Planning for the Local Impacts of Coal Facility Closure: Emerging Strategies in the American West

Authors: Kelli Roemer*, Montana State University, Mark N. Haggerty, Headwaters Economics, Julia H. Haggerty, Montana State University, Jackson Rose, Montana State University
Topics: Economic Geography, Resources
Keywords: Economic geography, energy transition, coal plant closures,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Between 2009 and 2025, the U.S. will retire roughly one-fifth of its coal power plant fleet. These retirements pose immediate challenges for the localities and regions that host coal-fired power plants including the loss of employment and tax revenues and the decommissioning and remediation of a major facility. Successfully addressing the social, economic, and environmental legacies at coal facilities is a core priority a so-called “just-transition.” This paper examines strategies that are emerging to respond to the impacts of closures in the western U.S. in the context of widespread policy uncertainty and the retreating federal commitment to transition planning. In this uncertain policy content, what are the local priorities and approaches to the social, economic and environmental impacts of the coal transition apparent in local plans? This research analyzes the alignment of economic development plans with trajectories in the regional economy of the U.S. and with core tenets of economic development and resilience literature. The analysis takes two distinct forms. We characterize the economic geography of coal plant closures in the region to distinguish types of social and economic vulnerability to plant closure impacts. Also, we provide a detailed analysis of the existing economic transition plans developed for affected communities. Drawing from the academic literature, we identify four possible strategies for economic transition in these types of communities and assess if and how the economic transition plans identify and propose goals and actions around these strategies.

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