There aren’t many words in our public discourse which spark as much controversy as “coal.” To some, it’s what keeps the lights on. To others, it’s what’s changing our climate, and harming our planet. It can mean keeping jobs – or losing them. It can mean facing the hard reality of economic change – or fighting to keep things the same. Regardless of where in the conversation you stand, coal is controversial.
It wasn’t always this way. For much of our state’s history, coal was an economic driver, the fuel powering our homes and businesses, a way to get a good job. For individuals and communities along the Western Slope, coal was a part of life.
But our world has changed. Just this past week, the West Elk Mine laid off 80 workers, the latest in a long string of job losses and mine closures across the Western Slope. Protests around the country urging decision-makers to “keep it in the ground” are becoming more and more common. And earlier this year, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell launched a review into the federal coal leasing program, resulting in a pause of all future leases – and in an opportunity for us.
This is the opportunity: to have a conversation, as a Western Slope community, about coal.
The facts are clear: people are losing their jobs, and have been for a long time, and our people and communities are hurting. And, the federal coal leasing program is outdated and no longer serving our community, and it needs to be reformed. But up until now, the dialogue about these facts hasn’t been a dialogue. It’s been two sides shouting at each other from across the divide.
We want to change that.
It’s not about coming to the aid of coal country. It’s recognizing we are coal country, and the only way we are going to be a strong, thriving, diverse Western Slope five years from now is for all of us – whether or not we agree on everything – to come together in self-determination to decide on what we, collectively, want our future to be, and how we, collectively, want to reform coal.
So Western Colorado Congress is hosting “coal conversations” in Delta and Grand Junction (see sidebar). We don’t think we have the answers about how to rebound from mine closures, or lost jobs, or shifting economies, or climate change. So rather than starting with talking, we’re starting with listening.
We are asking you to join the conversation. Whether you can join us in Delta or Grand Junction, we hope to see you there.
Thursday, June 16, 6:30 p.m.
Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave.
Friday, June 17, 9:30 a.m.
Bill Heddles Recreation Center, 530 Gunnison River Drive
Co-sponsored by Delta Economic Development, Inc.
Coal Program Webinar
Monday, June 20, 6-7 p.m.
Learn about the coal program and about how to address the issues at the hearing.
BLM Hearing on Federal Coal Leasing Reform
Thursday, June 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Avalon Theater, Grand Junction
Doors open at 8 a.m. for speaker sign-up. If you would like to speak, please RSVP now so we can call you to talk about details!