Eastern Kentucky City Voices Support for Obama’s Plan for Coalfields Economic Aid

An Eastern Kentucky city has become the first to go on record supporting President Obama’s coalfield economic plan, and others may follow soon.

The “Power+ Plan” is currently before Congress.

The plan was introduced in February, along with Obama’s proposed budget. It would set aside $25 million for the nation’s coal communities that have become casualties of the industry’s decline. Among other things, the plan sets aside money for retraining laid-off coal miners, economic development in the region and to remediate abandoned coal mines and power plants. There’s also money for carbon capture technology.

But the measure has been stalled since it was proposed in February. Now, coalfields municipalities are beginning to ask why.

The Whitesburg City Council unanimously passed a resolution last week in support of the Power+ Plan. Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft said Letcher County is suffering as coal jobs disappear, and the council believes the plan would create jobs for the struggling area.

“Even if they are minimum wage jobs, it’s something that people can earn money from and maintain some sense of their pride,” he said. “Because a lot of people are getting desperate right now.”

Whitesburg’s resolution specifically calls on U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to shepherd the plan through:

“Whereas the POWER+ Plan has been proposed by the White House and currently sits before Congress;

Therefore, let it be resolved that the City of Whitesburg supports passage of the POWER+ Plan by the U.S. Congress and encourages Congressman Hal Rogers to see passage of this Plan through the federal legislative process.”

Whitesburg is in Rogers’ congressional district.

A spokeswoman for Rogers didn’t return a request for comment, but his committee has already approved all of its appropriations bills. The Interior and Environment bill didn’t contain specific mention of the Power+ Plan, but it did designate $30 million to abandoned mine land reclamation and economic development, primarily in Appalachia.

On the Senate side, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has requested the Senate Appropriations Committee fully fund the plan, said a spokesman for the senator.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.