A Firsthand Look at Energy in West Virginia

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The Appalachia Energy Immersion Trip teaches students about coal, community, energy, and the environment.

Aerial view of the town of Montgomery based under a mountain and on a river
An aerial view of Montgomery, W.Va., a community on the Kanawha River. Students stayed in Montgomery for three nights. The small city has a strong history both of fossil fuel extraction and cleaning up environmental damage from coal mining. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Doug Fala speaks to Constance Legrand and Luc Cote, wearing safety vests and hard hats
Doug Fala, the vice president of Kanawha Valley operations at Blackhawk Mining LLC, shows Constance Legrand ’25 and Luc Cote ’23 some coal at Blackhawk’s Maple Eagle complex. Students on the trip came face-to-face with the disruption of coal mining and also heard from the company about the importance of coal mining jobs in West Virginia, as well as its efforts at environmental reclamation. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Ashley Laveriano, Hamza Najam, Angus McReynolds in work vests and hard hats.
Ashley Laveriano ’24, Hamza Najam ’26, and Angus McReynolds take a closer look at some coal at the Maple Eagle complex, operated by Blackhawk Mining. McReynolds is the experiential learning coordinator at Dartmouth’s Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and helped lead the trip. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Joanne Liu looks out over a mining operation
Joanne Liu ’23 surveys the surface mining operation at the Maple Eagle complex operated by Blackhawk Mining. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Aerial view of a plant to the right of the Kanawha River
An aerial view of the Mammoth Coal processing plant along the Kanawha River, an important artery for the industry. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Mike King pointing to a waterway
Mike King, the co-founder of the Morris Creek Watershed Association who served as a key community partner on the Dartmouth trip, points out the Mammoth Coal processing plant, a major source of energy and jobs in the region. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Students doing a lab in a running brook
Students did a survey of macroinvertebrates in the Morris Creek watershed. Acid mine drainage into the creek from old coal mines has contaminated the water, turning it orange. The survey found a greater diversity, and healthier specimens, in the cleaner section of the creek. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Copper colored opaque pool of liquid
A closeup view of the effects of acid mine drainage in the Morris Creek watershed. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Person pointing to a framed black and white photograph in a museum
West Virginia Mine Wars Museum Education Coordinator Lloyd Tomlinson gives students a tour of the museum. Located in Matewan, W.Va., it educates visitors about the series of conflicts between miners and coal companies over workers’ rights. Coal mine unions such as the United Mine Workers of America helped spearhead the labor movement in the United States. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Students sit around a table in a classroom
Students on the Appalachia Energy Immersion Trip visited the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in Charleston to learn about the permitting of fossil fuel extraction projects and state efforts at conservation and environmental cleanups. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Joanne Liu practicing scaling a telephone pole
Joanne Liu ’23 participated in a brief intro to lineman training. Mike King has been teaching local lineman courses for years. With power lines a central part of the power grid, especially as the country moves to more renewable power, work maintaining and repairing them will be good job opportunities in the Kanawha Valley, and elsewhere. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Eddy Grey in the hoods near piping for gas drilling
Eddy Grey, the CEO of Triana Energy, talks to students about conventional natural gas drilling in the region. Grey, an engineer, is also part of the Morris Creek Watershed Association. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Mary Yang speaks with students in a board room
Students heard from Mary Yang, an adviser to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other staff at FERC headquarters in Washington. They learned about fossil fuel permitting at the federal level, as well as the inclusion of environmental justice and public participation in FERC’s permitting process. (Photo by Chris Johnson)
Students and staffers in a board room
The Washington visit included a meeting with three staffers on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Photo by Chris Johnson)