The Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) hosted a virtual event, “New Opportunities for Coal Communities”, today that showcased Matewan, WV community voices and discussed economic revitalization for coal communities in the region. The event featured federal, regional and local speakers, a virtual tour of Matewan, WV, an interactive panel with local partners and the announcement of ARC’s POWER Initiative award recipients.
Matewan Mayor Matt Moore and ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin kicked-off the event with opening remarks, followed by a message from Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and a short video tour of Matewan – a community at the center of coal-impacted Appalachia.
“I am thankful our partners on the ground are showcasing Matewan through their voices and stories,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “For generations, the Appalachian Region was vital to helping fuel the nation’s prosperity, and ARC is committed to seizing every opportunity to bolster re-employment opportunities, creating jobs in existing or new industries, and attracting new sources of investment.”
Attendees shared thoughts and ideas around the most pressing issues in coal communities and learned of federal funding opportunities and other resources to help spur economic growth. An interactive panel discussion with ARC POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) participants from West Virginia and Kentucky and moderated by IWG Executive Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D. followed. Panelists shared best practices, strategies and tactics for successful economic transformation in the region and hyper-local stories about recreating vibrant downtowns, building a competitive workforce, expanding broadband access, fostering entrepreneurship and strengthening emerging sectors, including clean energy.
“West Virginia powered the country for the last 100 years and we want West Virginia to power the country for the next 100 years, but with clean energy. There are already glimmers of this future,” said Secretary Granholm. “This administration wants to help and partner with you to seize that opportunity.”
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the launch of its Communities LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnerships) Pilot program. As part of President Biden’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, the Communities LEAP Pilot initiative targets low-income and energy-burdened communities experiencing either environmental justice concerns or direct economic impacts from the shift away from historical reliance on fossil fuels.
To close out the event, ARC announced its POWER Initiative award recipients. ARC’s POWER Initiative targets federal resources to help communities and regions affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
“Appalachia is home to generations of energy workers, like coal miners, who helped build America and fueled the nation’s prosperity. Across the federal government, we are targeting funding opportunities toward energy communities and reducing barriers to access them, to catalyze resources in more places to help our energy communities rebuild, strengthen their workforces, and revitalize their economies, both today and for the long-term,” said Anderson.
Established by an Executive Order in President Biden’s first week in office, the 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 as the U.S. prepares to undergo a historic energy evolution to a carbon emission-free electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.