Brittany Patterson

Energy and Environment Reporter

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.

 

Ways to Connect

New River Gorge
Dave Bieri / National Park Service

A new grant is expected to help hundreds of students experience nature’s classroom at the New River Gorge.

Adobe Stock

Westmoreland Coal Company, one of the oldest mining companies in the country, became the second major coal bankruptcy of the Trump presidency Tuesday when the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Texas court.

The company, which has a substantial presence in the Ohio Valley, has for years faced mounting difficulties as it continued to take on debt while many of the power plants that used its coal announced they intend to close or switch to cleaner fuels.

 

Photo courtesy of WVU

Watershed restoration group Friends of Deckers Creek has been awarded a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor water quality.

The Morgantown-based nonprofit received the grant to help improve the health and water quality of the nearly 25-mile-long tributary of the Monongahela River, according to a press release by EPA.


James C. Justice III, left, watches his father’s inauguration as governor. He has assumed control of some Justice family companies.
Office of the WV Governor, via Flickr

The Justice family companies’ difficulties paying taxes over the years are well documented. But tax collectors haven’t been the only ones trying to recover debts from companies once operated by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and now in control of his family.

Sprouting farms
Brittany Patterson / WVPB

This story is part of an episode of Inside Appalachia about projects aimed at spurring job growth in Appalachia.

On a recent Monday morning, as the rising sun burns off the low-hanging fog and fishermen haul in their morning catches from the Greenbrier River, at Sprouting Farms, the day is well underway.

Produce has been harvested and safely stored in a giant refrigerator. Employees are packaging cherry tomatoes into plastic clamshells, activities you might find at any of the farms that dot the Greenbrier Valley.

But while the daily tasks are handled at this production-scale vegetable farm, the crux of Sprouting Farms’ mission goes beyond the fields at hand.  

Courtesy of ACEEE

West Virginia is almost dead last in a nationwide ranking of energy efficiency policies released this week by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The Mountain State tied for 49th place in a ranking of energy efficiency policies nationwide, down from 47th last year. 

Ohio River near Huntington
JaGa / wikimedia commons

A multi-state commission charged with protecting the Ohio River decided Thursday to postpone a decision to dramatically alter pollution controls.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, or ORSANCO, has been considering a proposal that would reduce its oversight of water pollution control standards along the Ohio River. The proposal, called "option 2" would eliminate the body's water pollution control standards for industrial and municipal wastewater discharges into the river.

West Virginia Supreme Court chamber
West Virginia Judiciary

This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. on 10/4/18

Lawyers representing a handful of Harrison County landowners in an upcoming case set to be heard by the West Virginia Supreme Court are asking Justice Jenkins to recuse himself.

In the motion filed Tuesday, attorneys for the landowners argue Jenkins should remove himself from an an upcoming appeals case because of a potential conflict of interest.

Pipeline ready for construction.
Seth Perlman / Associated Press

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with environmental groups Tuesday and threw out a major federal water crossings permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Environmental advocates said the move could significantly slow down construction through much of West Virginia and is expected to affect about 160 miles of the pipeline's route in the state.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration's priorities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Pipeline ready for construction.
Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Federal regulators gave the Atlantic Coast Pipeline the green light to restart construction Monday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission halted construction of the 600-mile pipeline last month after a federal court threw out two of the project’s federal permits.

Arbuckle Creek, Minden
Brittany Patterson

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to add areas near the Fayette County town of Minden to its list of the most serious hazardous waste sites in the country.

In a news release Tuesday, the agency said it has determined the Shaffer Equipment site, as well as parts of nearby Arbuckle Creek, should be added to the Superfund National Priorities List.

Natural gas pipeline warning sign
Richard Marx / Adobe Stock

Beaver County officials say an early morning methane gas pipeline explosion in Pennsylvania destroyed one home and prompted an evacuation of others.

The blast in Center Township was reported shortly before 5 a.m. Monday. Officials say a home, two garages and several vehicles were destroyed by fires stemming from the explosion.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

William Suan is no stranger to the problems abandoned oil and gas wells can cause.

“It's just an eyesore,” he said, standing inside a barn on his cattle ranch near Lost Creek, West Virginia. “I had to fence one off because it's leaking now.”

There are five inactive wells on his land, most installed in the '60s and '70s, and the companies that owned the wells have long since gone out of business.

DuPont's Washington Works
Parkersburg News & Sentinel

Environmental Protection Agency officials told a Congressional panel Thursday that the agency will announce by the end of the year whether it will take the next step to regulate a group of toxic fluorinated chemicals found in some water systems in the Ohio Valley.

The PFAS group of chemicals, which include PFOA or C-8, were widely used to make nonstick products and flame retardants and have been detected in at least 10 water systems in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Exposure has been linked to a number of health effects.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ruhrfisch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Developers of a major underground natural gas liquids storage facility say they are one step closer to making construction a reality. The Appalachian Development Group announced in an Aug. 29 news release that it selected an outside development and engineering firm to help with project planning and construction.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice talks about his budget proposal during a stop on his Save Our State Tour on Thursday, March 3, 2017, at Fairmont State University.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal court has ordered the U.S. Marshal to collect more than $1 million owed by two coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Federal regulators today gave the Mountain Valley Pipeline the green light to restart the majority of construction.

In a letter sent to Mountain Valley Pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said the pipeline’s continued construction hiatus could cause more environmental harm than good. In order to “mitigate further environmental impacts” the agency said construction along rights-of-way could resume, except on federal lands.


Kara Lofton / WVPB

When President Trump wants to talk coal, he comes to West Virginia. So it was not surprising that the president visited Charleston just hours after his administration unveiled a long-awaited overhaul of the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, the Clean Power Plan.

“We’re cancelling Obama’s illegal, anti-coal-destroying regulations. The so-called Clean Power Plan,” Trump told the cheering crowd.

In Ohio Valley Visits, Trump Administration Pushes Policies Supporting Mining And Metals

Aug 24, 2018
Kara Lofton / WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region's traditional but faltering industries -- metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have introduced a provision that aims to boost participation in black lung detection programs.

Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner introduced the amendment Wednesday into the defense, labor, health and education spending package that is being debated on the Senate floor.

If passed, the provision would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH to create a report for Congress within 180 days detailing how to increase participation in black lung screening programs.

Kara Lofton / WVPB

At a campaign rally in Charleston for state attorney general and senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, President Donald Trump touted the coal industry’s comeback in West Virginia.

“And it is really happening -- we are back,” Trump told the cheering crowd, many of whom were sporting hard hats and carrying “Trump Digs Coal” signs. “The coal industry is back.”

Steve Helber / AP File Photo

President Donald Trump is expected to use a rally in West Virginia Tuesday to roll out a replacement for a major climate regulation that sought to limit carbon pollution.

Trump will be in Charleston campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Attorney General Patrick  Morrisey. He is also expected to announce his administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan.

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

A new economic forecast shows the recent uptick in coal production is expected to level out during the next two years and decline precipitously during the next two decades.

The annual coal production report, released today by West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, shows the recent uptick in coal production will be short-lived.

Wikimedia Commons

Federal regulators have halted construction of two major natural gas pipelines that cross through Appalachia this month, following several federal court decisions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) halted the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Friday, Aug. 10. The agency issued a similar stop-work order earlier this month for the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both orders followed decisions issued by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appeals court based in Richmond, Virginia.

Pipeline awaits construction.
SETH PERLMAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Federal regulators halted all construction of the 604-mile, interstate Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) following a federal court’s ruling this week that invalidated two major federal permits.

The Friday evening decision comes just a week after regulators issued a similar stop work order for another major interstate natural gas project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

In this Thursday, May 3, 2018 photo, downed trees mark the route of the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline in Lindside, W.Va.
Steve Helber / Associated Press

Federal regulators have approved parts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline's plan to stabilize areas of the pipeline's route that are under construction and ensure that work already in progress does not become an environmental liability.

The document, mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after it halted all construction of the 303-mile pipeline earlier this month, drew criticism from environmental groups that said the plan effectively greenlights continued pipeline construction.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is reconsidering how it permits stream crossings for natural gas pipelines and other federal projects approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Pipeline awaits construction.
SETH PERLMAN / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Federal regulators have ordered all construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to temporarily cease.

In a letter sent Friday, Aug. 3, by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to pipeline officials, the agency ordered construction to stop across the pipeline’s entire 303-mile route.

Vivian Stockman and Southwings

An area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined for coal in Appalachia using mountaintop removal, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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