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RBC | Instability in the energy industry comes as no surprise. For decades energy market volatility drove the economic boom and bust cycles that shaped the landscape of northwest Colorado for better or worse. As changing technologies and a shifting focus toward renewable energies begin to take a heavy toll from communities dependent on fossil fuel revenue, the state is jumping in with a plan.
Two years in the making, the Just Transition Action Plan was released to the public on Dec. 31, 2020. The 20-page memo is intended to provide a summarized plan of action for replacing the jobs and revenue now subsidized by fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives.
According to the report, the average coal worker earns $92,000 a year plus benefits. That’s a substantially higher number than the average worker in a typical local community ($54,357 average in 2019 dollars).
Accumulated taxes from fossil fuel industries currently provide as much as 80% of tax revenue for impacted counties, leaving already vulnerable infrastructure further weakened by loss of funding.
How to replace high-paying jobs and tax revenue from fossil fuels are among the goals addressed in the state’s action plan. However, with the state budget slashed by COVID-19, there’s no telling where the funding will come from, although the state has committed to helping impacted communities. Rio Blanco County is identified as a Tier 1 community for level of impact.
Retraining workers, supporting local business growth, and finding ways to collaborate with the federal government are all part of the Just Transition program. According to Wade Buchanan, Office of Just Transition Director, in an interview with the Colorado Sun, creating and implementing a nationwide transition plan is the best way to move forward.