The POWER+ Plan, part of the Obama administration’s proposed 2016 federal budget, would direct billions of dollars to communities across the country, particularly those in Appalachia, that have been hit hard by the decline of coal to help them transition to more diversified economies.
Four key pillars
- Invest $1 billion over five years to reclaim abandoned mine lands, creating new jobs and other economic opportunities in the process.
- Increase federal investments in energy efficiency, tourism development, workforce training, health care, economic development initiatives and other programs.
- Ensure solvency of the United Mine Workers of America’s health and retirement fund through legislative reforms and new investments.
- Create tax incentives to drive the development and use of “carbon capture” technologies for coal- and gas-fired power plants to reduce air pollution.
At the local level, the potential investment in Appalachia under the POWER+ Plan is being met with excitement and anticipation. As of October 2015, almost 20 Central Appalachian counties, towns and other government entities had passed resolutions, many unanimously, to support the idea.
But the plan must be approved by Congress and so far, elected representatives from the region have been silent, or even disapproving of the plan. In the meantime, the White House also announced the POWER Initiative, which includes about $35 million available immediately as a “down payment” on the POWER+ Plan. Many Central Appalachian communities are already using this grant money to plan for the future.
Appalachian Voices is working to promote the POWER+ Plan at the local level and in Congress.
Where the money would go
(Read a White House fact sheet on the plan here: Investing in Coal Communities, Workers, and Technology: The POWER+ Plan)
- $25 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission for programs that support developing advanced manufacturing, energy efficiency, local food systems, tourism development, and health care.
- $20 million to retrain workers who have been impacted by closures of coal mines or coal-burning power plants.
- $6 million to the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to advance and coordinate the federal government’s regional innovation efforts. EDA disburses grants to assist economically distressed communities by fostering an environment conducive to job creation and economic growth.
- $5 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization program,specifically to increase funding for communities impacted by power plant closures.
- $12 million in grants and $85 million in loans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program directed towards rural communities that have been impacted by coal’s decline.
- $1 billion over five years to the Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Fund to clean up decades-old, polluting coal mine sites with a focus on redeveloping the land for beneficial post-mine use.
- $2 billion in tax credits for “carbon capture and sequestration” technology.