White House officials, federal agencies, state leaders and public and private sector convene for listening session on energy transition investments and opportunities for Appalachia
CHARLESTON, W. Va.—Today, President Biden’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization—a partnership among the White House and nearly a dozen federal agencies—committed to pursuing near- and long-term actions to support coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities as the nation transitions to a clean energy economy. Several federal investments were announced during an IWG-hosted listening session at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park where federal government officials met with leaders from the private sector, philanthropy, labor and community organizers to identify key opportunities to advance energy infrastructure projects, workforce development and training strategies, and environmental clean-up priorities across the Appalachia region, which is comprised of 13 states from southern New York to northern Mississippi.
At the event, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new strategy to support the emerging lithium battery supply chain, which has enormous potential across Appalachia and the adjacent Rust Belt states. DOE will dedicate $5 million to support up to five training pilots in energy and automotive communities, bringing together industry and labor partners to increase good union jobs across the domestic battery supply chain. Present at the meeting was the battery manufacturing company SPARKZ, which is working on a cobalt-free battery technology, along with representatives from the AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America, who together have made great progress toward this goal.
Ultimately, these pilots will feed into a broad national strategy, as articulated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to build out a strong and sustainable domestic battery supply chain. The work will bring key industry, labor and community partners together to advance a robust strategy to develop workforce standards and training systems across the battery supply chain, from critical minerals mining to battery manufacturing and recycling, with the goal of supporting employer needs and providing a pathway to high-quality jobs.
“Today, we worked across federal, state, local and community lines by assembling a group of leaders who collectively demonstrate the impact of coming together through public-private partnership to support a region as vital to our nation as the Appalachia,” said IWG Executive Director, Dr. Brian J. Anderson. “As the investment numbers for energy communities continue to grow, we must maintain the momentum, helping communities recover, build resilience and scale up job creation to position families, businesses and workers for a clean energy future. I am encouraged by the investments and partnerships discussed today and incredibly optimistic about the continued momentum.”
The following federal agencies also made funding announcements at the event:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding three grants designed to invest in needed community services such as grid improvements and other infrastructure in energy communities in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.
- U.S. Department of the Interior announced that nearly $215 million in abandoned mine land reclamation investments is available for the state of West Virginia this year alone, with several years of reliable funding that Americans can count on in the future. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland also announced the opening of nominations for the 2022 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Awards, which recognize outstanding state and Tribal efforts to reclaim abandoned coal mines. Presented in partnership with Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, these awards recognize exemplary reclamation projects and are the highest honor a reclamation program can achieve.
- U.S. Economic Development Administration announced new awards under its Coal Communities Commitment, including a $2.4 million grant to the former logging and mining town of Pikeville, Kentucky to help the local medical center purchase important healthcare equipment.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided two grants to Coalfield Development Corporation for job training and environmental cleanup in Huntington, West Virginia.
“Today’s announcements demonstrate the President following through on his commitment to assemble and deliver resources that will strengthen and support the people who live and work in energy communities,” said Brian Deese, IWG Co-Chair. “And what we heard was these communities are ready and able to serve as the 21stCentury Arsenal of Democracy, powering our economy, and manufacturing advanced energy technologies here at home with American iron, steel, and critical minerals to break our dependence on unreliable foreign supply chains.”
This event comes on the heels of President Biden’s State of the Union address, with its strong focus on building out domestic supply chains, including in the battery sector. It follows other post-State-of-the-Union-address events in Appalachia by the IWG such as Energy Secretary Granholm’s visit to Kentucky on March 2 and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s visit to Ohio on March 4.
In addition to the listening session, the Appalachia region saw two additional events yesterday focused on economic opportunity and revitalization. Dr. Anderson participated in a roundtable event with the Nuclear Energy Institute to discuss new opportunities for nuclear energy development in West Virginia. ARC’s Federal Co-Chair Manchin traveled to Youngstown, Ohio to announce nearly $21 million in new POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grants. Attendees included Assistant Secretary Castillo and new POWER grantees from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The listening session, co-hosted by the energy communities IWG, West Virginia University and Marshall University, included IWG Executive Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D.; Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland; Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin; U.S. Economic Development Administration Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandro Castillo; U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Justin Maxson; and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. Leaders from local labor, philanthropic and private sector entities, such as United Mine Workers of America, Just Transition fund, Coalfield Development, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, among others, also attended.
Established by an Executive Order during President Biden’s first week in office, 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 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.