Around the State: Headed back, Gee plans to ‘make a difference’ at WVU

MORGANTOWN – When Gordon Gee starts his six-month stint leading West Virginia University in January, he says he’ll focus on getting things done, just as he did three decades ago as WVU’s president.

“I’m a guy who likes to get in and get to work and make a difference as much as I can,” said Gee, the former Ohio State University president whose appointment as interim president was announced Friday.

The opportunity to return came after WVU President Jim Clements announced last month that he’ll become president of Clemson University.

Gee – who became dean of WVU’s law school in 1979 and led the university from 1981 to 1985 – served two stints as Ohio State’s president before retiring last summer after remarks he made about Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools were made public.

WVU supporters’ reaction to Gee’s appointment on social media ranged from an open-arms welcome to disgust.

University leaders were glad to tap into Gee’s passion for WVU. “He brings a wealth of experience that will help him continue the very positive trajectory the university is on,” Clements said.



Protecting bats: Federal authorities have approved a permit allowing the killing of endangered bats by turbines at a wind farm in Greenbrier County.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the “incidental take” permit includes a habitat conservation plan to minimize the wind farm’s effect on endangered wildlife.

Beech Ridge Energy sought the permit for its wind farm in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Under the plan, the company will adjust turbine operations when bats are most active.

The company also will implement two off-site conservation projects totaling $758,000 within two years. One is aimed at protecting the Indiana bat’s hibernating, foraging and swarming habitat. The other is designed to protect hibernating Virginia big-eared bats.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says Beech Ridge hasn’t reported any deaths of Indiana or Virginia big-eared bats.



Fatal DUI: A Wayne County man has pleaded guilty to three felony charges stemming from a fatal drunken driving accident.

Michael S. Couch,44, of Prichard entered the plea Friday in Cabell County Circuit Court.

He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence causing the death of 52-year-old Deborah Lynn Rakes of Kenova. He also pleaded guilty to third-offense DUI and third-offense driving on a suspended or revoked license.

Court records show Couch’s van crossed the center line and struck Rakes’ car on March 17 in Huntington. Relatives say Rakes had just left a church event.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 23.



Fewer highway deaths: State police say the number of highway deaths in West Virginia is expected to be the lowest since 2010.

Sgt. Chris Zerkle credits the decrease to more traffic patrols paid for by federal and state grant money.

So far this year, 292 people have died on state highways. That compares to 324 last year, 315 in 2011 and 294 in 2010.

The grant money goes toward state police overtime pay to put more troopers on roads. Zerkle says the money is doled out to coincide with highway safety campaigns during holiday periods or other times when traffic volumes are higher.

– Compiled from the Associated Press


Remember Mandela: West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered flags lowered to half-staff in memory of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years for opposing apartheid but later became South Africa’s first black president.

He died Thursday at age 95.

– Compiled from the Associated Press



Cracker questions: A proposed ethane cracker plant in Wood County likely would have to meet state greenhouse gas emission requirements.

A 2011 regulation requires state regulators to determine whether major industrial facilities would use the best available technology to reduce greenhouse emissions when reviewing air pollution permits.

Department of Environmental Protection air quality officials met with Odebrecht representatives last week to begin discussing the project.

The Brazilian petrochemical giant is exploring the possibility of building several facilities in Wood County, including a cracker plant.

DEP air quality engineer Joe Kessler says it’s difficult to say what the agency might require of a cracker plant.

Odebrecht spokesman Chuck Glazer says the company will use best practices. He says protecting land, air and water quality is a priority.

– Compiled from the Associated Press

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