Coal Country at a Crossroads Opens Floor for Pertinent Discussions

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On Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, March 20, a crucial topic was covered in depth when the Coal Country at a Crossroads event was hosted. This was a chance for a community conversation with federal representatives.

This began with an opening session and roundtable discussion on Tuesday before a tour of Helper was hosted. Everyone came together again on Wednesday and the day kicked off bright and early with breakfast and a welcome back at the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center on the USU Eastern campus.

Helper City Mayor, and current Carbon County Commissioner candidate, Lenise Peterman opened the morning by stating that in the process for this event, listening sessions were discussed. Mayor Peterman was able to meet with officials in Washington and had requested some of them visit during the session. The goal was to aim at the unique challenges the area faces, dealing with aging infrastructure, developing workforce skills for new industries and more.

There came a desire to establish connections to both resources and programs. Mayor Peterman expressed hope that there would be excitement and possibilities shared for all, before introducing Ben Beachy, Special Assistant to the President for Climate Policy.

Beachy gave thanks for his invitation and stated that he was primarily in attendance to listen. He said it was great to be at the event and he was looking forward to the days’ conversations to figure out how to work out all of the funding for economic development. Beachy then stated that, from day one, the Biden/Harris administration has been very committed to ensuring workers and communities that have empowered this nation for generations are the ones that are reaping the benefits.

Beachy himself is from a small coal community in West Virginia and he has witnessed firsthand what happens when communities that have given so much are abandoned. In three years, according to Beachy, the administration has spent 20 million on coal communities, which is part of the Investing in America agenda.

Beachy acknowledged that it is not enough to just offer federal funding and that there is a need to convert the wave of funding into good jobs and locally-driven economic development. He stated that when you match local leadership with federal investments, coal communities can lead the way so that nobody is left behind. There is a desire to move from setback to comeback and the only way to get there is by learning from the communities.

Following Beachy, Elijah Waters from the Green River District spoke. Waters is the Active District Manager and when he is not doing that, he is in northwest Colorado. He spoke about a powerline that will span four states, including Utah. It is the largest renewable transmission line in the west and will transport renewable energy to markets into the southwest.

Waters stated that the notice to proceed on this powerline has been 15 years in the making and comes from great collaboration. It will cost three billion to make, but will employ over 1,000 in the construction phase alone.

Waters wished to emphasize that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be at the table and part of the conversation. As alternative energy sources are developed, such as solar, wind and hydro, public lands will undoubtedly be involved in one way or another.

Further energy-wise conversation was hosted before Mayor Peterman drew the welcome portion of the morning to a close, stating that they had assembled an amazing group of resources.

Following such a successful introduction to the second day of the event, the discussion was moved over to the Southeastern Regional Development Agency (SERDA) building, were successful projects connected to federal investments were highlighted with a number of speakers, such as Emery Telcom and Carbon and Emery County Economic Development Committee’s Brock Johansen.

The day continued with two separate breakout sessions, a lunch, and a listening session closeout where those in attendance had a chance to share what was learned.

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