Front Porch Blog

Student leaders support the POWER+ Plan

Members of the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Renaissance Initiative at Whitesburg City Hall. Photo courtesy of ARI.

Members of the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Renaissance Initiative at Whitesburg City Hall. Photo courtesy of ARI.

Yesterday, a group of student leaders in eastern Kentucky took a commendable step in support of Central Appalachia’s youth and economic future.

By a unanimous vote, the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative Student Senate passed a resolution of support for the POWER+ Plan, a White House initiative to build more diverse economies in communities hardest hit by the coal industry’s decline. More than 13,000 coal jobs have been lost in Central Appalachia since 2011 alone.

The group, which is comprised of high school juniors and seniors from seventeen school districts, has a particular interest in seeing economic prospects in the region improve. Rural communities in Central Appalachia are struggling with population loss due to a lack of opportunities.

“This POWER+ Plan can remove the need for people to leave,” said Kiley Short, a Junior Senator from Letcher County Central High School. “It stimulates economic growth and business opportunities, which are imperative to the fate of my home, my culture, my people, and my future.”

In Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, cities and counties with long histories of coal mining are advocating for the POWER+ Plan — and calling on their elected leaders to do the same. More than two dozen localities in Central Appalachia’s coal-bearing region have passed resolutions similar to the one approved by the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative.

Specifically, the POWER+ Plan directs millions of dollars in additional funding to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Department of Labor and other federal agencies focused on economic development. It also calls for an additional $200 million per year over the next five years for the federal Abandoned Mine Lands program to restore dangerous unreclaimed mines.

According to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which administers the program, additional funds would assist communities most severely impacted by coal “in a manner that facilitates economic revitalization on reclaimed lands and restored waterways.”

But the fate of that key component of POWER+, which must be approved by Congress, remains unclear.

Regional groups including Appalachian Voices are committed to seeing the POWER+ Plan succeed. And we’ve been inspired by the level of local support in spite of the uncertainty this bipartisan plan faces in a highly partisan Congress.

The need for new investment in Central Appalachian communities is urgent. In supporting POWER+, these young leaders aren’t just voting for their future, they’re voting for their families’ and neighbors’ present.

As Stacie Fugate, a Junior Senator from Hazard Independent, said after the vote: “My brother has recently been laid off from work. This plan hits home for not only me, but the majority of people in our region.”

We congratulate the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative for its vision and thank its members for speaking up for the region’s future.

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Brian is an environmental news junkie concerned with our lagging energy policy and revealing the true cost of coal on our health, the environment and the climate. He is Appalachian Voices' Director of Strategic Advancement.

  1. John Brown Jr. says:

    This part of our country needs more than cash^^What good is a bucket of $50 dollar bills if the laws that degrade the earth, atmosphere and H2O are ignored, violated and rewritten by new powers??

    Giving out money is always always always controversial. It never, never, never lasts long enough. It is similar to a good orgasm.
    THe top 50 surface and mineral rights corporations are having a field day. While local people struggle with hell and high-water.

    Listen to “Back Alley Pork Roast” Sundays 9pm-10pm. WE describe festivals in appalachia, fiddle music, bluegrass music and music near Interstate-75 and Interstate-64 and Interstate-81. We cover a 7 county region near Ga Tech. WE are operated by volunteer students 1 hour a week. [404] 894-2468 100,000 watts we are related legally to radio stations on a number of tribal native american reservations in AZ, NM, SD, WA,AL

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