Mountain Valley Pipeline Under Criminal Investigation

The Free Press WV

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia.

The natural gas pipeline’s parent company said in recent corporate filings with the SEC that it has been informed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia of a criminal investigation.

EQM Midstream Partners says in filings that the pipeline joint venture had received a grand jury subpoena for documents Monday.

The scope of the inquiry is unclear. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

An EQM spokeswoman says the company is complying with the subpoena.

Last month, two local attorneys called for a federal investigation into whether pipeline crews violated laws by continuing construction on the 300-mile (483-kilometer) pipeline after a permit suspension.

WV bill would raise minimum age for tobacco buys to 21

The Free Press WV

A bill moving through the West Virginia Legislature would raise the state’s minimum legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The Senate health and human resources committee on Tuesday sent the bill to the Senate judiciary committee. The bill covers all tobacco and vaping products. A similar bill is pending in the House health and human resources committee.

A similar bill died last year in a Senate committee.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has among the highest youth smoking rates in the nation.

The nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says six states and at least 430 localities have raised the tobacco purchase age limit to 21. Similar bills are pending before lawmakers in several states, including Indiana, Illinois and Virginia.

U.S. Court sides with Mountain Valley Pipeline over the landowners

The Free Press WV

The Court of Appeals for the U.S. Fourth Circuit ruled against an appeal by landowners over a previous court ruling regarding the right of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to construct through property which just compensation had not yet been settled.

In its ruling, the court found that MVP, through its 2017 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission construction permit, had been granted the right to claim easements through eminent domain where private agreements could not be made and that “Mountain Valley successfully negotiated easements allowing access onto the land of most of the affected landowners.”

Citing lower court rulings that MVP could initiate construction through easements which had not yet been settled due to the lengthy time frame of eminent domain proceedings the Fourth Circuit ruled “We hold that the district courts did not abuse their discretion in allowing Mountain Valley immediate possession, and therefore affirm the injunction orders.”

In their appeal, the landowners who brought the action against MVP argued that previous case precedent that gave natural gas interests immediate possession of easements before settlements with landowners had been made.

“It is hard to envision a rationale under our constitution that supports the unjust entries, takings and abuses of land, water and privacy that we’ve witnessed along the MVP route,” said Lynda Majors, an Executive Committee Member of the POWHR Coalition in a statement.

According to their website,POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage and Rights) is an “interstate coalition representing individuals and groups from counties in Virginia and West Virginia dedicated to protecting the water, local ecology, heritage, land rights, human rights of individuals, communities and regions from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.”

One previous precedent that POWHR argues is unjust is the Fourth Circuits ruling in East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. v. Sage which granted immediate possession of disputed easements to the natural gas company.

“We continue to encourage the judiciary to view the path of takings and destruction along the MVP,” said Majors. “We have grown as a nation in challenging unjust precedent, such as Sage. Sage allows a private gas company to enter, use, and destroy the property of another before paying for it. Moreover, eminent domain is a power of public takings for the public benefit, which is still at issue in other pending cases involving MVP. Stated simply, Sage supports theft. We applaud the courage and persistence of landowners in their continued efforts to stop MVP and we remain committed in our support of them.”

Maury Johnson, a POWHR Executive Committee Member and local landowner, shared his disappointed in the courts ruling.

“It is with great sorrow, but also great determination that I vow to continue to oppose the use of eminent domain for private gain and the destruction of our farms, homes and property on not only the MVP, but the ACP, MXP and other unnecessary fracked gas pipelines,” Johnson said in a statement.

Since its inception, the Mountain Valley Pipeline project has been the recipient of protests and court filings in both Virginias.

The legal proceedings have caused multiple delays of the projects which have pushed back its completion date and caused an increase in expected construction costs by up to $3 billion.

The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina, reported the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC announced Friday that the 600-mile pipeline is not expected to be in full service until 2021. It was initially expected to be in service this year.

The project was projected to cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion when first announced. Now the company projects a total cost of $7 billion to $7.5 billion.

A spokesman for pipeline partner Dominion Energy, Karl Neddenien, blames delays for the cost increases. Some work was suspended last year over questions related to a national permit, while residents and environmental groups have sued to stop the project.


Doddridge, WV, grand jurors hand up 15 indictments

The Free Press WV

Doddridge County grand jurors handed up 15 indictments, including true bills against two men facing a charge of wanton endangerment involving a firearm.

Also, grand jurors indicted a man accused of abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult, according to Prosecutor Brooke Fitzgerald.

One of the men facing a wanton endangerment charge is Michael Lynn Chandler, 36, of Salem, according to Fitzgerald. The other is Nelson Duane Edgell, 35, of Center Point.

The man charged with abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult is Robert L. Hodges, 55, of West Union.

All of those indicted are presumed innocent unless convicted.

Others indicted, and the charges against them, according to Fitzgerald:

— Bryant Tyler Flanagan, 24, Salem, operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug laboratory.

— Anna Grace Kelly, 28, Athens, Ohio, transporting a controlled substance onto the grounds of the North Central Regional Jail.

— Marcus Lynn Collins, 41, Petroleum, possession with intent to deliver meth and clonazepam.

— Justin Earl Hyde, 41, West Union, third-offense driving while license suspended/revoked for DUI.

— John Michael Pratt, 49, Salem, burglary, breaking and entering, two counts petit larceny.

— Danielle Carmen Watson, 46, Clarksburg, third-offense driving while license suspended/revoked for DUI.

— Mark Bryan Hall, 33, Clinton, Ohio, grand larceny.

— Nicholas Charles Pettit, 29, Morgantown, attempted escape, felony destruction of property, conspiracy.

— Ronald Michael Gilmore, 37, Belington, possession with intent to deliver meth, third-offense driving while license suspended/revoked for DUI.

— Cory Lee Ford, 28, Salem, burglary, petit larceny.

— James Brandon Finley, 37, West Union, grand larceny.

— Cody Alan Fetty, 30, Salem, attempted escape, felony destruction of property, conspiracy.

Manchin set goals as Energy Committee ranking member

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, put forward his agenda as the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during the body’s first hearing last week on Capitol Hill.

Manchin, who previously served as the ranking member of the Energy Subcommittee, spoke about energy development as well as addressing climate change and related acts.

“We as a committee can contribute pragmatic solutions to the climate challenges facing our country and the world,” he said.

West Virginia ranks fifth among states regarding total energy production; according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, West Virginia was the second-largest coal producing state in 2017 behind Wyoming, with West Virginia making up around 11 percent of the United States’ total coal production.

“For that reason, other states depend on us for reliable electric generation, as well as coal and natural gas production,” Manchin said. “In fact, West Virginia is the seventh-largest producer of marketable natural gas in the nation.”

The EIA additionally reports West Virginia produced 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2017. Manchin said there is an opportunity for further growth in the energy sector with a natural gas storage hub located in Appalachia; Manchin and other West Virginia lawmakers have pushed such facility due to the Marcellus and Utica shale formations’ location in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“This innovative regional storage and distributing hub would attract manufacturing investment, create jobs and reduce the rejection rate of natural gas liquids to the ethane, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the senator said.

Manchin also focused part of his time on the importance of combating climate change, an issue some have argued Manchin lacks strength in addressing.

“Beyond my state’s leadership in energy production, I know my state is committed — I know all of West Virginia is committed to solving the climate crisis. The impacts of climate change are felt in every economy and every community across the world, and that includes my state of West Virginia,” he said.

“I have never met a West Virginian who wants to drink dirty water or breathe dirty air. The urgent need to clean up our climate is felt by everyone, and there is no reason rural America cannot be part of the cleaner energy solutions we are working towards,” Manchin added. “We must work together to solve the problem, and act now to lead the world in the commercialization of carbon-reducing energy technology that keeps energy generation resources cost competitive and reliable 24/7.”

Manchin mentioned West Virginia’s 2016 flood, in which 23 people died, and other flooding events in state as evidence of climate change’s effects.

“There is no silver bullet, but I’ve spoken to Chairman (Lisa) Murkowski (of Alaska). I look forward to innovation discussions and expected climate hearings to see how this committee can tribute to the pragmatic solutions that will work for every American,” he said.

Progressive Democrats opposed Manchin’s appointment to the committee when it was announced in December, arguing Manchin would not do enough to address climate change.

Manchin approved President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017, saying a balance is needed between economic and environmental needs. He also backed the Trump administration’s move a year later aimed at preventing the retirement of coal and nuclear facilities, stating the country needs to ensure its electrical grid can operate without interruptions from weather or other threats.

Manchin said Tuesday last month’s snap of cold weather was evidence why the nation’s energy reservoirs need to be maintained.

“Why the system performed well, rising natural gas demand made it economical to bring on coal to keep the lights on and homes warm. And coal will continue to be a critical part of the fuel mix in extreme weather situations like this,” Manchin said. “Even in states with aggressive clean energy coals, if it gets cold, we’re still all going to need to work together.”

Manchin also said China and India should be encouraged to take on new technologies allowing coal and natural gas to be used in ways better for the environment.

~~  Alex Thomas ~~

Infor global technology company will open location in Kanawha Valley, create 100 new jobs

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice announced today that global technology company Infor will open its first West Virginia office in Charleston and create 100 new technology jobs.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to welcome Infor to the Mountain State,” said Governor Justice. “I applaud their commitment to hiring West Virginians and to working with our local higher education institutions to help keep more of our graduates right here at home. With the expansion of Infor, we can better attract other growing tech companies and show them why doing business in West Virginia is a great investment.”

Infor develops business cloud software, specialized by specific industries. The company’s products are used in sectors that range from aerospace to manufacturing to professional services.

The Charleston operation will run cloud applications for local, state and federal government agencies and the contractors who support them. Infor will hire 100 technical employees for specialized positions in software engineering, cloud operations and consulting and support services. The Charleston operation will grow as it adds more customers.

Infor will partner with Marshall University in Huntington and West Virginia State University in Institute to develop a technical talent pipeline. The company’s Educational Alliance Program helps connect students and professionals with more software, training and career opportunities.

“This expansion could be the beginning of a real game changer for Charleston and the Kanawha Valley,” said Ed Gaunch, Secretary of Commerce. “With Infor’s commitment to our state and investment in our workforce, we can continue to attract tech companies of this caliber to set up operations in the Mountain State. Our governor continues to deliver on his promise of bringing jobs to West Virginia.”

“The expansion of Infor to West Virginia is a testament to our growing technology sector,” said Mike Graney, Executive Director of the West Virginia Development Office. “Infor’s long-term investment in the Mountain State demonstrates that West Virginia can compete globally in this category.”

“It’s great to know that Infor is teaming up with Marshall University and West Virginia State University to build a pipeline of skilled graduates for these specialty jobs,” Governor Justice continued. “I’m glad that through this partnership, we have the opportunity to keep our young, talented people here in West Virginia for a good paying job after graduation. As I’ve said so many times, my goal is for our young people to stay in West Virginia and live in paradise and have a terrific job.”

To learn more about the company and current employment opportunities with the Charleston, West Virginia office, visit

Atlantic Coast Pipeline delayed until 2021, cost up by $3B

The Free Press WV

The completion of a natural gas pipeline running through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina has been delayed and its costs are increasing by up to $3 billion.

The Fayetteville Observer reports Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC announced Friday that the 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline is not expected to be in full service until 2021.

It was initially expected to be in service this year.

The project was projected to cost between $4.5 billion and $5 billion when first announced.

Now the company projects a total cost of $7 billion to $7.5 billion.

A spokesman for pipeline partner Dominion Energy, Karl Neddenien, blames delays for the cost increases.

Some work was suspended last year over questions related to a national permit, while residents and environmental groups have sued to stop the project.

$235K to Consumers Targeted by Telemarketer

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has started the process of distributing more than $235,000 to consumers victimized by a kitchen hardware manufacturing and sales company, a business the Attorney General accused of violating the state’s consumer protection law and telemarketing act.

NuWave, LLC, formerly known as Hearthware, LLC, manufactures cookware and kitchen hardware, selling to consumers primarily through telemarketing — sometimes done through outside vendors. The Attorney General alleged neither NuWave nor its vendors were registered and bonded as telemarketers with the West Virginia Tax Department.

“As soon as a business misrepresents itself, consumer protection issues arise,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I’m glad to see hardworking West Virginians recoup some of what was taken. This hopefully sends a message that all businesses must comply with our state’s consumer protection laws.”

The Attorney General’s Office reached a $320,000 settlement with NuWave. The majority of those funds go to restitution for 5,437 affected consumers, who should receive their checks in the next several weeks.

The lawsuit alleged NuWave used high-pressure sales pitches and deceptive “buy one, get one free” offers on a particular kitchen hardware product.

While the second item in the promotion was offered at no cost, NuWave allegedly raised shipping and processing fees, effectively making consumers pay for their “free” item. The buy one, get one sale was allegedly misrepresented as a short-term special offer, a tactic used to pressure consumers into making a purchase.

The settlement terms included NuWave’s agreement to refrain from the use of high shipping and processing fees or other hidden fees for “free” items in buy one get one offers for West Virginia consumers.

Mason County Leads in New Business Growth for January 2019

The Free Press WV

Mason County led in new business growth for January 2019 with a total of 14 new businesses, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.

That equates to a 2.06 percent growth for Mason County.

The Secretary of State’s Business & Licensing Division reported Tyler, Marion, Morgan and Lincoln counties also had notable growth in January.

“West Virginia is experiencing a steady growth in new business start-ups.

That growth is a very important and significant objective for a strong economy,” Warner said.

The number of business entities in Tyler County grew from 263 to 267, with Marion County business entities increasing from 2,444 to 2,480.

Morgan County experienced an increase in business entities from 760 to 771 and Lincoln County went from 351 to 356 business entities.

Statewide, West Virginia saw a 10.81 percent growth in business registrations in the previous 12-month period.

That growth was led by Summers County with 18.03 percent growth.

To review the county-by-county growth visit the Business Statistics Database.

AB Takes Part in Higher Education Day at the Capitol

On Monday, January 28, Alderson Broaddus University joined colleges and universities from around the state to attend the Higher Education Day at the West Virginia Legislature for a day of advocacy at the State Capitol.

Higher Education Day is an annual event that allows private and public colleges and universities an opportunity to share the importance of higher education with elected officials. As West Virginia continues to face challenges, it’s critical that our state representatives value public and private higher education and understand the very positive impacts universities like AB have on the state.

The Free Press WV
Alderson Broaddus President Dr. Barry and
mass communication major Abby Smith
epresented AB at the 2019 Higher Education Day.

Alderson Broaddus University is an independent institution of higher learning, committed to serving the region as an academic, cultural, and religious resource, with programs based on a liberal arts foundation.

The mission of AB is to provide students with the highest quality education, striving to prepare students to succeed in their chosen disciplines and to fulfill their roles in a diverse society as well-rounded and responsible citizens.

Since its founding in 1871, AB has been a leader and innovator in higher education, with accolades in the health and natural sciences. The University stands out as one of the most innovative health education providers in Appalachia, pioneering the nation’s first baccalaureate physician assistant program of its kind in 1968, the first post-baccalaureate physician assistant master’s degree program in 1990, and West Virginia’s first four-year nursing program in 1945.

AB is located on a historic hilltop in Barbour County in Philippi, West Virginia. The University is rooted in historic and continuing relationships with the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the West Virginia Baptist Convention.

For more information about AB, visit

French Creek Freddie to emerge to additional fanfare in 2019

The Free Press WV

e’s considered West Virginia’s unofficial weather prognosticating rodent and for one weekend a year the focus is on a tiny burrow inside an enclosure at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in Upshur County. There, the lair of French Creek Freddie, is where lore has it the groundhog will share the news of whether an early spring is in the forecast or we will endure six more weeks of winter.

“We’ve been waiting for quite a few years for Groundhog Day to fall on a Saturday,” said Tyler Evans, Manger of the Wildlife Center.

The Wildlife Center, run by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, hosts a large celebration of the groundhog, its biology, and the traditions of Groundhog Day. The center will open at 9:00 a.m. with Freddie emerging and making his prediction at 10 a.m. Evans expects there will a larger than normal crowd on hand for the festivities since it’s on a weekend, but it’s not just the Wildlife Center which has seized upon Freddie’s popularity.

“We’ve gotten to a point where it’s turned into a full on Groundhog Festival throughout the Rock Cave and southern Upshur Community,” he explained. “There’s a lot of quilt shows, pancake feeds, craft shows–you name it there’s a lot going on and it’s got a lot to do with French Creek Freddie.”

Groundhogs are true hibernators—they go to den and stay there until the spring. At the wildlife center, even the bears remain semi-active during the winter months. As for what Freddie will do during the Saturday reveal, Evans said he has no idea.

“He’ll come out for long enough to see everybody and run around for a few minutes,” Evans explained. “The way most of the events have gone in recent years the weather is such, he’s pretty content to tuck himself back in and be put away for a while.”

As for his accuracy on predicting an early Spring, Evans wouldn’t hazard a guess.

“He’s about as accurate as every other ground hog,” he said. “Unfortunately in the last few years he’s been a little more on the brutally honest side of things.”

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

G-OpEd™: Innovation Key to Transforming Education

The Free Press WV

When there is a good idea, a truly viable option to move our state forward, we should work together to transform that idea into a tangible opportunity. The road to progress has fewer bumps when we travel in the same direction. As State Agriculture Commissioner and State Treasurer, we agree that “road to progress” begins with education.

Recently, we traveled to Roscoe, Texas with other state and local officials to learn more about P-20, a cutting-edge public-school program that should and will be replicated in the Mountain State.

What is P-20? It is a unique, early college, STEM academy where high school students can earn a two-year associate degree upon graduation. The name derives from the concept of educating children with focused curriculum that starts in preschool and is completed in early adulthood.

Why look to Roscoe, Texas? Rural Texas and rural West Virginia face many of the same challenges, and this program has proven successful. In Roscoe, students are granted automatic membership to their local 4-H program. If you have attended one of West Virginia’s rural schools, you are probably familiar with 4-H. If not, 4-H is a national program based on four pillars, head, heart, hands, and health, with the mission to engage youth in the hopes they reach their fullest potential while advancing their field of study. Most of these programs focus on agriculture, forestry and natural resources. The goal is to teach young people about the sciences that drive those industries.

After becoming enthralled in the principles of 4-H, and maybe later on FFA, students in Roscoe’s high schools are given the opportunity to graduate from 12th grade with both a high school diploma and a two-year associate degree. These students, from a town of a little more than 1,300, are earning valuable life skills and training opportunities while still in the public education system. The focus is not only on technical skills, but also on instilling positive attitudes of success within the students. Most importantly, it gives hope to a community and its residents that their children will be ready for the workforce and the challenges of adulthood.

During our trip, we learned Roscoe ISD offers a drone class where students are able to obtain their drone pilot license. A team of seniors presented a project where they studied ultrasounds of dog hearts to see the differences size and sex had on the animals. A fourth-grade team presented their experiment on photosynthesis. They focused on how they learned about sunlight effects growth in plants. Each and every one of these students show tremendous passion and advance skills necessary for successful lives.

We believe West Virginia is ready for change, but it takes innovation and cooperation to make it happen. The good news is partnerships are starting to develop to bring concepts and lessons learned in Roscoe to West Virginia. Under the direction of West Virginia University, WVU Extension Service and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine, a pilot project is underway at Boone County’s Van Elementary and Van Junior/Senior High School.

The long-range goal of this project is to replicate the model we saw in Texas throughout the state. The program does not have to be limited to just agriculture, forestry or natural resources; it has application to all sciences and job skill needs. If we desire a well-trained workforce to bolster our economy, let’s provide tools for success as early as possible.

This program has promise for our state, but it will take more collaboration. School personnel in Boone County will be vital to the success of this pilot project and, as we speak, are going through extensive training. This project would not be possible without support from the Boone County School Board, State Superintendent Paine, WV School Board Vice President Miller Hall, State Senator Ron Stollings, Delegate Rodney Miller, Southern Community and Technical College, and, of course, Dr. Gordon Gee and all the great folks at WVU. We all agree we can do more for our students, and it all starts with programs and partnerships like this. For more information about the WV P-20 program, you can email .

John Perdue
State Treasurer of West Virginia.

Kent A. Leonhardt
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture

United Physicians Care Family Medicine Clinics Earn National Recognition for Patient-Centered Care

The Free Press WV

Salem Family Healthcare, Barbour County Family Medicine, Pinewood Medical Center, and Shinnston Healthcare, all United Physicians Care (UPC) clinics, an affiliate of United Hospital Center (UHC), were recently recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs). Shinnston Healthcare has been re-recognized for its commitment to these quality healthcare standards.

“NCQA recognition just affirms that we are leading the way in our region with how the approach to patient care is changing,” said John Forester, CEO of UPC. “It is also an indication of how our clinics have established a patient centric model of care that builds better relationships between patients and their clinical care teams, improves quality, and patient experience, as well as reduces health care costs. Practices that earn PCMH recognition have made a significant commitment to continuous quality improvement and a patient-centered approach to care.”

The medical home model improves health care by transforming how primary care is organized and delivered. Research shows this model improves the quality of care patients receive and reduces health care costs. NCQA’s program is the most widely-adopted PCMH model in the country. One in six eligible physicians in the U.S. practices in an NCQA-Recognized PCMH.

NCQA is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to assessing and reporting on the quality of managed care plans, managed behavioral healthcare organizations, preferred provider organizations, new health plans, physician organizations, credentials verification organizations, disease management programs and other health-related programs

Most WV counties record higher unemployment

The Free Press WV

The unemployment rate increased in 41 of the state’s 55 counties in December, according to figures released by WorkForce West Virginia.

Overall unemployment was up two-tenths of a percentage point last month to 4.8 percent.

A county-by-county look at the numbers show 41 counties saw an increase in joblessness, nine counties showed a decline while five counties were unchanged.

Unemployment dipped in Kanawha, Fayette, Boone, Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, Pocahontas, Tucker and Hancock counties.

Calhoun County had the state’s highest unemployment rate in December at 12.4 percent followed by McDowell County at 9.4 percent and Clay County at 8.4 percent.

Jefferson County had the lowest unemployment rate for the month at three percent.

No one hurt in fire that destroys home in Ritchie County

The Free Press WV

Firefighters say two people escaped injury when fire destroyed their home on Riddle Hill Road in Ritchie County, West Virginia on Monday.

The Harrisville Volunteer Fire Department says at 11:00 a.m. Monday, crews from four departments were called to a house fire on Riddle Hill Road near Auburn, WV.

The department says it took firefighters more than 30 minutes to get to the home, which was already destroyed by the time they arrived.

Firefighters say temperatures in the low teens resulted in frozen pumps, drains, hoses and other equipment.

The Ritchie County Office of Emergency Services is working to help the family.

Firefighters from Pennsboro, Smithville and Troy in Gilmer County responded, along with the Ritchie County Ambulance Authority.

It was the fourth house fire the Harrisville Fire Department has responded to, so far, in 2019.

~~  WTAP ~~

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