MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Current and former elected officials from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania have launched the Appalachian Leaders Network to create an advisory council to address issues important to the region.
Monongalia County Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, is a member of the advisory council and hopes they will address important issues for constituents in the three-state area.
“We’re coming together to advocate for common interests related to the energy transition, clean air, clean water, and election security,” Hansen said.
The group is encouraging other elected officials and constituents to participate in the process as much as possible by speaking at public meetings, writing opinion letters, supporting initiatives by their elected officials, and staying informed on environmental issues.
The timing of policies related to lowering carbon emissions is an area Hansen believes the coalition could have a positive impact on. Understanding what science tells us about the deterioration of the environment provides the information to determine what aspects of carbon reduction should be completed first.
“The most important thing is to listen to what the scientists are telling us in terms of how many years or decades we have in order to reach carbon neutrality so we can control the climate change we’re already seeing,” Hansen said.
Appalachia has suffered through reductions in the coal industry and lower carbon emission limits, but Hansen said moving forward we have new employment opportunities to diversify the labor market. Crafting regional initiatives and building relationships with elected federal leaders will help move toward legislation that could attract additional employment opportunities.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t thrive in the future if we have good policies that will allow us to thrive even in a world where climate change is being addressed,” Hansen said.
Working with the administrative leadership of federal agencies that develop the rules is a priority for the group. Many of the rules relate to climate change and directly impact the applications of coal and natural gas, production, and employment levels.
“Also important are leaders of federal agencies that do rule-making that has an impact on Appalachia and on West Virginia,” Hansen said. “These are rules related to climate change.”
Hansen said hydrogen certainly has a role to play, but only “green hydrogen” should be produced. “Green hydrogen” is produced using renewable electricity and is currently the only hydrogen that can be produced with no impact on the environment.
“But if it’s produced from natural gas, which is the goal of our local hydrogen hub (ARCH2), then they better make sure they sequester that carbon, pump it underground, and keep it underground forever,” Hansen said. “Otherwise, there is no climate benefit.”