by Tom Sexton
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club
This week, the City of Whitesburg became the first municipality in the state of Kentucky, and the second in the nation to pass a resolution of support for the White House’s POWER Plus Plan (POWER+).
The plan, which is part of the new proposed federal budget calls for more than a billion dollars of the existing $2.5 billion dollar Abandoned Mine Land fund (AML fund) to be disbursed in the coal-producing regions of Appalachia over the next five years in installments of over $200 million a year.
Following the vote, which passed unopposed, Whitesburg Mayor James Craft praised the plan as “a necessary step forward in getting people in our community back to work, especially those affected by the decline of the coal industry.”
Mayor Craft’s sentiment was echoed by Eric Dixon of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, who, along with Kendall Bilbrey formerly of the Alliance for Appalachia and currently of STAY-project, recently co-authored an exhaustive policy analysis of the Abandoned Mine Land Program (a summary of which can be found here):
“It’s great to see how enthusiastic the Whitesburg City Council was for this initiative. We believe it would immediately create jobs for laid off miners reclaiming abandoned mines and would provide communities with the funds to create sustainable job opportunities in recreation, agriculture, and renewable energy to name just a few possibilities.”
Former Whitesburg City Councilman and Sierra Club Organizer, Tom Sexton, who collaborated with allies from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Appalshop, Appalachian Voices and Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in bringing the resolution before the council hopes that its passage will help put the necessary pressure on Rep. Hal Rogers, and Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to vote in favor of the plan.
“I believe the message that Whitesburg and, hopefully soon, other Eastern Kentucky communities will be sending in – publicly supporting POWER Plus – will put Rogers, Paul, and McConnell to a decision when it comes time to vote: does their loyalty lie with real coal miners and their communities, or just the industry?”