Yampa Valley communities earmarked for $5.1 million in coal transition funding from the state

Craig Press
Staff report

The state has set aside $9.2 million in grants to support regional economic and workforce development in coal transition communities, with the Yampa Valley being identified as a funding priority.

Some communities have been prioritized to receive larger sums based on their circumstances surrounding the coal-fired plant closures and the anticipated impact.

The Yampa Valley has been earmarked for the largest funding amount at a little more than $5.1 million. Additionally, the West End of Montrose County is budgeted for $3 million, Pueblo and Morgan counties will each receive a little more than $470,000, and Delta, El Paso, Gunnison, La Plata and Larimer counties will collectively receive approximately $470,000.

The Office of Just Transition, which is under the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, or OEDIT, have partnered to provide Coal Transition Community Grants to communities whose economies have traditionally relied on the coal industry. 

The grants are intended to support development activities that expand local businesses, create new good-paying jobs and diversify and strengthen local economies, according to a news release issued on Monday, Jan. 23.

Utility companies have committed to closing the last eight coal-fired power plants in Colorado by 2031, which will result in the closure of some of the six remaining coal mines in the state, as well as the businesses that support these mines and power plants.

The new grant opportunities stem from Colorado’s Just Transition Action Plan, which was finalized in 2020. The plan outlines steps the state plans to take to help affected communities find new sources or property tax income and jobs. 

OEDIT estimates that more than 800 power plant workers and more than 800 miners and an additional 1,000 supply chain workers will need to find new jobs or be offered viable retirement options as a result of the move away from coal. The office estimates an additional $3.2 billion in commercial property value also will need to be replaced. 

“Transition funding is one way we are working to ensure a Colorado economy that works for everyone,” said Eve Lieberman, the executive director for OEDIT. “Our coal communities are hard working and resilient, and with the right resources and support, we are confident they will thrive into the future.”

Program staff from both the OEDIT and Office of Just Transition will be visiting these communities throughout February to help identify funding projects and share information about application processes.

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