West Virginia Sen. John D. Rockefeller recently introduced a bill to Congress that would stop the EPA from regulating the carbon emissions produced by power plants and other stationary emitters for two years. This is one of many recent attempts to undermine the EPA's authority to address climate change, as established by the Clean Air Act.
According to Rockefeller, we must hold off on emission reduction in order to protect our jobs and our economy, both of which are tied intricately to the coal industry. Rockefeller has fought adamantly against government-sanctioned reduction of greenhouse gases, but continues to ignore the fact that reduction will not happen voluntarily. Such a blatantly pro-coal move from one of our states leading Democrats has really cast a shadow on West Virginia environmentalism.
Over 20,000 West Virginians rely directly on coal corporations to make a living. With Senator Rockefeller's recent attacks against the EPA, it has become clearer than ever that as long as coal mining continues to dominate West Virginia's economy, it will be very challenging to pass any legislation to control the environmental degradation associated with it.
Fortunately, I recently stumbled across some reassurance that coal corporations may not always be the number one employer in West Virginia. A non-profit group called West Virginia Greenworks
, which is sponsored by the West Virginia Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, has begun the process of training West Virginians for green jobs in the state. The organization has taken a serious stake in green jobs as a way to diversify our state's economy, and as a means to escape both the causes and effects of poverty.
Greenworks will offer West Virginians workforce training to prepare them for careers in a variety of fields such as high-performance building, water management and sustainable forestry. Participants may learn how to install solar panels, develop biofuel alternatives, or do home energy ratings. Though green industry may not yet be thriving in West Virginia, it is definitely growing. As the green market begins to gain speed, training provided by Greenforce will allow sustainable companies to look for employees within the state — rather than looking for outside workforces.
Though job training seems to be the most important of Greenworks objectives, the group also displays a strong desire to build a coalition out of groups with similar causes. Industries, agencies and organizational advocates who have a vested interest in green business can use Greenworks as a resource to connect with similar endeavors. As more and more corporations band together, green jobs will play a bigger role in our state's economic growth and environmental sustainability.
Though Greenworks is most certainly not capable of completely saving West Virginia from environmental peril, it is a long anticipated step in the right direction. West Virginia's legislators have been using jobs and economics as an excuse against environmental legislation for far too long. We all get it: coal companies directly and indirectly provide the majority of West Virginians with jobs. Now let's actually do something to change that! As the Greenworks slogan perfectly states, it is time we "Rethink. Retrain. Reclaim."