Letter: Just Transition work is still ongoing
In early March, members of the Colorado Just Transition Advisory Committee visited Craig and Hayden to meet with workers, community leaders, business owners and the general public about issues raised by any future closure of local power plants or coal mines. Our job is to advise the state on how to assist affected workers and communities, and we wanted as much input as possible from those with the most at stake.
We held 15 hours of meetings over three days with nearly 400 people from throughout the region. Some advisory committee members also toured Craig Station. The meetings were informative and intense, and they gave us a great deal to think about as we do our work.
- We heard how much you love your communities and your quality of life, and that you want your children to have that same quality of life when they grow up.
- We heard that Moffat and Routt counties are made up of highly skilled, hardworking people, but that the current uncertainty about the future is causing stress and anxiety. You know things are changing, and there are no easy answers. But you want clarity and direction, and you want it soon.
- We also heard that your communities have already done a lot of planning for the future. You don’t need another study — you need support in putting those plans into action.
- And we heard that Denver often seems very far away, and it seldom feels like your concerns are heard there. You don’t want the state to tell you what to do. But you do need it to help make connections and find resources you can’t find on your own‚ to be your partner and to follow your lead.
The COVID-19 crisis has slowed our work a little, and unfortunately, we had to postpone visits to other impacted communities around Colorado. But it has not and will not prevent us from fulfilling our obligations to your communities.
Our job is to develop strategies that help workers and communities transition away from coal. We have no authority over how Colorado responds to climate change, and we are not involved in any decisions to close facilities. Our only responsibility is to be a partner and provide support to those who are most affected.
For the last few months, our members have been meeting in subcommittees that are focused on the toughest challenges, including:
- Helping those who lose jobs find new work that utilizes their skills and pays enough to support families. This may include helping cover the difference if workers have to take jobs that pay less than they previously earned, expanded unemployment benefits, support for training and apprenticeship programs and more.
- Expanding the planning and economic development capacity of affected communities so that they can drive the decisions about their future rather than having to rely on the state or others.
- Replacing the tax revenues that will be lost when a plant or mine closes so that schools, fire districts and other services don’t face drastic cuts.
- Attracting investment to the community and building opportunities for new businesses and entrepreneurs to diversify the local and regional economies.
In May, the subcommittees will make preliminary recommendations to the full advisory committee, which in turn will prepare a draft report that is due this summer. But this is just the beginning. Final strategies will likely be crafted over several legislative sessions, and there will be plenty of debate about what needs to happen and how to pay for it. And there will be opportunities for you to provide input and feedback all along the way.
We have no time to waste. But we do have time to get this right. This is the first of what we intend to be regular letters updating you on our work. We will stay in touch, listen to and use your input and continue to visit your communities throughout that process.
We have not forgotten what we learned when we visited Moffat and Routt counties in March, and we thank those who shared their hopes and concerns with us. Colorado is the first to make it a statewide priority to achieve a just transition — to not walk away from workers and communities when the plants close, but to recommit to and invest in their future. We take that commitment very seriously, and we look forward to working with you to get this right.
Executive director, Colorado AFL-CIO
Chair, Colorado Just Transition Advisory Committee
Moffat County commissioner
Vice-chair, Colorado Just Transition Advisory Committee
Director, Colorado Office of Just Transition
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
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