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Murray Energy, the nation’s largest privately held coal company, filed for bankruptcy protection this past Tuesday — now the eighth coal company to do so in the past year.

The collapse of Murray Energy comes as the demand for coal continues to drop. In 2018, coal produced only 28% of the country’s power, a number that used to be as high as 40% just five years ago. That share continued to drop to 25% in 2019, and is expected to drop to 22% by next year.

The facts are loud and clear: Coal is no longer necessary to power our country.

We know it isn’t the coal moguls who will feel the effects of the coal industry collapse. Too often when coal companies go bankrupt, workers, their pensions, and their health care are put behind the self-interests of the owners and their bankruptcy lawyers.

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The state of New Mexico included significant workforce development funding for coal communities in its 100% clean energy bill, the Energy Transition Act. Montana’s initiative I-187 is patterned after New Mexico’s workforce development fund. This initiative will set up a tiny tax ($0.0004 kWh) on all energy produced in Montana which will sunset in 2035.

The $359 million it raises will fund worker retraining, pension security, apprenticeships and coal-impacted community assistance. Coal and the people who worked to produce Montana’s energy all these years should not be left without as coal barons use bankruptcy court to take the dollars they had previously contracted to workers. I-187 will allow Montanans to be there in support of the people in Montana’s coal country.

Dolores Andersen

Missoula

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