For decades, Minnesota’s coal plant workers and host communities have provided Minnesotans with reliable power. As our state transitions from a power system based on fossil fuels to one that is based on renewable sources of energy, Minnesota’s policymakers, utilities, and advocates have an obligation to ensure that the needs and interests of all Minnesotans are being met. This includes workers and communities adversely affected by a local plant closure.
When a coal plant is retired, there are significant ripple effects. Workers at the plant may be displaced or lose their jobs, the ripple effect may cause small local businesses to lose customers and revenue, and the local community loses what is most likely its largest source of local tax revenue. These are not small challenges, and significant advance planning is required to ensure that negative local impacts are mitigated to the extent possible. Plant workers, local businesses, and community leaders must have a seat at the table while these critical decisions are being made.
Many policymakers and advocates use the phrase “just transition”—the principle that the economic, social, and environmental needs of people and communities should be considered alongside each other as complementary pieces rather than in tension, with workers and communities empowered to speak for themselves. There’s no exact blueprint for how to do this, and the exact strategies used can and should vary from one community to the next. Ultimately, the obligation rests on those in power—policymakers, regulators, utilities, employers, and advocates—to ensure that coal plant retirements are truly just and proceed with respect and care for the most affected individuals and communities.
Community Energy Transition Grant Program
Midwest Governors Association – Preparing Midwest Communities for Power Plant Closures