The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 11, 2013

Tour of West Virginia energy facilities set

From staff reports

MONTGOMERY — As part of an effort to help more people understand the impacts and complexities of energy consumption, The Sustainability Institute at Bridgemont and Morris Creek Watershed Association (MCWA) are collaborating to offer an Energy Tour March 17-21.

The tour will visit energy production facilities in Fayette, Nicholas, Kanawha and Tyler counties, and is designed to educate participants on a variety of energy sources including coal, natural gas, hydropower, and wind.

Students from Dartmouth College visiting West Virginia as part of an Alternative Spring Break program will participate in the tour.

“College students learn a lot in books and lectures, but the tour allows them to experience the impact energy production and resource extraction have on communities and the economy of an area. They get to meet people that are directly affected,” said Mike King, stream restoration chair for MCWA.

“There are some things you just need to experience first-hand — you have to see it in person.”

The tour itinerary includes visits to a coal mine, wind farm, hydroelectric dam, coal-fired power plant and Marcellus shale gas well. Students will also assist with stream restoration projects in Morris Creek.

Classroom presentations will cover topics ranging from energy efficiency to how changes in the energy industry impact the economy of West Virginia.

The Sustainability Institute at Bridgemont Community & Technical College advances sustainable development across West Virginia in order to foster resilient communities, diversify the economy, and conserve natural resources for future generations.

“The political, economic, environmental, and social issues surrounding energy production and consumption are complex,” said Kelly Jo Drey, director of the Sustainability Institute. “We aim to provide objective information on these issues so individuals can fully understand the impacts of energy consumption choices.”

The Institute provides training, technical assistance, leadership development and capacity building in three areas — community development, academics and workforce development.

They foster collaboration with diverse stakeholders in order to build a network of sustainability professionals across the state.

Other Institute programs include technical assistance mini-grants to support sustainable community development, a state-wide collaboration of sustainability educators, online sustainability assessment for businesses and introduction to sustainability workshops.

The tour also aims to support the development of a diversified strategy for energy security — a national issue of critical significance in West Virginia.

Bridgemont hopes this program will grow to include regularly-scheduled, for-credit offerings of the Energy Tour for college students from around the country, as well as for consumers, technicians, and energy industry professionals.

Another tour, planned July 17-18, is open to the public. Visits to a coal mine, wind farm, and hydroelectric dam are scheduled as part of Experience West Virginia, a diverse offering of cultural education programs coinciding with the 2013 National Scout Jamboree in Fayette County.

The mission of the Morris Creek Watershed Association is to improve the safety of the Morris Creek Watershed, restore its natural beauty, return the watershed to a safe environment for all residents and restore the water quality to a condition capable of supporting aquatic life and local recreational activities.