For Immediate Release: February 25, 2021
Contact: Dana Kuhnline, (304) 825 3262
Links to report and summaries:
Link to Zoom event recording:
Charleston, WV – The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) released a report today showing that the ReImagine Appalachia (RA) blueprint could create 41,100 new jobs statewide in West Virginia. The report, released in partnership with West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, WV Rivers Coalition, and Energy Efficiency WV, comes after a year of huge economic losses from the pandemic as well as an ongoing downward trend in employment from coal, oil and gas. In the last 10 years, West Virginia has lost 14,000 jobs in industry jobs such as coal mining, oil and gas extraction.
The group is calling for a bold Appalachian infrastructure plan that could reduce West Virginia’s unemployment rate to 3 percent. The plan would bring federal resources, paired with private capital, to the state to support high quality jobs in fields including energy efficiency, sustainable manufacturing, reclaiming abandoned mine lands and building out the state’s broadband infrastructure.
“It’s clear that there will be a federal economic stimulus package. The only question is whether West Virginians will be at the table to benefit from these policies,” said Kelly Allen, executive director of West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “This study provides a realistic path forward for the region so that our communities, who gave so much to fuel the American economy over the centuries, aren’t left behind.”
Mayor Steve Williams of Huntington, WV joined the press conference as well, stating, “I am pleased that this study shows that federal resources, paired with private capital, can support building out the state’s broadband infrastructure, among many other benefits. Huntington is a living, breathing example of how federal and private partnerships are thrusting advancements in high-speed broadband in the Huntington area forward.”
The ReImagine Appalachia plan included several steps to create jobs modeled in the PERI study:
Expand opportunity through public investments: The Reimagine Appalachia blueprint would drive federal resources into West Virginia for infrastructure improvements, attach requirements for strong wages, benefits, and union rights, and ensure that people of color and former coal workers can access the good union jobs that result.
Repair damage done over the last century: With federal resources, we can put an estimated 3,380 people to work plugging orphan gas wells, repairing pipeline leaks, fixing dams and levees, and reclaiming abandoned mine lands.
Expand broadband and modernize the electric grid: By upgrading our antiquated electric system, decentralizing generation, expanding broadband, and making our homes and businesses energy efficient, we can cut emissions, save money, and create 15,740 new jobs.
Expand manufacturing by making it more energy efficient and clean: Federal investments can create 1,930 high-wage jobs in energy-efficient manufacturing and by repurposing shuttered coal plants.
Build a more sustainable transportation system: By laying rail, expanding infrastructure for electric vehicles fueled by renewables, and investing in public transit, we can create 8,280 jobs for transit and trades workers.
Relaunch the Civilian Conservation Corps: We can absorb carbon and create nearly 11,612 jobs by planting trees, restoring wetlands, and helping farmers adopt sustainable methods. This includes jobs in a revitalized CCC with pathways to family-sustaining jobs for the currently unemployed and returning citizens caught up in the War on Drugs and the opioid epidemic.
“With the unprecedented economic hardships endured by residents and businesses from COVID-19, finding ways to save money on energy bills has climbed to the top of the priority list for many,” shared West Virginia State Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia, 51), who joined the call to discuss how state and federal efforts can work together to create jobs in the Mountain state. “West Virginia is one of the least energy-efficient states in the country. That’s why I’ve introduced energy efficiency bills that would lower energy costs for households and save taxpayer dollars. Just as important, these investments create jobs for locally owned, blue collar businesses.”
In his remarks, the study’s first author, Robert Pollin of PERI at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said, “This study examines a recovery program for West Virginia that would counter the region’s potential economic collapse in the short run while also building a durable foundation for an economically viable and ecologically sustainable longer-term recovery.”
In mid-2020, the ReImagine Appalachia Coalition released a policy blueprint to create a vibrant region for all people. The blueprint envisions an Appalachia where everyone is paid enough to support themselves and their family, future generations can put down roots, and all people have clean air to breathe and water to drink. Over 100 diverse organizations have now endorsed the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint.
Get more information on the coalition website here: https://reimagineappalachia.org/
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