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.

Ways to Connect

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Janet Clayton is standing thigh-deep in a back channel of the Elk River. Clad in a wetsuit and knee pads, the silver-haired biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reaches into a bright orange mesh bag submerged in water.

Inside are a half dozen mussels she plucked from the rocky river bottom.

Blackjewel Miners Continue Protest Ahead of Bankruptcy Hearing

Aug 2, 2019
Miners and supporters hold a meeting along the railroad tracks.
Curren Sheldon

Miners left unpaid by the bankrupt Blackjewel coal company say they are prepared to keep up their protest on railroad tracks in Harlan County, Kentucky, where they are blocking delivery of a load of coal. As their protest grows and gains attention, a bankruptcy court hearing on Monday could determine whether and when the miners get their paychecks.

Blackjewel Miners Block Railroad to Demand Pay from Bankrupt Coal Company

Jul 30, 2019
Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

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.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

A federal public health agency is launching a study this fall that will evaluate Berkeley County residents’ exposure to the PFAS group of chemicals, which includes PFOA, or C8.

 

Natural gas pipe for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline sits in a yard Feb. 27, 2019, near Morgantown, W.Va.
Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal court has thrown out two key permits for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

U.S. 4th Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Gregory said in an opinion issued Friday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn't adhere to its mandate to protect endangered species when it fast-tracked re-issuing two permits to the natural gas project proposed to go through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Blackjewel coal mine
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

 

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a plan by West Virginia-based Blackjewel LLC to begin the sale of its coal mines and other assets. 

At the heart of the proposal, Tennessee-based Contura Energy Inc. will be the “Stalking Horse Purchaser,” or initial bidder, for three of Blackjewel’s surface mines. 

Led by production from its Powder River Basin, Wyoming produces 40 percent of U.S. coal.
U.S. Geological Survey

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. 

Courtesy: Shell Chemicals

 

West Virginia lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday from a top Department of Energy official that the federal government is prioritizing building out a petrochemical industry in Appalachia.

Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia

West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that will give a $12 million tax cut to a struggling coal-fired power plant in Pleasants County. 

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Members of the West Virginia Legislature heard testimony Monday in support of reviving policy solutions to address the state’s growing number of abandoned and unplugged natural gas wells.

 

coal
Mead Gruver / AP Photo

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.

Jeff Gentner / AP Photo

This story was updated on 7/22/19 at 4 p.m. EST.

 

New research published this week finds communities across the county, including in West Virginia, can expect weeks of dangerously hot days in the coming decades if action to reduce global heat-trapping pollution isn’t taken.

 

 

Peabody Energy, Inc.
Wikimedia Commons

This story was updated on 7/16/19 at 4:35 p.m. EST.

A coal company with mines in Kentucky and West Virginia has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Laid-Off Employees Of Bankrupt Blackjewel Mining Seek Pay, Answers

Jul 10, 2019

 

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.

Aliso Canyon leak
Dean Musgrove / Associated Press

Thousands of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia residents live within one city block of highly pressurized underground natural gas storage wells, according to a new research from Harvard University.

 

Courtesy of Marshall University

This story was updated on 7/5/2019 at 9:20 a.m.

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — A helicopter carrying seven Americans to Fort Lauderdale, Florida crashed Thursday, July 4, off Grand Cay island in the Bahamas, killing everyone on aboard, Bahamian police said.

A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the helicopter went missing shortly after leaving Big Grand Cay and authorities and local residents later found the crash site two miles off Grand Cay. Police identified those killed as four women and three men but did not provide names.

Coal Stock Pile
www.mine-engineer.com

This story was updated on 7/5/2019 at 11:15 a.m.

A federal bankruptcy court in West Virginia has granted a request by West-Virginia based coal company Blackjewel LLC to borrow $5 million to stay afloat, on the condition the company’s president and CEO, Jeff Hoops, resigns.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

 

When life long Valley Head resident Melissa Wilfong first heard that the 600-mile Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline was going to be constructed just a few miles from her community, she wasn’t happy. 

“My first thought was, ‘oh no, they're going to just tear up everything and be a nuisance,’” she said. 

Her opinion quickly changed after she had an opportunity to meet some of the hundreds of workers who soon flocked to Valley Head.

Peabody Energy, Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

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. 

Pipeline protestor
Appalachians Against Pipelines

Protestors in opposition of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, locked themselves to equipment at construction sites in Virginia and West Virginia in two separate incidents this week.

 

Solar panels arriving in Fayette County.
Colleen Laffey

For the first time in the United States, renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal, a trend the federal U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts will continue. 

 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday released its long-awaited final replacement for the Obama administration's signature climate change regulation, which sought to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by one-third by 2025.

The Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE, tasks states with developing plans that rely on the use of efficiency technologies to reduce carbon emissions at existing power plants.

Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mountain Dragon Mazery co-founders Ruthann Smith and Tom Maltby began making honey wine — or mead — more than two decades ago as a way to marry their love of old-world traditions with their love of honey. Five years ago, they opened a tasting room and custom-made micro-factory to produce and bottle nine varieties of mead on a commercial scale. They're part of the fastest-growing sector of the alcoholic beverage industry in the U.S.

Coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have agreed to a settlement covering millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in four eastern Kentucky counties: Harlan, Knott, Magoffin, and Pike.

Gov. Justice takes the oath of office as his son James C. Justice III (center) looks on.
Office of the West Virginia Governor

Federal prosecutors have agreed to drop a motion seeking to hold West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his son, Jay Justice, personally accountable for a $1.23 million civil penalty levied against one of the family’s coal businesses, Justice Energy Company, Inc.

In an order filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, attorneys for Justice Energy proposed that another Justice company, Bluestone Resources, Inc., will pay the fine.

 

In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to withdraw a motion seeking a court ruling that the Justices be held personally responsible for the civil contempt fine levied on Justice Energy because the company is, in effect “a shell corporation with no real independent and separate corporate existence.

 

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice gives a speech during a Department of Tourism conference Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at the Morgantown Event Center.
Jesse Wright / WVPB

U.S. federal prosecutors on Tuesday said they will seek a court ruling to hold West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his son, Jay Justice, personally accountable for a $1.23 million civil fine imposed on one of the family’s coal businesses, Justice Energy Company, Inc.

 

Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

The Sierra Club and a coalition of West Virginia-based environmental groups took the first step Tuesday toward taking legal action against companies operating 15 coal facilities and one chloride plant in West Virginia and Pennsylvania for violating the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

Conesville coal plant
Brittany Patterson / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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.”

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

The West Virginia Conservation Agency Thursday announced it is now taking public comment on a new rule that would create a grant program for conservation projects across the state.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

 


On a recent Monday, students at James Monroe High School in Monroe County eat french bread pizza, corn, beans and mixed fruit. They also have three, locally sourced salad options to choose from: a spinach salad with bright red cherry tomatoes, a pre-made salad or a make-you-own salad bar.

"We hear that these foods look so much better, put together," said Kimberly Gusler, the high school's head cook. She said that since the school began using local salad greens and vegetables and fruits when available, students appear to be eating more of them.

"They love the way the salads look.”

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