Sound research for a more sustainable, equitable, democratic, and prosperous Appalachia.
What We Do
The Ohio River Valley Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and communications center—a think tank—founded in 2020. We equip the region’s residents and decision-makers with the policy research and practical tools they need to advance long-term solutions to some of Appalachia’s most significant challenges. Our work includes in-depth research, commentary, and analysis, delivered online, by email, and in-person to policy champions, emerging leaders, and a range of community partners.
What We Stand For
The Ohio River Valley Institute’s mission is to support communities in the region working to advance a more prosperous, sustainable, and equitable Appalachia. The Institute produces data-driven research and proposes policies to improve the economic performance and standards of living for the greater Ohio River Valley, with a focus on shared prosperity, clean energy, and equitable democracy.
The Ohio River Valley is a place where communities can thrive by investing in, rather than exploiting, local resources. By moving beyond an extractive economy toward shared prosperity, lasting job growth, clean energy, and civic engagement, the region can cultivate a stronger and more equitable economy that will set an example for similar regions throughout the world.
Our Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
As an independent research center, we have an obligation to ensure that our work accurately incorporates learnings from, and contemplates the potential impact on, people with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences in the region. We recognize that where equity is absent, there are no strong communities, thriving economies, or healthy environments.
Joanne Kilgour, Esq. is an environmental lawyer and nonprofit professional with a passion for justice and democracy. Informed by her work with the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, Joanne is committed to securing social, economic, and environmental policies that support communities while demanding long-term structural change.
Reach Joanne at joanne[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Joanne Kilgour, Esq. is a Pennsylvania-based environmental lawyer and nonprofit professional with a passion for justice and democracy. Joanne most recently served as the Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter, where she stewarded the organization’s statewide operations and managed its lobbying and political program. Before joining the Sierra Club, Joanne had the opportunity to combine her legal background and passion for community-based advocacy into a position as the first Legal Director at the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ). At CCJ, she worked to infuse legal tools into grassroots organizing efforts, helping to support community members in the coalfields of southwestern Pennsylvania on matters related to underground mining, oil and gas development, and environmental justice.
Joanne received her undergraduate education at Carnegie Mellon University, where she served as a Fellow in Local Democracy through a partnership with the Coro Center for Civic Leadership and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy. Earning her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Joanne was awarded a Certificate in Environmental, Law, Science, and Policy and worked in the school’s Environmental Law Clinic, where she learned client-centered counseling methods and provided legal services to clients who otherwise could not afford representation. During law school, Joanne also received the Thornburgh Prize for Legal Service to recognize her public interest work with communities in the coal and gas fields.
In addition, Joanne serves on the Board of Directors for Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and as member of the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Joanne is motivated by a commitment to secure social, economic, and environmental policies that support communities while demanding long-term structural change.
Ted focuses on pathways that bring sustainable economic development and shared prosperity to the region through research and analysis and has over 15 years of public policy experience. Prior to joining ORVI, Ted was the founding executive director of the WV Center on Budget and Policy.
Reach Ted at ted[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Ted focuses on pathways that bring sustainable economic development and shared prosperity to the region through research and analysis. Prior to joining ORVI, Ted was co-founding executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy where he authored dozens of publications on economic and energy issues and worked closely with policymakers and stakeholders to raise wages and benefits for thousands of people while also protecting important public goods, such as schools. Ted also helped launch the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, was primary member to the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an advisory committee within the U.S. Department of Interior, and was named “one of the most influential business leaders” in West Virginia by The State Journal (WV). His work has been frequently cited in the West Virginia media, as well as the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Ted has taught political science and public policy at West Virginia University, where he received his undergraduate degree, and has served on the boards of various community organizations and nonprofits. He currently serves on the board of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority and Legal Aid of West Virginia. Ted received his master’s degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire and lives with his partner and two kids in Charleston, West Virginia. When he’s not being a policy wonk, Ted enjoys a nice whitewater paddle in West Virginia, running marathons, hiking at Dolly Sods, some political theory, and cooking for friends.
Sean O’Leary, senior researcher, energy and petrochemicals, is a native of Wheeling, WV. He has written about coal, natural gas, and their role in the economies of Appalachia in a book, a newspaper column, and blog titled, “The State of My State”. Previously, Sean served as communications director at the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle, Washington.
Reach Sean at sean[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Sean O’Leary, senior researcher, energy and petrochemicals, has studied and written about coal, natural gas, and their role in the economies of Appalachia since the beginning of the fracking boom. He is the author of “The State of My State” blog and newspaper column, which ran in the Martinsburg (WV) Journal between 2010 and 2014. Since 2016, Sean has served as communications director of the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle, Washington where he has helped develop and promote policies advancing the Northwest’s transition to an emissions-free electric system, just transitions for fossil fuel workers and communities, and the restoration of salmon and orca whales whose survival is threatened by hydropower dams on the lower Snake River.
Previously, Sean was the founder and president of MarketLab, Inc., a market modeling and promotional services firm that provided analytic and creative services to over 50 national consumer packaged goods brands. He also created the ZeroBase marketing optimization model, which was used by brands to analyze performance and optimally allocate promotional spending.
In his spare time, Sean is an accomplished playwright and author of six plays that have been professionally produced. They include “Pound”, about the poet Ezra Pound, which starred Christopher Lloyd in an off-Broadway production in 2018. Sean’s plays have been recognized by the National Endowment for The Arts, the National Arts Club, and the West Virginia Department of Arts and Culture. In 2005, he was named to the Literary Map of West Virginia.
Sean is a native of Wheeling, West Virginia and is a graduate of Warwood High School and Bethany College. He and his wife, Kat Elias, live in Indianola, Washington. Sean’s book, “The State of My State”, published in 2013, is available in bookstores and on Amazon. You can also visit “The State of My State” blog.
Eric focuses on economic and environmental policy in Appalachia and beyond. Prior to joining ORVI, Eric was an organizer and policy advocate at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, where he worked on issues such as black lung and damage from abandoned coal mines.
Reach Eric at dixon[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Hydrogen Campaign Coordinator
Reach Tom at tom[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Kathy is a professor of finance with Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability program and a former financial analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Nick Messenger focuses on applying data science and economic modeling to local economic development policy, energy economics, and clean energy transition issues. He also researches and writes about housing and education economic policy issues. Nick is a PhD Candidate in Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at the Ohio State University where he also earned his M.S in the field.
Reach Nick at nick[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Nick Messenger focuses on applying data science and economic modeling to local economic development policy, energy economics, and clean energy transition issues. He also researches and writes about housing and education economic policy issues. Nick is a PhD Candidate in Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at the Ohio State University where he also earned his M.S in the field. Prior to research, Nick taught high school chemistry and physics across three states in the Midwest and Gulf regions.
Ben comes to ORVI from community advocacy work in the Ohio River Valley. He offers communications and design support for report releases, social media content, and the ORVI Insider.
Reach Ben at ben[at]ohiorivervalleyinstitute[dot]org.
Martina Angela Caretta
Dr Martina Angela Caretta is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Human Geography at Lund University, Sweden. She holds a PhD in Geography from Stockholm University, Sweden. Dr Caretta was an Assistant Professor in Geography at West Virginia University between 2016 and 2020. While at WVU, Dr Caretta investigated the social, economic and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and pipelines development in Appalachia. Her research agenda revolves around the human dimensions of water and climate change adaptation. Dr Caretta is a Coordinating Lead Author of the United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report.
Matt is Executive Director of the Breathe Project, a coalition of local residents, environmental advocates, public health professionals and academics advocating for healthier air for the Pittsburgh region. From 2007 – 2016, he served as Program Director for Sustainable Pittsburgh where he created Champions for Sustainability. Matt teaches environmental policy and community resiliency courses at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University.
Heather M. Stephens
Jamie Van Nostrand
Professor James M. (Jamie) Van Nostrand joined the faculty of the West Virginia University College of Law in July of 2011 to serve as the Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. Professor Van Nostrand came to the WVU College of Law from the Pace Law School in White Plains, NY, where he served as Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center.
Prior to the spring of 2008, Professor Van Nostrand had a successful career as a partner in the Environmental and Natural Resources practice group of a large law firm based in the Pacific Northwest. In his 22-year career in private practice, Professor Van Nostrand represented energy clients in state regulatory proceedings in eight western states, as well as proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Professor Van Nostrand was recognized by the Energy Bar Association as the 2007 State Regulatory Practitioner of the Year.
Before going into private practice, Professor Van Nostrand spent five years with the New York Public Service Commission as an Assistant to the Commission for Opinions and Review and as Assistant to the Chairman. Professor Van Nostrand has taught courses in energy and regulated industries, environmental law, emissions trading, administrative law and business associations in various capacities at Lewis & Clark Law School, the University of Tennessee College of Law, the University of Iowa College of Law, and Pace Law School. He has published and lectured widely on emissions trading and strategies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate change, energy policy, renewable energy, utility rates and electric restructuring plans, environmental justice, and utility mergers and acquisitions. In his role as Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, Professor Van Nostrand is involved in various energy and environmental efforts in West Virginia and the Appalachian region, offering objective, unbiased research and policy analyses and promoting policies that strike a proper balance between the development of energy resources and protection of the environment.
Jaimie K. Worker is the senior state policy coordinator for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) at EPI. She is committed to ensuring that racial and gender equity is a public policy priority and that the leaders of communities impacted by structural racism and oppression are key collaborators in developing public policy.
Prior to joining EPI, Worker was a senior policy analyst at Community Change, where for more than six years she worked on racial and economic justice campaigns focused on jobs and public investment in partnership with grassroots organizations. Previously, she worked with the New Organizing Institute, as well as the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, supporting workplace organizing and policy campaigns to win improved working conditions in the restaurant industry.
Worker is the proud daughter of immigrants and hails from Detroit, Michigan.
Lafe Metz is a real estate development and transactional attorney focused on large-scale industrial development. Metz holds broad experience in all aspects of commercial real estate development, transactions, zoning and land use, government incentives, financing, leasing and property tax matters including tax increment financing and abatements.
Professor Gamper-Rabindran analyzes public utility commissions, community-centered strategies, and the economic, legal, and political aspects of the renewable energy transition, as well as the economic diversification of fossil-fuel-reliant communities nationally and globally.
Her book America’s Energy Gamble: People, Economy and Planet details how political, financial, and legal institutions entrench fossil fuel dependency, but how efforts to shift to cost-competitive renewable energy have gained traction.
Her edited volume The Shale Dilemma: A Global Perspective on Fracking and Shale Development covers countries’ diverging decisions to pursue or eschew shale extraction and describes the impact of the shale gas industry on local communities.
Let's Face Our Challenges Together
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