By Natalia Rudiak
All infrastructure is local – and it’s our mayors, council members, and county commissioners who struggle first-hand with the devastating impact of catastrophic weather events, aging infrastructure, failing electric grids, absentee corporations, and declining tax bases. When communities suffer, local government bears the brunt. At the same time, local elected officials are uniquely positioned to understand that economic, environmental, and public health challenges are bigger than our municipal borders.
Appalachia has been hit the hardest by widespread climate impacts and lack of holistic economic planning. Polluted lands are making us sick, job loss leaves us struggling to make ends meet, and lack of broadband access is hindering our access to health care and education. That is why over 130 local elected officials across West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio endorsed our ambitious Appalachian Climate Infrastructure Plan, demanding action from federal officials. The plan calls for a mix of federal funding and private investment to create nearly one half-million stable, meaningful, and family-sustaining jobs, bringing our region into a model 21st century economy.
We want to publicly thank our local elected officials for their courage in standing up for climate-forward investments in Appalachia; their support was instrumental in our coalition’s advocacy, and together we celebrated the power of democracy and the passage of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
The truth is that too much of the discussion around climate planning and federal infrastructure investment has been driven by the heavily-weighted populations of the East and West Coast. We in Appalachia have been rising together to lead this national conversation. We know our economy should celebrate our local culture and heritage, invest in the health of communities, and value the contributions of coal miners and other fossil fuel industry workers.
Throughout 2021, local elected officials from cities like Pittsburgh and Huntington, and villages like Ames and Smithers, came together and demanded a seat at the table. Citizen groups like Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Coalition rallied to bring their local electeds to the conversation. Together, we advocated to our Congressmembers and U.S. Senators to increase investment in:
· clean manufacturing
· expanded broadband access
· roads, bridges AND transit electrification
· cleaning up the damage from abandoned mine and oil wells, and
· job training and apprenticeships for citizens impacted by the opioid crisis and criminal
Last September, we at ReImagine hosted a press conference where local executives and legislators told frightening cautionary tales but also stories of hope and vision. They showed that a brighter future is ours if we fight for it.
Our work worked.
In the fall of 2021 we celebrated as President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that provided funding for our priorities. The federal Interagency Working Group on Coal Communities continues to provide additional support. Our coalition is working hard to ensure our communities have the capacity to apply for these complex grants, and planning needed to implement ambitious projects with community and labor benefits.
In August of 2022, we saw the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the most sweeping infrastructure and climate spending bill in this century. You can read more about “What’s in the Inflation Reduction Act for Appalachia?” in our blog post here. Overall, the package provides $369 billion in climate and energy spending, includes $10 billion to support rural communities’ transition to renewable energy, and permanently extends the Black Lung Excise Tax, which provides miners with medical care and a modest living stipend.
Yet we know that with the passage of the bills, our work is just beginning. Each year we see increasing dangerous weather events, rolling blackouts, droughts, and flooding that are destroying homes, roads, and bridges – and the incalculable loss of human lives. Local officials know that turning a blind eye to these crises will not make them go away – with each passing season, the need for increased investment grows exponentially.
Our greatest challenge can be our greatest opportunity, and we honor our local and federal officials who have had the courage and vision to capture this moment. We continue to forge a brighter future.
Even with the passage of these momentous infrastructure bills, we still need to work with our federal agencies to ensure that we get the resources we deserve. We would still love you support in our work:
- Are you a local elected official in Appalachia who supports increasing good jobs in your community? Join us here!
- Are you a community member who would like to organize your elected officials to support sustainable development? Click here for support!
Thank you again to our courageous local leaders. Please join us to continue this fight.
Local Governments and Officials in support of the Appalachian Climate Infrastructure Plan:
Allegheny County Council, PA
led by Councilwoman Anita Prizio, and sponsors Councilmen Macey, Walton, Palmosina and Futules
Mayor Gary Goosman
Mayor Steve Patterson
Armstrong Township Council
Lycoming County, PA
led by Supervisor James Dunn
Beaver County Commission
Beaver County, PA
Led by Commissioner Tony Amadio
Former Mayor Emily Marburger
Former Mayor Chardaè Jones
Braddock Borough Council, PA
Led by Former Councilwoman Tina Doose
Controller Jason Moser
Centre County PA
Jury Commissioner Laura C. Shadle
Centre County, PA
Mayor Rich Lattanzi
Clairton City Council, PA
Led by Councilwoman Lee Lasich
Castle Shannon Borough Council, PA
Led by Council President Mark Heckmann
Beau Harbin, Cortland County Commissioner
Former Mayor Nan Whaley
Mayor Jason Walsh
Dormont Borough Council, PA
Led by Councilwoman Kate Abel
Mayor Thomas Rengers
Etna Borough Council, PA
Led by Councilwoman Jessica Semler
Elizabeth Township, PA
Led by Township Commissioner Robert Rhoderick
Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors, PA
Mayor Frank Porco
Forest Hills, PA
Forest Hills Borough Council, PA
Led by Council Vice-President Patricia DeMarco
Mayor Arlene F. Wanatosky
Homer City, PA
Mayor Steve Williams
Jordi Comas, Borough Councilmember
Millvale Borough Council, PA
Former Mayor Mathew Shorraw
Monessen City Council, PA
Led by Former Council President Matthew Shorraw
Mayor Jenny Selin
Munhall, PA Borough Council
Oxford City Council, OH
Led by Councilmember Chantel Raghu
Former Mayor William Peduto
Mayor Ed Gainey
Pittsburgh City Council, PA
Led by Councilwoman Erika Straussburger
Former Mayor Matthew Rudzki
Sharpsburg Borough Council, PA
Led by Councilwoman (now Mayor) Brittany Reno
Mayor D. Anne Cavalier
Smithers City Council, WV
Mayor Kelley Kelley
Turtle Creek, PA
Rosemary Ketchum, City Councilwoman
Former Mayor Marita Garrett
Wood County Commission
Wood County, WV
Led by Commissioner David Blair Couch
Mayor Jamel Tito Brown