What’s After Coal for New Mexico?

A transition from coal is inevitable in NM and throughout the planet and without planning the Four Corners and other coal-dependent communities will become sacrifice zones. This post summarizes models for successful recovery and transition.  Also, in this post: Interfaith Panel tonight almost sold out & Susana skips town.  Again.

Our Governor Skips Out Again. Only Two Days to Sign the Budget and 200 Bills.  Progress NowNM details how reasonable budgets were offered and how the Governor’s plunging approval ratings may deep-six the GOP in 2018.  Click here for the full report.

Interfaith Panel Tonight 7pm-9pm at Temple Beth Shalom.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for details and ticket info. While tickets are free we are only selling 300 as we anticipate many will show up without tickets and TBS can only hold an absolute max of 400. So tickets are required to guarantee you get a seat. We will give numbers to people without tickets and the first 100 who just show up will get seats.

Universal Early Childhood Education Initiative… Video of Last Night’s Presentation on Health Benefits from Reduced Consumption of Sugary Drinks. The coalition had an inspiring evening last night listening to the Mayor and three outstanding local health care providers – Dr. Wendy Johnson, Medical Director of La Familia Medical Center; Dr. Daniel Borrero, a Southside pediatric dentist; and Dr. Ed Kleiner, a pediatrician for 40 years here in Santa Fe.Fortunately, it was recorded and can be viewed on the Universal Early Childhood Education’s  Facebook page. As of this morning, 524 people had viewed it. Click here to take a look:

Transition from Coal:  Models from Across the Planet & What We Can Do

Before diving into some excellent research on economic transition from coal and other industries, I want to alert you to an opportunity to get directly involved in supporting New Mexico’s transition from coal.  A group is forming of individuals interested in conducting background research on economic transition models that might be appropriate to Four Corners and meeting together to exchange ideas and prepare background materials and other supports that might assist local stakeholders in New Mexico communities dependent upon the coal and gas industries.  To be clear: our role will be supportive and fall behind local stakeholders from the communities involved. But our value-added is that we have people with time and research experience and/or interest in the topic. If you are interested in being part of this work, please write to me directly at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org.  We want to divide up research responsibilities and examine:

  • participatory planning models used successfully in other communities;
  • effective transition plans from coal in Europe, Kentucky, northern New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere;
  • effective transition plans from other expiring industries or where jobs were moved overseas;
  • state and federal programs that can support economic transitions;
  • a range of potential industries to refuel the Four Corners’ economy and provide living wage jobs;  and
  • potential public and private funding sources to support planning and operationalizing transition.

What We Know About Transitioning from Coal

The Need for Transition Planning.  This excellent, short article, What Comes After Coal, outlines the reasons why a transition to coal is inevitable and examines in very broad strokes how transition has developed in Wales and is unfolding in the Appalachian Holler. Click here to read the full report.

Brookings Institute Study: Build a Better Future for Coal Workers and their Communities. In its 2016 report, Build a Better Future for Coal Workers and their Communities, the Brookings Institute describes a range of strategies for implementing an economic transition. Discussion of specific transition approaches begins on page 16. The report points to the first opportunity to hire displaced coal workers is to work on the reclamation project. It also points to a variety of state and federal programs set up to support transition planning and to support displaced workers.

“The federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program provides assistance for those negatively affected by freer trade. It consists of separate programs for workers, farmers, and firms. After a lengthy certification process, the worker program offers eligible participants income support (linked to unemployment insurance benefits), training, a health coverage tax credit, wage supplementation for those 50 or older who earn less than $50,000 annually at a new job; employment services; and relocation allowances.” This specific program could be highly relevant to Four Corners, as there are many 50 year old and older coal workers who will lose their jobs and many of them will not opt for retraining into a new career and would rather find a transition to retirement.  Click here to review the full report. It is important to note that before exploring all transition options and resources, our head-in-the-sand state and national leadership and even tribal leaders are first going to explore every possible option for sustaining a fossil fuel-driven economy. Since many of the options available in the programs  identified by Brookings Institute require visionary leadership, our group of researchers may need to think outside the box until 2018 when new leadership will hopefully be more supportive of common sense.

Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis:  How to Invest in Struggling Coal Industry Communities.  Let Us Count the Ways. IEEFA’s report focuses on partnerships comprised of unions, government, workers, private foundations, environmentalists, and others. With plants having closed in April 2016, this process is only a year or two ahead of us and so could provide key lessons for New Mexico. Their approach advocates for the adoption of the Federal Level of a variation on the  THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE’S OFFICE OF ECONOMIC ADJUSTMENT programs. “With its roots in the Kennedy years and with the full support of every president since, the OEA has helped communities economically damaged by defense-industry cutbacks. The office has a variety of initiatives that help ease community transitions when a base closes, for instance, or when a local defense contractor scales back.”

The report ends with a reference to Studs Terkel about the need to treat transitioning coal workers with respect and dignity. “Studs Terkel, the great oral-history chronicler of working life in America, once interviewed a construction worker who told him he wished that buildings had “I helped build this” plaques with the names of those who had worked on them. Such homage would have allowed the children of those workers—and their children’s children—to better honor the legacy of those who had come before them. We cannot etch the names of mineworkers on the walls of empty mines. What we can do is invest in the many coal-industry families who have given so much. Their children, and their children’s children, scattered though they may be, deserve the same “I helped build this” acknowledgement that that construction worker sought.”  Click here for the complete report. Models covered Include a Longstanding Defense Department Initiative, Recent Partnerships in Upstate New York, and the Deep American Tradition of Investing in Its People

Instruments for a Managed Coal Phase-Out German & International Experiences with Structural Change. This report examines how Germany and other European countries have successfully transitioned from coal to other employment bases. Given our current state and national leadership, the report brought heartening news as it pointed out that political figures are not essential to successful transition.

“However, the regional funding programmes in the Ruhr area and the rebuilding of Eastern Germany took many years, as well as billions of Euros, in order to show re- sults. This demonstrates the limited amount of influence that politics can bring to bear on processes of structural change. Economic decline can be mitigated by policy, but ultimately it cannot be stopped or reversed. Policy can strengthen and enable new economic sectors, but it cannot create a modern diversified economy on its own.”  The report also pointed to how to approach the economic transition planning process.

In regional planning and development processes, bottom-up approaches that foster local participation are especially vital. In the spirit of subsidiarity, this uses local knowledge to identify promising approaches and enhance the effectiveness of struc- tural policy measures. It also creates a legitimate basis for long-term regional eco- nomic planning by generating agreement on the general direction of travel.”  And:

“One pertinent international example of participatory structural policy is the ‘Transition Management’ approach that has been applied in the Netherlands since 2001.21 This approach aims to provide long-term regional planning based on extensive consultations of relevant local actors. It is conceptualised as an open process, allowing for policy learning and the active contribution of civil society, science and business.”  And

“This approach has notably led to the creation of the programme ‘Structural Vision Randstad 2014’ (Structuurvisie Randstad 2040) for the Randstad region, which spans Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht.22 The region developed as a traditional industrial region, relying on inter alia oil refineries, chemicals companies and heavy industries. Nowadays, these traditional industries are in decline and the metropolitan region is transitioning to a primarily services- and knowledge-based economy.”

To review the complete report, click here.

There is a wealth of information available and if you have time and interest, you can be part of assembling a comprehensive inventory of options, process descriptions, and other tools to support New Mexico’s transition from coal to a sustainable future.  Again, contact me at paul@retakeourdemocracy.org if you would like to get involved.

Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear: An Interfaith Panel on Finding Common Moral Ground

Thurs. April 6, 7-9pm, Temple Beth Shalom, 205 East Barcelona Road, Santa Fe. This event is FREE, but you must have a ticket to enter. Register and get tickets online at Eventbrite:  http://bit.ly/2lXSmXA

The rhetoric and actions of the current U.S. Administration have been disturbing on many levels: threats of banning entire religions from entering the country, mass deportation of others, an alarming rise in intolerance and violence against immigrants and communities of certain faiths, and an overall surge in narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Many of our friends and neighbors feel threatened, unsafe, and marginalized because of who they are or what they believe. Listen and participate in a discussion of how communities of faith can help us find common moral ground that unites us, protects us, and builds a powerful force for justice.


  • Reverend Dr. Antonio Aja, Westminster Presbyterian Church
  • Rabbi Neil Amswych, Temple Beth Shalom
  • Imam Abdul Aziz Eddebbarh, Chairman, Ibn Asheer Islamic Institute
  • Singh Sahib Krishna Singh Khalsa, Sikh Dharma Ministry
  • Deacon Anthony Trujillo, San Isidro Roman Catholic Church
  • Reverend Blaine Wimberly, Zia United Methodist Church

Moderator:  Reverend Gail Marriner, Unitarian Universalist Church

 Hope to see you there.
In solidarity,
Roxanne and Paul

Categories: Four Corners

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4 replies

  1. It is very disappointing to see that your “interfaith” panel is 5/6 Abrahamic and 6/6 monotheistic. Until other faith traditions with different histories and beliefs are included, it will not be interfaith.

    • The team that organized this tried for 2-3 weeks to get more balance but scheduling or lack of responses led to the panel we have, which may not be as inclusive as we would have liked, but should still generate an interesting discussion. If you would like to take the lead in organizing a second panel, we will do it, but it is a good deal more difficult than it might appear. Thanks for you comment.

  2. I am unable to print a ticket but have the email affirming I signed up two weeks ago.

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