Opportunities and ideas for Appalachian Transition

Today, right now, we have the opportunity to begin a just economic transition in Appalachia and across Kentucky. We can create good jobs and grow income and wealth in our communities. Across our region, many people are already demonstrating the promise and potential of clean energy, sustainable forestry and agriculture, and tourism.

To make the most of this moment, we need to set aside fear and cynicism. It's time to focus on the kind of economy and communities we want. KFTC members often describe our vision with two words: New Power. New Power means putting new economic power, new clean energy power, and new political power in the hands of more people and working together for a brighter future.

1. Sectors and Strategies

There is no silver bullet that will result in thousands of new, good paying new jobs in Appalachia. But that’s no reason to sit on our hands. Citizens and community leaders across the region are moving forward with a variety of ideas in areas like:
  • Entrepreneurship and small business development
  • Renewable energy production
  • Energy efficient homes, farms and businesses
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable forestry and wood products
  • Environmental restoration
  • Health and community services
  • Education and job training
For more information about these and other ideas, visit www.appalachiantransition.org or www.kftc.org/abf.

2. Examples and Ideas

On-the-ground projects are already producing benefits for families, schools, businesses and communities in our region. KFTC collaborates with several regional organizations, including Appalshop and MACED, to collect and share videos, audio reports and written profiles about local success stories. Examples can be found here:

You'll also find specific stories and examples described at these links:

3. Policies

A just transition for Appalachia will take leadership, innovative policies, and sustained investment from local, state and national levels. The policies below would be a good place to start!

Federal funding for home weatherization:
The Department of Agriculture is considering a new rule that could significantly expand investment in home weatherization for customers served by rural electric cooperatives. The idea is to  create a revolving loan fund that rural electric co-ops can use to weatherize homes and businesses and help their customers make efficiency upgrades. Co-op customers would pay nothing upfront for these retrofits. Over time, the loans would be paid back with money saved from not using as much electricity. This proposal would create good jobs across eastern Kentucky, cut monthly electric bills for rural residents and businesses, and cost tax payers little or nothing. A pilot project called How$mart is already underway in four eastern Kentucky electric co-operatives.

Kentucky Coal Severance Tax Reform:
Kentucky’s coal severance, established in 1972, is based on the understanding that coal is a finite resource. A tax of 4.5% on the value of extracted coal was intended to provide funds to invest in economic diversification in the coalfields. However, by 1992, less than 8% of those funds had been invested back into Kentucky’s coal producing counties. Today there is growing concern about how the funds should be spent and how coal producing counties will manage as coal production declines. A proposal floated by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development recommends setting aside a portion of annual severance tax revenues to create a “permanent fund” for long term investment in local economic development. Similar funds have been created in Wyoming, Alaska and Montanta.

Kentucky Clean Energy Opportunity Act:
In 2010 the Clean Energy Opportunity Act was introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly. This bill would require utility companies in Kentucky to get an increasing share of their energy from efficiency programs and renewable sources over the next ten years. Policies similar to this have been adopted in 29 states and are proven drivers of jobs in the clean energy sector. A recent study calculated that the bill would create 28,000 new jobs in our state over the next ten years. Average electric bills would be 8-10% lower than under a do-nothing scenario.