President Obama’s proposed spending plan for the next government budget yet again includes programs aimed at helping the economy in coalfield communities that are struggling as the mining industry continues to decline.
The White House on Tuesday released the president’s budget proposals for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Obama included in the proposals money for economic diversification programs, worker retraining efforts, the cleanup of abandoned mine sites and research aimed at finding workable ways to control the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The administration also is again proposing efforts to strengthen the troubled health care and pension plans that provide benefits to thousands of retired coal miners and their families.
In explaining the proposals, the administration noted that the nation “is undergoing a rapid energy transformation, particularly in the power sector.”
“Booming natural gas production, declining costs for renewable energy, increases in energy efficiency, flattening electricity demand, and updated clean air standards are changing the way electricity is generated and used across the country,” said a summary of the budget proposals. “These trends are producing cleaner air and healthier communities, and spurring new jobs and industries. At the same time, they are impacting workers and communities who have relied on the coal industry as a source of jobs and economic prosperity — particularly in Appalachia, where competition with other coal basins provides additional pressure.”
Among the proposals in what the administration calls its “Power Plus Plan”:
n $75 million for targeted economic and workforce development strategies across a variety of federal programs.
n $120 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, including $50 million to be directed specifically to Appalachian communities most affected by the coal economy’s transformation. This money is to “support a range of economic development planning and implementation activities, including developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, facilitating access to capital investments and new markets, and addressing barriers related to adequate water, sewer, and telecommunication infrastructure.”
n $5 million for the federal government’s “brownfields” program, to help communities work on cleaning up polluted sites related to the coal industry.
n $200 million a year for five years — a total of $1 billion — in Abandoned Mine Lands funds, to reclaim abandoned mine sites for projects that can be linked to job-creating economic development strategies.
n $2 billion in tax credits for new and retrofitted power plants that deploy carbon capture and storage technology.
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