Press Statement

Press Statement: Appalachians Celebrate Passage of Inflation Reduction Act, Call on Congress to See it Through

By August 7, 2022No Comments

Contact: Contact: Jodi Hirsh, [email protected],  412-326-9832

“For Appalachians, the bill is nothing short of revolutionary.”

APPALACHIA – Appalachians are hard workers. But for too long, extractive industries and the politicians they prop up have taken advantage of that work ethic, leaving Appalachia with severely damaged lands and  residents struggling to get by.

On Sunday, the U.S. Senate finally delivered for Appalachian families when it passed the Inflation Reduction Act. This historic piece of legislation, passed as a long-awaited budget reconciliation package, is unprecedented in scale. It allocates $369 billion to climate solutions, which experts believe will reduce our emissions to 40% below 2005 levels.

“This legislation represents a transformative investment in our communities — especially frontline communities which are disproportionately Black or brown and low-income,” said Amanda Woodrum, senior researcher with Policy Matters and co-executive director of ReImagine Appalachia. “People around here know firsthand what climate damage means: floods, landslides, lost homes. The Inflation Reduction Act puts the needs of working families first and will set us on the path toward a sustainable future that safeguards our climate.”

The bill, which now awaits passage in the House of Representatives, could create up to 9 million jobs nationwide, and includes provisions to ensure that these new jobs would offer livable wages, good benefits, and a union. If implemented correctly, that could put hundreds of thousands of Appalachians to work primarily in the energy and manufacturing sectors, building out the country’s domestic renewable energy supply chain.

Beyond giving thousands of Appalachians the means to support their families, the bill makes it easier for them to live a healthy life. By investing billions into natural infrastructure and reforestation, the bill helps protect our air, water, food, and sacred natural resources. It also permanently extends the Black Lung Excise Tax, which provides miners with medical care and living stipends.

Funding for all these good things will come from where it should – by taxing the unaccountable corporations that have disregarded the climate and American families for so long.

“From an economic standpoint, this just makes sense. At its core, the Inflation Reduction Act is about making the absentee extractors that put us in this mess finally pay what they owe, and set our capable workforce up with good, safe jobs that will improve the lives of the people who live there. And, the bill would help cut families’ household energy costs and provide a $30 billion tax credit for wind and solar with important labor provisions for prevailing wage and apprenticeships,” said Stephen Herzenberg, co-director of ReImagine Appalachia and Executive Director of Keystone Research Center. “I can’t underscore the importance of prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements enough – these measures are essential if we want to strengthen the region’s economy from the ground up, ensure that high road companies are doing the work in a fair and equitable way, and keep as many dollars of federal investments in our community as possible.”

“This bill is not perfect, and it is important to acknowledge that. But it is powerful to see language in the bill that prioritizes and acknowledges the historical iniquities that have harmed so many low-income communities and communities of color in Appalachia,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Manager of ReImagine Appalachia. “We fought to get these historic investments passed, and we’ll also fight to make sure Appalachian communities and other communities hit hard by climate change, energy shifts and historical disinvestments get their due share of the benefits promised by the bill.”

Appalachians from West Virginia to Ohio elect leaders expecting them to ensure that everyone has the opportunity and tools to put food on the table, support their families, and stay safe. As this press release from last week laid out, that is why last year, more than 130 local elected officials came together to endorse the 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.

“Appalachian communities have suffered from the impacts of toxic pollution and climate-fueled disasters the most, as we are reminded from the floods in Kentucky we’ve seen just this past week,” said Athens Ohio Mayor Steve Patterson.

“We demand boldness from our leaders in Washington,” said Huntington West Virginia Mayor Steve Williams. “We don’t have to choose between strong climate action, a healthy economy, a robust manufacturing sector, and thriving Appalachian communities. Our greatest challenge can be our greatest opportunity, if our federal officials have the courage and vision to capture this moment. We have no more time to waste. Congress needs to act quickly to pass the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Transforming Appalachia requires passage of the Inflation Reduction Act –  it builds local wealth, addresses fires and floods caused by damage to the climate, and provides the tools and opportunities to ensure Appalachian families’ hard work results in livable wages, good benefits, and respect on the job. That’s a major step toward a sustainable, equitable future in which everyone, no matter the color of their skin or where they live, can thrive.