Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country

Duckworth introduces safety net bill for coal country
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWhitmer met with Biden days before VP announcement: report Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package 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-CortezDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Ethics Committee orders Tlaib to refund campaign ,800 for salary payments Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey 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.