September 7, 2022
AP file photo
As federal taxes and regulations seek to push West Virginia away from coal production, the federal government has awarded nearly $63 million to help 21 counties that have been the most affected.
About $62.8 million of American Rescue Plan money will support workforce development programs and other projects in the regions most affected by the state’s transition away from coal. The projects will also receive $29 million in private funding.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democratic from West Virginia, said in a news conference the region needs funding and this will help it continue to transition. He said it will help the region focus on a new way to deliver energy.
“You can spend money or you can invest money,” Manchin said. “And we’re going to give you a return on this. We’re going to give the taxpayers of the United States a return on their investment in West Virginia.”
The funding includes about $13 million for creating the Learning, Innovation, Food & TechnologyCenter in Charleston. The center will be at the former Kanawha Manufacturing plant. It will house the Marshall Green Battery Institute, which will provide development and research for electric batteries for green vehicles, airplanes and renewable energy storage. It will also house a job training center and support other green energy projects.
More than $10.7 million will fund a workforce development program for young people, former coal workers and other unemployed West Virginians. The program, called GROW Now, will focus on digital and green energy jobs. Nearly $10 million will go toward a program to reclaim abandoned mines.
“West Virginia continues to see the benefits of the critical American Rescue Plan investments that drive economic development and create good-paying, long-term jobs, and today’s announcement is great news for our entire state,” Manchin said in a statement. “It is a testament to our hardworking fellow West Virginians and forward-thinking communities that West Virginia was one of just 21 recipients of the EDA’s Regional Challenge program. I’m pleased the EDA is investing nearly $63 million in communities across southern West Virginia to strengthen local economies, support our energy industries and expand job opportunities. This is an incredible opportunity and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for years to come.”
Last month, Manchin voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, which will increase taxes on the coal industry by an estimated 7.2%. The legislation passed narrowly passed the Senate on a 51-50 vote with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned that the EPA might try to use the bill’s language to justify heavier restrictions on the coal industry in addition to the tax, but threatened to sue the agency if it does.