Former Pa. coal communities receive millions to invest in renewable energy, workforce development

Former coal communities will receive nearly $47 million to help fund renewable energy and workforce development projects. The Appalachian Regional Commission and Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced that POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grants will go to 52 projects across nine states, including nine in Pennsylvania.

What makes this package different from previous government investments in coal communities? For one, many federal grants determine where money should be allocated based on geographic areas identified from reports. Instead of deciding which communities to help, ARC has communities come to them.

“They define the challenge,” said ARC federal co-chair Gayle Manchin. “They look for the solution. They put together a plan by bringing all people to the table, their business community, their education community, their private sector, their nonprofits.”

This has led to a wide array of projects receiving funding. The package will not only support goals like net zero carbon emissions but also finance trails, aviation training, child care and broadband expansion. Fayette County, a nearby grantee, will use its $1.5 million to build a 6,000-foot technical institute to train licensed practical nurses, or LPNs.

This is the largest POWER grant package that ARC has announced since the initiative began in 2015, and Manchin said she is encouraged by the number of communities looking to diversify their economy.

“We’re excited about the increased number of grants,” she said. “That shows the increased interest and knowledge about how to go about revitalizing communities through looking for new energy sources.”

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