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Opinion: U.S. Rep Evan Jenkins – Reclaiming the potential of our coalfields

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins

By U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen the economy grow as President Trump follows through on his promises. We’re working together to roll back Obama-era anti-coal regulations, and consumer confidence is rising as more businesses are choosing to expand in the United States.

But in West Virginia, the legacy of the Obama administration’s war on coal and job-killing regulations lives on, with many families still struggling to make ends meet. Much still needs to be done to help us recover from the last eight years and to restore the jobs our state so desperately needs. We need to attract new businesses and industries to West Virginia to create these jobs and help diversify our economy, and one way we can do this is by redeveloping former mine sites.

I have teamed up with my colleagues on a bipartisan bill to help us do just that – reclaim our former mine lands and put them back to work for us. I’ve worked with Congressman Hal Rogers from eastern Kentucky to introduce the RECLAIM Act, which would bring nearly $200 million to West Virginia over five years.

Many of these sites are currently sitting vacant, and our towns and counties just don’t have the funds to redevelop these sites so that their job-creating potential can be unleashed. The RECLAIM Act will prioritize hard-hit states like West Virginia and help employ hundreds of laid-off West Virginians to prepare these sites for new developments and new industries. In addition, once these sites are open for business, new employers will create hundreds if not thousands of good-paying jobs.

Congressman Rogers and I are joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who introduced companion legislation in the United States Senate.

The bill is already making progress – last week the House Natural Resources Committee had a subcommittee hearing focusing on the bill. I’m hopeful the committee will vote on it soon, and if they do, there’s a very good chance it will come to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

In West Virginia, we’re already showing that we can reclaim our mine lands to create jobs. I helped secure more than $30 million in last year’s federal budget for pilot projects that are already underway in West Virginia. One such project is the Sullivan Industrial Park project in Raleigh County, an economic development site right at the crossroads of Interstates 64 and 77. I have toured this site with local leaders, and there are exciting opportunities ahead through possible joint ventures with the West Virginia National Guard.

From Webster and McDowell to Raleigh and Mercer counties, these projects will help get West Virginia working again.

Our towns, counties and states need the resources to rebuild, diversify our economy, attract new employers, create jobs, and give hope to the people who call Appalachia home. The RECLAIM Act will spur a new era of investment and revitalization in West Virginia and beyond. Together, we can create good-paying jobs in West Virginia for West Virginians.


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