BlogEvents & Updates

2023: A Year in Review for ReImagine Appalachia

By December 24, 2023December 28th, 2023No Comments

December 22, 2023

What a year it’s been! Just when we thought the hard work was over by passing both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act (what we refer to collectively as the Federal Climate Infrastructure Package), we realized just how much work is needed to make sure this unprecedented amount of federal dollars coming into our region is spent in a sustainable and equitable manner. Easier said than done though, right?

There is a recurring joke within our ReImagine Appalachia team that all of these grant and program opportunities coming down the pike feels like we’re drinking from a fire hydrant. However, we’re working hard to make sure these once-in-a-generation opportunities are captured and disseminated to our local leaders and communities in a timely and less-overwhelming fashion. This ultimately provides pathways to technical assistance and access to experts to help transform our communities that benefits workers and our environment. So hopefully, less like a fire hydrant, and more so drinking from a garden hose. Sign up here to receive these updates and stay tuned for 2024 when we implement our “Grant of the Month” workshops.

As we navigate where these federal climate infrastructure funds are flowing into the region, we’re also highlighting the projects that have already had their ribbon cuttings! Check out this blog of some of the few examples how this money is impacting Appalachia. We’ll continue to highlight these projects into the new year as well.

We’ve also been involved in many policy and advocacy wins this year including just a few here:

  • The passage of the American Climate Corps: President Biden used his executive power to create the American Climate Corps (ACC), modeled off the original Civilian Conservation Corps. ReImagine Appalachia is working with other regional and national partners to make sure the ACC works for Appalachians.

  • Strike Successes: The Summer of Strikes taught us the power of collective action! The United Auto Workers’ contract win over the Big Three brought workers’ raises over 25% in the next 4.5 years. UE Locals 506 and 618 in Erie, PA also ratified their new contract with Wabtec that addressed the grievances process and pay for new hires.

  • Davis-Bacon Act: For the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Department of Labor is updating the rules that affect millions of workers on federally funded construction projects through the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. This includes restoring the “prevailing wage” policy that will effectively raise the minimum wage for more than 1 million construction workers.

  • Tax Credit Guidance: the U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service have issued tax credit guidance, with tax credits carrying bonuses for meeting high-road labor standards (prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements), and if projects are located in energy communities or low-income communities.

  • Community Benefits: The Department of Energy now requires applicants to submit Community Benefits Plans as part of all Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act– a priority for our coalition!

While a lot of this policy change happened in Washington, DC, we’d be remiss not to mention that our local advocacy work helped influence this work! Check out the pictures and numbers of all the work the ReImagine Appalachia has done this past year–and we could not have done it without you! We hope you’ll also join us for our 2024 January Strategy Summit as we plan out our new year and keep the momentum going!




2023 by the pictures:

Environmentalists & Labor working together

This press conference held in Pittsburgh, showcased electric vehicle chargers funded by Bipartisan Infrastructure Law were built by union labor, by our friends at IBEW Local 5. Rep. Dan Miller also spoke. See more here.

Showing solidarity for workers’ benefits

Our friends at UE Locals 506 and 618 went on strike against Wabtec in Erie, PA to address the grievance process and wages for new hires. ReImagine showed up to speak in various rallies to show solidarity. Read more here.

Educating the public on our coalition work

Outreach Director Molly Updegrove & Advisory Board member, Joanne Martin, presented the latest updates for both ReImagine Appalachia at “The Better Vision for Ohio Valley in Weirton, WV. See more here.

Continuing to work with our elected officials

Pictured here is Director Digital Communications Annie Regan with Senator Casey of Pennsylvania, who has been a champion of our work. We continue to work with elected officials on all levels of government: local, state, and federal.

Having lots of fun at Appalachian festivals

Molly Updegrove and Advisory Board member Quenton King tabled at “Sustainability in Motion: Ecovibe Symposium” in Charleston, WV. Folks who stopped by learned about our coalition and got ReImagine Appalachia stickers!

Representing Appalachia in Washington, DC

Our Co-Director Amanda Woodrum was invited to attend the Interagency Working Group on Coal Communities event at the White House. We’re always honored to represent Appalachia surrounding climate conversations at our nation’s capital.

Executing engaging Zoom webinars

We held over 38 webinars this year with over x participants! Pictured here is Senior Program Director Dana Kuhnline moderating our first annual Community Benefits Summit. Read more here.

Engaging with our wonderful interns

ReImagine Appalachia was so lucky to have such passionate and hardworking interns this year! Pictured here is Molly Updegrove with our fall interns at Appalachia Fest at Ohio University.

Conducting an Apprenticeship Program Site Tour

Pictured here at the Logan Training Center of the Operating Engineers Local 18 in Ohio, we held a site tour to learn about apprenticeship programs for orphan well plugging in Ohio. Read more here.

Presenting at the Appalachian Carbon Forum

Co-Director Amanda Woodrum was invited to speak on a panel at the Appalachian Carbon Forum located in Tennessee facilitated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Energy Science and Technology Directorate. This forum discussed opportunities for the Appalachian clean energy transition.

Strengthening our regional partnerships

Director of Special Projects Natalia Rudiak and Senior Program Director Dana Kuhnline attended the Just Transition Fund’s conference in Washington, D.C. where they met up with other local and regional partners, like Coalfield Development, working on federal climate infrastructure projects and policy work.

Promoting sustainable businesses

Lou Tierno of ReImagine Appalachia leads the Pennsylvania Sustainable Business Network. Here is a picture of the first Small + Medium Business Summit: Appalachian Sustainable Potential, where regional partners discussed opportunities to collaborate on a 21st century economy. Read more about PSBN here.


2023 by the numbers:


Events/Meetings:


This year, we hosted our annual Strategy Summit and added two more summits on topics we want to focus on upcoming years as federal climate funding comes into our region: Community Benefits and Redeveloping Shuttered Coal Plants. We also assisted with the Black Appalachian Coalition’s Strategy Summit and Policy Summit as well.

Click here to see a recap of our summits here

We hosted 32 events (in-person and virtual) this year consisting of 2 climate conversations events, 2 Instagram Live interviews, 2 from our Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative series, 3 from our Faith-in-Action series, 3 from our Make It in Appalachia series, 4 communication workshops, 5 events on the Farm Bill, and more!

Click here to see a recap of our events here

We held over 21 coalition update meetings which take place every other Tuesday at noon EST! This is a space where we provide the latest on what’s happening with ReImagine Appalachia’s various campaigns, listen to a presentation of a guest speaker, and hear from updates from our partners. We had over 20 guest speakers and over 500 registrants sign up to participate. Register for these updates for 2024 here!


We were invited to present our various campaigns or overall coalition work at various conferences and events all over the country- including Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan, and virtually! We almost always say yes to being a presenter–reach out to include us at your event for 2024!

Click here to see a list of the events we gave presentations

We attended and participated in various events our partners have hosted in the region: ranging from tabling festivals and events, conferences, webinars, summits, and more! Want to invite us to your future event? Reach out to our Director of Outreach, Molly Updegrove at [email protected]

Click here to see a list of our partner events

Reports/Toolkits:


This year, we launched reports about job creation through green locomotive manufacturing, electrifying public transportation and school buses, how a federal subsidized job program and a portion of hiring on federally subsidized climate infrastructure projects could target discouraged workers and be designed to break down their barriers to employment, and the potential to create high-paying union careers for people of all by linking new opportunities on federally funded climate and infrastructure projects to paid on-the-job training opportunities via unionized apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.

Click here to read the reports

In order to advocate for a strong Farm Bill that works for Appalachia, we made the toolkit, “Bringing the Farm Bill to Your Farmers Market. This toolkit is a step-by-step guide filled with everything from locating your nearest market to cooperating with market management and keystone vendors in the design of a fun, informative event that suits your community, all the way to contacting your members of Congress and local media. Since Congress failed to negotiate a new bill by the deadline and instead extended the current package for one more year, pushing negotiations for the new bill forward into 2024, this toolkit will also be handy in the upcoming year.


Communications:


From informing local, regional, and national media about our report releases, to commenting on what is happening in Washington DC and how it affects Appalachians regarding the debt ceiling and appropriations to celebrating successes such as the launch of the American Climate Corps, we continue to foster relationships with reporters and find our way into national conversations about climate infrastructure projects.

Click here to read our press statements

Although less media hits than the previous years, we were still able to get a sizeable amount of media hits to continue the conversation around the federal climate infrastructure package. We received national media coverage in Truthout, Grist, Yale Climate Connections, and In These Times, as well as key local media hits from local NPR stations 90.5 WESA and 91.7 WVXU.

Click here to see the list of media hits

We’ve really upped our blog game this year, using this media form as a way to highlight important cultural events, exciting grant opportunities, summarizing newly launched reports, and debriefing legislative policies. We are always looking for guest blog submissions- please reach out to Annie Regan at [email protected] if you’re interested in contributing!

Click here to see the list of blog posts

We sent out a lot of emails this year to keep y’all in the loop with our latest events, reports, blogs, and legislative updates! Thank you for subscribing and staying plugged into our work. ReImagine Appalachia has over 3,350 subscribers and we hope to grow this list to get the word out about our federal climate infrastructure work.


With all of these federal infrastructure dollars coming into the region, it can get a little overwhelming to keep up with the opportunities! That’s why we created these listservs that you can opt into to stay in the loop!

Click here to see the listservs and how to sign up
  • External Communications: a place to share articles, messaging and talking points of interest to ReImagine Appalachia priorities. It will also include social media campaigns that need boosting
  • Federal Opportunities: a place to share grant opportunities, trainings, webinars, Requests for Information and other resources related to bringing federal funding and opportunities to Appalachia. 
  • Local Government: a place for local government officials and their staffers to plug in our Local Government initiatives

Community:


We were so honored to be able to sponsor two community events that we hold close to our hearts! First is the 2023 Mountain Grrl Experience that took place in Pikeville, Kentucky, celebrating women empowerment, with musicians, entrepreneurs, creators, and more using the time to network and share their work with others. The second is the Appalachian Queer Film Festival in Huntington, West Virginia, celebrating and amplifying LGBTQIA+ voices in the region.


The ReImagine Your Community Visioning Session Project is an initiative that brings together community leaders from across the region for a series of collaborative monthly meetings with the collective goal of implementing the toolkit in their own communities. The project will support participants to create a bottom-up, collective visioning process for a sustainable, equitable economy in each of the community leader’s communities, neighborhoods, or regions.

Click here to see the ReImagine Your Communities cohort
  • Caitlin Ware: McDowell County, WV
  • Brad Davis: McDowell County, WV
  • Octavia Cordon: Charleston westside, WV
  • Annie Warmke: Marietta, Ohio Philips subdivision
  • Khadiza Massey: Wilkinsburg, PA
  • Sarah Lowry: Mahoning Valley, OH
  • Weston Lombard: Dover Township, OH
  • Kara Scott: Carbon County, PA
  • Mary Sanders: Preston, Tucker County, WV

Thanks for helping us ReImagine Appalachia!

If you would like to continue to support our work, you can make a donation here. Any amount helps!