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Center for Coalfield Justice and Other Coal Community Leaders Release Historic Platform for National Economic Transition


Residents from Greene County and surrounding areas discussing their hopes for the local economy of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Residents from Greene County and surrounding areas discussing their hopes for the local economy of southwestern Pennsylvania.

From Appalachia to the Navajo Nation, the people and communities hit hard by the changing coal economy are facing a profound and urgent crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic and economic decline have only made more difficult. Coal facility closures, layoffs, and cuts to vital services like health care and education are accelerating, devastating those that have been dependent on the coal economy — many of whom were not on equal footing to begin with, struggling following previous recessions and decades of inequality and widespread poverty. The people and places that powered our country for generations deserve much better. 

CCJ was part of a telephone press conference to unveil the National Economic Transition (NET) Platform and urge federal and national leaders and policymakers to invest in an ambitious national transition program that supports the people and places hit hardest by the changing coal economy. 

“Coal communities like ours have been historically neglected by everybody,” said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice. “We were already facing the challenges of a changing coal economy when COVID-19 hit; now we’re facing a pandemic and an urgent economic crisis on top of it. Many of us already weren’t on equal footing after decades of inequality and widespread poverty. The NET platform is based on community-driven solutions from those of us who know what we need because we live here. These are solutions that create inclusive, equitable, and sustainable economic growth, driven from the ground up. Now we need a federal government committed to investing in our community-driven solutions. This platform gives federal and national leaders the framework to develop a program for the just and equitable national transition that our communities need and deserve.” 

The NET platform would:

    • Invest in supporting local leaders and organizations to lead the transition — especially Black, brown, women, and indigenous-led organizations

    • Support local small businesses and entrepreneurship

    • Provide a bridge for workers to quality, family-sustaining jobs

    • Reclaim and remediate coal sites

    • Improve physical and social infrastructure

    • Hold coal companies accountable during bankruptcies

    • Creating entities to coordinate the transition program and equip communities with the resources they need.

Together, we envision a future where the communities hit hard by the decline of the coal industry have vibrant, resilient, and equitable economies with a thriving, local businesses and quality, family-sustaining jobs. For the health of our communities, the strength of our economy, the future of the country, and the well-being of the communities that powered this country for generations, this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Author

  • Veronica Coptis joined the CCJ staff in March 2013 as a Community Organizer and is now serving as the Executive Director. She grew up in western Greene County near the Bailey Mine Complex and currently lives in the eastern part of the county. Before joining the CCJ staff, Veronica served on the Board of Directors for CCJ and organized with Mountain Watershed Association. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University. She enjoys hiking and geocaching at Ryerson State Park and other areas around Greene County with her husband and daughters. Read more about Veronica in a New Yorker Magazine profile at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/03/the-future-of-coal-country.

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