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Energy Communities IWG Announces Launch of Pennsylvania Rapid Response Team

The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Energy Communities IWG) today joined senior federal and state officials at the Catalyzing Economic Development in Pennsylvania’s Energy Communities event at Westmoreland County Community College to announce new federal initiatives to support workers, along with economic revitalization and workforce development in Pennsylvania energy communities.

“The Biden administration is implementing a national industrial strategy that invests in America, which means investing in American workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The president’s Energy Communities Interagency Working Group is helping leverage the expertise of a workforce that knows how to power the nation, connecting them with the resources they need to ensure they continue to play a leading role in the new energy economy.”

Western Pennsylvania is one of the Energy Communities IWG’s top 25 priority communities. Communities across the state have long relied on coal mining, coal-fired power plants, and the steel industry for jobs and economic vitality. The Homer City Generating Station, the state’s largest coal-fired power plant, retired in July 2023, resulting in additional layoffs for energy workers. The Energy Communities IWG Rapid Response Team (RRT) will assist regional stakeholders in coordinating federal resources to navigate the economic and energy transition in Pennsylvania.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are investing in the people and places that powered America’s global competitiveness for generations. Raised in Western Pennsylvania, I know firsthand how our energy communities have forged our economic prosperity and the incredible capacity they possess to help us win the clean energy future,” said Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor. “Through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we are revitalizing communities across the country and empowering energy workers. The Pennsylvania Rapid Response Team will ensure communities and workers here in Western Pennsylvania have the resources they need to leverage historic federal investments and technical assistance and position the United States to lead globally on clean energy.”

The Biden Administration continues to encourage energy communities to leverage partnerships with philanthropic organizations to catalyze economic investment in energy communities and leverage new opportunities to support energy workers. Through the commitments by the Heinz Endowments, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and the Just Transition Fund, the Climate Jobs National Resource Center will provide support to the United Mine Workers Association Career Centers Inc for training of dislocated coal workers as part of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge $62.7 million award to the Southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA) New Economy Coalition.  

“This is a critical first step in rebuilding coalfield communities by providing training for those who have been impacted by the closure of coal mines,” United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “This training can provide a pathway to high-quality jobs and a career in a new and growing industry and can replace the income and benefits miners and their families lost over the last several years when their mines closed.”

Led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pennsylvania RRT joins five others in the Four Corners, the Illinois Coal Basin, Eastern Kentucky, Appalachian Ohio, 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 nongovernmental organizations and leaders.

“Pennsylvania energy communities have a storied tradition of powering our nation since the Industrial Revolution. That’s what makes them uniquely qualified for new energy jobs,” said Senator Bob Casey. “These investments, along with my energy communities tax credit and Pennsylvania’s new hydrogen hubs, will help the Commonwealth take control of our future and become the energy powerhouse we know we can be.”

Since 2021, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has received $10.5 billion in public investment, including $523.1 million to accelerate the deployment of clean energy, clean buildings, and clean manufacturing as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. Last week, senior officials from the Biden administration announced the launch of the Appalachian Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) to serve West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The hub will create more than 21,000 direct jobs for energy communities and workers throughout the region.

“Pennsylvania is an energy leader in this country—and from the men and women who made America the most powerful economy in the world, to the steamfitters and boilermakers who continue this work every day, we are proud of our legacy,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “I’m grateful to stand with the Biden administration and Senator Casey as we continue to build on that legacy. We are working together to create energy jobs, spur growth and innovation, and protect our communities in order to ensure Pennsylvania remains an energy leader for decades to come.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) also highlighted its recent announcement of 19 POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) awards totaling $17.3 million to Pennsylvania grantees. These grants are part of ARC’s largest POWER package of nearly $54 million to create jobs, fuel new industries, and prepare students and workers for new opportunities across Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities.

“ARC is proud to be an ‘Energy Communities member’ as we collaborate across federal agencies to support the economic vitality of Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “I am optimistic that ARC’s newest round of POWER grants will result in life-changing transformations across our region, and will ensure that residents of our coal-impacted communities will be equal partners in the progress as our country moves forward.”

The Energy Communities IWG also announced the launch of a new website feature, the Getting Started Guide, which is a planning action tool intended to help communities and workers start the process of planning or responding to economic and social changes resulting from the energy transition. In addition, the Energy Communities IWG launched its new Navigator function, a team of experts who can answer questions and direct energy community stakeholders to the federal resources best positioned to support their needs.

“Collaboration on the federal and local level is what will make this partnership successful, and we are thrilled to expand our efforts into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to support the state’s energy communities and workers,” said Energy Communities IWG Executive Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D. “Today is just the beginning of an influx of multi-government support that will bring life-changing resources and opportunities to America’s energy communities.”

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 Pennsylvania RRT will focus on helping communities and workers access federal funding and technical assistance through these two laws.

Stakeholders interested in partnering with and providing input to the RRT can send an email to Contact@EnergyCommunities.gov.

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