One year after Rachel Notley’s NDP government announced its intention to phase out coal power by 2030, communities directly impacted by the move are still waiting to hear how the government intends to soften the blow.
In Hanna, Alta. about 200 of its 2,700 residents are directly employed by Atco’s Sheerness coal power station, and the Westmoreland mine adjacent to it. That number doesn’t include the people who provide contract work to the facilities. With those jobs now up in the air, residents are fearing the worst.
“It’s definitely going to hurt,” long-time business owner Calvin Warnock told Global News. He’s lived in the community since the late 1970s. “If there’s not a replacement, is this town going to become a ghost town?”
In addition to the 200 jobs that would be eliminated by the closure of the power statement, officials say there would other economic effects.
“You throw 200 homes on the real estate market, what will it do to the rest of the homes in our town?” said Larry Stickle, another long-time resident and town councillor. “It’s going to be terrible.”
The phase-out is still a number of years away, but the community is already feeling the impacts. The local learning centre has seen a drop in the number of people registering for job training programs.
The region has reached out to a consulting firm to determine exactly how large the economic hit will be, and identify new opportunities it should explore to replace the lost activity. The government has also struck a panel to meet with impacted communities, and build a road map.
“We’re going to do everything we can to work with the town, with the municipality, with residents, with workers for a just transition,” Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said. “We want to act in the best interest of Albertans, and that includes the folks who live in Hanna.”
In Hanna, until they see a firm plan, there remains a lingering concern the government doesn’t fully understand the impact of its decision. (KLM, with files from Global News)