UNDERSTANDING THE POLICY LANDSCAPE
With the right plan in place, a transition away from coal can create new jobs and tax revenues, expand opportunities for local workforces, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve health outcomes in local communities.
As Just Transition Fund and its partners work to secure a comprehensive, coordinated federal plan to support impacted communities, state and local leaders can tap into a variety of existing programs to keep the local economy strong and help workers impacted by mine closures find new jobs.
BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION
These policies and programs can expand workforce development opportunities, offer financial support to impacted workers, bolster community economic development programs, or jumpstart plans to redevelop a former coal plant or mine site.
Understanding the policy landscape will help you navigate these programs and tap into opportunities that best support your efforts.
As you draft your transition plan, here are a few popular federal policies that may support or otherwise impact your economic development strategy:
Black Lung Disability Trust Fund
As communities help workers impacted by mine closings access new jobs, they must also address the health care needs of workers whose health complications are tied to their jobs in the mines. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 mandated that mine operators provide supplemental income and cover medical costs for miners diagnosed with black lung disease. In 1972, Congress enacted The Black Lung Trust Fund to pay these expenses in cases where mine operators were insolvent or where no responsible mine operator could be identified.
Abandoned Mine Land Fund
Millions of Americans live less than a mile from the thousands of former coal-mining sites scattered across the country. Left in place by former coal-mining operations, these sites—called abandoned mine lands—create serious challenges for the people and ecosystems around them, but cleanup is costly. For decades, the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund has been a critical resource for funding the reclamation of these sites. However, greater funding and program adjustments are needed to ensure all mining sites are reclaimed, creating jobs and community assets in the process.
A bipartisan community development program established as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs) are intended to drive more capital to underserved communities across America by providing a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into dedicated Opportunity Funds. The program provides three forms of deferred capital gains taxes or tax breaks to incentivize patient capital equity investments in Opportunity Funds to seed new business investments, expand existing businesses, or fund real estate development in Opportunity Zones.
Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC)
The Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) program is a fund managed by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). Launched as part of the POWER Initiative, the ACC provides grants to local governments, nonprofits, educational institutions, economic development organizations, and other organizations working to create new jobs and other economic opportunities for communities impacted by coal plant closures.
The POWER Initiative seeks to align and leverage complementary federal, state, and other economic development resources that provide assistance through competitively awarded grants to coal-impacted communities in the 13 Appalachian states. Administered by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), POWER aligns and leverages multiple resources (federal, state, local, non-profit, and private sector) and prioritizes projects that integrate a variety of economic development systems and resources to implement existing economic development strategic plans.
In addition to the policies described here, there are a variety of legislative measures in the works that could impact transition work. Several bills introduced in the last Congress received widespread support and are expected to be reintroduced.
In addition to the policies described here, there are a variety of legislative measures in the works that could impact transition work. Several bills introduced in the last Congress received widespread support and are expected to be reintroduced. Most notedly, U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) sought to protect the economic viability of Navajo communities in his district and throughout the western United States with the PROMISE Act. Designed to provide economic development resources to communities impacted by the closure of the Navajo Generation Station (NGS) and the Kayenta Mine the measure would establish job and skills training programs for displaced employees.
Marshall Plan for Coal
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)’s Marshall Plan for Coal would also support workers displaced by mine closures and ensure communities traditionally reliant on coal have the resources needed to transition to 21st Century alternatives. The measure calls for expanding Medicare to all displaced coal workers, making higher education free to all coal workers and their families, helping coal communities access federal resources, establishing a Coal Community Home Buying Program, and restoring the environment of coal communities. Many of these provisions are also reflected in the National Economic Transition Platform.