Last week, Commissioner Ty Pell and 79 other local, regional, and national organizations and leaders unveiled a National Economic Transition (NET) platform to give federal and national leaders and policymakers the framework for a national transition program that supports the people and places hit hardest by the changing coal economy.
This National Economic Transition platform was crafted by local, tribal, and labor leaders living and working in coal communities, along with non-profit sector partners, during a year-long collaboration led by the Just Transition Fund.
In March 2017, Dayton Power and Light (DP&L) announced plans to close the J.M. Stuart and Killen Station power plants, due to what the company said was “economic and environmental challenges.” Electricity generation at the Stuart ceased on May 24, 2018 and its sister plant ceased electricity generation seven days later. In December 2019, DP&L sold the sites to Kingfisher Development for remediation and redevelopment. In 2019, the Regional Science Association International released an economic, fiscal, and workforce impact study. The study, The economic, fiscal, and workforce impacts of coal‐fired power plant closures in Appalachian Ohio stated, “The decommissioning of these facilities, and the closure of an associated training center, will result in over 1,100 total lost jobs in the Appalachian region. A skillshed analysis revealed that displaced workers transitioning to emerging occupations with similar skill requirements will experience wage decreases. Decommissioned power plants in Ohio no longer pay tangible personal property (TPP) taxes, which will result in $8.5 million in lost tax revenue for local governments. These findings suggest that a multi‐pronged recovery effort will be required to assist this region, which has implications for similar communities in Appalachian Ohio dealing with coal plant closures.”
“Amid the sharp decline of the coal sector over the past decade, these community leaders have already developed and implemented local policy solutions that help tackle the climate crisis and spur inclusive, equitable, and sustainable economic growth in places that once relied on coal,” read a statement from Appalachian Voices. “The NET platform presents national leaders with a path to scale up these solutions in coal communities across the country by making a big, bold investment in the platform’s proposed comprehensive national transition program that, when implemented, will create vibrant, resilient, inclusive communities.”
According to reports, this year, coal consumption in the United States is set to decline by more than 23 percent and the closure of more coal facilities will likely be accelerated by COVID-19 and the economic decline. As a result, communities that once relied on coal, like coal mining communities in Appalachia, the Illinois Basin, Montana, Wyoming and elsewhere as well as communities with coal fired power plants from the Navajo Nation to Central Minnesota all face a potentially devastating crisis. This crisis could mean more job losses, the further erosion of the tax base, and cuts to vital services layered on in places already struggling following previous recessions amid decades of inequality and widespread poverty. This perilous situation makes challenges for low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities already disproportionately left behind by the status quo even more significant.
As the national conversation continues to focus on economic development, racial inequity, and the climate crisis, the NET platform gives leaders the opportunity to help address these serious challenges in coal communities by enacting solutions that local leaders already know work.
According to the plan, to address these crises from Appalachia to the Navajo Nation, the NET platform urges national leaders to invest in the development of a national transition program built on seven pillars of policy recommendations that put communities in the driver’s seat, including proposals to:
- Develop local leadership and capacity to lead the transition — especially Black, brown, women, and Indigenous-led organizations and community members.
- Support local small businesses and entrepreneurship.
- Provide a bridge for workers to quality, family-sustaining jobs.
- Reclaim, remediate, and reuse coal sites.
- Improve physical and social infrastructure, including public health and education systems.
- Hold coal companies accountable during bankruptcies.
- Create entities to coordinate transition-related programs and equip communities with the resources they need.