The story is familiar: Factories leave, farms mechanize, mines close, and the community suffers and shrinks. Finding a new economic engine that can provide jobs, power the tax base, and keep the kids from leaving is a daunting task in today’s rural America. Fortunately, that’s the focus of the Just Transition Fund (“the Fund”), at least for communities hit hard by the energy transition from coal—first in Appalachia, and now in the Midwest and beyond.
Three forces are responsible for a tsunami of job losses from closed mines and the shutdown of more than 130 coal-powered plants since 2015: 1) the declining cost of producing natural gas, 2) a regulatory environment that makes it more expensive for electric power generators to use coal, and 3) weak international demand. Appalachia has endured 82 percent of the nation’s coal job losses, losing 33,500 mining jobs between 2011 and 2016; coal production has fallen by nearly 45 percent in this span. Farther west, where the Power River Basin of Wyoming and Montana has historically provided 40 percent of the country’s coal, a flurry of coal mining company bankruptcies has meant widespread job and tax base loss. Mining communities in central and southern Illinois are hard hit as well.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly