By Bobby Caina Calvan | Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. — The U.S. government awarded $4.6 million in aid on Tuesday to retrain hundreds of Montana coal workers, many of whom will soon be out of jobs because of a partial closure of the coal-fired Colstrip power plant.
The money was allocated after President Donald Trump declared earlier this year that the “war on coal” was over and signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era regulations.
Still, the coal industry and its workers remain in upheaval because of slumping coal markets and mounting pressure to develop cleaner forms of energy.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s office said $2 million of the money for retraining will be immediately available to begin workforce retraining. He said the funds are critical for the futures of the workers.
“Workers in the coal industry have been left to fend for themselves, so this is very important,” said Al Ekblad of the AFL-CIO, which represents hundreds of coal workers. “We need to be able to retrain them for good quality jobs to raise their families.”
The aid arrived months after a failed attempt by some state legislators to require two owners of the power plant to compensate Colstrip and surrounding communities for economic losses when two of its four units shut down by 2022.
The closure is part of an agreement between environmentalists and plant co-owners Talen Energy and Puget Sound Energy of Washington state.
While the focus is on Colstrip, the money from the U.S. Department of Labor could benefit 1,700 coal industry workers across 21 counties in eastern Montana, the governor’s office said. The money will be disbursed to training facilities at community…
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