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Federal group over-promised funding for Ky. coal communities by $228B

A two-lane road stretches out in front of the camera. Green trees line each side. It is daytime.
Ryan Van Velzer
The road to Pine Mountain State Park Resort in May 2023.

A federal working group aimed at revitalizing coal communities over-promised how much money was available to Kentuckians by more than $200 billion.

The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant communities and economic revitalization mistakenly told Kentuckians in May that federal investments in energy communities totaled more than $900 billion dollars.

Working group executive director Brian Anderson was one of more than a dozen federal and state officials who attended a community forum at Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Pineville, Kentucky.

The forum was designed to help rural communities find the resources they need to create jobs, build infrastructure and support long-term economic prosperity in the region using available federal funding.

To that end, President Joe Biden had signed an executive order establishing Anderon’s working group to revitalize coal communities back in April. Its goal is to use a place-based approach to target energy communities where coal mines and power plants have closed and bolster them with federal investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Nearly 15 million Americans live in these communities, according to an LPM News analysis. Nearly three-quarters of them make less than the national median household income.

Anderson, who was born and raised in West Virginia, said his own grandfather was displaced by changing economic conditions when the coal mines shifted toward mechanization decades ago.

When he spoke at the Pineville forum in May, Anderson told LPM, officials and attendees that the working group had more than $900 billion in federal funding to share with energy communities across the country.

“ …which right now is just over $900 billion,” Anderson told LPM News. “Yes $900 billion with a B.”

The Interagency Working Group has since revised that number down by $228 billion.

The latest figure on the group’s website totaled $672 billion as of Thursday. When LPM asked about the discrepancy, spokesperson Mark Thompson said the group changed the top line funding after a review of funding opportunities.

Read the full statement below:

The Energy Communities IWG conducts continuous quality assessments of our clearinghouse data as well as receive updates from our agency partners to ensure the clearinghouse is current. The change in the top line funding was the result of these quality assessments and allowed us to gain additional clarity on planned funding opportunities. 

With more than 100 funding sources from the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act and annual appropriations, we are working to ensure the One Stop Shop is complete with resources and technical assistance to lower the barrier communities and workers face when accessing federal resources.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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