Charleston, W.V. – On September 11, 2023, the American Security Project (ASP) joined the University of Charleston (UC) to host a panel discussion on the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) impact on West Virginia. Since being signed into law on August 16, 2022, the IRA has represented a $370 billion investment in domestic clean energy and economic development. During the panel discussion, panelists discussed the opportunities that the IRA presents to West Virginia’s small businesses, communities, and citizens.
President of the University of Charleston, Dr. Martin Roth delivered welcoming remarks, thanking panelists and guests for attending the discussion hosted at UC’s Erma Byrd Gallery. “West Virginia has a rich history of energy production,” said Roth. “The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will help West Virginia maintain its status as one of the leading energy producing states, with an all-of-the-above portfolio approach.”
Dr. Kristen Dugan, Dean of the School of Leadership, Associate Professor and Doctor of Executive Leadership Program at the University of Charleston moderated the discussion.
“The Inflation Reduction Act represents over $370 billion in clean energy investments including grants, rebates, and incentives for clean energy, technology, manufacturing, and innovation,” said Dugan. “With such a significant of money available in federal funding, we would like to take the time to learn what is possible for West Virginia.”
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was instrumental in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022. Alex Hewitt, a representative of Senator Manchin, addressed the crowd stating, “Senator Manchin believes this is a revolutionary bill for the state and has brought in a lot of great jobs and will continue to do so in the future.”
Before the discussion began, Dr. Dugan led the Pledge of Allegiance and offered a moment of silence for the victims and loved ones affected by the tragedy on September 11, 2001.
The panel featured Retired Major General and Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the University of Charleston, Dr. John Barnette, Jessica Yllemo, Director of Climate Security Programs with the American Security Project, and Justin Williams, Director of the West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades.
Dr. Barnette joined the panel to discuss the importance of leadership that is necessary to allow the United States to progress. As a Veteran and former General of West Virginia’s National Guard, he addressed America’s resiliency after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and how proper executive leadership can guide our country through anything.
“The Inflation Reduction Act can make a difference in areas of the state that are hurting most,” said Barnette regarding the benefits of the legislation. “The IRA presents an opportunity to revitalize our community and economy. It’s an opportunity to use our collective determination to overcome challenges and create a brighter future. Similar to the events of 9/11, our economy has suffered a devastating blow, but these challenges reveal the spirit of the American people to heal and sustain itself and thrive.”
The American Security Project was represented during the discussion by Jessica Yllemo, who discussed the Inflation Reduction Act’s implementation and how communities can advantage of its provisions.
“You can reach out to the West Virginia Department of Energy and your local officials to point you in the right direction to access these funds,” said Yllemo. “West Virginia has been affected by population decline but can improve its workforce through the IRA. This is really important time for us to harness these opportunities to launch ourselves into a better future for our children”
As a representative of labor in West Virginia, Williams discussed how the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act is putting thousands of West Virginians to work. “There are a number of things from the IRA that are beneficial to West Virginia and our workers, each of these projects mentioned today are new clean manufacturing opportunities that provide jobs for people to sustain their families and to build a career,” said Williams. “The West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades is made up of 13 construction and trade unions. We have about 24,000 union construction workers in West Virginia, and we have people in every community that take pride in their work.”
As the discussion came to an end, panelists answered questions from the audience regarding how to access the IRA’s incentives and programs. While the panelists each came from different professional backgrounds, each agreed that the Inflation Reduction Act presented strong opportunities for West Virginia to diversify its energy portfolio and to maintain its status as a leader in energy production.