MADISON, W.Va. (WVDN)– U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz returned to West Virginia last week to continue meeting with local community officials, residents, and stakeholders to talk about strategies for revitalizing the state’s coal communities.
“The Biden Administration is identifying communities across the country hard-hit by coal mining downturns and power plant closures.” Ortiz said. “These areas are being prioritized for federal funding and technical partnership assistance.”
“No state has suffered greater impact from this industrial downturn than West Virginia,” he continued. “No state has given more to America’s growth and economic prosperity than the people here in West Virginia who mined the coal that fed the power grid and fired the steel that fueled the Industrial Revolution. But West Virginians and Appalachians in general haven’t always benefited from the labor and resources that they’ve contributed to our country.”
On Wednesday, Ortiz and EPA staff gathered with a small group in Madison to talk about repurposing the former Hobet mine site that straddles Boone and Lincoln counties. Devanna Corely of SEVA-WV outlined her company’s plans underway to locate a large solar power farm on the site. Kris Mitchell of the Boone County Economic Development Authority described many ideas for the site involving multi-purpose use in industrial manufacturing, energy generation and tourism. Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 07) provided insight into the history of the site and how critical revitalization efforts are critical for the future of communities in the region.
After the meeting in Madison, Ortiz and the group toured the 6,000-acre Hobet mine site in side-by-side UTVs.
“The Boone County Development Authority Board of Directors is grateful to have Adam Ortiz and others from the EPA meet with us and visit our amazing site. We look forward to working with the EPA and our other federal partners on this transformational project,” said Mitchell.
Stollings added that, “We’ve been working on post-mine land use for more than 25 years. We appreciate the opportunity to share our vision with folks from EPA and see their positive response. It’s great that they want to help and provide technical support needed to revitalize our coal communities.”
The following day, Ortiz travelled to Hinton for a multi-agency meeting hosted by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Executive Director Jina Belcher assembled representatives from local government, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Summers County Commission and the offices of Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Shelley Capito. The group discussed strategies for funding local revitalization efforts, and how to form multi-agency alliances to achieve redevelopment goals in small towns.
Belcher said, “Economic development and sustainable tourism must be preceded by infrastructure maintenance and upgrades at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, especially with water quality. We are building the relationships and credibility to convene key players such as EPA, ARC, NPS and other funding agencies to learn how we can make the most of the opportunities they can bring to the table.”
Ortiz added, “For many of these coal communities, basic infrastructure needs like water and sewer are the biggest barrier to redevelopment. We’re looking for opportunities to help. EPA is more than just a regulatory agency. EPA is also a public health and community revitalization agency. We’re excited about building partnerships with local communities to help them build a more prosperous future.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act makes an unprecedented investment in water infrastructure to ensure clean and safe water for all—now and in the future. As we implement the BIL, EPA is committed to building on its productive partnership with states, tribes, and local governments to maximize the impact of these funds to meet our most urgent water challenges and to ensure all communities get their fair share of federal investment,” said Ortiz.
Some recent Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) projects in West Virginia include:
Town of Ansted, Fayette County received $4,267,074 from the CWSRF to purchase wastewater treatment plant equipment and upgrade/replace their pumping station.
The City of Smithers, Fayette County received $908,305 from the CWSRF for phase 2 of a wastewater/stormwater project. It is under construction and about 10% complete. .
The City of Mount Hope, Fayette County received $2,954,901 from the CWSRF to address sanitary sewer compliance. Construction is complete