Jul 16, 2019

Coal's decline puts some communities in economic peril

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Expand chart
Adapted from Morris, et. al, 2019,  "The risk of fiscal collapse in coal-reliant communities"; Chart; Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Local governments face severe economic risks from coal's ongoing decline and future climate policies, yet often fail to disclose these threats in their municipal bond filings, a report shows.

Why it matters: It's a sobering look at what could be in store for specific mining-dependent regions, where coal revenues account for a third or more of the budget, and the sector's collapse could have severe ripple effects.

  • The analysis — from a Columbia University energy think tank and the Brookings Institution — arrives as Democratic White House hopefuls push emissions policies that would hasten coal's power-sector decline.
  • However, the Democratic proposals also aim to help fossil fuel workers and communities transition to other economic sectors.

What they found: One conclusion is that "even a moderately stringent climate policy could create existential risks for the coal industry." Mining employs roughly 53,000 people and its economic importance to coal-dependent regions affects far more people still.

  • Another is that while new climate policies would further threaten coal-mining regions' ability to pay outstanding bond debt, their filings fail to capture this.
  • "[O]ur review of the outstanding bonds indicates that municipalities are at best uneven and at worst misleading (by omission) in their characterizations of climate-related risks," it states.

The bottom line: The report emphasizes the need for economic diversification of coal-reliant economies — and federal investment and support for these regions and their workers.

  • "A new source of government revenue may be required to push a serious economic development program across the finish line, and logical source of these funds would be a federal carbon price," it states.

Go deeper: Coal communities risk fiscal collapse (Washington Examiner)

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,898,613 — Total deaths: 399,832 — Total recoveries — 3,087,714Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,920,061 — Total deaths: 109,802 — Total recoveries: 500,849 — Total tested: 19,778,873Map.
  3. Public health: Why the pandemic is hitting minorities harder — Coronavirus curve rises in FloridaHow racism threatens the response to the pandemic Some people are drinking and inhaling cleaning products in attempt to fight the virus.
  4. Tech: The pandemic is accelerating next-generation disease diagnostics — Robotics looks to copy software-as-a-service model.
  5. Business: Budgets busted by coronavirus make it harder for cities to address inequality Sports, film production in California to resume June 12 after 3-month hiatus.
  6. Education: Students and teachers flunked remote learning.

George Floyd updates

Protesters gather north of Lafayette Square near the White House during a demonstration against racism and police brutality, in Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have been rallying in cities across the U.S. and around the world to protest the killing of George Floyd. Huge crowds assembled in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago for full-day events on Saturday.

Why it matters: Twelve days of nationwide protest in the U.S. has built pressure for states to make changes on what kind of force law enforcement can use on civilians and prompted officials to review police conduct. A memorial service was held for Floyd in Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born. Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all flags to fly at half-staff to honor him until sunset.

Updated 7 hours ago - World

In photos: People around the world rally against racism

Despite a ban on large gatherings implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic, protesters rally against racism in front of the American Embassy in Paris on June 6. Photo: Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people have continued to rally in cities across the world against racism and show their support this week for U.S. demonstrators protesting the death in police custody of George Floyd.

Why it matters: The tense situation in the U.S. has brought the discussion of racism and discrimination onto the global stage at a time when most of the world is consumed by the novel coronavirus.