“So let me be clear: that includes helping revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities. We have to start by creating new, good-paying jobs capping those abandoned wells, reclaiming mines, turning old brownfield sites into new hubs of economic growth, creating new, good paying jobs in those communities where those workers live because they helped build this country.” – President Joe Biden, Jan. 27, 2021
President Biden’s science-based actions today put the United States in a position to vigorously confront the challenges of climate change, create good-paying jobs and protect communities from the hazards of polluted land, air and water. By investing in the economic opportunities inherent in environmental cleanup, clean energy, and sound conservation and agricultural practices, the administration can provide jobs where they are needed most and bolster communities directly impacted by our use of dirty fossil fuels.
We commend the administration’s commitment to prioritize environmental justice in the programs and policies of all federal agencies, a move that is long overdue. This effort is critical for frontline communities across the Southeast, where people of color and low-income communities near mines, power plants, coal ash ponds, fracking wells and pipelines disproportionately bear the brunt of polluting industries. These long-marginalized neighborhoods deserve clean air and water, as well as jobs in the growing clean energy sector and jobs restoring damaged lands.
We are especially excited to see the creation of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, which will ensure the communities that powered our nation for the past 100 years are not left behind. The Biden administration’s multi-agency approach is essential to meet the health, economic, environmental and social needs of frontline communities as the country continues to transition to clean energy sources.
The course charted by Biden’s executive order is an important step, but more is needed. It is critical that this working group advances community-based solutions and that Congress and the administration fund these solutions at a level bold enough to meet the challenge. Congress can help to scale up solutions like repurposing abandoned mine sites for beneficial uses by swiftly passing the bipartisan RECLAIM Act. The White House should also create an Office of Coal Community Economic Transition — a concept that was envisioned by leaders from frontline communities across the nation — to create an action plan based on the input of affected communities, workers and other stakeholders.
We are committed to working with communities and partners at all levels of government, from town councils to the White House, to ensure these actions meet local needs and make opportunity, prosperity and a healthy natural environment top priorities for areas that historically relied on fossil fuels.
Read more about Appalachian Voices’ priorities for the new administration and Congress.