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Report: Climate Infrastructure Key to Creating Jobs in Appalachia

by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection

May 25, 2021
maintenance engineer, Solar energy systems engineer perform analysis solar panels

A coalition of labor, community and environmental groups has released a plan to use federal investments in climate infrastructure to transform Appalachia into a sustainable economy it says would work for everyone.

The Biden administration is pushing for huge federal investments in infrastructure. ReImagine Appalachia has a plan to use those federal dollars to revitalize a region that has often been exploited.

It would create well-paid, union jobs in manufacturing, remediating industrial sites and building out the infrastructure for a new economy. Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said a wide range of jobs will be needed to achieve Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The leverage of federal infrastructure investment is a great opportunity to accelerate the creation of shared prosperity in a 21st-century sustainable Appalachia,” said Bloomingdale.

On Friday, Senate Republicans rejected a scaled-down version of President Joe Biden’s federal infrastructure plan, saying they don’t agree with some of the priorities it includes and won’t support tax increases to pay for the plan.

According to report coauthor Amanda Woodrum, senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, federal investment of $240 billion in Appalachia over ten years could create more than a half million jobs in the region in manufacturing, construction and more.

“We start with repairing the damage from the last century,” said Woodrum. “Plugging orphan oil and gas wells, reclaiming abandoned mine lands, remediating brown fields.”

The study says nearly a quarter million jobs would be created in Pennsylvania alone.

Bloomingdale added labor policies that include a living wage and the right to bargain for fair contracts are key to ensuring those will be strong, middle-class jobs.

“When government takes a hand and makes this part of the policy,” said Bloomingdale, “you’re going to get workers that get lifted up and are able to join a union.”

The report describes federal investment in infrastructure as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an economy that’s good for workers, communities and the environment.

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