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Anti-carbon activists win, West Virginia loses on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced last Sunday the companies were canceling their jointly-proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that was supposed to deliver natural gas from Harrison County, West Virginia to North Carolina.

The utilities threw in the towel after six years of planning and securing rights of way. But mostly the time was spent in protracted legal fights with opponents, primarily anti-carbon organizations.

The price of the project had nearly doubled, to $8 billion dollars, over those six years and no one piece of pipe had been put in the ground yet.  No wonder Dominion and Duke threw up their hands.

Score a big win for the activists. A headline on the website CleanTechnica, which provides news and analysis on clean technology, said it all: “Delay Wins the Day.”

This is a huge blow to West Virginia on several levels.

First, it cuts off what was going to be a primary shipping source for Marcellus Shale gas from West Virginia.  The 42 inch, 600-mile long pipeline would have had the capacity to ship about 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Second, good paying skilled craftsmen jobs and associated tax revenue are now lost.  American Exploration and Production Council, an industry trade organization, estimates the pipeline’s construction would have created 17,000 new jobs and $2.7 billion in economic activity and generated $28 million annually in property tax revenues for local governments.”

Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, estimated that at peak about 5,000 construction workers would have been on the pipeline job in West Virginia.

“A lot of paychecks we just won’t get for local workers,” White said on Talkline Monday.  “It’s a terrible loss.”

The utilities’ decision to give up, along with the uncertainty of the legal climate for pipeline projects, will have a chilling effect on the industry.  How willing are companies to invest billions, if they can get the financing, when they suspect opponents can simply wear them down?

The irony here is that the increasing use of natural gas, as well as renewables, for power generation have contributed to a steady decline in carbon emissions.  It may not be fast enough for some, but the trend is headed in the right direction.  Last year, CO2 emissions from energy consumption in this country were at their lowest level in 30 years.

Renewable power sources such as wind and solar have seen sharp increases in recent years as their costs of generation have fallen below that of coal, but natural gas has replaced far more coal generation capacity than renewables,” reported Inside Climate News earlier this year.

Renewables are coming on strong, but it will be decades before the technology and infrastructure have advanced to where the country does not need dependable base-load fuels like gas and coal. To think otherwise is to put the country’s energy needs at risk at a time when demand for electricity is increasing.

West Virginia is sitting atop one of the world’s largest supplies of natural gas.  This resource is essential for the future of power generation and manufacturing.  Our state stands to benefit significantly from years of gas production.

However, if delay is in fact going to win the day, that hope will be extinguished.

 

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Fairmont State names interim provost

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont State University on Tuesday announced Richard Stephens Jr. will serve as the institution’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Stephens has served various leadership roles over two decades in higher education, including most recently as provost at Catawba College in North Carolina between 2009 and 2013.

“He understands and embraces the mission of a comprehensive institution like Fairmont State, has created processes to strengthen communication among campus communities, and has led the creation of new academic programs at the highest level,” Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin said in a statement.

A nationwide search for a permanent provost will begin at a later date.

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Pennsylvania man enters guilty plea after producing false documents

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Pennsylvania man entered a guilty plea on Tuesday to bank fraud.

According to U.S. Attorney Bill Powell’s office, Randall Joseph Smail, of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, defrauded Pendleton Community Bank of more than $552,000. Smail, 23, allegedly created a false account statement from Kraken Bitcoin Exchange showing he had $640 million in Bitcoin.

Smail used the information and other fictitious paperwork to apply for a loan.

He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

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Offseason workouts halted in three counties

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Phase III of offseason workouts for high school sports teams are underway in many counties across the state. But in three counties, sport-specific practices have been put on hold due to rising coronavirus cases.

On Tuesday, Marion County shut down all sport practices in the three-week instructional window. The pause in activities is for an indefinite amount of time. East Fairmont, Fairmont Senior and North Marion opened up practice sessions on Monday.

Also on Tuesday, Taylor County schools paused practices for winter and spring sports. Fall sport practices at Grafton are allowed to continue.

Statement from Taylor County Superintendent and BOE regarding our live period. pic.twitter.com/n07PGdy8Fd

— GHS Lady Cats (@ghsladycats) July 8, 2020

On Monday, Wetzel County announced that practices for Hundred, Magnolia and Paden City High Schools have been canceled for the next two weeks.

At this time: All practices have been cancelled for 2 weeks at Magnolia, Paden City and Hundred. pic.twitter.com/STvcKnWMYh

— Wetzel County Schools (@wetzelcs) July 6, 2020

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Update on reopening schools expected at state Board of Education meeting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch is expected to update the state Board of Education about the state’s re-entry plan at Wednesday’s board meeting.

The update will come nearly four months after classes were moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Students and educators completed the spring semester virtually, and spring sports were canceled because of concerns about the virus’ spread.

The state Department of Education has been accepting public comment on reopening schools through an online survey accessible at its website.

Clayton’s update will also come after President Donald Trump said he will pressure state governors to reopen schools in the fall even though coronavirus cases continue to increase nationwide.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday criticized school districts that have yet to announce plans for reopening schools. DeVos and other Trump administration leaders took part in multiple events on Tuesday pushing for in-person classes.

Wednesday’s board meeting is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

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Eight people with Parkersburg living facility test positive for coronavirus

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Eight people with a Parkersburg living facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department announced Tuesday confirmed cases involving two employees and six residents of the Wyngate Senior Living Community. A resident is receiving treatment for pneumonia, while the five others have a low-grade fever and no other symptoms.

Facility-wide testing was completed on Monday.

“We continue to work closely with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department and Camden Clark Hospital and their COVID department. We would like to thank both for their support and guidance throughout this process,” administrator Becca Shockey said.

All residents have been quarantined to their apartments and given a surgical mask to wear at any time an employee enters their apartment. Employees have to wear personal protective equipment.

In West Virginia, health officials have identified 3,505 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported Tuesday evening the agency has received 190,367 confirmed laboratory test results.

The statewide death total remains at 95.

The department also updated the number of confirmed and probable cases in each county: Barbour (17/0), Berkeley (482/18), Boone (28/0), Braxton (3/0), Brooke (14/1), Cabell (166/6), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (11/0), Fayette (75/0), Gilmer (13/0), Grant (15/1), Greenbrier (67/0), Hampshire (42/0), Hancock (29/3), Hardy (44/1), Harrison (84/0), Jackson (145/0), Jefferson (244/5), Kanawha (350/10), Lewis (19/1), Lincoln (9/0), Logan (28/0), Marion (87/3), Marshall (44/1), Mason (21/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (57/0), Mineral (56/2), Mingo (20/2), Monongalia (295/14), Monroe (14/1), Morgan (19/1), Nicholas (14/1), Ohio (109/1), Pendleton (13/1), Pleasants (4/1), Pocahontas (36/1), Preston (73/16), Putnam (69/1), Raleigh (64/1), Randolph (169/2), Ritchie (2/0), Roane (11/0), Summers (2/0), Taylor (17/1), Tucker (6/0), Tyler (5/0), Upshur (21/1), Wayne (119/1), Webster (1/0), Wetzel (18/0), Wirt (5/0), Wood (128/8) and Wyoming (7/0).

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Federal prosecutor says Berkeley County woman had information that could have hurt U.S.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney for Northern West Virginia Bill Powell says a plea arrangement with a Berkeley County woman requires her to unlock her electronic devices and turn over what’s suspected to be key defense documents to U.S. officials.

State police poster of when Shirley and daughter were missing.

Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, pleaded guilty recently to taking the national defense documents and kidnapping her six-year-old daughter to Mexico.

“She has agreed to unlock all of the information that she has on electronic devices and the like and to turn that over to U.S. officials so we can see exactly what was there,” Powell said during a Tuesday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Shirley took her daughter from the girl’s father and illegally left the country. Powell said her goal was to meet with Russian agents in hopes of getting a new life. He said they don’t know if any meetings took place.

“There was an attempt to get a new life, to get new identities, to live in a place that didn’t have extradition,” Powell said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “She certainly prepared messages in an effort to turn over information to Russian agents, those located in Mexico. We have no indication the information was actually passed on.”

.@USAttyPowell, U.S. Attorney for Northern WV, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss a Berkeley County woman who has pleaded guilty to a charge related to her trying to pass classified information to the Russians. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/E9TMDysRi3

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 7, 2020

Powell said Shirley had access to a lot of key information.

Bill Powell

“She certainly had a good bit of it that could have been passed on and much of it, if it was passed on, could have been very damaging to the U.S., U.S. defense and others,” Powell said.

Shirley had significant top secret clearance after an extensive career as a member of the Air Force and jobs with the National Secretary Administration, Department of Defense, Naval Intelligence and National Cyber investigative matters.

“She had significant opportunities and took advantage of those opportunities,” Powell said. “Much of the information that we discovered was kept in a storage unit in Berkeley County and when she was returned to the United States from Mexico she had a number of electronic devices in her possession that contained classified information.”

Powell said his office works on national security cases but the Shirley case is a first for him. He was asked if he believes Shirley was a spy.

“She certainly wanted to provide information to a government other than ours and information that would have hurt our country,” Powell said. “How you want to characterize it, I’m not sure how you want to do that, but she’s a criminal, let’s say that.”

Shirley could face a maximum of 13 years in prison when she’s sentenced later this year. The time will likely vary because of federal sentencing guidelines.

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School board president says it’s time to look inside Stonewall Middle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County school system is seeking input from the public on what should be the next name for Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

The system posted a survey on its website Tuesday calling for those taking part to name their top two choices for a new name. The survey is open until July 13 at 9 a.m.

The county school board voted Monday to rename the school, removing the name of the Confederate general who owned slaves. The school first opened as Stonewall Jackson High School in 1940.

Becky Jordan, Kanawha County Schools President, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the renaming of Stonewall Jackson Middle School and what else needs to change. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/wNg8V1FI3a

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 7, 2020

Kanawha County BOE President Becky Jordon, who graduated from the high school, said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline” it’s time to take the momentum generated by those in favor of the name change and move it inside the building.

“I wish they would quit doing their protesting and get inside this building and work with people,” Jordon said. “There were people who wanted these names changed who would have never allowed their kid to go to Stonewall and that really aggravated me.”

Stonewall Jackson Middle School has the largest percentage of black students in the state at more than 40 percent. Jordon said although she never thought about the implications of the school name when she was growing up she understands now why it should be changed but it shouldn’t stop there.

“They’re (the current Stonewall students) not in a lot of two-parent homes, there are a lot of drugs in the home and it’s scary,” Jordon said. “With all of these kids working online, who’s educating them? Covid hasn’t helped but it’s been like this for years.”

According to the 2018-19 state Department of Education Scorecard, Stonewall does not meet standards in the areas of English/Language Arts, Math, Discipline and other areas.

Pastor Wayne Crosier of Charleston-based Abundant Life Ministries told the school board Monday he’s committed to it being more than a name change.

“We want to work on their test schools, to work on their math scores, to work on their reading scores,” Crosier said. “I want you to know this is more than about a name, it’s about a culture change.”

Jordon said there’s a unique opportunity to help the staff at Stonewall.

“I hope only good continues to come out of this name change. Hey, if you have extra time please go in and volunteer and help in any way you can,” Jordon said.

Jordon said it’s possible the school board could choose a new name at its next regular session which is scheduled for July 18. She said the board may consider the top five names listed in the survey.

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Attorney representing Charleston woman beat by police during arrest says they are ‘thankful’ for settlement but want policy change

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The attorney representing a Charleston woman arrested and beaten by city police officers in October 2019 says he and his client are mostly satisfied with the recent settlement with the City of Charleston.

The Charleston City Council approved an $80,000 settlement to Freda Gilmore, 27, who is represented by Michael Cary, at its meeting on Monday. The incident, which occurred in the parking lot of a Family Dollar on the West Side, prompted calls for a review and change of the department’s use-of-force policy.

The arrest occurred on October 14 of last year as officers responded to a reported incident in the parking lot. Both dashcam video and video from a citizen showed Patrol Officer Carlie McCoy struggling to arrest Gilmore, a black woman, in front of the store on Virginia Street West.

Dashcam footage showed Patrolman Joshua Mena arriving on the scene, running to McCoy and Gilmore, kneeing Gilmore in the head before quickly punching her four times in the head with a closed fist.

“We hope that she (Freda) is the last victim of the City of Charleston Police Department,” Cary told MetroNews on Tuesday.

Michael Cary

“At the same time, we are thankful that the city officials stepped up, took care of Freda and handled the situation professionally. We are moving forward.”

One week after the incident, Mena and McCoy returned to work from administrative leave after a use of force investigation. That prompted community outrage at the department, led by former CPD Chief Opie Smith.

In November, Smith referred the incident to the FBI for an independent investigation as groups called for the officers to be put back on suspension. Smith previously told MetroNews his department was reviewing the use of force policy, which had not been updated since the 1980s. He said the officers’ actions fell under the policy.

During the city council meeting on Monday, members questioned what changes, if any, had been made to the department’s use-of-force policy. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, who admitted in November the city and its police department needed to do better, said on Monday the city is working with advocacy groups to make changes.

James ‘Tyke’ Hunt was named as Charleston Police Chief by Goodwin in February. Goodwin said that is part of the reasons for a delay in policy changes.

Cary said he and Gilmore are confident changes will be made under the new leadership.

“That is an amazing selection,” Cary said Tuesday of Hunt. “In my opinion, that tells me that Mayor Amy Goodwin is about making change. She is wanting to do the right thing because the new chief of police is amazing.”

Cary said his party would be willing to help the city with any changes to the police policies. He said nobody is anti-police.

“If they need our input or influence in making some changes, updating their policies and procedures, I am sure we would love to sit down with them and go over that,” he said.

“There are tons of amazing cops out there that go to work every day and they are getting painted in that bad light. I do not think they should be. But they also have a responsibility to call out their officers who are not living up to the standard.”

There was also a settlement between the party and Family Dollar over a security guard on the scene that Cary said attempted to block camera footage.

The money in the city settlement, which was agreed to on June 29, is being put in trust for Gilmore.

“She (Freda) was down but now she is back up,” Cary said. “She’s got the financial ability now to pick the pieces back up and move forward. It’s a great settlement for her.”

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Morgantown & WVU grad Shea Campbell joins Div. II champs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shea Campbell has selected the school to wrap up his college football career. Campbell has committed to Division II University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fla.

The UWF football program is entering just their fifth season but they already have a national championship on their ledger. The Argos defeated Minnesota State, 48-40 in the title game last December.

Country roads… take him home, to the Bay, I belong… Welcome @AyBLEECHII #ArgoDubClub #Arete #BallingByTheBay pic.twitter.com/1CHAwDUFcv

— UWF Football (@UWFFootball) July 7, 2020

In May, Campbell announced his intentions to compete for one more season. Campbell still had one semester of eligibility at the Division II or Division III levels because he was enrolled at WVU for nine semesters. He played at WVU in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, emerging as a starting linebacker as a redshirt junior.

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