What is the Future for Higher Ed in West Virginia?

Jun 20, 2014
West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

College tuition is going up across the country - and across West Virginia. Recently, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) approved increases for several colleges and universities. Unfortunately, these increases come as many schools have seen a decline in enrollment.

The leader of a Huntington-based food bank is stepping down.

The Herald-Dispatch reports Facing Hunger Foodbank executive director Tiffany Tatum has bought a business that provides financial services and consulting for churches and other nonprofit groups. 

  West Virginia University has eliminated more than 100 positions as it addresses budget cuts.

The Dominion Post reports that 68 vacant positions have been eliminated. Forty-three positions were eliminated when workers either retired or resigned. Another 13.5 positions were part of a reduction in the workforce.

Several departments have been combined, restructured or eliminated.

The university has seen about $20 million in budget cuts in the past couple of fiscal years.

Patriot Coal

  Patriot Coal is relocating its West Virginia office in Charleston to Scott Depot in Putnam County.

Patriot spokeswoman Janine Orf says the St. Louis-based coal company plans to make the switch in late summer or early fall.

The Charleston office has about 100 employees.

The company has 10 active mining complexes, with eight in West Virginia and two in western Kentucky. Patriot employs about 4,000 people across the whole company.

Glynis Board / WVPublic

**Music by Sugar Short Wave.

Like many towns across much of the state, Wheeling is home to a lot of abandoned, depressed, impoverished areas susceptible to crime and drug epidemics. The region has depended largely on the coal and steel industries, which are declining. The population is decreasing along with the economy and the vitality of the communities.

A small group is tackling several major projects with the hope of changing all of that. The projects all center around infusing the town with locally grown foods, and educational opportunities to teach residents how these foods are grown. There are eight initiatives already in motion and the fledgling non-profit, Grow Ohio Valley, has raised more than $200,000 so far to support their efforts. They hope that instead of being known as a dying town, Wheeling can become a regional food production hub.

American Electric Power
American Electric Power

  An American Electric Power subsidiary is asking state regulators to approve a transmission line that the company wants to build in Boone and Raleigh counties.

AEP West Virginia Transmission Company, Inc. filed an application for the Bim Tap Project on Tuesday with the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

The company's filing says the proposed 5.5-mile 138-kilovolt line would replace an existing line located on property where Independence Coal Company has mining operations. Independence has asked the company to move the line because it plans to conduct operations in the immediate vicinity.

The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

  West Virginia Citizen Action Group is asking state regulators to postpone a ruling on Appalachian Power's request to acquire the remaining portion of a coal power plant.

The group said it filed a motion with the Public Service Commission on Monday asking it to order the company to look at buying other power plants instead.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power are asking to buy half of the Mitchell coal-fired generating plant in Moundsville.

The Harvard School of Public Health together with Syracuse University released a study of potential air quality benefits based on the first-of-their-kind carbon dioxide emissions reduction proposal the Environmental Protection Agency revealed this month. According to researchers, West Virginia is among the state's to benefit most from the proposed rules.

wikimedia commons

The West Virginia Division of Forestry just got a major tool to help combat forest disease and invasive species. Through an act of congress, the Monongahela National Forest has just been designated an “Insect and Disease Area.”  The designation is designed to streamline efforts to combat insect and disease threats.

Coal Stock Pile

The coal industry is worried that the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly proposed regulations on carbon emissions will cripple the nation’s coal economy.

With 95 percent of the energy produced in West Virginia coming from coal fired power plants, many within the industry feel the state will be the hardest hit by the new proposal.

Roger Horton, a retired miner from Logan County paints a grim picture already evolving in coal country. Since March of 2012 thousands of miners have lost their jobs.  Horton said the EPA new proposed rules ignore the economic impact of its standards on countless coal mining families.

Delegate Clif Moore
West Virginia Legislature

  Eight McDowell County employees have been laid off as the county struggles to plug a budget hole.

The layoffs include Delegate Clif Moore, who is an assistant county administrator.

Moore tells the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that seven employees were laid off Friday. His layoff is effect June 13 so he can continue working with county administrator Jennifer Wimmer to balance the budget.

Efforts to combat black lung disease draw criticism.

Meet Kentucky banjo player Lee Sexton.

A look at efforts in Kentucky and Pennsylvania to save the birds and bees.

Bridget Rowsey, owner of Bridget’s Dance Academy in Huntington, was named the state’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the West Virginia Small Business Administration at a ceremony in Morgantown.

As someone who found dancing easy, Bridget Rowsey hoped the steps to establishing her own business might be the same.

  Camden Clark Medical Center's St. Joseph's Campus will close in November due to declining inpatient demand.

Sixty workers will be laid off and 163 positions will be cut. Camden Clark says the other affected workers will be offered jobs within the hospital.

Camden Clark announced the move Tuesday.

What's Next, West Virginia?

May 21, 2014

What's next for West Virginia? That's a question that will be posed to community members at meetings across the state in the coming months.  The West Virginia Center for Civic Life promotes local dialogue to challenge us to talk about problems and find solutions to better the quality of life here.  The center is holding its 18th annual Civic Life Institute at the University of Charleston on June 4 and 5.  The institute will train citizens from across the state to hold and facilitate local meetings to find out what's next for West Virginia.   Center director Betty Knighton and Catherine Moore, an Appalachian Transition Fellow assigned to the project, stopped by our studios to talk with West Virginia Morning host Beth Vorhees about the initiative.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is targeting rural poverty in West Virginia, Virginia and more than a dozen other states.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that the department will provide a total $15 million in technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and private forest owners in areas with persistent poverty.

Jefferson Co. Courthouse
Calvin Beale / U.S. Department of Agriculture

  American Public University System plans to open a business incubator in Charles Town.

The incubator will focus on information technology, sustainability and green businesses.

The Journal reports that American Public vice president of community relations John Hough provided details of the project on Monday to the Region 9 Planning and Development Council.

Hough says the incubator's clients will be eight to 10 startups led by veterans. But he says

 West Virginia's unemployment rate inched down in April to 6 percent.

The seasonally adjusted rate is down one-tenth of a percentage point from March. 

WorkForce West Virginia reported Wednesday that the number of unemployed state residents fell by 100 in April to a total of 48,400 statewide.

Coal Stock Pile

  Employees at the West Virginia mine where two men were killed during a severe coal burst were notified weeks earlier that they may lose their jobs due to mass layoffs.

St. Louis-based Patriot Coal gave notice to 450 workers at its Wells mining complex near Wharton on April 23. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, Act requires companies to provide 60 days notice to employees if large layoffs are possible.

  State regulators aren't going to revisit a special electricity rate for an idled manufacturer in Mason County.

The Public Service Commission on Wednesday denied two petitions asking it to reconsider the special rate. The PSC's order says its April 3 decision will remain in effect.

The special rate plan would enable Felman Production to buy electricity from Appalachian Power at as much as $9 million per year off its full rate. The discounted rate would be calculated each month, based on commodity prices and the costs of raw materials used in production.