Gov. Jared Polis has named one of his current staff to serve as the director of a new office created to help workers and communities impacted by the state’s shift away from coal-based power generation.
Wade Buchanan, currently the governor’s director of policy and research, will leave that job at the end of the month to head the Office of Just Transition, which will be part of the state Department of Labor and Employment.
Buchanan previously served as senior adviser on aging in the administration of former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and earlier in his career was acting executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and director of the Colorado Office of Energy Conservation for another past governor of the state, Roy Romer. Buchanan also has served as president of the Bell Policy Center, a research, outreach and advocacy organization.
The Office of Just Transition was created by a law passed by the state Legislature last year. Its creation came as lawmakers passed bills addressing climate and energy generation in the state, including one establishing goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and as Polis launched a push for the state to transition to 100% renewable energy.
“As we work toward achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040, we need to make sure that Coloradans in coal-dependent communities have the tools they need to thrive in today and tomorrow’s economy. Wade is just the right person to lead the office’s efforts as our economy makes this transition,” Polis said in a news release.
“Wade has years of experience advocating for practical and sensible energy and natural resource policy,” Joe Barela, executive director of the Department of Labor and Employment, said in the release. “His ability to build coalitions, as well as his wealth of knowledge and significant leadership experience, will serve the state well as we all work together to ensure we create an economy that elevates all Coloradans.”
In January, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced that it plans to close the Craig State coal-fired power plant in Moffat County by 2030, a move responding to factors including state policies and regulations and the availability of increasingly cheap renewable energy.
The closure also will result in the shutdown of two nearby mines that supply it, altogether resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs. Shutdowns of coal mines and/or power plants in recent years also have affected communities such as Paonia and Nucla.
The Office of Just Transition has created an advisory committee that is tasked with developing a draft just transition plan by the end of the year.
The bill creating the office requires that plan to include information and recommendations concerning proposed benefits for former coal workers to help them support themselves and their families, including through access to education and training leading to high-quality jobs, the state said in its release.
The plan also is to address strategies to help affected communities, and grants and other funding to help them create more diversified economies.