County Update: Comment on the Colorado Just Transition Plan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
In Routt County, not all of us always recognize the importance that coal plays in our community. The coal industry provides many high-paying jobs that have supported multiple generations of families, especially in Oak Creek and Hayden. The people who work in these jobs have done important, sometimes dangerous, work that keeps the lights on and the ski lifts running.
Five of the top 10 taxpayers in the Routt County are coal-related, and together, they represent about 8% of all the tax revenue the county collects. Hayden Station and Twentymile Mine combined employ more than 300 people and represent about 2% of all jobs in Routt County. Any transition that reduces these jobs or tax revenue will have a noticeable effect on Routt County.
In addition, in Moffat County, coal pays 45% of county tax revenue and about 9% of jobs coming from the industry. Any significant change in Moffat County’s economy will impact us here, too.
These changes are coming, and it is critical for us to prepare for them and to mitigate the impacts. Our local economic development efforts are a key part. Additionally, following the passage of House Bill 1314, the state formed the Office of Just Transition to complete a first-in-the-nation, statewide plan for ensuring that the transition away from coal does not leave workers or communities behind.
Last year, I was invited to serve on the state’s Just Transition Advisory Committee. Often, there have been many discussions about what is causing these transitions to occur and whether they should occur. These discussions are not in the purview of the Just Transition group. However, there are two things we all should understand, which are the foundation of the Committee’s work:
- Economic transitions are on the horizon for coal communities.
- These transitions are disruptive to workers, communities and economies.
The Just Transition Advisory Committee and the Office of Just Transition have been meeting regularly since mid-2019. This committee includes state offices, labor unions, coal-impacted communities, state legislators, electric utilities and economic development experts. I am one of three county commissioners on the committee, and we are tasked with representing the coal-reliant communities around the state.
In March of this year, the committee traveled to Hayden and Craig and met with business, government and community members to gather input. These meetings were eye-opening for many committee members about the impacts that energy transition will have on Routt and Moffat counties, and in the subsequent months, a frequent topic of conversation.
This August, the office produced a draft of the Advisory Committee’s 11 recommendations, which were summarized by Craig Press. These recommendations include benefits for impacted workers and both proactive and reactive supports for communities.
An important next step is identifying funding mechanisms at the state and federal levels to support the programs proposed in the recommendations. As a community, we need to work together to identify how we will plan for and respond to changes in our economic future to ensure that our community is resilient.
Now is your chance to weigh in on these plans. Right now, the Office of Just Transition is soliciting input on the draft recommendations for the final version due at the end of this year. I invite everyone to review the report in more detail and to participate in the survey to give your feedback at cdle.colorado.gov/the-office-of-just-transition.
Beth Melton is a representative of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
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