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

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.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

A pilot-scale facility that extracts valuable rare earth elements from coal waste byproducts officially opened its doors this week at West Virginia University.

Advocates of the project are hopeful that environmental waste left by Appalachia’s coal mining legacy could one day fuel an economic boom in the region while also providing some national security.

A crater in the earth following a natural gas pipeline explosion as seen from the air.
Photo courtesy of Martin Dofka

A natural gas pipeline explosion that occurred last month in Marshall County was likely caused by land subsidence, or movement, according to federal regulators.

In a notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. this week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said shifting land likely triggered the explosion of the Leach Xpress pipeline.

Still from White House video

President Donald Trump’s desire to help boost the Ohio Valley’s energy industry and bring back mining jobs could be stymied by the administration's escalating trade battle with China and other trading partners across the globe.

Department of Environmental Quality Firector, David Paylor walks along a retention pond for a spring near the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline June 6, in Bolar, Va.
Steve Helber / Associated Press

Environmental advocates asked a federal court Tuesday to review a federal permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a law firm representing a coalition of environmental and citizen groups, filed a petition with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The tree sitters with their treetop perch are nearly level with the ridge top. They sit near the site where boring will be used to cross underneath the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. A notice from Mountain Valley Pipeline is taped to the tree trunk.
Nancy Andrews

Environmental advocates yesterday asked federal regulators to suspend construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

 

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday halted some construction of the natural gas Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia.

The three-judge panel sided with conservation groups who challenged the pipeline’s water-crossings permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Water
Jasonanaggie / Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration today released a politically charged study on the health impacts of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS chemicals, including the compound known as C8, which has been detected in some water systems in the Ohio Valley.

 

The draft report, released by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), finds these fluorinated chemicals, which are used in some nonstick products and flame retardants, can endanger human health at levels 7 to 10 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency has previously said were safe.

Curt and Debbie Havens’ ranch style home is the gathering place for their family. Their two boys grew up playing in the streets in this quiet neighborhood in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Now, their grandchildren do the same.

“They played ball, all kinds of games,” Debbie recalled during a recent interview. Family photos and knick-knacks line the walls. One heart-shaped sign reads “May love be the heart of this home.”

“Everybody wants to come to grammy’s and pappy’s,” she added.

Coal Ash Uncovered: New Data Reveal Widespread Contamination At Ohio Valley Sites

Jun 18, 2018
A 2011 aerial photo of Little Blue Run, the largest coal ash waste site in the country.
Robert Donnan

For generations, coal power has fueled American prosperity. But for each shovelful thrown into the furnaces, a pile of ash was left in its place.

Today, as coal’s dominance in the power sector wanes, those piles of ash have grown into mountains as coal ash became one of the largest waste streams in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mirijana Beram

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.

 


Still from White House video

President Donald Trump last week told the Department of Energy to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the closures of coal and nuclear power plants in the Ohio Valley region that are no longer economical to operate.

But a number of energy analysts say the administration’s unprecedented effort to prop up struggling utilities will do little to solve their underlying problems and will likely end up costing consumers more.  

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

On a recent sunny Wednesday, Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute, was standing on a bridge looking out at Big Sandy Creek. It was a balmy afternoon, perfect for kayaking, and the creek running the Cheat River was clear. But 25 years ago, this water was a shocking orange color -- from acid mine drainage.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public listening session next week in the town of Minden, which is seeking federal help due to hazardous waste contamination.

Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On a recent drive through the Northview neighborhood of Clarksburg, James Lachapelle surveyed what is left of the factory that was once the lifeblood of this blue-collar community in north central West Virginia.

Broken windows dot the dilapidated structure, which was once the Roland glass factory. Luscious green vines and trees almost obscure the piles of tires and other refuse.

Lachapelle has lived here his entire life. His grandfather, father and brother all worked at the glass factory.

"I grew up with that factory there and never had one worry about," he said. "I mean we just grew up [thinking] 'OK, that’s just the way it was,' but as you got older and the factory collapsed, then you started worrying when are they going to clean this mess up?"

Birders identify species in the WVU arboretum, a popular woods in Morgantown, WV.
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On a recent chilly Tuesday morning, about 20 people filed along a winding dirt path leading deeper into West Virginia University’s Arboretum in Morgantown.

Armed with binoculars, smartphones and hiking boots, the group had one goal — spot and identify the chittering birds hidden in the trees above.

DuPont's Washington Works
Parkersburg News & Sentinel

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said today the agency is prepared to take action to limit exposure of  widely-used toxic chemicals used to make non-stick items. 

PFAS is a category of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, C8, GenX, and many other chemicals with stain resistant, non-stick and waterproof properties. Several communities across the Ohio Valley have detected PFAS chemicals in drinking water and a few have significant contamination.

Appalachians Against Pipelines

Protesters in Jefferson National Forest erected a new protest site today aimed at blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Fern MacDougal is the latest in a string of protesters to take to the trees in protest of the 303-mile pipeline.


Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito pressed the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday over recently released emails that show White House and EPA officials attempted to delay a new federal standard for C-8 and other similar toxic water-polluting chemicals, which have for decades been detected in several water systems in the Ohio Valley.

A sign greets visitors to the Fernow Experimental Forest in Tucker County, W.Va.
Jean Snedegar / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A new study featuring research conducted at an experimental forest in West Virginia is shedding light on how the carbon-storing ability of soils, and the billions of microbes within them, may fare as both carbon dioxide and nitrogen increase in the future.

The research, published recently in the journal Global Change Biology, examined how increased nitrogen affects the ability of forests and soil to store carbon.

Sergei Grits / Associated Press

The majority of ants entering the United States are coming not from their native countries, but from other regions, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study released this week, co-authored by a Morgantown entomologist.

Over the past two centuries, more than 400 insects have invaded the U.S. Some of those include ants. And although they are little, ants can cause big ecological problems worldwide including triggering outbreaks of sap-feeding insects because some non-native ant species keep away parasites.

Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia

Communities tasked with finding a second life for land that once housed coal-fired power plants should engage early and often and think holistically about the economic and environmental challenges and opportunities, according to a new tool.

The Chicago-based Delta Institute, which works with transitioning coal communities, released a roadmap this week aimed at helping local governments redevelop sites where coal plants once stood.


U.S. Forest Service / USDA

Prescribed burning is planned for the Hopkins Knob area of Greenbrier County on Sunday, April 29.

According to a news release issued by the U. S. Forest Service, two helicopters and up to 60 firefighters and support staff will be on hand to assist with the prescribed burn inside the in the Monongahela National Forest.

Burning will occur only if weather conditions are favorable.

More information, including maps and photos, can be found on the webpage here.

Wikimedia Commons

A natural gas energy processor has agreed to pay a $610,000 civil penalty and install millions of dollars worth of equipment to reduce harmful emissions at hundreds of facilities across western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Pages