Today, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization Deputy Director, Briggs White, discussed the importance of investing in West Virginia’s coal communities and shared details on how the IWG is supporting energy workers during the Small Communities, Big Solutions Conference.
This four-day virtual conference, hosted by the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern West Virginia, the West Virginia Community Development Hub and Coalfield Development, featured a mix of educators, business and community leaders, and public officials, including, Appalachian Regional Commission Co-Chair Gayle Manchin.
Speakers covered a range of topics, including workforce development, broadband expansion, health equity and healthy lifestyles, higher education, diverse and inclusive workspaces, community development and the power of partnerships. Speakers and attendees engaged with one another, exchanged ideas and proposed solutions to state and local challenges, while underscoring what is already working well in the state.
“Coal is a central part of West Virginia’s history, economics, workforce and culture. As the coal industry continues to decline, it is critical that federal, state, and local organizations come together to support the workers and communities impacted by coal mine closures and changes to the industry,” said White.
During his presentation, White highlighted how West Virginia’s coal communities can take advantage of the $38 billion in federal funding set aside specifically for energy communities.
“The IWG is working closely with our partners in West Virginia to ensure energy communities can access available funding and resources to drive economic growth in the near- and long-term,” said White. “The federal government has already awarded $2 billion in funding opportunities to energy communities across the nation, and this is just the beginning.”
Established by an Executive Order during 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.