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Congress Infrastructure

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks with reporters as he walks at the Capitol in Washington on June 24.

HUNTINGTON — Elected officials spoke in favor of federal legislation that would support clean energy and infrastructure Thursday.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, and Del. Jim Barach, D-Kanawha, called on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to support a White House plan dubbed the “Build Back Better” budget, which calls for $3.5 trillion to rebuild the U.S. economy.

The Associated Press has reported that Manchin called for a “strategic pause” when it came to the bill in an op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,” Manchin wrote.

“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.”

Manchin has long opposed the $3.5 trillion amount despite voting in favor of a resolution that set the amount, the AP reported. The package would be paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy and proposes billions for rebuilding domestic infrastructure, tackling climate change and expanding or introducing a range of services, from free pre-kindergarten classes for children to dental, vision and hearing aid care for seniors, the AP reported.

Congress needs to pass a budget that “makes big, bold and immediate investments in clean energy” to provide families with clean-energy jobs, build resilient communities and reduce pollution that causes weather disasters and threatens public health, Williams said.

The mayor noted flash flooding in Huntington last month. The city saw about 5 inches of rain within a one-hour period. During the rain, four of Huntington’s five underpasses were closed because of flooding. Whether a city has a modern stormwater system or a 1940s or 1950s system like Huntington, “you’re not going to be able to stop that kind of flooding,” he said.

As for an example of local clean-energy jobs and resources, Williams pointed to Solar Holler, which is a project of Coalfield Development. Williams said that as a result of the project, former manufacturing workers and coal miners have been retrained to install solar roof panels.

“The key is that being bold has magic and genius in it,” Williams said. “And I’m pleased to know that Senator Manchin has been leading in this, and we’re relying upon him to continue moving forward in supporting a ‘Build Back Better’ budget so that we are in a position in the Ohio River Valley and throughout Appalachia to be able to bring green jobs, build manufacturing and be able to make sure that we’re getting clean energy as we continue to move our community forward.”

Barach, a former meteorologist, said extreme weather events are stressing fragile infrastructure. He noted that in addition to the flooding Williams referred to, Huntington experienced severe ice storms this year. Other parts of the country are seeing wildfires as well as frequent record-high temperatures and rainfall.

“That’s why we need this … legislation. We need to move away from carbon-producing fossil fuels that will reverse the effects of climate change and cut back on pollution, and, of course, getting more electric vehicles on the road will help on both of those,” he said.

Producing electric vehicles, including buses and trucks, could be an opportunity for West Virginia to go along with where the country’s job training is already heading as well as bring in jobs for West Virginia families, Hornbuckle said.

“The coal miners, whether in the south or the north, all the manufacturing plants, they have carried our water,” he said. “It is time for us to repay them and make sure that we can put money back in their pocket. They can keep on ticking and making a good living.”

Skip Bailey of IBEW Local 317 said he would encourage Manchin, as well as U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and others within West Virginia, to support the budget. He said he has seen more projections for solar projects in Kentucky and Ohio, but not to the same extent within the Mountain State.

“Let’s don’t wait until they’re all out and then start doing this. Let’s get on board now,” Bailey said.

Lucia Valentine, the West Virginia organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, also urged support for the legislation, as well as taking action to support the state’s “economy, create jobs and target different sources of pollution.” Moms Clean Air Force advocates against air pollution.

“Today we are here to specifically talk about the need for bold investments in clean-energy production and building a pollution-free transportation sector,” she said. “These actions can move West Virginia forward in modernizing our transportation sector, creating good-paying jobs right here in our state, while reducing the carbon pollution that has contributed to increasing extreme weather events that we’re seeing across the country.”

McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, covering local government in Huntington and Cabell County. Follow her on Twitter @Mckennahorsley.

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