MADISON, West Virginia (WVDN) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz returned to West Virginia last week to continue meeting with local community leaders, residents and stakeholders to discuss strategies for revitalizing coal communities in the state.
“The Biden administration identifies communities across the country hard hit by coal mining downturns and power plant shutdowns.” Ortiz said. “These areas are priorities for federal funding and technical partnership assistance.”
“No state has suffered a greater impact from this industrial downturn than West Virginia,” he continued. “No state gave more to America’s economic growth and prosperity than the people of West Virginia who mined the coal that powered the electric grid and fired the steel that fueled the Industrial Revolution. But West Virginia and Appalachia in general have not always benefited from the manpower and resources they have brought to our country.
On Wednesday, Ortiz and EPA staff met 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 described her company’s ongoing plans to locate a large solar power plant at the site. Kris Mitchell of the Boone County Economic Development Authority described many ideas for the site involving multipurpose use in industrial manufacturing, power generation and tourism. Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 07) provided insight into the site’s history and how critical revitalization efforts are critical to the future of communities in the area.
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 other EPA members meet with us and tour our incredible site. We look forward to working with the EPA and our other federal partners on this transformational project,” said Mitchell.
Stollings added: “We have been working on post-mining land use for over 25 years. We appreciate the opportunity to share our vision with the folks at EPA and see their positive response. It’s great that they want to help and provide the technical support needed to revitalize our coal communities.
The next day, Ortiz traveled to Hinton for a multi-agency meeting hosted by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Executive Director Jina Belcher brought together representatives from local government, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the County Commission of Summers and the offices of Senators Joe Manchin and 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 the maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure in New River Gorge National Park and Reserve, particularly with regard to water quality. We build the relationships and credibility to bring together key players such as the 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 impediment to redevelopment. We look for opportunities to help. The EPA is more than just a regulatory agency. The EPA is also a public health and community revitalization agency. We are excited to partner 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, safe water for all, now and in the future. As we implement the BIL, EPA is committed to leveraging its productive partnership with states, tribes, and local governments to maximize the impact of these funds to address our most pressing challenges in water issues and ensuring that all communities get their fair share of federal investment,” Ortiz said.
Some recent Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) projects in West Virginia include:
The Town of Ansted in Fayette County received $4,267,074 from the CWSRF to purchase sewage treatment plant equipment and upgrade/replace its pumping station.
The Town of Smithers in 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 Town of Mount Hope in Fayette County received $2,954,901 from the CWSRF to ensure sanitary sewer compliance. Construction is complete