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Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country

Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' Top Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Another Defense official resigns | Pentagon chief says military 'remains strong' despite purge | Top contender for Biden DOD secretary would be historic pick MORE (D-Ill.) is sponsoring a bill to provide a safety net for coal workers who risk losing their jobs as the country shifts to cleaner forms of energy.

The Marshall Plan for Coal Country Act, a nod to the economic recovery plan for Europe after World War II, would ensure health care coverage for coal workers as well as cover higher education costs for coal miners and their family.

Duckworth’s legislation comes as the senator has risen to the top of the shortlist for the Democratic ticket this year and as the Biden campaign has shifted its climate plan to appease the left wing of the party.

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The bill from Duckworth includes many of the “just transition” ideals prescribed by the Green New Deal revolution sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far New Consensus co-founder discusses proposal for Biden to use Fed to sidestep Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.), and would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

“For centuries, our nation has relied on the sacrifices made by coal country—and coal workers—to industrialize and power our nation with affordable energy,” Duckworth said in a release. 

“Mineworkers spent their days in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to provide a good life for their families and help the rest of our country succeed. We can’t afford to leave them behind,”

Despite efforts from the Trump administration to bolster the coal industry, market forces have pushed utilities to cheaper, cleaner forms of electricity, leaving the nation’s roughly 50,000 coal jobs in jeopardy.

The legislation would provide Medicare to coal workers that have lost their jobs while also modifying bankruptcy laws to require coal companies to pay expenses for health care, pension benefits and environmental damages before dealing with executive pay.

Beyond the educational benefits, the bill requires the Department of Energy to place a federal grant coordinator within each coal community for a minimum of 10 years.

On the environmental front, any coal plant with more than eight years of operational life would be provided carbon capture technology and would require shuttering coal plants to be decommissioned, much like nuclear power plants, to ensure pollution would not escape the closed facility.