Public officials welcome to the conversation about a just transition in Appalachia | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Public officials welcome to the conversation about a just transition in Appalachia

KFTC members welcomed Monday’s announcement by Governor Steve Beshear, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers and others about a public process to gather and share ideas about ways to build a healthy, diverse economy in eastern Kentucky.

“I’m really excited,” said Letcher County KFTC member Elizabeth Sanders. “These elected leaders now appear to be whole-heartedly joining the conversation that is already alive in this region. That’s a welcome step that we haven’t seen in recent years. I’m glad they are calling for genuine involvement and collaboration with people living in southeastern Kentucky, and anyone with an interest in moving this part of the state forward.”

KFTC members have been fostering a conversation about a just transition in the mountains for the past few years. The organization hosted a regional conference in April called Appalachia’s Bright Future that brought together a wide range of stakeholders in the region, as well as representatives of communities outside Appalachia that have faced similar transitions, including Wales in the United Kingdom and Newfoundland in Canada.

Elizabeth Sanders“I hope this summit is another opportunity to continue to learn from the experiences of other communities that have faced similar challenges,” Sanders said. “Here in eastern Kentucky we have the vision and leadership we need to define our own path to prosperity, and it helps to learn from other rural communities that have been through their own process of economic upheaval and renewal.”

KFTC members believe that a just transition is possible, even in the midst of rapid changes in the coal industry, and that such a transition must:

  • Improve the quality of life for people and communities affected by economic disruption, environmental damage, and inequality
  • Foster inclusion, participation and collaboration
  • Generate good, stable jobs and broad access to opportunities and benefits
  • Promote innovation, self-reliance, and broadly held local wealth
  • Protect and restore public health and our environment
  • Respect the past while also strengthening communities and culture
  • Consider the effects of decisions on future generations

KFTC Chairperson Sue Tallichet described a just transition this way at the Appalachia’s Bright Future conference in April:

“A just transition in eastern Kentucky is an intentional effort to improve our quality of life, create jobs, strengthen communities, and protect our health and environment. A just transition means that many people must be involved, and many perspectives must be taken into account as decisions get made. It means taking steps to build skills, wealth and opportunities that stay here in the mountains. It means creating the conditions for our communities to thrive, not just survive. And it means protecting the natural resources on which our health and economy depend.”

“I hope this process is genuinely inclusive and truly takes into account the solutions that people in our communities identify,” added Sanders, who also had a major role in the Appalachia’s Bright Future conference. “My generation right now is already showing leadership and vision. We are the folks who will be at the forefront of this region for decades to come. We need to be included from the very beginning.”

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