Just Transition Advocates & Coal Community Leaders On President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Yesterday, the Biden Administration released the American Jobs Plan, an infrastructure proposal intended to spur economic growth and job creation nationwide.

Several of the proposals in the plan reflect policy recommendations made in the National Economic Transition platform, a proposal from local coal community leaders to fund and scale community-driven solutions to support equitable economic growth in coal-impacted communities. These include:
  • 100% broadband deployment, including in rural and tribal communities,
  • Rebuilding roads and bridges, waterways, physical infrastructure,
  • A new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training, including wraparound services, income support, and partnerships between educational institutions, unions, and employers,
  • A new Rural Partnership Program intended to help communities, rural regions, and Tribal Nations navigate the complicated landscape of federal programs and support to build on their unique assets and realize their vision for inclusive community and economic development,
  • Funding for the reclamation and restoration of abandoned mine lands,
  • Funding for POWER, local economic development that is asset-based and intended to grow and strengthen local economies.
Group of people at a table discussing policy

Several of the groups and advocates who crafted the National Economic Transition platform released statements in response to the news:

Tom Cormons, Appalachian Voices, Executive Director

“Appalachian communities have been fighting for years to see the kinds of investments that the American Jobs Plan includes. Prioritizing abandoned mine land reclamation will not only address the environmental hazards left behind by the coal industry, but also employ thousands of people across the region. This investment paired with clean energy incentives, broadband expansion, and worker transition programs will provide a much-needed boost to coal communities across America that have given the nation so much.”

Veronica Coptis, Center for Coalfield Justice, Executive Director

“President Biden’s infrastructure plan is a huge first step toward investing in our communities. While the scope and standards of the plan provide a very solid foundation, much more is needed: We need Congress to go even bigger. As it is, the plan will address roughly 1/3 of what is needed nationally to equitably rebuild our country.
Now President Biden must express support for the National Economic Transition Platform, which will ensure direct investment in coalfield communities. The NET platform is based on community-driven solutions from those of us who know what we need because we live here.”

Brandon Dennison, Coalfield Development, CEO

“Rural entrepreneurs and citizen-leaders have been cobbling together incredibly innovative solutions to pressing problems for generations. We’ve been doing so with very limited resources. Now, in the American Jobs Plan, we finally have a chance to get the level of investments needed to not just survive, but to actually build the new, more fair, more just economy that’s desperately needed. Local people have solutions to pressing problems. We just need the resources to scale these solutions. The American Jobs Plan is an historic opportunity to improve the quality-of-life and well-being for all Americans, including the far too many rural Americans who have been left out of far too many opportunities. The positive impacts of this plan will reverberate for generations.”

Natalie Roper, Generation West Virginia, Executive Director

“Everyone deserves to feel like they have the opportunity to succeed and pursue the kind of careers they choose. But too many people feel like they have to leave West Virginia to do that, feeling stuck or pushed out with limited opportunities and limited choices. At Generation West Virginia, we have seen that a different future is possible when young people have access to a diversity of career pathways and support. With this exciting federal investment and commitment, successful local solutions can be scaled to continue to build a future where people aren’t choosing between leaving home and the economic opportunity they deserve.”

Heidi Binko, Just Transition Fund, Executive Director

“For far too long, the rural and tribal communities that powered America have been left out and left behind of the economic prosperity the rest of the country has enjoyed. The American Jobs Plan is an ambitious first step to tackle this challenge. Building from solutions developed by local leaders and calling for key infrastructure investments like broadband that have far-reaching economic and equity benefits, the Plan proves the Biden Administration is listening to the people and workers most affected by these challenges. If done right, the plan can spur inclusive economic growth to create more opportunity in rural America, address inequities, and give our country a fighting chance to tackle climate change.”

Peter Hille, Mountain Association, President

“President Biden’s infrastructure plan is a significant start to accelerate a just transition for people in the coalfields. Developing an economy that works for everyone in coal communities must be a priority for every policymaker, and the Mountain Association and many of our partners worked hard on the National Economic Transition platform to provide a policy road map to show them the way. We’re excited to see many of the priorities of that platform reflected in the President’s plan, including investments in community-driven solutions that can develop each community’s unique potential assets into job-creating engines, from tourism to agriculture to clean energy. Now, we’re eager to ensure these proposals become a reality, guided by the perspectives and expertise of the communities they could benefit.”

Anthony Flaccavento, SCALE,Inc., President

“As a farmer who has worked with hundreds of other producers to make a path forward after tobacco farming collapsed, the American Jobs Plan is a breath of fresh air. We’ve been singing the same tune for many years now: Let us lead, invest in home-grown solutions, and stick with us long enough to build real wealth and lasting capacity. I reckon that good things come to those who wait, because it looks to me like the Biden plan just might make that possible!”

Nicole Horseherder, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Executive Director

“This plan is a step in the right direction. The more time that the Biden Administration commits to supporting a just transition, the more problems that can be resolved for communities facing pollution and economic collapse. This Administration has the opportunity to effectively bring back communities that have lived in the shadows of the coal industry, shouldering the costs and the devastation while other communities benefited and grew.”

Barbara Vasquez, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Member from Cowdrey, Colorado

“Paying to plug and reclaim the oil and gas industry’s burgeoning inventory of orphaned and abandoned wells, infrastructure, and roads across the country is the right thing to do now. It will create tens of thousands of jobs, end emissions that damage public health and climate, and resolve the mess that has been impacting farmers, ranchers, and others who rely on the land.”