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Pa. groups thrilled by Biden's American Climate Corps, but wish it were larger

Climate activists rally in front of the White House at Lafayette Square
Yuri Gripas
Climate activists rally in front of the White House at Lafayette Square to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and move the country rapidly away from fossil fuels, July 4, 2023, in Washington. After being thwarted by Congress, Biden will use his executive authority to create a New Deal-style American Climate Corps that will serve as a major green jobs training program.

Environmental groups in Pennsylvania are cheering the new American Climate Corps announced by the Biden administration. The White House says the program will train 20,000 young people in clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience.

“We were very excited,” said Annie Regan with the nonprofit group PennFuture. “We have been advocating for this program for over three years now.”

The American Climate Corps(ACC) is more modest than the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC), the New Deal-era program on which it was based. More than 3 million young men served in the CCC in the 1930s. They created thousands of parks and replanted forests. Biden’s program will be more diverse but starts with only 20,000 corps members.

“We do wish it was a little bit bigger and a little bit more expansive, but we are thrilled to have the program launch at all,” Regan said.

Corps members will be trained to protect communities from increasing storms and flooding, build clean energy projects, improve forests to prevent wildfires, and more, according to the White House.

PennFuture and others are encouraged that the American Climate Corps will prioritize energy-producing communities, like those in Pennsylvania and Appalachia, that powered the nation for generations, but didn’t see lasting economic benefits.

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“We have some of the poorest communities because of that,” Regan said. She added that the ACC is a good step to help the region retain young workers. “They can stay in Appalachia, get the training that needs to happen, and find pathways to good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

Amanda Woodrum, co-director of ReImagine Appalachia, said this is what sustainable, equitable economic development looks like: “Creating jobs that are good for the environment while simultaneously paving career pathways out of poverty for disadvantaged workers,” she said.

White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told the Associated Press that the administration will work with at least six federal agencies to create the climate corps, and will partner with at least 10 states.

California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington have already begun similar programs, and five more states–Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Utah–are launching their own climate corps, Zaidi told the AP. Pennsylvania is not currently working on one, according to Regan.

While activist groups and some Democrats have supported the new American Climate Corps, Republicans have largely dismissed it as a waste of money that could support anti-fossil fuel activities, like pipeline protests, according to the New York Times.

So far the White House has not said how much the program will cost, or how it will be funded.

Read more from our partners, The Allegheny Front.

Julie Grant is senior reporter with The Allegheny Front, covering food and agriculture, pollution, and energy development in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Throughout her career, she has traveled as far as Egypt and India for stories, trawled for mussels in the Allegheny River, and got sick in a small aircraft while viewing a gas well pad explosion in rural Ohio. Julie graduated from Miami University of Ohio and studied land ethics at Kent State University. She can be reached at