CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – Efforts to improve West Virginia’s environment and economy have gotten a little more funding recently as the federal government announced $62.8 million in grant awards to the Appalachian Climate Technology Coalition (ACT Now).
The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the funds through President Biden’s Build Back Better Challenge. Officials say the challenge is intended to build new economic development approaches and family wage jobs in targeted regions.
The targeted region in Wedst Virginia is the Southern Coalfields region. There are 8 projects that will focus on that region of the state. According to the U.S. Intergovernmental Council on Energy Communities, the Southern Coalfields area of the state has been identified as the most economically distressed and coal-impacted area in America.
“I think West Virginians have been a really important part of providing energy for the world, and for really powering the state and the region, and you know, places way beyond our borders. I think that there are opportunities for West Virginia to continue being an energy powerhouse as the world transitions to a more diverse mix of energy resources,” said Eriks Brolis, The Nature Conservancy Director of Nature and Economy.
One of the eight projects is the Abandoned Mines to Sustainable Lands Project. The project is led by West Virginia University, Coalfield Development, and The Nature Conservancy. The aim of the project is to speed up abandoned mine reclamation in West Virginia and Appalachia, with new approaches to sustainable reuse of these lands, with an initial goal of 50,000 acres put into reuse including at up to five pilot sites.
Reuses for the land being researched, prioritized and deployed include renewable energy generation and storage, reforestation for carbon sequestration, and eco-tourism and other outdoor recreation.
According to officials, this is one of the largest investments in West Virginia history intended to help diversify the economy and foster a just transition to a low-carbon future.
The $62.8 million in grant awards is leveraged with another $30 million in match funds from philanthropic foundations, local governments and the private sector. Governor Jim Justice backed the efforts with a pledge of $2 million. ACT Now will receive millions of dollars in match and leverage support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Foundation, and other philanthropies.