What do we do with all these dead coal-fired power plants? (Grist)

About 13 gigawatts worth of coal-fired power plants are closing this year to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule.

From a national perspective, these plants represent a fairly small chunk of the nation’s overall electrical capacity. For the communities in which they’re located, however, their closures mean much more than just a smaller carbon footprint: The resulting loss of jobs and local tax revenue leaves an economic void as well. And then there’s the question of what to do with these plants, many of which sit on land that, if it can be properly cleaned up, could be valuable for redevelopment or recreation.

Consider American Electric Power’s (AEP) plant in Glen Lyn, Virginia, a tiny town once known as Hell’s Gate that sits near the West Virginia border. The 96-year-old plant is one of seven AEP plants to be shut down by May 31. (Another two plants will be converted to burn natural gas.) All told, AEP is retiring more than 6,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generating capacity.

Only 31 people worked at the Glen Lyn plant, but then, the town has a population of just 115, according to the U.S. Census. The plant’s employees and retirees are an “integral part of the community,” says Giles County Economic Development Director Chris McKlarney. “You can never replace that.”

Read more in my story at Grist.

Which roller derby team has the most badass skate-out anthem? (Noisey)

Since it was revived in 2001, roller derby has evolved into a streamlined, highly competitive sport played by athletes who blend speed, grace and brutality. But while kitschier elements—tutus, penalty wheels and fishnets—have mostly fallen by the wayside in favor of emphasizing athleticism over spectacle, many teams still use intro music to pump up the crowd ahead of games. For Noisey, I asked the top 40 ranked WFTDA teams what they’re skating out to this year to find out which team rolls out to the dopest anthem.

Read more at Noisey, and find a playlist of the tracks at Spotify.

For what it’s worth, my personal favorite remains Iron Maiden’s “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” used briefly by my local Star City Roller Girls in 2007 and 2008.

The role of historic tax credits in Roanoke’s revitalization (Roanoke Business)

Twenty-five years ago, downtown Roanoke was locked in a struggle against stagnation.

The city had poured millions of dollars into its Design ’79 initiatives a decade earlier, yet businesses and the tenants of blocks of office buildings were streaming out into the suburbs and strip malls.

Today, downtown looks dramatically different than it did in 1990. Key structures, including the iconic Roanoke City Market and Center in the Square, are coming off fresh renovations. Those former office buildings are now filled with apartments, in turn filled by empty nesters and millennials who walk to work and eat in downtown’s numerous restaurants.

The transformation came about through a combination of government incentives, visionary individuals and a fair amount of luck. The biggest single contributor, however, may well be federal and state historic tax credits that made it more profitable to renovate old buildings than tear them down.

“If you imagine Roanoke without the tax credit program, it’s a really stark portrait,” says developer Ed Walker, who has restored the Hancock Building, the Cotton Mill and the Patrick Henry Hotel among others. “It would be a completely different place. The Patrick Henry would be a parking lot … I think if you took the tax credits out, I think we’d probably be in the bleakest times in Roanoke’s history.”

Read more in my cover story for the May 2015 issue of Roanoke Business, now available in regional grocery stores and online.