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VA DMME Works to Reenergize Coalfields

by Ellen Szymanski

Far away from the urban centers of Virginia is beautiful country – the coalfields of Southwest Virginia.  Our own mountains majesty provided a boom for the state for more than a century.  We owe the region a debt and we can repay it.  Reenergize Southwest Virginia is a brand-new effort to help this region at a time when major moves away from coal energy production is occurring across the nation.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act signed into law April 2020, will move the state to clean energy by 2045-2050.  Specifically, it requires the utilities to be carbon free and most coal-fired plants to close by the end of 2024.  In addition, a state audit revealed two coal tax incentives were no longer profitable and the provisions were repealed.  The same piece of legislation also established a new interagency effort led by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to recommend how the Commonwealth can provide economic transition support to the coalfield region.  Reenergize Southwest Virginia will focus on five key strategies:

  • workforce redevelopment,
  • economic diversification,
  • reclamation of coal-impacted lands and brownfields,
  • community revitalization, and
  • infrastructure improvements.

“The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is well positioned and honored to take the lead on such an important initiative that could have a major impact on Southwest Virginians,” said DMME Director John Warren. “The agency is the largest in the region and has long been involved in economic development through reclamation projects, grant programs and partnerships that have led to successes in our communities. We believe the region can remain an energy hub but also thrive through industrial and agricultural development, as well. Work on the report for the General Assembly is underway and we are grateful to the many contributions we’ve received from the residents as well as our stakeholder partners.” 

Reenergize SW Virginia is on a fast-track.  An interim report is due to the General Assembly on September 1 and a final due December 1, 2021.  DMME held three information sessions (recordings are available here) to give stakeholders a chance to provide input into the process and resulting report.  If you are interested, written input can still be emailed to reenergizeswva@dmme.virginia.gov until September 30, 2021.

Along with the region, the state bureaucracy is also going through a transformation – by October, DMME will be renamed Department of Energy and numerous governments units will fall under the new department. However, its mission to support Virginia’s coalfield region will remain a key focus. Resilient Virginia looks forward to working closely with DMME on this effort.  Building economic resilience in Southwest Virginia is a critical step in a successful realignment toward clean energy for the state, and Resilient Virginia looks forward to highlighting DMME’s initiatives in Virginia’s coal country.

When you register for the 2021 Resilient Virginia Conference, you will learn more about economic and social resiliency initiatives taking place in Virginia’s rural areas from speakers that include Anthony Flaccavento, President of the consulting firm, SCALE (Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies) and author of Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real World Experience for Transformative Change. With his 30-plus years of experience as a farmer, local economic advocate, and resilience consultant, Anthony brings to rural communities across the United States a vital perspective on grassroots-driven solutions to community challenges that range from creating new livelihoods to addressing community lifestyles.

In addition, Christine Gyovai, Principal, Dialogue + Design Associates, will speak to the roles that rural community members play in creating community transformation and resilience.  She has focused her 20-plus year career on assisting communities and organizations in Virginia and Appalachia on ways to build stronger futures through collaboration, architecture, environmental design and community planning. Dialogue+Design recently launched a podcast series – We Rise: Collective Resilience – that features rural community members from rural, coal-producing areas telling their stories about strategies to rebuild their communities using new models.

At the 2021 Resilient Virginia Conference you will also find more sessions focused on rural topics that include case studies from Virginia and regional rural communities on their approaches to dealing with severe climate impacts, ongoing challenges to farming and forestry productivity due to climate change, clean economy job creation, and how to use national and local resources as their communities work on creating pathways to resilient futures.

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Today we will be joined by Caetano de Campos Lopes from The Community Climate Collaborative at the final session of our Spring Resiliency Academy. Caetano will provide information about the C3 Virginia Transit Tool, that supports community-led initiatives to advocate for better transit planning and will illustrate this approach as it is being carried out in the Charlottesville, Va area. Learn more and register: https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy
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Angela Conroy from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will be joining us tomorrow (June 9th) at the 4th (and final!) session of our Spring Resiliency Academy. Angela will update the audience on how the $93 million in funds from the Volkswagen Settlement Agreement has been allocated through the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund for EV charging network projects, electric buses for schools, the port electrification project, and the Clean Air Communities Program, and what funding is still available for grants to localities. Learn more and register at https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy.
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Join us June 9th for our final Spring Resiliency Academy. This Thursday, Susan Howard from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) will discuss transportation programs and funding created through this Federal legislation. Learn more and register at https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy.
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Calendar

Due to COVID-19, please check listings for cancellations.
  • A Framework for Evaluating GHG Emissions Information for Decision Making
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    This interactive workshop will include discussions about needs, challenges, and opportunities related to meeting the needs of stakeholders; developing independent, transparent, and comparable greenhouse gas information; understanding and addressing biases in data, models, and…

  • Southeast Climate Monthly Webinar
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    2022 Hurricane Outlook, Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA Climate Prediction Center

    Register here.

  • Federal Energy Funding 101
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    Join Clean Energy Business Network on an interactive virtual platform to learn about federal programs to support energy entrepreneurs and communities.

    Learn more and register More details...

  • RNPN Ideation Hour: Extreme Heat Resilience
    Date: June 29, 2022
    Location:

    Join The Resilient Nation Partnership Network (RNPN), the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the City of Phoenix for a discussion about the impacts of extreme heat across the country. We encourage you…

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