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POWER+ Plan Picking up Steam in KY

Whitesburg first in Kentucky. to pass a resolution supporting the Power Plus Plan. Credit: Art of the Rural.
Whitesburg first in Kentucky. to pass a resolution supporting the Power Plus Plan. Credit: Art of the Rural.
August 17, 2015

WHITESBURG, Ky. – Support for the Obama administration's plan to revitalize Appalachian communities suffering from the loss of coal mining jobs is picking up steam in Kentucky.

The city councils in Whitesburg and Benham have unanimously passed resolutions supporting the Power Plus Plan, and the Harlan County Fiscal Court is expected to take a vote Tuesday.

Eric Dixon, coordinator of policy and community engagement with the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, says eastern Kentucky towns need programs and funding to restart their economies.

"The Power Plus Plan isn't the end-all, be-all solution, but it is a very big step in the right direction," he states.

The plan would pump hundreds of millions of dollars into job retraining, cleaning up abandoned strip mines and shoring up health care and pensions for retired miners.

When President Barack Obama rolled out his plan for cutting carbon pollution he said the claims of a "war on coal" are a way to "scare up votes."

The president said he wants to work with Congress to help communities and, as he put it, "not use them as a political football."

Tom Sexton, a former Whitesburg City Council member who is now a community organizer for the Sierra Club, says he believes support for transitioning away from coal is gaining momentum.

"We're reeling down here,” he stresses. “Whatever your politics are, there's no wrong reason to bring a billion dollars to create jobs for the region."

The Power Plus Plan would put $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Lands program into cleaning up abandoned mines.

There are 62 sites in Letcher County alone, where Whitesburg is the county seat. Dixon says it’s the most consequential piece of the Obama administration's plan because it would create long-term economic opportunities.

"It will immediately create jobs in the region putting people to work actually reclaiming these sites,” he points out. “And, you know, laid-off miners and others have the skills to do this sort of reclamation work."

After clean up, Dixon says communities will then be able to transition the former strip mine sites into agriculture, recreational tourism or energy jobs.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY