07.25.19

Capito, McConnell Introduce Legislation to Improve Infrastructure, Encourage Development in Appalachia

Three bills would reauthorize Appalachian Regional Commission, help complete Appalachian Development Highway System, establish regional energy hub

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee’s (EPW) Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today introduced three bills that would help build and improve transportation infrastructure and encourage economic development in Appalachia: the Appalachian Regional Commission Reauthorization Act, which is also cosponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.); the Advancing Infrastructure Development (AID) in Appalachia Act; and the Appalachian Regional Energy Hub Initiative Act

Through her leadership role on EPW, Senator Capito has been working with committee colleagues to finalize a bipartisan federal highway bill reauthorization containing these measures and other provisions to address regional challenges and priorities. 

“The Appalachian region is an area with unique needs and challenges—especially when it comes to our infrastructure and economic development. Over the years, the ARC has been a critical partner in driving growth, improving communities, and creating new opportunities in West Virginia and across the region; and I am committed to continuing and encouraging that work,” Senator Capito said. “Together, these bills will help support the ARC; improve our roads, highways, and bridges; and establish other critical infrastructure that will help grow the economic and create jobs. All of these measures have been top priorities of mine for a long time, and as chair of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, I’ve been working closely with my colleagues to include them and other critical provisions in our federal highway reauthorization. I appreciate Senator McConnell’s support of this important legislation, which I know will help improve the lives of West Virginians and folks throughout Appalachia.” 

“For decades, I have supported the Appalachian Regional Commission and its mission to invest in communities to strengthen economic growth throughout the region, and today I am proud to join Senator Capito in continuing that work,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell said. “While many areas of our Commonwealth are still reeling from the previous administration’s War on Coal and the downturn of the industry, I’m committed to preserving ARC and its important work, which supports distressed counties throughout Eastern Kentucky. As Senate Majority Leader, I’m consistently working to deliver for Kentucky families. Each of these bills has the potential to benefit some of the hardest-hit areas in our Commonwealth, and I am proud to join my Senate colleague in introducing them.” 

The Appalachian Regional Commission Reauthorization Act would reauthorize and improve the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through 2025 at a level of $180 million with $20 million of that authorization specifically dedicated to broadband deployment. The ARC plays an important role in economic development across the 13-state Appalachian region. This reauthorization ensures that the ARC will continue to support infrastructure projects, job training, and other activities targeted toward improving economic opportunities. 

“The Appalachian Regional Commission works with a relatively small budget and makes a big difference for many Marylanders in the western part of our state and for millions of people in the region,” Senator Cardin said. “ARC combines the resources of the federal government with local community knowhow to close critical gaps with those outside of Appalachia. Its pragmatic approach to economic development translates directly to better employment opportunities, education, health care access, infrastructure, and much more.” 

“The Appalachian Regional Commission is an important economic development partner in Mississippi, making targeted, job-creating investments that have a wide impact,” Senator Wicker said. “This legislation authorizes much-needed resources, which will help the commission to fulfill its mandate and expand broadband access to rural communities.” 

The second bill, the Advancing Infrastructure Development (AID) in Appalachia Act, would accelerate completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), which was first authorized more than 50 years ago. Senator Capito and Majority Leader McConnell’s legislation would help encourage and speed up completion of the ADHS by facilitating exchanges between states with large unspent balances for their ADHS corridors to those states—such as West Virginia and Kentucky—that are earnestly moving toward completion but lack sufficient funding. Appalachian states that exchange their unused balances will have their contributions offset using previously authorized and appropriated dollars that represent excess carryover from an undersubscribed federal loan program. This will be a win-win: providing states working to complete their ADHS corridors with the dollars they need and giving states that have prioritized other projects additional flexibility to meet those needs. 

Lastly, the Appalachian Regional Energy Hub Initiative Act would authorize $5 million to allow the ARC to aid in the development of an ethane storage hub in central Appalachia and assist in developing the infrastructure necessary to allow the region to benefit from downstream manufacturing jobs associated with the storage hub. This project that would help grow the regional economy, create jobs, and strengthen the country’s energy security. 

Legislative text of the Appalachian Regional Commission Reauthorization Act is available here

Legislative text of the Advancing Infrastructure Development (AID) in Appalachia Act is available here

Legislative text of the Appalachian Regional Energy Hub Initiative Act is available here.

 

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