Patterson is the energy and environment reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Ohio Valley ReSource. A native of northern California, Brittany comes to West Virginia from Washington, D.C., where she spent three years covering public lands and climate change for E&E News, an outlet that's widely considered required reading for energy and environment professionals.

 

She covers a broad range of topics including the oil and gas industry, coal industry, utilities, conservation, water quality issues and climate change across West Virignia and the Ohio Valley.

 

Brittany earned her bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University and her master's from U.C. Berkeley, both in journalism. Her work has been published in Scientific American, E&E News, TheAtlantic.com, Mother Jones, KQED, Earth Island Journal, Verily, and Refinery 29.

 

When not reporting the news, you can find her baking, hiking or cuddling with her 80-pound American bulldog, Cooper.

 

Devin Mefford is sitting in the squat metal buggy of a modified mantrip, the train-like shuttle coal miners use to travel underground. Mefford is dressed for work, in a hardhat and a navy shirt and pants with lime green reflective stripes.

It’s a uniform his father and grandfather — both Kentucky coal miners — would be familiar with.

Mefford does go into a mine every day, but not for the coal. He’s the tour guide at Portal 31, a train ride through a once-operational coal mine in Harlan County.

State officials have confirmed an invasive pest known to feed on a wide range of crops and trees has been found in West Virginia for the first time.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture said in a press release released Wednesday that the Spotted Lanternfly was discovered in the Bunker Hill area of Berkeley County in late October. 

 


This story was updated on Oct. 29 to include additional information and reaction.

Murray Energy Corp., the largest underground coal mining company in America with a substantial footprint across the Ohio Valley, has filed for bankruptcy protection. 

On a recent Friday in October, hundreds of children and their families are excitedly milling about the West Virginia State Wildlife Center

Clutching flashlights, glow sticks and steaming cups of hot chocolate, visitors have come to the state-run zoological center — which houses wildlife native and introduced to West Virginia  — for the ninth annual Spooky Night Tours. 


Tap water delivered by more than 2,000 water systems across the Ohio Valley contain pollutants, many harmful to human health, even though they mostly meet federal drinking water standards. That’s according to a newly-updated database released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. 


 

Standing on the breezy outlook at Flag Rock Recreation Area, Norton City Manager Fred Ramey is taking in the panoramic view of downtown Norton, Virginia. The brick building-lined streets are framed by the verdant, rolling Appalachian mountains. Jagged, brown scars from mountaintop mining operations can be seen in the distance, reminders of the region’s history of coal production.


Two West Virginia lawmakers — a Republican and a Democrat — held a video conference Tuesday with middle and high school students across the state about a topic that’s not often given much attention in West Virginia: Climate change.


 

More than 150 West Virginia college students and residents skipped class and work on Friday to raise awareness about the growing threat of climate change. The protest was part of a global climate action that drew millions of participants across the world.


 


West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1. 

On a recent hot, August weekend, about a dozen citizens spent three days along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Armed with cameras, smartphones and drones the volunteers traveled portions of the pipeline’s route under construction from Monroe to Doddridge counties. 

 


 


Lawyers, lawmakers, about two dozen foster families, and others put their heads together Tuesday evening to discuss what’s working and what could be better inside West Virginia's foster care system. 

The forum is one of a series of listening sessions being hosted across the state by the non-profit child welfare organization, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. 

President Donald Trump Tuesday toured Shell Chemical’s soon-to-be completed ethane cracker complex in Monaca, Pennsylvania, to tout his administration’s commitment to expanding energy production. The facility is part of what industry boosters hope will be a new plastics and chemical manufacturing base in the upper Ohio Valley, but many residents here worry about the heat-trapping gases and plastic waste such an industry would produce.

Some coal miners left without pay by the bankruptcy of coal company Blackjewel LLC are protesting by blocking a coal train in eastern Kentucky.

The stand-off began early Monday when five miners blocked the train from leaving the Cumberland, Kentucky, plant. Despite police asking them to leave, miners spent the night blocking the railroad to protest Blackjewel moving coal while miners have yet to be paid.

A buyer for some of bankrupt coal company Blackjewel’s mines has emerged. 

In a court filing Thursday, July 25, the West Virginia-based company said Contura Energy Inc., which operates both surface and underground coal mines across Appalachia, had agreed to be a “Stalking Horse Purchaser” or initial bidder for three of the company’s surface mines. 

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a second limited loan package for ailing coal company Blackjewel LLC. 

During an emergency hearing Friday afternoon, lawyers representing Blackjewel told U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Judge Frank Volk the $2.9 million financing package, which includes only $900,000 in new money, would be used as a “bridge” to try and shore up the company as it prepares to sell its mines.

 


Patrick Fitchpatrick has worked at Blackjewel’s D-11 coal mine in Cumberland, Kentucky, for a year and a half. He says he enjoyed the work right up until he was told not to come in last Monday. 

“Everything was fine,” he said. “Everything was smooth sailing and then one day it just all goes to hell.”

The country’s sixth-largest coal company filed bankruptcy last week, and many of Blackjewel’s 1,700 workers in Wyoming and across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia were suddenly out of work.

In what is the latest sign of problems for the U.S. coal industry, one of the country’s largest coal producers has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

West Virginia-based Revelation Energy LLC and its recently-formed affiliate, Blackjewel LLC, began the bankruptcy reorganization process in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Monday. 

Brick buildings line the wide sidewalks of Main Street in downtown Coshocton, Ohio. On a recent spring day the dogwood trees are blooming. Bright red and white tulips dot the grassy public square, home to the local courthouse and a gazebo.

There are barber shops, an optometrist, a florist, a railroad-themed steakhouse is open for lunch. A trendy public art installment features a small roller coaster designed and built by the local high school and a marquee that blinks “be nice to others.”


This is the first story in an occasional series exploring the links between addiction recovery and a recovering economy.

It’s lunch hour, and Cafe Appalachia is bustling.

Located in South Charleston, West Virginia, the former church turned restaurant has a funky, yet calming vibe. Twinkle lights and mismatched dining room sets dot the space. For $8 to $10 a plate, diners can enjoy a locally-sourced meal.


As a new plastics industry emerges in the Ohio Valley, a report by environmental groups warns that the expansion of plastics threatens the world’s ability to keep climate change at bay.


The variety of fish species in the Ohio River has substantially increased since the 1960s, according to a new study.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week said it will not strengthen regulations on waste created by oil and gas production, a move that could affect communities across the Ohio Valley where the oil and gas industry is booming in the Appalachian Basin.  


 

West Virginia environmental regulators have changed some state-imposed conditions to a federal permit issued for stream crossings for natural gas pipelines approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In a letter sent to federal regulators last week, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) officials submitted a series of changes to the state-imposed conditions for the Nationwide Permit 12.

The changes include the removal of a 72-hour time restriction for construction of interstate natural gas pipelines under waterways in certain cases.

The Appalachian Regional Commission Monday began accepting applications for a new leadership and economic training program.

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s namesake is apparent upon stepping outside its visitors center in Williamstown, West Virginia. Gazing past bird feeders and the forested bank of the Ohio River, a skinny island looms large.

“So Buckley Island is right across the water from us,” says Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge.


The West Virginia House passed a bill Wednesday that would reduce the severance tax paid on coal burned for electricity

 

House Bill 3142 passed on an 88-11 vote after contentious debate on the floor.

Long sought by industry, the legislation would reduce the severance tax paid by coal companies on steam or thermal coal from 5 percent to 4 percent effective July 1 and to 3 percent effective July 1, 2020.

 


 

For our first installment of Wild, Wondering West Virginia, we tackled a question about West Virginia’s origins. Listener Nancy Taylor wanted to know what West Virginia was like during the ice age and whether the ancient time shaped the Mountain State’s topography.

For many people the holidays signal the start of a joyous time — snow season. It means strapping on skis or hopping onto a sled to tear into soft, fluffy powder.

That’s the case for Greg Corio, who for almost two decades has been an avid ice climber.

"The only way to describe it is it’s magical," said Corio. "There’s so many features, and so many details and little knobs and little pieces and dripping water as you’re climbing up it. It’s like climbing up the side of Magic Kingdom’s castle.”

A federal court today ruled the U.S. Forest Service improperly granted permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross under national forest lands, including the Appalachian Trail.


Mine Workers Sue Federal Regulators Over Controversial Mine Safety Decision

Dec 5, 2018

The United Mine Workers of America is suing the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, after the agency reduced its heightened oversight of a West Virginia coal mine with a poor safety record. 

Pages