Press Release: Just Transition Action Plan

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For Immediate Release
Date: December 31, 2020
Contact: Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations -

The Colorado Office of Just Transition today submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly the Colorado Just Transition Action Plan, outlining 29 actions it will take beginning in 2021 to assist communities and workers who will be adversely affected by the state’s transition away from coal as a fuel for generating electricity.

The Action Plan is required by legislation passed in 2019 (HB 19-1314) to help fulfill Colorado’s “moral commitment to assist the workers and communities that have powered Colorado for generations.” Colorado has seven remaining coal-fired power plants, and most or all are likely to close in the next 10-15 years due to increased competition from lower-priced sources of energy as well as laws and regulations to protect public health and counter climate change. As a result, some of Colorado’s six operating coal mines are likely to close as well. Communities in 11 Colorado counties could be adversely affected, along with between 2,000 and 3,000 Colorado workers and their families.

Among the actions that state agencies commit to in this plan:

  • The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) will provide $500,000 in grants this year to increase local economic development staffing and expertise in the hardest-hit communities, with a commitment to continue or increase that support in future years as revenues allow;
  • The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) will dedicate $500,000 this year in grants to attract new businesses or expand existing businesses in the hardest-hit communities, with a commitment to continue that support in future years if funding allows; 
  • OEDIT will waive in 2021 the requirement for local matching funds for a job growth incentive program for companies locating in coal transition communities to attract new primary employers and help diversify economies. This waiver may also be extended after 2021;
  • The State will create an inter-agency “Action Team” for each transition community, along with a statewide team of experts, to help the highest-impacted communities navigate state and federal assistance programs and streamline state support;
  • The State will design a funding and investment structure to promote private investment in and philanthropic support specifically for transition communities;
  • The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) will develop an outreach strategy, workforce toolkit and quick action plan to deploy to assist displaced workers when specific closures are announced (preferably at least 2 years ahead of actual closures). The toolkit will include planning, counseling, career coaching, job training and other support for potentially-displaced workers as well as their spouses and other family members;
  • The Office of Just Transition (OJT) will work with stakeholders in Colorado and other states to encourage the federal government to adopt a uniform package of job training and income support programs for displaced energy workers throughout the country;
  • State agencies will work with utilities and mines to provide financial and other assistance to the process, since these workers and communities have not only fueled our state economy but have also contributed to the success of these companies; 
  • CDLE will develop additional options for assisting displaced workers, based on recommendations made by an advisory committee earlier this year.

The Action Plan was developed by the Office of Just Transition (OJT) and approved by the executive directors of CDLE and DOLA. It builds on a draft plan developed by a 19-member Just Transition Advisory Committee between August 2019 and July 2020, as well as input from a variety of other stakeholders (including local communities). The advisory committee held an extensive series of community meetings in Craig and Hayden in early March of this year. Plans for similar meetings in other transition communities had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Action Plan identifies four clusters of “Tier One Transition Communities,” which are expected to experience the most significant disruptions from the closure of coal facilities. These are the West End of Montrose County (including Nucla and Naturita); the Yampa Valley (including the counties of Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt and the cities of Craig and Hayden); the City of Pueblo and Pueblo County; and Morgan County (including the cities of Brush and Ft. Morgan).

“Tier Two Transition Communities,” which are expected to experience much less impact, include Delta, El Paso, Gunnison, La Plata and Larimer counties.

More than 2,000 power plant workers, coal miners, and employees in related businesses potentially qualify as “coal-transition workers.” Potential future lay-offs are not likely to occur until after 2025, giving both workers and the State time to prepare for their transitions.

The Colorado Office of Just Transition was created in 2019 by House Bill 19-1314 to lead and coordinate Colorado’s work to assist coal transitions workers and communities. It is part of the Executive Director’s Office at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.