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In Craig, one big question looms: What happens if the transition fails?

Transitions are nothing new, and American history is full of cautionary tales. When big industries fail or move away, bad things can happen to the small towns that rely on them. 

Think about timber mills closing in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest. Or fisheries collapsing in New England. Or Midwestern automotive factories moving offshore.

Some of those communities managed to survive. Many didn’t.

Since the mid-2000s, coal closures have washed over the U.S. like a wave.

As President, Donald Trump pledged he'd restore the livelihoods of coal workers. But by the end of his term, coal jobs were as endangered as ever.

In Appalachia, closures hit small towns hard. Muhlenberg, Kentucky. Manchester, Ohio. McDowell County, West Virginia. The list goes on. Schools, hospitals, and other public services withered. People moved away.

We wanted to get some national perspective on coal-impacted communities.

So we sat down with Heidi Binko, Executive Director of the Just Transition Fund, and Chris Markuson, Director of Colorado and State Economic Transition Policy at the BlueGreen Alliance. We wanted to see what we've learned from other towns that are further ahead in their transitions. 

Most of all, we wanted to know if Craig could succeed where others failed.

Heidi Binko, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Just Transition Fund
Chris Markuson, Director of Colorado and State Economic Transition Policy, BlueGreen Alliance
Kirstie McPherson, Community and Economic Development Manager, Colorado Office of Just Transition
Tim Wohlgenant, Executive Director, Yampa Valley Community Foundation

Bonus Clips

Tim Wohlgenant, Executive Director of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, talks about broadband and housing in Craig, Colorado.

Chris Markuson, Director of Colorado and State Economic Transition Policy BlueGreen Alliance, discusses the value of infrastructure investments for rural communties.

Further Reading

"Donald Trump Promises to Cut Regulation on ‘Phony’ Environmental Issues," TIME, May 26, 2016.

"Trump: We’re putting our great coal miners back to work," Fox News Business, August 21, 2018.

"Coal-fired power plants closing fast despite Trump’s pledge of support for industry," Reuters, January 13, 2020.

"Forced to Choose Between a Job - and a Community," ProPublica, May 23, 2018.

"Trump, McConnell promised to bring back coal. But Kentucky lost 2,700 jobs on their watch," Louisville Courier-Journal, October 14, 2020.

"Communities in Crisis," Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, October 27, 2017.

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