BECKLEY, W.Va. — West Virginia is expecting to draw down close for $40 billion from funding aimed at revitalizing coalfield communities and communities which rely on coal-fired power plants. As the coal and utility industries have taken hits from the changing landscape of power generation, President Biden created a group earlier this year to address the economic impact.
A coalfield communities working group formed earlier this year in the House of Delegates has started to hold public hearings listening to residents of those communities.. Del. Ed Evans, D-McDowell, is one of those who is concerned about how to spend such a vast amount of money.
“We want to get this right. We’re talking $39 billion. We want to make sure the money coming in here gets spent on the priorities local communities think it should be spent on,” he explained in a recent edition of MetroNews “Talkline.”
Evans is part of a coalfields community working group of lawmakers that is travelling the state and hearing from local community members about how they think the money would be best spent. Meetings have already been held in Logan and Beckley. The next meetings will be Nov. 9 in Moundsville and Nov. 10 in Morgantown.
Evans said the Logan County meeting included 85 people who showed up with ideas to use the money to improve the community. He said all of the suggestions are being put into a format they can be used and followed, but he said one of the big things they heard was people need help in grant writing. According to Evans, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Senator Manchin and Capito as well as other Congressional offices have promised technical support in the grant writing.
Ed Evans, WV State Delegate (D-McDowell) is conducting coalfield meetings on how to spend the COVID money. How is it going? He explains his motives with these meetings to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/EvJho5Pssp
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 27, 2021
Evans said it’s important to consider what local residents want to see done with the money and to make those a priority, not necessarily those of politicians.
As for Evans, he sees the money as a change to finally reach a milestone in McDowell County.
“Provide clean drinking water and sewage service to every person in McDowell County, ” he explained was his goal with the funding in the months and years to come.
As the 60-day regular session drew to a close earlier this year, House Speaker Hanshaw told Evans he would create a focused group of lawmakers to help find solutions to the problems facing coal communities.
“I know firsthand just how hard our communities can be hit when the economic activities related to coal dry up,” Hanshaw said at the time. “I know Delegate Evans wanted to see this workgroup created as part of a bill we passed relating to coal-fired power plants, and I knew we could break this apart from the bill and do it without creating a new law.”
Members of the coalfield community group include Evans, chairman Mark Dean of Mingo County, Jordan Bridges, R-Logan; Nathan Brown, D-Mingo; Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia; Austin Haynes, R-Fayette; Josh Holstein, R-Boone; Margitta Mazzocchi, R-Logan; Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming; Charlie Reynolds, R-Marshall; Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha; Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha; Christopher Toney, R-Raleigh; and Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall.