As the coal industry shrinks, miners deserve a just transition – here’s what it should include

By Ann Eisenberg, Assistant Professor of Law,
University of South Carolina, The Conversation

Murray Energy, one of the biggest private U.S. coal companies, has become the fifth coal company to file for bankruptcy in 2019. Union leaders and many elected officials worry that in addition to the 7,000 miners on Murray’s payroll, this step could threaten the solvency of the United Mine Workers of America pension fund, which supports over 100,000 retired miners and fully vested workers.

Whether people support or oppose the Trump administration’s efforts to prop up the coal industry, one point of agreement is that shifting from coal to cleaner fuels threatens struggling coal-dependent communities. Murray Energy’s bankruptcy is the latest reminder that it is past time to discuss a just transition for coal miners. Continue reading here.

Professor Eisenberg references the following initiative in her article:

POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization), a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
Recent News Release: Appalachian Regional Commission Announces $44.4 Million to Diversify Region’s Coal-Impacted Economies
Summary of the Awards

REGIONAL GRASSROOTS INITIATIVES

All across the Appalachian region, renewable energy businesses, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits are leading the transition from coal to renewable energy. Some have been in existence for a number of years, while others are relatively new. All of them, however, share the same mission of creating a post-coal future for their own and neighboring communities. Those grassroots initiatives include:

SOLAR HOLLER
What We Believe: Solar Holler isn’t your typical company. We’re a social enterprise that is focused on bringing clean and local energy within reach of those who need it most–Appalachia’s community organizations, non-profits, municipalities, and our low-income neighbors. Why is our focus there?  Because every dollar a church, or a library, or a municipality doesn’t spend on utility bills means another dollar is going toward improving our towns and communities. Because West Virginia’s miners and their families powered America’s growth and cities during the 20th Century. If we have anything to do with it, we’ll power America throughout the 21st Century, too–with clean, renewable energy. And, most importantly, because these hills and hollers are home. Websitewww.solarholler.com 

KENTUCKIANS FOR THE COMMONWEALTH
We are Kentuckians. We believe that today we have our best chance in decades to build New Power in Kentucky. New Power means thousands of new jobs, healthy communities and opportunities for our children. But we have to address the problems caused by Old Power – old political power, old economic power and old energy power. Website: www.kftc.org 

I LOVE MOUNTAINS.ORG
Local, state, and regional organizations across Appalachia are working together to end mountaintop removal and create a prosperous future for the region. Through iLoveMountains.org, members of the Alliance for Appalachia have come together to use cutting edge technology to inform and involve Americans in their efforts to save mountains and communities.

Partners

1. Appalachian Voices
2. Black Warrior Riverkeeper 
3. Center for Coalfield Justice
4. Coal River Mountain Watch
5. Heartwood
6. Keeper of the Mountains Foundation
7. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
8. Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
9. Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment
10. Sierra Club Environmental Justice
11. Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
12. SouthWings
13. STAY Project
14. West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

Website: www.ilovemountains.org

NATIONAL INITIATIVE – THE JUST TRANSITION FUND

The Just Transition Fund (JTF) is a national philanthropic initiative focused on coal community transition. The Fund supports and connects frontline communities through four key strategies.

Where JTF Works
The Fund focuses on coalfield and power plant communities. Our geographic priorities include key states in Appalachia, the West, and the Midwest. The Fund gives preference to states experiencing the largest numbers of plant retirements and to regions that contain both plants and mines.