ORVI Insider #1: Introducing the Ohio River Valley Institute

The newsletter of the Ohio River Valley Institute


A Message from Our Executive Director

Dear reader,

Recently we announced the formation of the Ohio River Valley Institute, a new think tank dedicated to producing sound research for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous Appalachia. The Institute is marking out a positive economic vision for the greater Ohio Valley and Western Pennsylvania; a vision that amplifies the community-based values and rich culture of the region, while moving us toward shared prosperity. Our goal is to circulate our findings as widely as possible, making our research and messaging strategies available to all — starting with this newsletter. 

In this first edition, we highlight new research from our staff members on the failed strategy of relying on fossil fuels to power the region’s economy, the urgent need for the Ohio River Valley to meet the climate challenge and the opportunity to create new good paying jobs while doing so, as well as the finding that — despite the gas industry’s best efforts — public opinion is trending strongly against fracking. In addition, our Advisor’s Corner features Dr. Mark Paul, a Professor at the New College of Florida and a political economist working in the areas of inequality, environmental economics, and applied microeconomics. Dr. Paul is currently working on a book project called Freedom Is Not Enough: Economic Rights for an Unequal World. 

In addition to our team of talented staff members, have assembled a roster of expert advisors like Dr. Paul to help guide our work, and we are engaging with community leaders to understand how new research can bolster their work on the ground, as well as how their work can inform our research. Together we have the opportunity to demonstrate that real economic prosperity is possible when we bring communities into the policymaking process. It’s time to put the fossil fuel industry on notice that its outsized political and economic power has impeded real economic progress and eroded our democratic institutions, and can no longer control the region. 

The depth of character, work ethic, and commitment to community in the greater Ohio Valley and Western Pennsylvania is unparalleled. The people of this region deserve better social and economic policies – policies that really work in our best interest, not the best interest of coal, oil and gas, or petrochemicals. 

Please join us in the pursuit of informed public policy solutions for a more prosperous and equitable Appalachia.

With much optimism,

Joanne Kilgour, Esq.
Executive Director

Advisor’s Corner:  Meet Advisory Council Member Dr. Mark Paul.

“Mark brings a wealth of knowledge on a range of important policy issues. In particular, how federal and state clean energy policy, community supported agriculture, and fair labor standards can all go together to build shared prosperity especially for those often left out of the policy process.” 

– Ted Boettner, Sr. Researcher

Mark Paul is an assistant professor of economics and environmental studies at New College of Florida, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and a senior fellow at Data for Progress. He’s a political economist, and spends most of his time thinking about inequality and the climate crisis.

ORVI Research Spotlight

Game Unchanged…But, Not Unchangeable: the failed strategy of relying on fossil fuels to power the region’s economy

Decades of pursuing economic prosperity on the backs of extractive industries and fossil fuels have come to naught. Even when those industries grow and invest, the benefits do not filter down to local economies. That’s apparent in the conditions of cities like Weirton, Steubenville, and Wheeling that continue to suffer from depopulation and job loss even as fracking pads and pipelines invade the landscape all around them. That’s why the region’s leaders and policymakers need to explore new economic horizons with industries whose destructive impacts on climate and the environment practically insure that going forward any growth or opportunities they offer will be truncated as communities and nations seek healthier, more sustainable ways of living.

Meeting the Climate Challenge: the urgent need for the Ohio River Valley to meet the climate challenge and the opportunity to create new good paying jobs while doing so

Over the next year, we will be exploring the policy solutions needed to meet the climate challenge. This will include policies targeting 100% clean energy in cities and states, energy efficiency, legacy costs of coal and natural gas extraction, upgrading the electrical grid, electrical vehicle infrastructure and passenger rail, carbon absorption and sustainable agriculture, universal broadband, green manufacturing,  and public works, to name just a few. Our region needs a New Deal or Marshall Plan type plan that works for all of us and it will take all of us working together to make that happen.

Public Opinion is Moving Against Natural Gas and Fracking: Despite the gas industry’s best efforts public opinion is trending strongly against the fracking industry

It is clear that public opinion is moving against natural gas and fracking. The shift in attitudes is probably attributable to a range of factors, including a growing body of evidence that underscores the industry’s legacy of pollution and health impacts, plus a growing realization that it never  delivered on promises of jobs and economic prosperity. As the gas industry weathers a storm of bankruptcies, its popularity problem may pose serious obstacles to obtaining the subsidies and regulatory carveouts it needs to continue business as usual.

ORVI in the News


Ohio Valley Resource 

The Times Leader 

The Times Leader – Opinion 

The Business Journal

What We’re Reading at ORVI:

As presidential campaigns heat up leading into and following the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the country, energy and democracy issues are taking center stage in the news. Our researchers have compiled the top stories of the past week to keep you informed and up to date on key developments in the sectors that matter most to our region.


Joanne Kilgour

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.