Advocates of a regional plan for reinventing the economy see the future creation of 250,000 green energy-related jobs in Pennsylvania, if what they term “a bold federal stimulus package” is passed by Congress and the Biden administration.
“We need to make Pennsylvania a leader in green energy ... and a leader in bringing (green energy) manufacturing to this state,” Rob Bair, business manager of Harrisburg-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 143, said during a conference call Thursday by advocates of Reimagine Appalachia.
But a study made public by the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst predicts disproportionate job losses over the decade to come as the fossil fuel industry contracts in such areas as Indiana County.
Still, Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute predicted that renewable energy will bring “job creation in a wide range of activities” and “deliver lower energy costs to Pennsylvanians.”
Reimagine Appalachia calls itself “a broad and inclusive coalition of individuals and organizations” in a multi-state region which includes Pennsylvania, “born out of a broad recognition that the economy has not been working for most people and places in the Ohio River Valley.”
Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, calls the Massachusetts-Amherst study “extraordinarily timely,” coinciding with President Joe Biden’s signing of an executive order that ends federal subsidies for fossil fuels, aims to double U.S. offshore wind capacity by 2030, and directs infrastructure planning to accelerate a transmission and clean energy buildout.
Also, according to the industry publication Utility Dive, Biden’s order includes “reviewing mining and drilling activities on public lands and directing federal investments toward creating new job opportunities for fossil fuel workers.”
The economists quoted by Reimagine Appalachia predict widespread fossil fuel job losses over the next decade, including 1,216, or 5 percent, of the total private sector workforce in Indiana County; 443, or 3.2 percent of that workforce in Armstrong County; 665, or 2.6 percent of the Clearfield County workforce; and 342, or 2.4 percent of the Jefferson County workforce.
“One part of the ReImagine plan (and) the Biden Executive Order ... is making the communities that lose jobs priorities for investment in sustainable jobs,” Herzenberg said. “Our campaign likes to say, it’s not about training people for jobs they don’t want in places they don’t want to go to; it’s about providing people with equivalent new jobs in the places they call home.”
While Indiana County gets multiple mentions in the 135-page report, a spokeswoman for Reimagine Appalachia conceded that it’s hard to speak to individual counties.
“But we have seen counties across the region have county taxes bottom out due to energy shifts/mining shifts,” Dana Kuhnline said. “It’s something we have to be forward about findings solutions for. The report goes into details about this.”
She also conceded that she is not familiar enough with Indiana University of Pennsylvania to address specifics, but said IUP and other educational facilities are an area for growth that needs to be part of the solution.
“The most important thing is we have a plan and advocate hard for these communities,” Kuhline continued. “Places in West Virginia that didn’t have plans for coal mining decreases are seeing very hard times. (We) don’t want to see that replicated anywhere.”
Herzenberg pointed to “Climate Action Plans” that are being developed at county and municipal locations in 40 Pennsylvania locations, including Indiana Borough.
“We can help communities take the next (step) from climate action plans — to climate action implementation, (which) means learning from the growing number of places that are growing solar, wind, broadband, micro-hydro, regenerative agriculture, clean manufacturing ... and doing those things in more and more places across Pennsylvania,” the Keystone Research Center director said.
Through the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Local Climate Action Assistance Program, borough Planning & Zoning official Nicholas Zimny-Shea said last year, “our municipality was paired with students from Temple University and Penn State University to complete a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory and climate planning template.”
Borough spokesman Kyle Mudry said Thursday that Indiana Borough Council will vote on a resolution at its Agenda Prep meeting this coming Tuesday night.
“If that resolution is approved, then (the) borough will formally adopt the climate action plan,” Mudry said.