Coal Tattoo

Sad news: W.Va. loses a great citizen journalist


I was terribly sorry to read confirmation of the horrible news that was circulating Friday and over the weekend:

Bill Howley, founder and editor of  The Power Line, died in a single-vehicle motor vehicle collision on the afternoon of Thursday, April 23, 2015, while driving to a WV SUN meeting. He was 62 years old.

He died surrounded by the verdant spring hills of central West Virginia, working hard for the future of his state. He took immense pride and joy in his work with fellow West Virginia energy activists.

Bill was probably the best citizen journalist in West Virginia. His blog, The Power Line: The View from Calhoun County,  was essential reading for anyone who wanted to know what was going on in energy issues in West Virginia — especially for those of us who are presumably paid to write about such things. Bill frequently broke news on his blog, and more importantly, he provided key context, background and analysis of what was going on with issues like power line proposals, clean-energy markets, and the dumping of coal-fired power plants onto West Virginia consumers.

Bill’s blog provided invaluable watchdog reporting about West Virginia energy companies, and put the constant harping against clean energy from West Virginia elected officials into some perspective, with posts like this one — I believe his last published work — about the fight against the future in Hawaii.

Over the years, Bill was pretty tough on those of us who make our living covering the news in West Virginia (see here, here, here and here). He was often right about the weakness of media coverage of these issues, though he and I used to have friendly arguments — well, I considered them friendly, and I hope he did — about why that coverage wasn’t better. And once you got to know Bill, and he saw you were willing to put in the time to understand complicated stuff, he would spend countless hours trying to unpack complex stuff.

What I’ll remember most was that Bill seemed to really love what he was doing. The tone of the progressive movement in West Virginia can be pretty rough these days. There’s a lot of anger and hostility, aimed even at folks who are generally on the same side of trying to move our state forward. Personally, I never got that from Bill. He was always fun to talk to and spend time with, no matter how complicated or even depressing the topic of the day happened to be.

This is most painful for Bill’s family and close friends. I can imagine how they feel. Sunday was the anniversary of the car accident that killed my father. So my heart goes out to Bill’s loved ones. I hope they find some peace in knowing how many people Bill touched with his work.