‘Marshall Plan for Middle America’ calls for billions to be spent to help Western Pa. go green
Tom Davidson, Tribune Review
More than a year ago, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called for a massive investment in middle America the likes of which hasn’t been seen in recent memory. He testified before the U.S. Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis and called for what he called a “Marshall Plan for the Midwest.”
He likened the investment needed in the region to the billions that were spent rebuilding Europe after World War II under the Marshall Plan.
Those ideas are now encapsulated in the Marshall Plan for Middle America Roadmap put together between July and October by a nonpartisan group of academics led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Business. The 44-page plan was released last week. The center’s associate director, Leslie Marshall, is the lead author.
The region will be left behind, Peduto said, if leaders don’t react to the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy. He likened what’s happening now to what happened four decades ago when the steel industry collapsed.
“We must not make the same mistake twice,” Peduto said.
The plan was touted by Peduto and has support from mayors of Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Youngstown, Ohio; Huntington and Morgantown, W.Va.; and Louisville, Ky.
“(Peduto’s) idea is not new — other policymakers, academics and analysts have been researching and advocating for a ‘Just Transition’ for the region for some time,” the report’s introduction states. “This roadmap envisions the Ohio River Valley as a subregion of middle America that can lead the plan to invest in renewable energy infrastructure to drive more equitable and sustainable economic development into the future.”
The roadmap was drafted during the coronavirus pandemic and as a call for social justice reforms was renewed after the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
It addresses the inequities the Black Lives Matter movement has called to attention and also focuses on the specific issues facing the region, Grant Ervin, Pittsburgh’s chief resilience officer and assistant planning director, said.
“The linkage between climate action and economic justice has never been more clear,” Ervin said.
The roadmap calls for $60 billion to be spent each year over the next decade. No source for the funding was given, but the plan calls for a combination of government and private investments.
With Joe Biden poised to become president in 2021, the plan may have the support of the White House, Peduto said.
President Donald Trump has decried a similar proposal, called the Green New Deal, championed by progressive Democrats that has lacked bipartisan support.
Neither Trump nor Biden has made any comments about the Marshall Plan for Middle America Roadmap since it was released Thursday.
The next step is to get leaders outside of the city-levels of government to sign on to the plan and work with private companies to get it implemented, Ervin said.
The idea of the plan is to use the transition to “clean energy” as an economic development tool to create jobs and to use the educational institutions in the region to train people to do those jobs, Peduto said.
“We’re talking about this as an enhanced collaborative effort,” he said.
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