9-9-2021. ReImagine Appalachia Press Conference
Local Governments Call on Congress to Increase Climate Infrastructure Investment in Appalachia
(The video of the full press conference is here)
The ReImagine Appalachia Information is here https://reimagineappalachia.org/over-100-local-elected-officials-support-reimagine-appalachias-climate-infrastructure-plan/
Remarks of Patricia M. DeMarco, Vice President, Forest Hills Borough Council
This summer has dramatically displayed the reality of global warming as an existential crisis across the country and around the world. In our region, local governments serve as the front line for addressing climate mitigation, and for preparing the measures that allow our citizens to be resilient in the face of change. As the recent IPCC Sixth Climate Assessment reports, we are in red alert status for our planet. We must move to a more sustainable future. We must move rapidly to transform our economy from one based on the coal, oil, and natural gas systems of the Industrial Revolution to a new system built on renewable energy resources, regenerative agriculture, and circular materials management. The ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint1 offers a robust way forward for our region.
Our communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky have borne the weight of extractive industries operations. The profits go to the large multi-national corporations, but the costs of repairing the damage left behind, the illness and pollution, the contamination and abandoned lands fall to us – the local governments. It is time to recognize that we must re-invest in our communities and in our people. Appalachia deserves a Climate Infrastructure Plan that builds local wealth and creates good union jobs in this region, and beyond.2
People often comment that the jobs of the sustainable future don’t pay as well as the traditional oil, gas and coal industries. The wages and benefits now in place for traditional industries did not happen by themselves or by the good graces of the industries! They were fought for with blood and guts over decades, at the Battle of Homestead and as we recalled this week at Blair Mountain. Any federal infrastructure funds must be tied to community benefits and worker benefits to assure the investments come to local areas where people can control how their communities use them.
The over 100 local officials who support the ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint call for three Community and Labor Requirements3 that must be included in any federal infrastructure legislation:
1. Maximize the creation of good union jobs by requiring Project Labor Agreements for all projects with more than $100,000 in federal funds and a total value of at least One Million dollars. Bundle small projects so they reach that threshold, and empower workers to form unions and bargain collectively. PASS THE PRO ACT!
- Target the benefits of job creation to workers and communities left behind by giving priority to communities with shuttered coal operations, giving first preference to displaced workers for new projects that transition head lamps to hard hats.
- Ensure accountability through tracking, reporting and oversight by Community Benefit Advisory Boards drawn from the local community. Invest 1⁄2 of 1% of all project development and construction dollars into a Community Benefit Fund to reduce barriers to employment, support industry partnerships, pre-apprenticeships, minority business entrepreneurship.
In this time of great need for fundamental change, it is essential to recognize that there are massive institutional barriers to success. We see many of these playing out in the dynamics of partisan politics. We cannot allow millions of workers to be left stranded as we move to a more sustainable future. We must assure that people can have good paying union jobs in their own communities. The revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps proposed by Senator Casey assures that there will be effective training for displaced workers and for people left out of the cycle of innovation and growth that investment in a clean future will achieve. A revitalized Civilian Conservation Corps can especially play a role in creating fertile land from areas damaged by past extractive industry practices.4 We in Appalachia will have water for agriculture in the climate reality of the future. Food grows where we can keep the land available for regenerative agriculture, recovered from extractive processes. The bill is currently included in the US Department of Agriculture for implementation. This revitalized CCC program can help communities most affected by the combined impact of the downturn in fossil fuel industry, the COVID pandemic and the opioid epidemic that has devastated families in our region. Restoring fertile ground also sequesters carbon into the soil which helps to mitigate climate change as well. The revived CCC can help to heal the land and empower the people.
This is no time for half-way measures. We face the triple existential threats of rapid climate change, global pollution and global biodiversity loss that engenders pandemics. We must act with confidence to align our economy to preserve and support the laws of Nature. Federal infrastructure investments to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions before 2050 will achieve a shared prosperity for all of us. Using taxpayers’ money to fund the physical and regulatory infrastructure to address climate change can turn the direction in time to prevent the worst of the effects we already observe. We must act boldly, and we must act now.
1 ReImagine Appalachia Blueprint. https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp- content/uploads/2021/03/ReImagineAppalachia_Blueprint_042021.pdf
2 See the Jobs Reports by PERI Institute for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia here. https://reimagineappalachia.org/resources/
3 See “Maximizing Value: Ensuring Community Benefits” here https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp- content/uploads/2021/05/Community-Benefits_Whitepaper_05-28-2021.pdf
4 See “Heal Our Land and Our People: Create a Modern Civilian Conservation Crps and Promote Regenerative Agriculture” https://reimagineappalachia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Reimagine-Appalachia-Regenerative- Ag-CCC-Whitepaper-10-28-2020.pdf