BlueGreen Alliance | Fairness for Workers/Methane

Fairness for Workers and Communities

America’s energy transition is well underway, but a transition that is fair for workers and communities isn’t something that will happen organically. Prioritizing and targeting federal resources to workers and communities in places impacted by this shift must be a deliberate choice. A broad range of policy measures and funding are needed to support these workers and communities, a few of which are included in the BIL. In particular, the bill includes a strong focus on environmental remediation and provides some funding for clean energy deployment, manufacturing, and other economic support for communities impacted by energy transition. 

For generations, coal-dependent areas have built their economies around coal, not only for the employment of their citizens, but for the revenue that supports their schools, infrastructure, and small businesses. As demand for coal decreases, these communities face an uncertain future. Because these regions are often geographically isolated and coal facilities are frequently a primary direct and indirect employer of workers across multiple counties, the economic and social infrastructure of a region undergoes lasting changes when facilities close. For every one direct coal job that has been lost, four other jobs have disappeared in these communities, meaning a quarter of a million jobs already have been lost. This leads to devastating impacts on communities, workers, and their families. For example, in Central and Northern Appalachia, poverty levels have either remained stagnant or increased in around 95 counties. While there is no policy “silver bullet” that can fully address this transition, reclamation and reclaimed lands have the potential to be reused as sites that spur new economic opportunities and job creation in these communities, while improving the health and safety of these communities.

The BIL provides significant funding for environmental remediation, including abandoned coal mine (AML) reclamation funding ($11.3 billion), orphaned well cleanup ($4.7 billion), and authorizes a new abandoned hardrock mine cleanup fund. It also reauthorizes the AML fee for abandoned coal mines. The bill includes language that prioritizes hiring dislocated coal workers for AML projects, and encourages the aggregation of contracts to help attract bids from unionized contractors. 

The additional funding in the BIL for Superfund ($3.5 billion) and Brownfield ($1.5 billion) remediation will also have a positive impact on communities as hazardous sites are reclaimed. These contaminated sites, often former chemical plants, power plants, landfills, or manufacturing facilities, pose risks to the environment and human health. Redeveloping and reclaiming these sites can increase local tax revenues and residential property values, all while creating jobs and reducing pollution.  

Reclamation not only remediates the host of environmental and health problems associated with these sites but also frees up that land for new, more sustainable economic development opportunities in industry sectors like agriculture, recreational tourism, manufacturing, and clean energy production. It also creates immediate job opportunities. A recent BlueGreen Alliance analysis found that the BIL’s $21 billion investment in the remediation of Superfund, Brownfield, mine reclamation, and orphaned wells would create more than 150,000 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) over the next 10 years. 

The BIL also reauthorizes and provides funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) ($1 billion), a federal-state partnership spanning 13 Appalachian states that invests in infrastructure development, job and entrepreneurship training, economic development planning, business incubation and industry hub strategies, and other services that are critical to revitalize and diversify local and regional economies. Additional funding boosts the ARC’s ability to provide resources to leverage regional partnerships and support efforts, and create and sustain a better economic future for communities in Appalachia. 

Finally, the BIL designates $500 million for clean energy demonstration projects on current or former mine land, including, solar, micro-grids, geothermal, DAC, CCUS, energy storage, and advanced nuclear, as well as $750 million for a grant program for clean technology manufacturing and industrial emissions reduction investment targeted to coal communities. This program focuses on enabling small- and medium-sized manufacturers to build new, or retrofit existing, manufacturing and industrial facilities to produce or recycle advanced energy products in communities where coal mines or coal power plants have closed. This investment will help establish, expand, or retool clean and advanced energy, vehicle, and technology factories in states and regions—like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado—that have faced job loss and economic devastation due to plant or mine closures.

Category Program Name and Description Funding Level Administering Agency or Office Funding mechanism Timeline Standards Eligible Entities
Environmental Remediation Abandoned Mine Land program – Provides additional funding for annual grants to states and Indian Tribes for abandoned mine land and water reclamation projects. $11.293 Billion DOI – Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Existing – Formula Grants FY22; until expended Bid aggregation; priority for employment for current and former employees of the coal industry; Davis Bacon Certified/uncertified States and Indian Tribes
Abandoned Mine Land fee – Reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine land fee, reduces fee rates for AML Fund to 22.4 cents per ton of coal produced by surface coal mining, 9.6 cents per ton of coal produced by underground mining, and 6.4 cents per ton for lignite coal. n/a DOI – Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Existing 2034 n/a n/a
Abandoned hardrock mine reclamation – Establishes a new program within DOI to inventory, assess, decommission, reclaim, respond to hazardous substance releases on, and remediate abandoned hardrock mine land. $3 Billion (authorized but not appropriated) DOI – Bureau of Land Management New – Formula Grants Until expended Davis Bacon States and Indian Tribes that have jurisdiction over abandoned hardrock mine land to reclaim that land.
Orphaned wells – Establishes a program to plug, remediate, and reclaim orphaned wells located on Federal land. Provides initial grants, formula grants and performance grants to States/Indian tribes to remediate/plug wells or measure emissions. $4.7 Billion DOI – Bureau of Land Management New – Formula and Performance Grants FY2030 Davis Bacon States and Indian Tribes
Superfund – Provide additional funding for all costs associated with Superfund: Remedial activities. $3.5 Billion EPA – Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) Existing – Formula Grants Until expended Not subject to cost share; Davis Bacon States and Indian Tribes
Brownfields – Provides additional funding for Brownfields competitive grants while raising grant caps for half of the competitive grant funding. $1.5 Billion EPA – Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization (OBLR) Existing – Competitive Grants and Categorical Grants FY2022-FY2026 Not subject to cost share; Davis Bacon States and Indian Tribes
Economic Development and Clean Energy Deployment Appalachian Regional Commission – Reauthorizes the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) at $200,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. This funding includes set aside of $5 million a year to create Regional Energy Hubs, and $20 billion a year to deploy high-speed broadband in the Appalachian region. $1 Billion Appalachian Regional Commission Existing – Project Prants FY2022-FY2026 Davis Bacon State and local agencies and governmental entities, local governing boards, and nonprofit organizations. Indian tribes and higher education institutions.
Advanced Energy Manufacturing and Recycling Grants – Grants for establishing or retooling a factory to produce a wide range of clean technologies (including renewable energy and EV components) or to reduce emissions manufacturing facilities in “energy communities”; also see Table 5. $750 Million DOE – Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy New – Competitive Grants, Technical Assistance FY22-FY26 Davis Bacon; Priority for job creation in low-income and dislocated worker communities and minority-owned facilities Manufacturing firm—
(A) the gross annual sales of which are less than $100,000,000;
(B) that has fewer than 500 employees at the plant site of the manufacturing firm; and
(C) the annual energy bills of which total more than $100,000 but less than $2,500,000.
Solar energy technologies on current and former mine land – Requires the DOE to create a report of the viability of siting solar energy on current and former mine land, including necessary interconnection, transmission siting, and the impact on local job creation. n/a DOE n/a n/a n/a n/a
Clean energy demonstration program on current and former mine land – Establish a program to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of carrying out clean energy projects on current and former mine land. $500 Million DOE – Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations New – Cooperative Agreements FY22-FY26 Davis Bacon; Priority for job creation in low-income and dislocated worker communities To be eligible to be selected for participation in the program, a clean energy project shall demonstrate, as determined by the Secretary, a technology on a current or former mine land site with a reasonable expectation of commercial viability.
Community Development and Infrastructure Broadband deployment – Grants for purposes of broadband deployment. Multiple programs: (1) the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program ($42.45 billion), (2) the Affordable Connectivity Program ($14.2 billion); (3) Digital Equity Planning, Capacity and Competitive Grants ($2.75 billion); (4) the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program ($2 billion), (5) Rural Broadband Programs at the Department of Agriculture ($2 billion); (6) the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program ($1 billion); and (7) Private Activity Bonds ( ~$600 million). $65 Billion across multiple programs/agencies Department of Commerce – National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and USDA Rural Utilities Service; Others New and Existing – Formula Grants and Private Activity Bonds

USDA ReConnect: Project Grants and Direct Loans

Until expended Buy America; prioritizes unserved and underserved service projects; 25% match required States; Corporations, Limited Liability Companies and Limited Liability Partnerships, Cooperatives or mutual organizations. States or local governments, including any agency, subdivision, instrumentality of political subdivision thereof A territory or possession of the United States, An Indian Tribe.

Rounding Out the Build Back Better Agenda: Energy Transition

While the bipartisan deal makes a significant investment in environmental remediation, including cleaning up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines and orphaned gas wells, and funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, it leaves out other critical energy transition investments. It does not include investments to support dislocated energy workers, assistance with state/local revenue shortfalls, additional long-term funding for the Economic Development Administration and other key programs, or a ten year extension of the black lung excise tax.

Methane and Natural Gas Distribution

America’s natural gas distribution pipeline system is a network of more than one million miles of pipe—pipe underneath our cities and towns that supply energy to homes and businesses. Significant portions of this network were constructed during the 1930’s or earlier, and it’s estimated up to 10% is made of leak-prone materials. 

Methane—the primary component of natural gas—is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Repairing and replacing leak-prone pipelines will reduce emissions and has the potential to create quality, family-sustaining jobs.

The BIL includes $1 billion over five years for a new Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant program at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). This funding will support municipality and community-owned utilities as they undertake natural gas distribution pipeline repair, rehabilitation, or replacement projects. Projects awarded grants in this program have to consider the risk profile of the pipeline system, the potential for job creation and economic growth from the project, and the potential of the project to benefit disadvantaged rural and urban communities. 

Category Program Name and Description Funding Level Administering Agency or Office Funding mechanism Timeline Standards Eligible Entities
Reduce Methane Emissions and Leaks Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant Program – to make competitive grants for the modernization of natural gas distribution pipelines. $1 Billion DOT – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration New – Competitive Grants FY22-FY26 Priority for potential for benefiting disadvantaged rural and urban communities. Municipality or community owned utility (not including for-profit entities)