Congress jumped into the coal-economy debate this week with two separate bills to create employment by freeing up federal reclamation funds. Groups that have promoted the approach prefer the bill that would tie spending more closely to economic development.
Kentuckian Sarah Bowling thinks Appalachia’s economic future is tied to coal, but not in the way you might think.
She’d like the federal government to stimulate jobs restoring mine lands, not making more of them.
“You go up the hollers in East Kentucky, there’s abandoned, rusty equipment all over the place,” said Bowling, a native of Pikeville, Kentucky. “Up the creek, there’s a sludge pond just sitting there. There’s waste all over the place.”
She says that the signs of a contracting coal industry and the need for jobs to replace work in the coalfields are everywhere you look.
Bowling is part of a regional effort to accomplish just that. She’s a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grassroots organizing group involved with a regional campaign with hopes for economic development and diversification in the region’s coal-dependent communities.
Dubbed the RECLAIM Act, the package of policies seeks to direct mine reclamation resources toward new investments in jobs and opportunities…