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Union wants benefits for displaced workers, incentives for carbon capture and storage

“Change is coming, whether we seek it or not,” says the United Mine Workers of America in a release last week as President Joe Biden convened an international conversation about climate change.

“Too many inside and outside the coalfields have looked the other way when it comes to recognizing and addressing specifically what the change must be, but we can look away no longer,” said the organization in a position paper titled Energy Transition Initiative. “We must act, while acting in a way that has real, positive impact on the people who are most affected by this change.”

Employment in the coal sector fell from nearly 92,000 nationally in 2011 to 44,100 last December, most of them hourly employees.

“Further government action in Washington has the potential to dramatically slash coal employment further, and soon,” says the report.

This is from the April 30, 2021, issue of Big Pivots, an e-journal covering the energy and water transitions in Colorado and beyond. Sign up at Big Pivots.com.

Since 2012, more than 60 coal companies have filed either for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy or Chapter 7 liquidation.

The UMW calls for three goals:

  • Significantly enhance funding for research and development of carbon capture and storage with the goal of commercial demonstration of utility-scaled coal-fired CCS by 2050.
  • The UMW also wants to see incentives for build-out of renewable supply-chain manufacturing in coalfield areas, providing hiring preferences for dislocated miners.
  • Assistance for displaced workers in communities for training, continued benefits and direct grants to coal field counties, communities, and school districts for a 20-year period.

It proposes the income for this national assistance come from a “wires” charge on retail electric power sales paid by utilities customers of less than $3 per month for the average residential ratepayer.

The UMW paper says the union successfully argued for inclusions of a wires charge in the Waxman-Markey climate legislation as a way to encourage utilities to apply CCS technology to coal-fired power plants. That bill passed the House but was defeated in the Senate by a coalition of coal and farm states.

Top: The Twentymile Mine in Northwestern Colorado, near Steamboat Springs, in 2017. Photo/Allen Best

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