ORVI Insider #24: A New Civilian Conservation Corps Could Employ Thousands

 

The  latest news, research, and analysis from the Ohio River Valley Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

September 28, 2021

 

 

 

The New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an economic boon for its participants and for local economies, generating $10.5 billion in earnings and spurring $486 billion in growth at the height of the Great Depression. By building upon the legacy of the original CCC, a new Civilian Climate Corps could employ thousands of out-of-work people in Appalachia and beyond to reduce carbon emissions and restore our natural resources and environment, Senior Researcher Ted Boettner writes. It’s a win-win-win for Appalachians, the environment, and local economies, and the federal infrastructure bill could provide the funding to make it happen.

In the meantime, ORVI research continues to inform regional and national conversations on coal transition in the Ohio Valley. Research Fellow Eric Dixon’s guidance on abandoned mine land reclamation was published in AP News and reprinted in 51 publications across the U.S., including the Washington Post. And Boettner and Senior Researcher Sean O’Leary’s analysis of the economic pitfalls of coal-fired power generation in West Virginia headlined energy news in Charleston. The data is clear—federal AML investments and a concerted effort to transition power generation to cleaner, renewable sources will help lay the foundation for shared prosperity in Appalachia. 

Here’s the latest from the Ohio River Valley Institute:

 

 

Research Spotlight

A Big Civilian Conservation Corps is Vital for Economy and Appalachia

 

Long-term declines in employment and pandemic-related job loss have left millions out of work, particularly in Appalachia. A large-scale, revamped Civilian Conservation Corps could play a significant role in addressing structural and circumstantial employment declines among those hardest hit by job loss, including youth, Black people, formerly incarcerated people, and those without college degrees.

To maximize economic and environmental impacts and meet the needs of Appalachians, the series of new CCC proposals should include living wage requirements, prioritize non-college people and the formerly incarcerated, target under-resourced communities, and provide a public works option and pathways to union membership. 

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ORVI In the News
 

Cleanup of Abandoned Mines Could Get Boost, Relieving Rivers (AP News) 

Thousands of abandoned coal mines in the U.S. have been polluting rivers and streams for decades, in some cases harming fish and contaminating drinking water. The Senate-passed federal infrastructure bill earmarks $11.3 billion for abandoned mine land cleanup over the next fifteen years, a sum that “would literally be a historic advancement in mine reclamation,” according to Research Fellow Eric Dixon. Since AML remediation efforts first began 40 years ago, only about a quarter of coal mine damage has been remediated. 

 

 

 

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Numbers Adding Up Against WV Electric Ratepayers—and Manchin’s Argument Against Clean Energy Proposal (Charleston Gazette-Mail) 

From 2008 to 2019, average U.S. monthly utility bills rose by $11.82. West Virginia’s rose by $41.75. Skyrocketing utility bills “reduce people’s disposable income, which in turn reduces economic activity & jobs,” Sean O’Leary explained. And continued efforts to prop up the state’s dying coal industry are impeding clean energy growth, “the cost of [which] will mean even higher electricity bills, a less diverse and weaker economy, and less money for West Virginia families to support themselves,” Ted Boettner added. 

 

 

 

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10 Years Later: No Gusher of Jobs (Youngstown Business Journal) 

In the last decade, an estimated $90 billion in drilling programs, leasehold agreements, pipeline construction, processing stations, refueling stations, natural-gas power plants, and other shale-related operations took root in Ohio, Dan O’Brien writes. Yet, for all that economic activity, job growth and other markers of prosperity have been anemic at best. “In Ohio, [the natural gas industry] has had either no net impact or perhaps a negative impact,” Sean O’Leary explained. Remarkably, the seven counties that churned out 95% of the state’s natural gas “actually suffered a net loss in employment.” 

 

 

 

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Boettner, Dennison: A Stronger ARC Is Key to Good Jobs (Charleston Gazette-Mail) 

For much of its history, Appalachia has lagged the rest of the nation in measures of economic prosperity, health, education and infrastructure development. But incoming funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission and its Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative provides “a golden opportunity to increase ARC investments to grow jobs, diversify the region’s economy and improve social and economic outcomes” in addition to “helping provide a stronger foundation for economic development over the long-term,” Boettner and Dennison write. 

 

 

 

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US Coal Miners Could Be Next in Line for Industry Bailouts (Bloomberg News) 

The simmering federal infrastructure bill allocates $11.3 billion to remediating coal mines abandoned before 1977, a sum that could make huge headway in reducing the climate impacts and myriad health and environmental problems linked to AML damage. But it’s still not enough to completely address the problem. According to ORVI research, there is at least $20 billion in remediation to be done. 

 

 

 

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Appalachia’s Battle Between Wish and Hope with Energy Industry Researcher Sean O’Leary (We Can Be Podcast) 

Sean O’Leary discusses the role of coal, natural gas, and petrochemicals in the Appalachian economy with Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, zeroing in on the “holes in the bucket,” or the reasons why money injected into the region doesn’t seem to stay here. 

 

 

 

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Guest Opinion: PA Voters Want Protection from Pollution (York Daily Record) 

“Pennsylvania voters of every political party are expressing their support for public health policies that better protect us from pollution. This includes emissions released through fracking by the shale gas industry, which has flooded into Western Pennsylvania over the last decade,” Alison Steele, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project, writes. A recent poll released by ORVI reveals that 78% of Pennsylvania voters are concerned about how pollution affects their community’s health.

 

 

 

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What We’re Reading
 

Dear Joe Manchin: Coal Isn’t Your State’s Future (New York Times)

 

 

 

Public Service Commission To Hold Public Comment Hearing Friday on Increasing WV Cost Burden for Proposed Coal-Fired Plant Upgrades (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

 

 

 

Funding Secured for Utility Study (The Vindicator)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

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