Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

US Must Invest in Coal Communities

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

US Must Invest in Coal Communities

Article excerpt

For generations, America's Coal Country communities have borne the brunt of the environmental and health impacts of surface mining while keeping the nation's power plants humming. In recent years, they also have been hit hard by the rapid energy transformation underway in the United States. Booming natural gas production, declining costs for renewable energy, increases in energy efficiency, flattening electricity demand, and updated clean air standards are changing the way electricity is generated and used across the country.

While these trends produce cleaner air and healthier communities, generating new jobs and industries, the economic and technological changes also impact workers and communities that have relied on the coal industry as a source of good jobs and economic prosperity, particularly in Appalachia.

The nation has a moral commitment to assist these hardworking and increasingly hard-pressed communities, in addition to our legal commitments to mine workers and their families. And President Obama is determined to help them adapt to the changing energy landscape and build a better future.

His comprehensive POWER Plus Plan, detailed in the 2016 budget request, would use a range of federal resources and programs to invest in worker training and job creation, strengthen the health and retirement security of mine workers and their families, accelerate the clean-up of hazardous abandoned mine lands, and spur the use of carbon capture technology.

The Plan calls for more than $50 million in new federal economic and workforce development dollars to help communities diversify their economies, create good jobs in existing or new industries, and attract new sources of job-creating investment. The funds would assist workers laid off at coal mines and coal-fired power plants by providing job training and reemployment services, connecting these workers to high-quality, in-demand jobs.

In addition, to address the continuing legacy of abandoned mine lands on the health, safety, environmental and economic development potential of Coal Country communities, the President's Plan makes $1 billion available over five years from the unappropriated balance of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund. …

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