Summary

Read our follow-up article, "Helping Coal Country Thrive in a Clean Energy Economy."

In the United States, coal is being supplanted by cheap domestic natural gas, rising renewable power generation, and a growing energy efficiency sector. The decline of the U.S. coal industry has had significant negative impacts on the communities and industries traditionally supported by coal. However, if managed properly, coal's sunset also opens up new economic and social opportunities for regions to grow diverse economic sectors with renewable energy, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and technology as drivers of economic redevelopment.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a webinar that explored how traditionally coal-reliant communities can transition, diversify and strengthen their economies as the United States moves toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. We discussed the funding opportunities and work being done at the local, regional and federal levels to help these communities grow vibrant local economies. This webinar highlighted the range of actions being taken by various coal-reliant regions to diversify and develop new jobs and sources of revenue.

According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, while the Clean Power Plan is expected to create a net increase in jobs from energy efficiency and renewables, these jobs will not neatly replace coal job losses. Therefore, additional programs—such as job training and community engagement—will be needed to scale up the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries in coal country.

On March 17, 2016, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced $65.8 million in funding for economically depressed coal-reliant communities. Any community that has coal-related industries can apply for the funding, which will be administered by the Obama Administration's Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. Funds will go towards projects and partnerships that diversify local jobs and economies and towards increasing capacity and technical assistance for economic growth. At the local level, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) is working with regional development organizations to foster discussions on solutions and options for coal-reliant communities. The Conservation Fund, with its Natural Capital Investment Fund Energy Initiative, is also promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy work and services in rural Appalachia.

The Appalachian Regional Commission released a report in March 2016 that examines the relationship between the coal industry and Appalachia in more detail: Appalachian Coal Industry, Power Generation, and Supply Chain.

This webinar was part of a series examining environmental justice perspectives on the Clean Power Plan: