ELI Public Seminar
With some of the highest poverty rates in the country, Appalachian communities stand at a post-coal crossroads between potential preeminence in the region’s energy supply and building resilient economies. The disparity of land ownership, long-lasting public health inequities, and unequal access to infrastructure (especially hospitals and highways) have all resulted in distinct environmental justice obstacles for communities throughout Appalachia.
Presently, only 2% of the Appalachian workforce is employed by the coal industry, and many have called for the emergence of new economic developments for greater prosperity. Many public interest groups advocate for an economic transition to foster “green collar” jobs as a major solution to the unemployment gap, and one that would train workers in renewable energy systems. How to catalyze this transition, however, remains uncertain. Competing with renewables is the natural gas industry transforming shale deposits into fuel with concerns that this approach, while offering short-term economic gains, may just reaffirm Appalachia’s historic fossil fuel dependency and lead to environmental problems. With uncertain paths to development and resilience, Appalachia’s fate demonstrates the complexity of how to navigate the intricate nexus of economic insecurity, inequality, and resource extraction in 21st century America.
Our expert panelists explored the potential of green energy innovation for fostering environmental justice and resilient economies in Appalachian communities.
James McElfish Jr., Director of Sustainable Use of Land Program, Environmental Law Institute, Moderator
Kate Boyle, Deputy Executive Director, Appalachian Voices
Emily Collins, Executive Director & Managing Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services
Jillian C. Kirn, Associate, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Cortney Piper, Co-Founder & Vice President, TN Advanced Energy Business Council and President, Piper Communications LLC
Mary Shoemaker, State Policy Analyst, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
ELI members will have access to a recording and any materials from this session (usually posted w/in 48 hours). If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.