June 30, 2022
The Mountain State
THE MOUNTAIN STATE - Federal data show U.S. coal production has decreased by more than 24% since 2019.
Since then, the average number of employees at U.S. coal mines decreased by more than 10,000 employees. A new coalition of businesses and nonprofits in West Virginia is ready to create at least 3,000 new green industry jobs. They say they just need the funding to do so. Brandon Dennison, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Coalfield Development, is leading the coalition called Appalachian Climate Technology (ACT Now). Dennison said the coalition is a finalist in the Biden Administration's Build Back Better Regional Challenge, and if selected will be awarded $100 million to jump-start the region's economy in expanding the solar industry, sustainably reclaiming former mine lands, retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient, and attracting green manufacturers to the area. "There's a unique opening in time right now, where we can really take a leap forward for this region, and that would have tremendously positive outcomes for our country," Dennison asserted. "And if you think about it from a climate-change perspective, really positive outcomes for our planet. " Dennison added they will find out if they've been selected in the next few months. Numerous studies have pointed to renewable energy such as wind and solar as a way to create good-paying jobs for Appalachian communities left behind. One report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found the Mountain State has the potential to create thousands of jobs in solar energy, wind energy, battery storage and energy efficiency. Dennison noted many West Virginians are not counting on coal as a means to support their families or supply the next generation with a livelihood. Supporters of the coal industry argued that fossil fuels are essential to keeping Americans' power supply affordable. "In many ways, we've sort of gone through the stages of grief with the coal industry, and come to an acceptance that coal is never going to be what it was," Dennison observed. "We might not be happy about that, but if we are going to survive, we're going to have to adapt."