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Number of Appalachian Communities Endorsing Coal Transition Plan is Growing

The number of Appalachian towns and counties voicing support for a federal plan to help shift away from coal is growing. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
The number of Appalachian towns and counties voicing support for a federal plan to help shift away from coal is growing. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
September 16, 2015

WHITESBURG, Ky. - It's now been more than a month since Whitesburg became the first town in Kentucky and the second in the nation to pass a resolution supporting a federal plan to fund the transition away from coal. More than a dozen local governments in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have now gone on record supporting the Obama administration's "POWER+ Plan."

Some members of Congress have attacked it, since it is linked to the Environmental Protection Agency's limits on carbon pollution. However, Kate Rooth, campaign director for the nonprofit Appalachian Voices, said the idea is gaining momentum.

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

City councils in Whitesburg, Benham, Vicco and Evarts have endorsed the plan, as have Letcher and Harlan counties' fiscal courts. The plan would fund a wide range of initiatives from worker retraining and employment subsidies to the reclaiming of mine lands for development projects.

While POWER+ also would shore up health and pension plans for retired miners and their families, the idea faces stiff resistance from congressional Republicans. Rooth said that makes little sense, especially since coal's problems go beyond environmental rules.

"Jobs and economic prosperity of communities - it shouldn't be and isn't a partisan issue," she said. "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+ would take $1 billion from the existing $2.5 billion AML fund and target it to communities hit by falling coal production.

A brief description of POWER+ is online at whitehouse.gov. More from Appalachian Voices is at appvoices.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY