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Clean-energy sector manufacturing may jumpstart West Virginia’s economy

Nadia Ramlagan

Manufacturers in West Virginia employ around 7% of the state’s workforce, and advocates say the state’s Appalachian region could bolster its economy by turning itself into a green manufacturing hub.

Dana Kuhnline – program director with the group ReImagine Appalachia – said manufacturing in the clean-energy sector would create good jobs and help build local economies, as well as helping curb climate change.

“What can we manufacture in Appalachia?” said Kuhnline. “How can we reuse shuttered facilities, like closed steel facilities and shuttered coal plants? And what are sustainable products that Appalachia could become a hub for, that we could make in this region?”

At an upcoming virtual summit hosted by ReImagine Appalachia, being held on January 16 and 17, experts will break down how Appalachian communities can take advantage of federal funding opportunities related to climate infrastructure.

Kuhnline said Congress has passed a number of bills in the last couple of years that have paved the way for new investments in the region.

“There’s a lot of new money for land remediation,” said Kuhnline, “So, cleaning up old coal mines, cleaning up orphan oil and gas wells. There’s going to be a whole funding stream set aside for improving environmental issues. And that includes replacing lead pipes. There’s also money for increasing the number of trees and urban improvement projects.”

She added that increased federal funding for natural infrastructure as a solution to soak up carbon, prevent flooding and repair damaged mine-lands provides an unprecedented opportunity to create new jobs for workers left behind, returning citizens and communities hit hard by the opioid crisis.