July 10, 2018 Read More →

‘Just Transition’ promotes new thinking around energy industry changes

Energy News Network:

When Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants closed in 2012, residents cheered the reduction in pollution and began envisioning what they’d like to see become of the sites. In such a major city, the loss of taxes paid by the company was not a significant issue. It’s a different story in places like downstate Illinois, where coal plants are at risk of closing in coming years in communities that depend on the jobs and tax revenue they generate.

That’s why the nonprofit Just Transition Fund and its partners around the country are trying to help communities and governments prepare for what experts say is the inevitable closing of more coal plants, and coal mines.

In September, the Just Transition Fund will hold its first meeting focused specifically on the transition away from coal in the Midwest, with a particular focus on working with organized labor. The group’s executive director and co-founder Heidi Binko said the fund will also be expanding its focus on Illinois, where the EcoJustice Collaborative has been working with mining communities on transition plans for years.

While jobs may get more attention, Binko said the loss of tax revenue is usually the most pressing issue when both mines and power plants close.

In New York, a 2015 state law makes state “gap funding” available to help replace the taxes a closed power plant would have paid. The $45 million fund was created thanks to activism around the closing of the Huntley plant near Buffalo.

Sandy Buchanan is executive director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which carried out a financial analysis for the New York alliance pushing for the gap funding law. She pointed to the government funds allocated to help communities affected by the closure of military bases. While coal plants are privately owned and run, she said the government should play a similar role in helping those communities survive a closure.

More: A ‘Just Transition’ from coal: Stepping up efforts in a difficult battle

 

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