Office of Just Transition says action plan will focus on helping communities and families while finding resources for transition away from coal
On the final day of 2020, the Office of Just Transition released its final action plan to the public, marking some four months of work from the release of the rough draft in August, narrowing down the plan to one final document to meet House Bill 19-1314’s goals.
Colorado House Bill 19-134 established the advisory committee for a Just Transition plan, tasking the committee with developing recommendations for the state. Once the rough draft was completed, it was then turned over to the Office of Just Transition to write the final action plan to present to Governor Jared Polis.
The bill also declared that “a strong and comprehensive policy is needed to invest new financial resources in coal communities that are seeking to diversify and grow their local and regional economies in a manner that is both sustainable and equitable.”
Colorado was the first state to establish an office to help with the transition and to develop a statewide strategy to move away from coal.
The final action plan, which is 20 pages in length, focuses on helping coal communities transition to prosperous futures through six community strategies; protecting the economic security of coal workers and their families through four worker strategies; and commits to finding resources to support the transition through three funding strategies.
Colorado – much like the rest of the nation – is transitioning away from coal as a fuel for generating electricity, largely due to the increase in competition for other lower-cost energy sources, as well as laws and regulations to protect public health and counter climate change.
“While this transition is creating many new opportunities, it will also result in a loss of stable, high-paying jobs and economic opportunities in communities where coal is mined and burned to fuel the economy,” the action plan states.
Worker strategies, according to the action plan, include the following: empower workers and their families to plan early for future success; encourage the federal government to lead with a national strategy for energy transition workers; prepare, for future consideration, a detailed state program to help displaced workers build skills, find good jobs, or start businesses; and explore strategies to protect family economic security through the transition.
Funding strategies include the following in the final action plan: develop realistic options for further state support of just transition strategies; work with utilities and mining companies to increase transition funding; and ensure the OJT has adequate capacity to continue to develop and implement this action plan.
“Our overarching goal is to avert yet another boom-bust cycle in Colorado by helping coal communities and workers transition to prosperous futures,” the action plan states. “Specifically, through a just transition we intend to help each community end up with more family-sustaining jobs, a broader property tax base, and measurably more economic diversity than when this process began in 2019.”
In the action plan, coal communities are defined as a “a municipality, county, or region that has been or will be affected by the loss of fifty or more jobs in total from a coal mine, coal-fueled electrical power generating plant, or the manufacturing and transportation supply chains of either.”
Moffat County is slated to lose more than 400 jobs due to the transition away from coal in the state of Colorado.
Knowing that, the Yampa Valley (Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt Counties) was deemed one of 11 Tier 1 Transition Communities in the state.
“While the actual closures of Colorado’s remaining coal-fired power plants, and any related closures of coal mines, are at least several years off, jobs are starting to disappear from communities through attrition,” the action plan says. “Effective economic development and diversification strategies will take time and resources, and will require long-term commitment from all involved. So planning and implementation must and will start immediately.”
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