In 2014, Anthony Giancatarino visited Louisiana to attend a meeting about “energy democracy,” or the idea that people, rather than corporations, should have control over energy production where they live. The Philadelphia native had spent the past several years working on climate policy in Pennsylvania, and was interested in hearing about how Louisianians were approaching the same issues. As he listened to people at the meeting describe the challenges of advancing clean energy in their state, the similarities and connections between their respective regions began to dawn on him.
Like the oil- and gas-producing heartlands of the Deep South, parts of Appalachia — Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania — have long histories of companies excavating the earth for resources like coal and gas and leaving communities to grapple with the pollution left behind. In all these places, the fossil fuel industry has maintained its influence by dint of being a primary source of employment. There are deeper regional connections, too. The foothills of Appalachia start just north of Birmingham, Alabama, a city built on the labor of a majority-Black working-class who worked in sweltering foundries, converting coal and iron ore into steel.
“These regions are connected by a political history,” Giancatarino said. “They’re also connected by a history of extraction, and they’re also connected by a geologic history, by the way the rivers flow.”
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