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 Virginia 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 85-pound American bulldog, Cooper.

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Courtesy Friends of Blackwater/WVDEP

West Virginia officials Thursday announced the names of the recipients they are recommending for millions of dollars in federal funding to help clean up abandoned coal mines.

The West Virginia Department of Environment Protection is recommending 12 projects in the Mountain State receive $27 million in Abandoned Mine Land Pilot program funding. 

"They are great projects for West Virginia that will spur economic development," said Gov. Jim Justice, speaking at a virtual press conference Thursday. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A federal court on Friday approved a deal that requires two federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of coal mining on endangered species, including West Virginia's Guyandotte River crayfish. 

 


 


 

West Virginia officials moved the state’s primary election from May 12 to June 9 out of safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, and have expanded options for mail-in voting.

 

Registered voters can vote in person during early voting or on Election Day at a polling location, or by absentee ballot.

 

The last day to register to vote in the primary is May 19. Early in-person voting begins May 27 and ends June 6. You can also vote in person on Election Day, June 9. 

Office of Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice has again expanded the list of businesses that can reopen to include gyms, health clubs, whitewater rafting and ziplining.

Healthcare providers in the WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital Emergency Department receive their digital PPE from RNI team members.
Courtesy WVU RNI

 

A typical day at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown has its stresses.

Curtis Ash, nursing manager in the hospital’s emergency department, knows that well. He supports about 160 staff, who themselves are caring for sick patients.

But in mid-March, the reality of being a frontline health care worker at Ruby, and across the United States, shifted as fears of the coronavirus and cases began to trickle in.

Gov. Jim Justice gives an update on coronavirus response and alerts in a virtual briefing with media and citizens on March 24, 2020.
WV Governor's Office

West Virginia state officials say the state will proceed with its reopening plans, with the bulk of all retail stores set to open their doors beginning Thursday, May 21.

Nearly all retail businesses will reopen to the public including specialty big box retailers such as sporting and home good stores. Malls will remain closed, but anchor stores with external entrances can reopen. Indoor dining at restaurants can resume at 50 percent capacity.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

With kids cooped up inside their homes and classroom instruction happening remotely, we thought it would be a great time to take another listen to an episode of Inside Appalachia that originally aired in 2019. We explore the power of getting children outside to learn, a topic that’s perhaps even  more important now than ever. 

Provided by the Uppercue Family

The front porch is well known across much of Appalachia as a gathering place for conversation and sharing. During the coronavirus, those front porches have become a lifeline, for some -- in more ways than one. 

For YES! Magazine, in partnership with 100 Days in Appalachia, reporter Alison Stine explored how the ethos of the front porch as a connection point is being used to help keep students and families fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke with West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Brittany Patterson. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation.

 


Stradwick's Fade Cave Facebook Page

Across the U.S., some states, including West Virginia, are beginning to loosen restrictions meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus, allowing for some non-essential businesses to reopen. 

On Monday, May 4, West Virginia entered the second week of Gov. Jim Justice’s six-week reopening plan, “The Comeback.” During week two, businesses with fewer than 10 employees, salons and barber shops, dog grooming services, and outdoor dining restaurants are allowed to reopen. Churches and other places of worship are allowed to conduct funerals and other services with limited gathering sizes. 


Bob Murray
Glynis Board / Ohio Valley ReSource

Last fall, Murray Energy — the largest privately-owned coal company in America with a large presence in the Ohio Valley — joined many of its peers in declaring bankruptcy. Murray faced mounting debt and a struggling coal market. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, tanking the global economy including energy markets. 

S&P Global Market Intelligence senior reporter Taylor Kuykendall has been following the bankruptcy case closely. Late last week, he spoke with energy and environment reporter Brittany Patterson about the latest updates in the case.


Corey Knollinger WVPB

At the Rambling Root restaurant in Fairmont, the lights have been dimmed and chairs and tables are stacked in the corner. The bar, usually crowded with locals sipping craft beer, is empty. 

Since the state closed all nonessential business due to COVID-19, sales are down by more than 40 percent, said owner D.J. Cassell. He’s had to lay off 10 of his 12 staffers, and a few have already said they won’t be able to come back.

“It sucks, because I am doing everything I can right now to keep the lights on and the doors open here, but if I don’t get some help then —  if we close down, I don’t know if we’ll ever open back up,” he said. 

Adobe Stock

West Virginians who are self-employed or independent contractors will soon be able to apply for unemployment benefits if they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

During a virtual press conference Monday hosted by state officials, Scott Adkins, director of WorkForce West Virignia, said beginning on Friday at 10 p.m. workers who would not otherwise be eligible for benefits, including gig workers, freelancers and Uber and Lyft drivers, will also be able to apply for benefits under the CARES Act passed last month by Congress.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

To help decrease the spread of COVID-19, residents across the country, and here in West Virginia, are being asked to stay home, except to get the essentials such as food and medicine. Although the National Grocers Association assures there’s not a food shortage in the U.S., some store shelves are sparse. 

 

As spring unfolds across the Mountain State, the pandemic is driving an influx of West Virginians back to the garden and to some of the state’s local farmers. 

 

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broacasting

A West Virginia-based coal plant operator has announced that it’s filing for bankruptcy due to weak demand for electricity. Longview Power LLC, which operates one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S. hailed by the Trump administration as a model for coal’s future, announced in a Tuesday press release that it would seek to restructure its debts and ownership structure under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. 

 

West Virginia Mask Army

A trade group that represents West Virginia’s nursing homes and assisted living communities is raising the alarm that the state’s more than 20,000 healthcare workers that work in long-term care facilities may soon run out of personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns. 

Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this week released a long-awaited plan to update the state’s water quality standards.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

State officials are reporting a second coronavirus-related death in West Virginia. 

The Department of Health and Human Resources released a press release Wednesday evening from the Jackson County Health Department confirming the state’s second fatality. 

looney ridge surface coal mine
Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice have agreed to pay more than $5 million in overdue mine health and safety fines and fees.

Kudzu grows near a coal preparation plant in eastern Kentucky.
Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Thursday filed a lawsuit against coal operator ERP Environmental Fund, Inc. alleging the company has racked up hundreds of violations, laid off employees, and walked away from its mining operations, leaving environmental obligations unfulfilled. 

According to documents filed with the Kanawha Circuit Court on March 26, ERP holds more than 100 permits at numerous mine sites across West Virginia. With the exception of one permit, all were acquired in 2015 from Patriot Coal Corporation during the company’s second bankruptcy. 

The United Mine Workers of America is asking federal regulators to set uniform, enforceable guidelines to help protect coal miners from contracting COVID-19. 

Emily Allen / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 

As restrictions on daily activities tighten and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise, across West Virginia many community-based food pantries report more people are using their services. 

While federal food resources are being expanded during the pandemic, some organizations operating on the ground say they are grappling with how COVID-19 is changing day-to-day operations.

Screenshot

Three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for governor of West Virginia debated Tuesday night, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread globally and across the Mountain State.  

The virus loomed large throughout the hour-long debate hosted by WVVA between attorney and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, physician and Boone County state Sen. Ron Stollings and child advocate Stephen Smith.

 

During the 2020 state legislative session, we asked you what energy and environment issues were on your mind. We got a lot of great responses, but one area in particular stood out —  many of you had questions about West Virginia's renewable energy policies. 

Like Huntington, West Virginia, resident Jennifer Leist. She asked: “What are the obstacles keeping West Virginia from advancing with more renewable energy in our state? What can we do to help with the problem?”

This year, West Virginia lawmakers debated a handful of different bills related to solar energy. One proposal that could exponentially increase the amount of solar installed across the Mountain State passed. 

coal
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

As states across the Ohio Valley order the closure of non-essential businesses to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, coal mines will remain open. But as with many industries, the global pandemic is straining the coal sector, and some experts say the already struggling industry could face intense challenges in the months ahead as electricity demand flags and international exports stall. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

This story was updated at 5 p.m. EST with the latest positive case count.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced new tourism-related restrictions Friday, March 20. By Friday afternoon, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported eight positive cases of the coronavirus in the Mountain State. 

Head of the Ohio Regatta, Ohio River
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As the world grapples with the fast-moving spread of the coronavirus, many of us may be out of our normal routines. Maybe we’re trying to answer email with kids at home; maybe we’re worried about loved ones or our own financial wellbeing in this uncertain time.

For many, the uncertainty is causing real anxiety. Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, an assistant research professor at West Virginia University, says one way to cope is with something called compassion meditation. While many of us are practicing social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus, tapping into our compassion for others may help manage coronavirus-related anxiety.

Reporter Brittany Patterson spoke with Brefczynski-Lewis about how thinking of others during this time can help us all feel less alone. Here is an excerpt of their conversation, which was recorded over Zoom.


Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Energy producers, utilities and energy sector workers across the Ohio Valley are adjusting operations and bracing for continued economic impacts as the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold.

Courtesy Berkeley County Schools

Schools across West Virginia closed Monday, March 16, for at least two weeks in an effort to help stem the transmission of the coronavirus. 

Since the shutdown was announced, West Virginians around the state have been working to make sure students are fed. According to the West Virginia Department of Education, more than two-thirds  of school-aged children, or more than 183,000, qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. 

Barb Sargent / Courtesy WV DNR

U.S. Forest Service district biologist Shane Jones stands on an overlook high up on West Virginia’s Cheat Mountain. Behind him lush, red spruce trees stand like sentinels on this frozen landscape. As he looks out, small patches of green dot what is largely a view of the barren, brown trunks of leafless hardwoods.

Wendell Smith/Flickr

As spring approaches, ramps are popping up across West Virginia. The Monongahela National Forest on Friday released guidelines for harvesting the wild onion.

 

 

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