Just Transition Fund Included in $3 Million Initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies to Spur Economic Recovery in Coal Communities
Support for ‘Timely and Urgent’ Workforce Retraining and Economic Development as Trump Administration Abandons Key Programs
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — April 26, 2017 — The Just Transition Fund and two partner organizations that focus on economic development and transition were named recipients today in a $3 million initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies to support economic-recovery programs in communities most affected by the decline of the U.S. coal industry.
The Charlottesville-based Just Transition Fund, the West Virginia-based Coalfield Development Corporation and the Montana-based Western Organization of Resource Councils will receive direct grants. All three organizations will also split the proceeds from a national fundraising campaign that coincides with the release of “From the Ashes,” a documentary produced in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and acquired recently by National Geographic Global Networks.
“The initiative announced today is timely and urgently needed, as federal support for coal communities is winding down,” said Heidi Binko, executive director and co-founder of the Just Transition Fund. “As the Trump administration abandons crucial economic development programs, like the POWER Initiative, philanthropy and the private sector must do more to fill the gap and ensure that the communities bearing the economic brunt of our nation’s energy transition are not left behind. We’re thrilled Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with us to spur additional private investment.”
Sandra Mikush, co-founder of the Fund, said, “This will enable us to expand our support for frontline organizations who are leading the way to a new energy economy by focusing on the unique assets of their communities. With this new support, the Fund can help scale innovative solutions to create jobs and new businesses, train and employ displaced workers and replace lost tax revenue.”
Both Binko and Mikush noted that President Trump has called for the elimination of federal agencies, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, which has provided more than $75 million in POWER funds since 2015 in support for economic development and diversification of local coal economies in coal-impacted communities.
Although the POWER Initiative was a helpful start, the need is enormous. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, for example, offered a federal $30 billion economic-redevelopment package for coal country.
“No economy should be totally dependent on one industry to create opportunity for people,” said Brandon Dennison, executive director of Coalfield Development Corporation, which supports entrepreneurial initiatives in southern West Virginia. “Now is the time for economic diversification. Now is the time to create real opportunity for our people.”
“This gets real money into the hands of the people who are rolling up their sleeves and asking the difficult questions facing their communities,” said Stephanie Randolph, program and grants officer at Charlottesville-based blue moon fund, a supporter of the Just Transition Fund.
Technological advancements have dramatically reduced employment in the U.S. coal mining industry, from 223,000 in 1979 to fewer than 76,000 in 2016—and the trend has continued in recent years, as coal has lost market share to cheaper and cleaner sources of energy. While these changes have brought broad benefits in terms of both health and jobs (nearly 500,000 Americans now work in the solar and wind industries), communities that have traditionally been dependent on coal mining or coal generation have suffered—especially through erosion of tax bases that support public education, health, and safety.
“Washington is stepping back,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, chairman of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “So we are stepping up.”