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

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.

gypsy moth
Editor at Large / Wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture says it will begin aerial spraying for gypsy moth early next month.


 

 

The spraying is slated for nearly 5,300 acres within Grant, Hardy, Nicholas and Pendleton counties. The goal is to reduce the impact of the insect on West Virginia’s forests.

 

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For decades, communities in the Ohio Valley have grappled with water contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals, sometimes called PFOA or C-8 that are often used to make non-stick pans and other items, but this type of contamination isn’t limited to the region.

A newly-updated map shows the number of contaminated sites that are known to exist around the country has nearly doubled in the past year.

Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a petition April 18 with the Environmental Protection Agency asking the agency for a new rule that would reduce the permitting burden for American steel producers.

The proposal asks EPA to modify the New Source Review, a program under the Clean Air Act that requires factories, industrial boilers and power plants to install emissions-control technologies or reduce air pollution when new plants are built or current ones modified.

Health, doctor, nurse, mask, breathing
Dollar Photo Club

Air quality across West Virginia is improving, with levels of fine particle air pollution some of the best ever measured, but smog levels have increased, according to the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report released today.

Rick Perry at Longview Power Plant
Glynis Board

Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy Solutions made waves last month when it asked the Department of Energy to grant it an emergency order to help keep coal and nuclear plants operating across the Ohio Valley.

Adobe Stock images/WVPB grpahic illustration

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said he is hopeful the first project associated with the China Energy deal will be announced soon.

Adobe Stock

A new study finds rising production costs, not cheap natural gas, was the lead factor that drove thousands of coal mines across Appalachia to close.

West Virignia University

West Virginia University welcomed a new Mountaineer mascot to the fold Friday during the official "passing of the rifle" ceremony.

The 65th Mountaineer is senior accounting major Trevor Kiess. Tall, with an easy smile and impressive beard, being the Mountaineer has been a lifelong dream for the Elkins native.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

The United States Surgeon General issued a national advisory Thursday encouraging people to carry the opioid overdose-reserving drug, naloxone.

 

The move underscores the growing urgency to address the opioid epidemic, which the Trump administration has deemed a public health crisis.

 

Evan Vucci / Associated Press

President Donald Trump visited West Virginia Thursday for a roundtable discussion on the recent tax bill.

 

In his wide-ranging remarks, Trump also indicated the administration is looking closely at a recent emergency request made by regional electric utility FirstEnergy Solutions.

 

AP Photo/Bob Bird / Associated Press

A subsidiary of electric utility FirstEnergy is filing for bankruptcy, but Mon Power customers in West Virginia should not expect changes to their electricity service.

FirstEnergy Solutions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the weekend. The move is expected to affect coal and nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic / Associated Press

Electric utility FirstEnergy Solutions is asking the federal government for an emergency order to keep coal and nuclear plants operating across the Ohio Valley.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy sent Thursday, the utility said the power grid faces grave threats if coal and nuclear plants are allowed to close.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez / Associated Press

As temperatures plunged during the 12-day cold snap that hit just after Christmas, many people across the East Coast reached for their thermostats, which increased demand for electricity.

 

 

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