This Week in ReImagine Appalachia: April 15, 2021

By April 15, 2021No Comments
We released our Repairing the Damage Report and were featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Forbes!
Bluestone State Park, West Virginia. Submitted by Elle Griffiths.
Send us your Appalachian pictures to featured in our next newsletter!


In partnership with the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI), we released a striking set of new reports detailing how Appalachian communities can create more than 30,000 new jobs by reclaiming and remediating abandoned coal mines and oil and gas wells. You can check out the reports here!

We were pleased to be joined by former Director of the Offices of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Joseph Pizarchik.  Mr. Pizarchik directly oversaw the Abandoned Mine Lands program under the Obama administration and shared from his remarkable knowledge and experience. He has seen first hand the urgency of these issues and the importance of implementing the findings of these new reports.

Across the United States, millions of oil and gas wells are no longer in production, but have no party legally or financially responsible for plugging them. These “orphaned” or abandoned wells pose serious risks to public safety and our environment, leaking oil and gas into our water and soil and releasing climate-warming methane into the atmosphere. An estimated 538,000 abandoned wells remain in the Ohio River Valley, and plugging them could cost upwards of $34 billion. 

“Over the last five years, the states comprising the mid and upper Ohio River Valley have lost nearly 13,000 upstream oil and gas jobs. Plugging and restoring orphaned and abandoned wells in the Ohio River Valley could create 15,000 jobs in our region,” stated ORVI Senior Researcher Ted Boettner. 

An additional 17,000 jobs could also be created with a $13 billion appropriation to clean up abandoned mine lands. For more than 200 years, the coal industry has extracted billions of tons of coal in the U.S., damaging thousands of acres of land and leaving it unreclaimed. The thousands of sites that remain unreclaimed threaten death or injury to local residents, deter local development, harm local ecosystems and downstream residents, and fuel the climate crisis by leaking methane into the atmosphere.

These reports highlight the need for a large scale federal program to address the fact that Appalachian communities have suffered from a lack of investment and from the serious public health and economic consequences of orphaned gas wells and abandoned mines.

Watch our press conference here

You can also watch our Orphan Wells Webinar as well as our Abandoned Mine Lands Webinar.

We’re also pleased to share that Mr. Boettner will be testifying in Congress today, April 15th at 2 pm on the importance of these issues. Learn more about the House Natural Resources Orphan Wells Subcommittee hearing here.


Earlier this week, an opinion piece by Councilwoman Erika Strassburger was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describing how the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint is an inspiring, big vision for infrastructure spending that can be executed through the American Jobs Plan.

An excerpt:

“One inspiring, big vision for infrastructure spending comes from ReImagine Appalachia, a broad coalition of groups deeply rooted in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. ReImagine Appalachia has understood and seized on the significance of a politically powerful new reality: The aggressive investments our nation must make in infrastructure, including to avoid catastrophic climate change, will create a massive number of trades and industrial jobs.”

Retweet the article here!


We held a panel discussion with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center and the National Wildlife Federation on the role of climate infrastructure investments in the region. The expert panel featured Hannah Halbert, Executive Director of Policy Matters Ohio; Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Bishop Marcia Dinkins, Executive Director of Ohioans for Sustainable Change and Founder and Executive Director of Black Women Rising; and Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
You can watch the panel here.
Check out the coverage of this panel from Forbes and 90.5 WESA!


We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in our region through a major infrastructure package. Local governments are an essential voice for influencing our federal politicians; they know first hand how powerful these federal investments could be to grow our region’s economy and build a brighter future from the ground up.

To learn more, visit or fill out our form.

Our next meeting on this issue will be Wednesday, April 21st at noon. Please sign up here to attend this event, where we’ll hear from more folks who are engaging in this work and share more details about how groups can engage with their local government to advocate for national investments in our region. 

With the federal infrastructure bill now in the works, we would like to invite you to a briefing on the Reimagine Appalachia campaign’s activity and plans to secure the support needed to ensure we maximize on this generational opportunity for the region. 

We will provide an overview of federal policy that affects the Appalachian region; the impact of the infrastructure bill and its potential impact on the region, provide updates on the research from the campaign and share the Appalachian Climate Infrastructure Plan.

Sign up here

Please feel free to share with your Pennsylvanian networks!




Laura Foster grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia and the Mid-Ohio Valley. After practicing law in Cincinnati for a few years, she moved to explore her passion at UCLA earning a PhD in Gender Studies. 

She is currently an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Affiliate Faculty in African Studies and Law at Indiana University – Bloomington  and a Senior Researcher at the IP Unit, University of Cape Town Faculty of Law. Her research explores questions of power and inequality at the nexus of law, science, technology, and the nonhuman. In particular, she is interested in relationships of technoscience, governance, gender, race, indigeneity, plants, health, and justice within histories of South Africa and Appalachia. Her innovative interdisciplinary research contributes to conversations in feminist science and technology studies (STS), critical plant studies, socio-legal studies, Indigenous and Native studies, African studies, critical intellectual property studies, and feminist data studies. In her book, Reinventing Hoodia: Peoples, Plants, and Patents in South Africa (2017), she explores struggles over the patenting of the Hoodia plant as a site for understanding claims for belonging in South Africa, and how plants themselves interrupt the promises of law, science, and markets.

Laura joined ReImagine Appalachia in summer 2020 as an active member of our Race and Community Justice committee. She is currently working with RCJ to develop the ReImagine Appalachia Story Project. Her current research thinks along side relations of peoples and plants in the Mid-Ohio Valley to develop a queer, anti-racist, Vegetal feminist politics. 

Laura has adopted many plants during the pandemic, and loves to spend time hiking, camping, and sailing with her family and two young boys.