Tom Cormons, Appalachian Voices Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (434) 981-6506
Jamie Goodman, Digital Communications Specialist, email@example.com, (828) 719-9493
The newly unveiled Build Back Better Framework presents a historic investment in rural America, in working families, and in ensuring a just, timely transition to cleaner energy sources that create good jobs and foster a stable climate where our communities can thrive.
For Appalachia, Build Back Better represents change-making investments in communities impacted by the downturn of the coal industry, and dramatically increased access to solar power and energy efficiency, making clean energy much more widely available to people, businesses and communities from every walk of life.
This bill is an essential companion to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which the Senate passed in August. The bipartisan infrastructure bill creates jobs repairing infrastructure, expanding access to clean water and cleaning up abandoned mine lands. Together, these bills represent a once-in-a-generation investment in the backbone of the United States and will have a tremendous impact in Appalachia.
“We are truly right on the cusp of doing something transformational for the planet we’re leaving our kids, for working families, and for communities that have given so much to the nation. We need to lean into that, keep calling our senators, and get this over the finish line. Then we’ll be able to roll up our sleeves and dig in on the big job of implementation,” said Tom Cormons, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
By putting the United States on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, the pace needed to meet its climate goals, the Biden administration is acting in accordance with the best available science to safeguard our climate for current and future generations. Provisions in the Build Back Better framework, as well as language released by the House, that will have an immediate impact on Appalachian communities include:
- Expanding access to rooftop solar and weatherization assistance for low- and moderate-income families by extending the Investment Tax Credit and adding residential direct pay to make this benefit accessible to all, as well as grants and tax credits to encourage solar projects in low-income and tribal communities.
- Funding to help rural community electric cooperatives retire costly fossil fuel power plants and replace them with affordable, job-creating, and accessible renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- Important environmental justice investments to increase access to clean energy for disadvantaged communities, including the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator.
- Incentives to address severe weather, which impacts Appalachia most directly in the form of worsening flooding, and will make communities more resilient to climate change impacts while creating jobs through investments in forestry, soil conservation and agriculture.
- A four-year extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax, which provides funding for healthcare and benefits for coal miners who have contracted this deadly, and increasingly widespread, disease.
To realize the environmental justice benefits of the reconciliation framework announced today, government agencies must facilitate meaningful stakeholder engagement with impacted communities. President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative pledges to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities, and agencies will need the resources to fully implement Justice40 in their work.
For these investments to have the maximum impact in affected communities, lawmakers must include high labor standards for workers, provisions for local hiring, and opportunities for community input on new developments. More is needed to invest in communities at the scale that matches the need.
“We applaud our region’s champions in Congress who have worked closely with Appalachian groups to hear about our region’s priorities and the investments we want to see, and made sure many of these priorities made it into this historic legislation,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director with Appalachian Voices. “We look forward to working with them to get this over the finish line.”
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.