Bringing Good Jobs to Coal Country – Route Fifty

by | Oct 28, 2022 | Jobs

Persistent poverty and traumatic job losses have plagued coal country for decades. These economic pains lead many in the region to prize remaining high-paid coal utility and mining jobs and to fear that further losses will translate into more downward mobility, joblessness and opioid addiction for residents.But the region has a chance to pivot to a diversified clean economy with middle-class jobs for all, boosted in part by federal climate infrastructure investments. For instance, in southern West Virginia, the Appalachian Climate Technology Coalition (ACT Now), spearheaded by Coalfield Development Corporation, offers a bold, integrated vision (see also this video) of how investment in clean industries can create over 6,000 good jobs. That effort is happening with the help of a $62.8 million Biden Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge award.Instead of an economy dependent on extraction, ACT Now envisions 10 converging “opportunity industries” including sustainable manufacturing, electric vehicle transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, reforestation, reclamation and regenerative agriculture. These industries capitalize on the region’s natural and repurposed fossil fuel assets, including its energy export grid and transportation infrastructure, trades skills and work ethic.Many of the jobs created will be good, union jobs thanks to partnerships with unions of miners, carpenters, electricians and utility workers. Also, Coalfield Development and project partner Solar Holler, the biggest West Virginia solar installer, have voluntarily recognized unions. ACT Now projects also comply with federal wage and benefit standards, incorporate local hire provisions and require unions to incorporate racial equity in …

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