Blog Posts > ReImagine Appalachia Coalition Details Regional Infrastructure and Investment Priorities
October 29, 2020

ReImagine Appalachia Coalition Details Regional Infrastructure and Investment Priorities

White papers detail Appalachian climate investment strategy for lawmakers post-election.

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2020

Contact: Renee Alves, 559-916-5939

Charleston, WV – The ReImagine Appalachia Coalition released a trio of white papers detailing needed infrastructure investments in broadband, for modernizing the region’s manufacturing sector, reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and promoting regenerative agriculture. Read the reports here.

The white papers released today provide greater detail to several components of the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint that was released in July, designed to modernize the electric grid; grow clean and efficient manufacturing in the region; revive the Civilian Conservation Corps; and promote local farmers using regenerative agriculture practices. A summary of the three white papers is available here.  

These papers provide some of the steps needed to help get us from where we are to where we need to go. They also demonstrate that federal investments in the people, communities, and infrastructure of Appalachia can revitalize the region if Appalachians demand their elected officials step up to the challenge. 

Last week, the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) released two studies showing that the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint could create nearly half a million high-quality jobs across  Pennsylvania and Ohio alone (West Virginia numbers are forthcoming).

A white paper by Amanda Woodrum of Policy Matters Ohio shows that by supporting energy efficiency measures and retooling the region’s existing infrastructure like old coal-fired power plants, federal policymakers can create good jobs for Appalachians of all races and genders — especially those who worked in fossil fuels. PERI’s recent jobs study details how investments in modernizing manufacturing could create 34,430 jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio alone.  

“Downturns in the economy spur changes in approach, with companies investigating options to streamline. Industrial energy efficiency measures can cut costs and often increase plant capacity for expanded production in the future,” Woodrum said. “It is a good time for federal leaders to help manufacturers invest to become cleaner and more energy efficient, so they can come out of this recession ready to compete in the global marketplace.”

Mark Shanahan, Principal, New Morning Energy LLC and former energy advisor to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, detailed policies that can build out Appalachian’s broadband infrastructure. Using fresh data, Shanahan found that 104 Appalachian counties in our four states do not have access to internet speeds fast enough for basic internet functionality, including video conferencing, online learning, or telehealth.

“Appalachian counties have always struggled with the lack of broadband infrastructure. The pandemic spotlights how damaging that is to business, education, health care, and social interaction,” he said. “Failure to implement a comprehensive federal policy on broadband is highlighted by the fact that the FCC cannot even provide accurate data about who has access and who doesn’t. In this paper, we document just how poor service is in this region. We also suggest solutions that allow rural and low-income areas to build local and sustainable wealth.”

The PERI study shows federal resources for broadband expansion could employ an estimated 10,500 people in Pennsylvania and Ohio alone. 

The coalition’s white paper on reviving the Civilian Conservations Corps and regenerative agriculture shows federal policymakers how to create high-quality jobs that will also repair damage to the land. The CCC could create 100,000 jobs. It could also break barriers for folks who have had difficulty securing good-paying jobs, such as formerly incarcerated people. Implementing reforestation and regenerative agriculture could absorb over 20% of current carbon emissions in our states. 

“The ReImagine Appalachia vision, and now our buildout of that vision, are a call to action for lawmakers,” said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director, Keystone Research Center. “Our jobs and our climate crisis are urgent. If we respond aggressively after the election, we can create the opportunities, the hope, the sense of common purpose for which the people of our region hunger. If lawmakers miss this moment, our problems will only get more severe.”

The ReImagine Appalachia Coalition released a policy blueprint to create a vibrant region for all people, whether they are white, Black, Brown or Indigenous. Over 90 diverse organizations have now endorsed the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint.

You can view a recording of the press conference here

Find more information on the coalition website.

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