WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2022 – The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Energy Communities IWG), today announced the creation and launch of a new Illinois Basin Rapid Response Team (RRT), bringing together 11 federal agencies to partner with local officials and community leaders in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to support the region’s transition to a clean energy economy.
“Energy workers and their communities in the Illinois Basin face enormous challenges as local oil, gas and coal facilities close down as part of the nation transitions to a clean energy economy. The Biden-Harris Administration made billions of dollars available for energy communities across America to spur economic diversification, advance workforce development, clean up environmentally damaged sites and more,” said Energy Communities IWG Director Brian Anderson, PhD.
The new RRT will align federal resources, including regional staff on the ground in the Illinois Basin area, toward key communities experiencing recent or imminent economic downturns from coal mine and power plant closures. Federal agencies serving on the RRT will partner with these workers, communities, and public officials to support them with mapping their current assets and opportunities, navigating and accessing federal funding and technical assistance, and leveraging significant new funding opportunities available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to equity in Rural America begins by ensuring that people in rural places receive the same opportunities people in cities receive to build-up their local economies and create jobs, improve their infrastructure, and strengthen their communities with federal resources,” said USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Farah Ahmad. “Today’s announcement is the beginning of an effort that will provide critical on-the-ground technical assistance and lay the framework for better and more diverse economic opportunities for the people living in America’s energy communities in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA is a strong partner to people in rural towns because we know when rural America prospers, all of America prospers.”
Stakeholders interested in partnering with and providing input to the RRT can send an email to Contact@EnergyCommunities.gov. The RRT will reach back out to stakeholders with a compilation of meeting notes, points of contact, and next steps soon.
Today’s announcement comes on the second day of a two-day visit by federal leaders to Carbondale. On Wednesday, federal officials toured energy and manufacturing facilities in the area, including the John A. Logan Solar Project, Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale’s Airport & Automotive Program and the university’s iFERM (Illinois Food, Entrepreneurship, Research, and Manufacturing) Hub. Energy Communities IWG also hosted a public workshop today at SIU engaging community leaders, highlighting relevant federal funding, and identifying opportunities for regional economic diversification and growth in response to coal mine and power plant closures.
Historical investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act present energy communities with a multitude of opportunities to revitalize communities, diversify workforces, and support energy workers.
The Illinois Basin RRT is modeled after similar efforts piloted in Wyoming and the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. The IWG will announce additional regional RRTs in the upcoming months. The RRT effort is part of the IWG’s core goal of creating a national network of assistance for energy communities that is community-driven, in partnership with federal, state, tribal, local, and non-governmental organizations and leaders.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
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