Local elected officials across Appalachia: Fierce advocates for the largest federal climate & infrastructure bills in US history

By September 9, 2022September 14th, 2022No Comments

By Natalia Rudiak

Natalia Rudiak is the Special Projects Director for ReImagine Appalachia

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
justice system.

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

Amesville, OH

Mayor Steve Patterson

Athens, OH

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

Bellevue, PA

Former Mayor Chardaè Jones

Braddock, PA

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, PA

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

Cortland, NY

Former Mayor Nan Whaley

Dayton, Ohio

Mayor Jason Walsh

Dormont, PA

Dormont Borough Council, PA

Led by Councilwoman Kate Abel

Mayor Thomas Rengers

Etna, PA

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

Huntington, WV

Jordi Comas, Borough Councilmember

Lewisburg, PA

Millvale Borough Council, PA

Former Mayor Mathew Shorraw

Monessen, PA

Monessen City Council, PA

Led by Former Council President Matthew Shorraw

Mayor Jenny Selin

Morgantown, WV

Munhall, PA Borough Council

Oxford City Council, OH

Led by Councilmember Chantel Raghu

Former Mayor William Peduto

Pittsburgh, PA

Mayor Ed Gainey

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh City Council, PA

Led by Councilwoman Erika Straussburger

Former Mayor Matthew Rudzki

Sharpsburg, PA

Sharpsburg Borough Council, PA

Led by Councilwoman (now Mayor) Brittany Reno

Mayor D. Anne Cavalier

Smithers, WV

Smithers City Council, WV

Mayor Kelley Kelley

Turtle Creek, PA

Rosemary Ketchum, City Councilwoman

Wheeling, WV

Former Mayor Marita Garrett

Wilkinsburg, PA

Wood County Commission

Wood County, WV

Led by Commissioner David Blair Couch

Mayor Jamel Tito Brown

Youngstown, OH