After years of hard work by community members and environmental justice advocates, Just Transition will become law in Virginia on July 1. What’s that? So glad you asked. Starting July 1st, utility monopolies like Dominion Energy will be required to notify communities of an upcoming power plant closure, giving them the opportunity to plan to shift their economy to renewable energy production. Why is this a thing? Because huge corporations like Dominion tend to do this without any prior notification. This happens most commonly in communities of color. This is a vital first step toward ensuring that workers’ rights and livelihoods are protected while building healthy and strong communities with economies that don’t exploit people or the environment.
Just Transition Puts Virginia Communities First
When power plants first settle in a community, it can seem like an enormous win for everyone. Jobs are created, local businesses thrive, and the taxes generated by the plant fund schools and infrastructure. However, when those plants close, communities are thrown into chaos because of the loss of jobs and tax revenue with small businesses feeling the negative impact as well.
As we transition to a clean energy future, we must provide coal and oil-reliant communities with adequate support. When creating a transition plan, efforts must be made to include diverse local representation to ensure the transition plan is equitably designed by and for the community. This includes accessible job training or retraining with pathways to high-quality jobs and sufficient funding to make the transition plan possible.
While power plants used to provide a sense of stability to many communities, they also damaged the health of the workers, the people who live there, and the environment. Also, because environmental racism is alive and well, power plants were often built in the backyards of Black and Brown communities who bore the brunt of environmental impacts of these plants. Money must be devoted to supporting the families sickened by the pollution and to improving air quality.
We must ensure that no one is left behind as clean energy becomes the norm. We can, and will, do that by putting the people most affected by pollution and plant closings in leadership positions to create solutions that work for their communities. With Just Transition, they are in charge.