Thursday, July 22, 2021

ReImagine Appalachia Coalition Applauds New Civilian Conservation Corps Proposal from Senator Bob Casey

On July 22, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced new legislation to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) titled the “The REVIVE the CCC Act of 2021” or “The Restore Environmental Vitality and Improve Volatile Economy (REVIVE) by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Act”. 

The bill would expand opportunity and lay the foundation for a brighter future as communities across Appalachia and across the country face devastating economic conditions as well as the effects of the climate crisis. 

Shortly before the bill was introduced, Senator Casey joined The Atlantic Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and ReImagine Appalachia for an event to speak more about the bill and hear from community leaders about the potential for this bill (link to event details and recording here). 

The CCC was a New Deal Program created during the Great Depression to put people to work in conservation, preserving natural resources. Senator Casey’s proposal for a revitalized CCC would create federal conservation jobs, support agricultural conservation, mine reclamation and other innovative economic development, and includes measures to ensure the benefits of the bill support environmental justice communities. 

The bill comes after months of close collaboration with regional advocates, including ReImagine Appalachia, to ensure that the policy would help communities most impacted by the combined impacts of the downturn of the fossil fuel industry, the pandemic, and an ongoing opioid epidemic that has devastated families. 

“Reviving the CCC under the proposal set forth by Senator Casey would not only heal our land, help communities prepare for the impacts of climate change, and support innovative new community and economic efforts, it would invest in training to help prepare those struggling with the economic downturn for family sustaining careers,” said Amanda Woodrum, Policy Matters Ohio Senior Researcher and Co-Director of the ReImagine Appalachia Coalition. 

“We applaud Senator Casey for proposing a CCC which intentionally includes the people displaced from the coal industry, those excluded  due to  racism, and those blocked from opportunities due to mass incarceration. We need to build a new economy focused on addressing the injustices that have been levied against the land and the people of Appalachia,” said Wendy Tarr, Director of Accompanying Returning Citizens with Hope, a project of the Vincentian Ohio Action Network. 

ReImagine Appalachia published jobs studies that have shown even modest investments in a revitalized CCC could create tens of thousands of jobs in the Appalachian region alone, as well as a  whitepaper that noted ways that a modern CCC could break barriers for people who have had difficulty securing good-paying jobs, such as people with a conviction in their past. 

Seventy million Americans—one in three adults—have a criminal record. Senator Casey’s bill includes measures that could help bridge this gap by including priority hiring for returning citizens.

“It is especially important that this CCC proposal prioritizes Black and Indigenous people, working people with low incomes,, rural workers and returning citizens. We must support this bill and other plans that reverse the consequences of mass incarceration, by lifting barriers to the formerly incarcerated, those battling with opioid addiction, and their families,” said Quenton King, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst at WV Center on Budget and Policy. 

"We applaud the modern CCC initiative in SB 2414. It can contribute to job creation as well as carbon absorption by restoring wetlands, planting millions of diverse, native plants and trees, and removing invasive trees and shrubs. A New CCC Program can help farmers implement regenerative practices to restore the land damaged by extractive industry practices over the last decades. It could create cheaper, better ways to protect and purify our water supply, support nature-based recreation and tourism, and grow local economies," Dr. Patricia DeMarco, Vice President, Forest Hills Borough Council, Chair of CONNECT.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko released this statement on the bill:

“Rebooting the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps to combat the 21st century threat of climate change is an idea whose time has come. CBF applauds Sen. Casey for responding with legislation that would also create jobs and tackle the environmental and economic injustices facing underserved communities. 

“CBF is particularly pleased Sen. Casey’s bill recognizes the critical role farmers can play fighting climate change. Conservation measures that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such planting cover crops and rotational grazing, are also essential to curbing the farm runoff that continues to pollute local streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. 

“Saving the Bay and increasing resiliency to climate change are two sides of the same coin. CBF applauds Sen. Casey for addressing these intertwined imperatives in his REVIVE the CCC Act of 2021. We are proud to support this bill.”

“Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a program like the Civilian Climate Corps," said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. "In its comprehensiveness, the program will rightly bring resources to rural and urban Pennsylvania. Our natural infrastructure can be protected and improved by putting people back to work through a CCC. So will the program build capacity in communities that have been subject to historic pollution and debilitating heat island effects.”

“PennFuture’s “A Green Stimulus and Recovery Platform for Pennsylvania” report identifies tens of thousands of jobs that could be created to maintain our state forests and parks, address legacy pollution—including more than 100,000 abandoned oil and gas wells—and to improve water quality and climate resilience through stream buffers. 

“We eagerly anticipate a new generation of Americans working to conserve, preserve and restore our public lands and waters, all while addressing the climate crisis at our doorstep. PennFuture welcomes the chance to engage with Sen. Casey on this bill, and as this program gets up and running in Pennsylvania.”

“In Pennsylvania, Appalachia, and across the United States, CCC pathways to living-wage careers in climate response and other outdoor work could provide a literal lifeline to many men, a chance to contribute and a reason for renewed optimism about the future,” said Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, Director of the Keystone Research Center. 

The ReImagine Appalachia Coalition envisions an Appalachia where everyone is paid enough to support themselves and their family, future generations can put down roots, and all people have clean air to breathe and water to drink. 

Their policy blueprint outlines these values and a recent jobs study has shown that enacting the Reimagine Appalachia blueprint could create nearly half a million jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio alone. Nearly 100 diverse organizations have now endorsed the ReImagine Appalachia blueprint.

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[Posted: July 22, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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