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Appalachian Communities Want Federal Money for Coal Transition

Appalachian towns and counties are voicing support for a federal plan to help shift away from coal. Credit: Dan Heyman.
Appalachian towns and counties are voicing support for a federal plan to help shift away from coal. Credit: Dan Heyman.
September 8, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - A number of Appalachian towns and counties are lining up behind a federal plan to fund the transition away from coal. The "Power Plus" plan is a White House initiative to target areas losing mining and power plant jobs.

Some members of Congress have attacked it, since it comes along with Environmental Protection Agency limits on carbon pollution. But a dozen local governments in Kentucky, Tennessee and southwest Virginia have passed resolutions in favor.

Kate Rooth, campaign director with the nonprofit Appalachian Voices, says other local bodies are considering similar resolutions.

"It is overwhelming boards of supervisors, local town councils and they're not just passing, they're passing with unanimous support," says Rooth.

The White House describes Power Plus as funding a wide range of initiatives, research and development, infrastructure, worker retraining, employment subsidies, and reclaiming mine lands for development projects. It would also shore up health-and-pension plans for retired miners and their families.

In spite of strong support by some local governments, the initiative faces stiff resistance from congressional Republicans.

Rooth says that makes little sense, especially since coal's problems go beyond environmental rules. She thinks Congress should listen to the officials who are closest to the problem.

"Jobs and economic prosperity of communities, it shouldn't be and isn't a partisan issue," says Rooth. "We have seen a groundswell of support from within those communities to this plan."

One part of the plan would speed up the distribution of Abandoned Mine Lands funds. Over five years, Power Plus would take a $1 billion from the existing $2.5 billion AML fund and target it to communities hit by falling coal production. Another part would increase federal support for research and development into carbon sequestration.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA