August 12, 2015 (Whitesburg, KY)
This week the Whitesburg City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the proposed POWER Plus (“POWER+”) Plan, which would disburse more than a billion dollars to strengthen and diversify economies in coalfield communities, especially those in Appalachia.
Whitesburg is the first locality in Kentucky—and second in the nation—to pass such a resolution. City and county officials in Harlan County, Kentucky are considering similar resolutions in the coming days.
The resolution states, “the City of Whitesburg supports passage of the POWER+ Plan by the U.S. Congress and encourages Congressman Hal Rogers to see passage of this Plan through the federal legislative process… The POWER+ Plan includes programs that would disburse $1 billion in funding for Abandoned Mine Land (AML) projects that create long-term business and economic opportunities; would invest millions in workforce development and job training programs in communities impacted by the decline of the coal industry; and would strengthen the health and pension plans of 100,000 retired coal miners and their families.”
The AML program has reclaimed over $5 billion worth of land and water problems caused by abandoned coal mines, but more than $9 billion worth of these abandoned mines remain across the country. The AML component of the POWER+ Plan would disburse $200 million a year, over five years, from the existing $2.5 billion AML Fund. This funding would be targeted towards communities hit hardest by the national energy sector’s recent shift away from coal.
“It is encouraging to see unanimous local support for an initiative that would immediately create jobs for laid off miners and others reclaiming abandoned mines and would empower communities to create long-term economic opportunities in agriculture, recreational tourism, and renewable energy on reclaimed mine sites. Central Appalachia has lost thousands of coal-mining jobs in recent years and this proposal would go a long way at helping put miners back to work,” expressed Eric Dixon of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.
Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft said, “I think the POWER+ Plan is a significant step forward, if we can get it funded, to helping get the unemployed miners in this area gainfully employed. I thought the City Council made the correct decision and I’m quite sure they feel the same way. It is a beneficial program to not only the city but the county as well.”
“Whitesburg is in the middle of a dramatic economic transition. It’s exciting to see opportunities like this that would help communities in the coalfields diversify our economy. The POWER+ Plan enables communities to develop innovative projects for a bright future in Appalachia. I urge Senator McConnell and Congressman Rogers to find a way to get the POWER+ Plan through Congress as soon as possible, given the urgency of communities struggling with the decline of the coal industry,” said Ada Smith, who works in Whitesburg and spoke in favor of the resolution at the City Council meeting.
The Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center and partners recently released a groundbreaking report on the federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program and its economic impacts. The report also analyzes the job-creating potential of the POWER+ Plan. View the report here: https://appalachianlawcenter.org/abandoned-mine-land-policy/
Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center