Creating a Colorado Economy for All: New Grant Funding to Support Economic and Workforce Development in Colorado Coal Transition Communities

The Office of Just Transition (OJT), within the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, and the Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT) are partnering to provide Coal Transition Community Grants to communities whose economies have traditionally relied on the coal industry. These grants are intended to support regional economic and workforce development activities that expand local business, create new good-paying jobs, and create more diversified and strong local economies.

“Colorado is leading the nation when it comes to showing a commitment to the communities that will be most adversely impacted by this transition,” said Joe Barela, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “Colorado’s Office of Just Transition is the first of its kind dedicated to addressing this challenge, and these grants will help those communities that are most heavily impacted as they move away from coal dependence.”  

As the economy, state and the nation move away from coal as a source of energy, communities that have relied on coal mines and coal-fired power plants for employment and property tax generation are looking to adapt. In Colorado, utilities have committed to closing the state’s last eight coal-fired power plants by 2031, which may in turn result in the closure of some of Colorado’s six remaining coal mines and also affect the businesses that support these mines and power plants. 

This grant opportunity grew out of Colorado’s Just Transition Action Plan finalized in 2020, which outlines steps the State of Colorado plans to take to help affected communities find new sources of property tax income and jobs. It is estimated that more than 800 power plant workers and more than 800 miners and an additional 1,000 supply chain workers will need to transition into new jobs or be offered viable retirement options as the coal industry winds down. In addition, a collective $3.2 billion in commercial property value will need to be replaced. Transition Community Grants are intended to help affected communities expand workforce and economic development efforts that help local businesses start or expand, attract new businesses to the area, and/or incentivize private investment. 

“Transition funding is one way we are working to ensure a Colorado economy that works for everyone. Our coal communities are hard working and resilient, and with the right resources and support, we are confident they will thrive into the future,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.

Between OJT and OEDIT, approximately $9.62 million in funding has been allocated for Coal Transition Community Grants during this phase of funding. Some communities have been prioritized to receive larger sums based on the number of coal-fired plant and coal mine closures in those communities, the timing and relative impacts of those closures, and the level of financial commitment from each community’s utility: 

  • Yampa Valley: $5,152,538
  • West End of Montrose County: $3,058,192
  • Pueblo County: $471,423
  • Morgan County: $471,423
  • Delta, El Paso, Gunnison, La Plata, and Larimer Counties collectively: $471,423

OEDIT & OJT have begun seeking funding proposals from Coal Transition communities and will review them on a rolling basis for a minimum of one year. To facilitate the application process and support communities as they identify eligible projects, program staff from both offices will visit these communities throughout February. More information and application forms can be found here.

Funding for the Coal Community Transition Grants comes from the state General Fund and was allocated for these purposes during the 2022 Legislative Session. These grants follow an initial phase of grant funding during which OJT approved more than $5 million in grants to Colorado coal transition communities throughout 2022. 

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