FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2023
Molly Moore, Director of Program Communications, (847) 401-3633, molly[at]appvoices.org
The Environmental Protection Agency announced an award of up to $500,000 to regional nonprofit organization Appalachian Voices on Tuesday for the organization’s Building Community Resilience in Virginia’s Coalfields with Place-based Climate Change Adaptation project. The funding comes through EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program. EPA announced $43.8 million in EJCPS funding for 98 projects this week.
These funds are the largest investment ever announced under the long-standing EPA program. Funding was boosted by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate investment in U.S. history. EPA’s EJCPS program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working to address local environmental or public health issues in their communities. The 98 EJCPS projects will work to address the diverse set of challenges facing communities with environmental justice concerns.
Appalachian Voices partnered with five Southwest Virginia governments and communities, including Clinchco, Dante, Dungannon, Pennington Gap and Pound on a three-year proposal to map, plan, and implement community-driven initiatives to build more resilient communities. Project partners will create a Coalfield Community Resilience Model and toolkit to be paired with other redevelopment initiatives; develop skills and capacity within communities to center climate change adaptation and resilience; and create catalytic, community-based projects leveraged for long-term sustainable redevelopment strategies. Through these strategies, the project addresses many legacy environmental justice issues and supports local capacity building.
“We are very excited to participate in this grant opportunity as we continue our efforts to improve the Town of Pound,” said Leabern Kennedy, Vice-mayor of Pound. “We are also very thankful to Appalachian Voices for including Pound in this process and all the help they have provided to us.”
“These funds are going to benefit our communities for years to come,” said Emma Kelly, New Economy Field Coordinator with Appalachian Voices. “This region has helped power the country for over a century and so we are thrilled to see these communities receive the necessary resources to prepare for their futures and address environmental justice concerns. We are grateful for the EPA’s leadership and commitment to support underserved communities and provide regional leaders with the tools to address these issues.”
Appalachian Voices’ New Economy team will guide project development around six broad categories: (1) Disaster Preparedness; (2) Renewable Energy Deployment; (3) Environmental Reclamation; (4) Community Health; (5) Flood or Pollution Mitigation; and (6) Creating Greenspace or Outdoor Recreation. Ideally, community projects will address multiple categories.
The backbone of the EJCPS proposal was for microgrant funding to support local partner and community-based efforts to address issues identified during community engagement meetings and a mapping process. Microgrants aim to unlock impact and additional investment that would not otherwise be possible, strengthen communities, expand opportunity, address an immediate need and fuel innovation by laying the groundwork for mainstream investors and funders to participate in additional transformative investments. The microgrant concept was designed based on Appalachian Voices’ experience working in resource-insecure communities and developing the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund and the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition mini-grant program.
The project goal is to stimulate community action and increase the visibility of efforts to cope with stresses resulting from social, economic and environmental change. This funding is a tool to engage residents in creative community betterment efforts and generate actual accomplishments stakeholders can take pride in. This project development model is helpful to start building community infrastructure, place-based capacity and build sustainable resilience projects.
“Appalachian Voices is a trusted partner and we are grateful for their leadership to see these impressive federal opportunities make a difference in Dante and Russell County,” said Lou Wallace, Chairperson of the Russell County Board of Supervisors. “The coal camp community of Dante has identified many issues, like flooding, that this EJCPS award can help address. This funding is an excellent opportunity that can be paired with many other redevelopment initiatives underway in the community.”
“These five communities have leaders working hard to address so many social, economic, and environmental issues like landslides, flooding, abandoned mine lands and brownfield sites, shuttered downtowns and health disparities, and we are so grateful for their partnership,” said Robert Kell, New Economy Program Manager with Appalachian Voices. “We are excited to combine this project with our efforts to upgrade and electrify community anchor buildings; pairing these complementary endeavors will bring lasting, impactful improvements to the region.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced that Appalachian Voices was among the winners of its Buildings Upgrade Prize (Buildings UP). The $400,000 award will enable Appalachian Voices to work with community partners to upgrade and electrify buildings that can serve as community hubs in the event of flooding or other disasters.
Appalachian Voices’ New Economy Program, established in 2015, has been building partnerships with local leaders, state representatives, business partners, state and federal agencies and others to help Southwest Virginia transition its economy, address environmental justice issues and center the voices of local residents in redevelopment initiatives. These efforts have brought millions of dollars into the region, promoted development of solar energy and creation of a trained solar workforce, and provided technical assistance to numerous groups and communities. Appalachian Voices will use the awarded funds to ensure disadvantaged communities that have historically suffered from underinvestment have access to resilience solutions in alignment with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative.