Today, the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Energy Communities IWG) announced the launch of a Rapid Response Team (RRT) in Appalachian Ohio at the 3rd Annual Appalachia Forward Conference. The Energy Communities IWG RRT, led by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), will assist regional stakeholders in coordinating federal resources to navigate the economic and energy transition in Appalachian Ohio.
“We’ve heard from people on the ground in Appalachian Ohio that increasing access to technical assistance opportunities would greatly benefit the region’s ability to capitalize on federal funding and successfully implement revitalization projects,” said Energy Communities IWG Director Brian Anderson, PhD. “I’m optimistic that today’s announcement will create a unified focus on investing in the region and build a stronger Appalachia.”
Wheeling, West Virginia/Appalachian Ohio is #3 on the Energy Communities IWG’s top 25 priority communities. This region has a long history with coal and in the last decade, several power plants have closed, costing the region thousands of jobs. The W.H. Sammis coal power plant along the Ohio River in Jefferson County recently closed.
Historical investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act present energy communities with a multitude of opportunities to revitalize communities, diversify workforces, and support energy workers. The Appalachia Ohio RRT will work directly with local and state leaders to help communities and workers navigate and access federal funding and technical assistance through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is pleased to lead this whole-of-government effort to supercharge the economic and energy transition in Appalachian Ohio,” said Craig Buerstatte, EDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs. “The Rapid Response Team will enable our federal, state and local stakeholders to make an unprecedented regional commitment to collaboration and resource sharing. EDA looks forward to working with local partners to ensure place-based strategies deliver equitable growth to all communities in Appalachian Ohio.”
The Appalachia Ohio is the fifth RRT established by the Energy Communities IWG, joining others in the Four Corners, the Illinois Coal Basin, Eastern Kentucky and a pilot in Wyoming. The RRT effort is part of the working group’s core goal of creating a national network of assistance for energy communities that is community-driven, in partnership with federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental organizations and leaders.
As part of the Appalachia Forward event, the Energy Communities IWG moderated a federal agency panel and led a “speed networking” session for participants. The networking session allowed attendees to engage with officials from 9 federal agencies, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, who has supported 56 projects across Ohio totaling $27.8 million in FY22.
“At the Appalachian Regional Commission, we know that collaboration across Federal entities is foundational to our region’s future success,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “We’re pleased to be a piece of the puzzle in supporting Energy Communities IWG’s mission of bolstering economic development in energy-impacted communities across Ohio and the entire Appalachian region.”
Ohio is one of 17 states that have seen the largest private sector investment of $31 billion in history under the Biden Administration. The state has received $8.2 billion in public infrastructure investment since 2021 including $256 million of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding dedicated for plugging 1000 orphan wells.
The U.S. Department of Energy also announced today the second round of Communities LEAP (Local Energy Action Program) to support disadvantaged communities and communities with historical ties to fossil fuel industries to take direct control of their clean energy future. Applications are being accepted until December 14, 2023, by 5 p.m. EST.
During the two-day visit in the region, the Energy Communities IWG also spent time touring two successful revitalization projects that are a direct result of targeted federal investment in energy communities. The Wilds, a safari park and conservation center in Muskingum County was built on reclaimed mine lands received a $2.2 million grant to build an RV campground to help attract tourists and boost the local economy. Officials also toured the new construction trades training facility at Belmont College that was funded partly by a $5 million EDA grant last year to support regional workforce development and prepare students for good-paying jobs.
Stakeholders interested in partnering with and providing input to the RRT can send an email to Contact@EnergyCommunities.gov.
The Energy Communities IWG is pursuing a whole-of-government approach to create good-paying union jobs, spur economic revitalization, remediate environmental degradation and support energy workers in coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities across the country. The working group supports the Administration’s goals of a carbon emission-free electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.