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  • Senate Judiciary Committee approves bill to repeal Freedom of Information exemption

    first_img# # # # # Source: Leahy. WASHINGTON (Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010) ‘ The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to repeal exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that were enacted as part of the Wall Street reform bill, which was signed into law in July. The legislation is sponsored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Committee members Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ted Kaufman (D-DE).The legislation will eliminate several FOIA exemptions for certain records provided to the SEC. The exemptions were included in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.‘I am concerned that the FOIA exemptions in Section 929I of the historic Wall Street reform law could be interpreted and implemented in a way that undermines the important goal of restoring transparency and accountability in our financial system,’ said Leahy. ‘Congress should take immediate steps to clarify this matter and eliminate overly broad FOIA exemptions. The Senate should pass this important legislation without delay.’‘The economic crisis and wave of financial frauds we have seen over the past few years necessitate more transparency, not less, at the SEC,’ said Cornyn. ‘The special SEC exemptions tucked into the massive Dodd-Frank bill earlier this year could allow the SEC to deny citizens access to almost all agency records. The SEC does not have the best track record when it comes to FOIA requests, and should play by the same rules of transparency as every other government agency.’‘As I said back in July, any exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, which empowers citizens to monitor their government, must be fashioned with a scalpel,’ said Kaufman. ‘The Dodd-Frank law unfortunately contains overbroad SEC exemptions to FOIA. The bill voted out of the Judiciary Committee today eliminates the exemptions while carefully addressing legitimate SEC concerns. Its passage is critical to restoring transparency and promoting effective oversight of our financial markets and regulatory agencies.’‘The blanket FOIA exemption for the SEC that was contained in the Wall Street Reform bill was dramatically overbroad and was drafted in a way that evaded full and fair consideration by this Committee. It was particularly troubling given the SEC’s terrible record on complying with FOIA and the clear intent of Congress on this issue,’ Grassley said. ‘Our bill is a much needed piece of legislation to correct this problem. It does so in the spirit of open government, while protecting information Congress has previously exempted from disclosure.’The legislation approved by the Judiciary Committee also clarifies that hedge funds and other new entities that the SEC will regulate under the Wall Street reform law will be considered ‘financial institutions’ for the purposes of applying FOIA Exemption 8. The bill will ensure that the SEC can treat sensitive information provided by hedge funds to the Commission in connection with the SEC’s examination and surveillance activities in the same manner as the Commission treats such information when it is provided by other financial institutions.The legislation will now be referred to the full Senate for consideration.last_img read more

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  • HUD to provide permanent housing to homeless veterans in Vermont

    first_imgUS Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today that HUD will provide $58,568 to the Vermont State Housing Authority to provide permanent housing for 10 homeless veterans in the state. The funding is provided through The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH), a coordinated effort by HUD, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and local housing authorities to provide permanent supportive housing for veterans experiencing homelessness.‘Our veterans deserve something better than a life on the streets,’ said Richard A. Walega, HUD New England Regional Administrator. ‘President Obama has given us very clear marching orders that, as a nation, we must end the curse of homelessness especially for those who answered their country’s call to serve.’This funding to Vermont is part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to end veteran and long-term chronic homelessness by 2015. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local agreements to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women.Working closely with the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Vermont State Housing Authority will target rental assistance vouchers to homeless veterans in the state.The grants announced today are part of a $75 million investment to support the needs of homeless veterans. With today’s announcement, HUD will have allocated a combined $70 million to fund 9,800 housing vouchers nationwide for 2010. The fourth and final competitive round will be announced later this year or early 2011. In addition to the rental assistance, the VA Medical Centers provide supportive services and case management to eligible homeless veterans.HUD allocates the housing vouchers to local public housing agencies, which will target them to homeless veterans based on a variety of factors, including the number of reported homeless veterans and the proximity of a local VAMC with the capacity to provide case management. Veteran Affairs case managers will also work directly with local housing agencies that are administering the HUD-VASH program to determine income eligibility and help participants find suitable housing.Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S, Guam and Puerto Rico.Source: HUD. 9.28.2010HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov(link is external) and espanol.hud.gov.last_img read more

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  • New report outlines availability of forest biomass for renewable energy in the Northeast

    first_imgOn February 17th, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies will be releasing a new report on the outlook for converting forest biomass into renewable energy in the Northeast. Forest Biomass and Bioenergy: Opportunities and Constraints in the Northeastern United States details the availability of forest resources and the applications that are the most effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and foreign oil dependence while promoting rural economies.Join experts for a discussion about how biomass energy can be used to help the Northeast work toward a renewable energy future. Also learn about existing pressures on forests, regions that show the potential for forest biomass energy growth, and the need to manage forests for multiple uses, including carbon sequestration and wildlife protection.The discussion will be open format. The states outlined in the report include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.WHAT:Experts discuss new report outlining the future of forest biomass energy in the NortheastWHEN:Thursday, February 17 at 10 a.m. ESTWHO:Charles Canham , Forest Ecologist and Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesThomas Buchholz , Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of VermontSteven Hamburg , Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense FundWilliam Schlesinger , President and Biogeochemist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesWHERE:Dial ( 800 ) 920- 6941The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is a private, not-for-profit environmental research and education organization in Millbrook, N.Y. For more than twenty-five years, Cary Institute scientists have been investigating the complex interactions that govern the natural world. Their objective findings lead to more effective policy decisions and increased environmental literacy. Focal areas include air and water pollution, climate change, invasive species, and the ecological dimensions of infectious disease. Learn more at www.caryinstitute.org(link is external).SOURCE Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies MILLBROOK, N.Y., Feb. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —last_img read more

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  • Vermont doctors split on ‘single-payer,’ support ‘death with dignity’

    first_imgState Representative George Till (D-Jericho) today released the results of the 2011 Vermont Physician Legislative Survey. The survey results indicate that physicians themselves are split on “single-payer” insurance, but that many specialists would consider leaving the state if it were instituted. This may be because of compensation, where the survey shows that Vermont would be a more attractive place to practice if reimbursement rates were higher. The survey respondents favored physician-assisted suicide legislation. They also overwhelmingly supported “no fault” malpractice insurance and believed that it would make Vermont a more attractive place to practice. Till conducted the survey with a Departmental faculty support grant from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. This survey is the first of its kind, in that it was offered to all active licensed physicians in the state of Vermont and was not conducted by a governmental agency. Survey invitations were sent to 1,686 licensed physicians, and approximately 610 physicians (36 percent) completed the on-line survey.The survey asked 25 questions. Thirty-seven percent (37 percent) of the respondents self-identified as primary care physicians. The respondents ranged in age from 29 years to 81 years old.Below are the results sorted by all physicians first, followed by primary care physicians only and then specialty care physicians. Text responses to open ended questions follow.SELECTED FINDINGS Health Care Reform 1) Although physicians are evenly split in support (44.2%) and opposition (45.6%) to a ‘single payer’ health care system, 28.4% of respondents say they are likely to stop practicing in Vermont should a ‘single payer’ system be initiated;. 53.4% say they would not be likely to stop practicing here and 18.1% were neutral. 2) Among specialists 37% say they are likely to stop practicing in Vermont whereas among primary care physicians the number was 13.9%. 3) Physician opinion that a ‘no fault’ medical compensation system as opposed to the current malpractice system would make Vermont a more attractive place to practice was 73.1%; 5.3% disagree; and 21.6% were neutral. 4) 64.6% of respondents favor a ‘public option’ for health insurance to compete with private insurers. Physician Assisted Suicide/ Death with Dignity 1) Given the protections in the current proposal, 58.8% of physician respondents overall favor passage of legislation allowing Physician Assisted Suicide/Death with Dignity. 2) Overall 22.1% of physicians would be ‘likely to participate’ in the program.3) Among primary care physicians, 61.5% favor passage and 34.1% would be ‘likely to participate.’4) 13% of respondents thought there were additional protections for physicians or patients that should be included. Consumption taxes 1) There is strong physician support for a 1 penny per ounce excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages (71.7%). 2) There is strong support for a similar tax on ‘junk food’ (65.5%). Primary Care workforce issues 1) Increasing reimbursements to primary care physicians was considered the most important tool to correct Vermont’s shortage (73.8%). 2) Specifically among primary care physicians, 81.1% consider increased reimbursement to be the most important factor in attracting and retaining more primary care physicians. 3) The two factors considered next most important were increased loan repayment programs and reducing paperwork.  The entire survey and results along with individual comments can be viewed at: georgetill.comlast_img read more

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  • Sanders to FCC: Let Vermont regulate cable TV

    first_imgUS Senator Bernie Sanders today asked the Federal Communications Commission to let Vermont regulate basic cable television rates which increased in the state last year by an average of almost 10 percent. Sanders asked the FCC to reconsider a determination that satellite providers, such as DirectTV Inc. and DISH Network, provide ‘effective competition’ to cable. Recognizing that satellite and cable are not genuine competitors could clear the way for the state to regulate so-called basic cable and force Comcast to justify rate increases.Comcast’s cable rates continue to rise in Vermont. At the end of 2009, just two of Comcast’s 10 Vermont service areas charged more than $20 a month for comparable basic cable packages. One year later, at the end of 2010, Comcast was charging more than $20 a month in six of its 10 service areas. Even as monthly prices for basic cable rose by at least 10 percent in four Vermont service areas, the number of channels offered to Comcast’s basic cable customers in those areas decreased.‘Comcast has at least 113,000 subscribers in Vermont,’ Sanders wrote to the FCC. ‘Many of these are captive customers, and for this reason, Comcast has been able to raise its rates again and again without justification.’The Vermont Public Service Board cannot regulate even the lowest tier of programming because of the FCC determination that satellite service is an effective competitor to cable networks. In fact, however, satellite is not available to all Vermonters because of the mountainous terrain. Satellite service in many instances does not offer local programming or public channels, which serve as a source of information and news for local communities throughout Vermont. ‘It is no wonder, then, that supposed competition from satellite has failed to hold down Comcast’s rate,’ Sanders wrote.The average rate increase for Comcast’s basic cable packages in Vermont from 2009 to 2010 was $2.14 a month. The highest price increase was $3.25 a month’ a 28 percent increase ‘ to $15 a month for the area serving communities in the Lake Champlain Islands. The highest prices paid by Vermonters for Comcast’s basic cable was $22.35 a month. Hartford, Hartland, Norwich and Pomfret, the area which paid the highest price for Comcast’s basic cable service, saw prices increase $2 month, or 10 percent, from 2009 to 2010.WASHINGTON, May 24, 2011last_img read more

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  • Vermont Law School lifts ban on military recruiters

    first_imgVermont Law School,Vermont Law School has lifted its ban on military recruiters on campus in anticipation of the official repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law in late September. VLS, which denied access to military recruiters for more than 25 years because ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ conflicts with the school’s nondiscrimination policy, notified the U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday, July 19, that its recruiters are welcome back on campus effective immediately. VLS is one of only two law schools in the nation that prohibit military recruiters on campus because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which prevents gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military’and VLS is the only law school that foregoes some federal funds because of its stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” “This law school has stood fast to our position of principle, in the face of significant pressure, to insist that the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ law be repealed,” Dean Jeff Shields said. ‘That day is finally here.’ Legislation to repeal the law was approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to announce this afternoon that the Pentagon has certified that the law’s repeal will not affect military readiness. President Obama is expected to certify the repeal, which would become effective in 60 days, or late September. Shields, in a letter Tuesday to the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, said VLS has rescinded its policy effective immediately to deny access to military recruiters on campus. Shields also asked that VLS again be made eligible for Department of Defense funding as well as federal funding from other departments and agencies that excluded VLS because of its stance on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ‘We had continued that longstanding practice of denying campus access with regret because all constituents of Vermont Law School hold the Armed Forces and the several Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the highest respect,’ Shields wrote. ‘Nor has our practice reflected any bias against military service as a career for our students or graduates. We recognize the importance to the country of an able corps of lawyers of high quality in the Armed Services and the value to our students of the professional opportunities that JAG service provides. In fact, a number of our students and recent graduates have accepted JAG commissions and internships, and some are presently serving with distinction on active duty.  ‘Our practice reflected our long and strongly held institutional belief that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, like discrimination on the basis of race and other prohibited grounds, is an unacceptable practice that weakens national unity and arbitrarily deprives the military and all sectors of our society of the abilities and services of individuals of high talent and dedication. Our practice has also been consistent with the public policy of the State of Vermont as reflected in its nondiscrimination legislation. Our campus is now open to fully support the recruiting efforts of the Armed Services.’ VLS students and JAG recruiters have maintained a strong relationship despite the impediment of having to meet off campus over the years. On average, VLS has the same number of graduates and interns entering JAG as law schools nationwide that have long allowed military recruiters on campus.Vermont Law School prohibited military recruiters on campus almost continuously since 1985 when the school adopted a nondiscrimination policy for all employers. The policy prohibits employers from using VLS’s Career Services Office for recruitment on campus unless they give written assurance that they do not discriminate in hiring on a variety of grounds, including sexual orientation. JAG recruiters declined to provide that assurance. In 1990, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) adopted a requirement that member schools deny campus access for recruitment to employers who decline to provide written assurance that they do not discriminate on those grounds. VLS operated under both its own and the AALS policies since 1990. The “don’t act, don’t tell” law was enacted in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise to excluding gay men and lesbians entirely from military service.In 1995, Congress adopted the Solomon Amendment to withhold some federal money from law schools and universities that do not give military recruiters the same access to campus as other employers. In 2000, the Defense Department announced that if any school or department of a university prohibited military recruiters, the entire university would be denied federal funding under the Solomon Amendment. In response, the AALS suspended its nondiscrimination requirement so far as it affected JAG recruiters, but imposed more stringent requirements of ‘amelioration’ upon law schools that allow JAG recruiters on campus. Since then, nearly all law schools affiliated with a college or university bowed to central university pressure and allowed JAG to recruit on campus and complied with the “amelioration” requirement. VLS, however, as an independent institution, continued to deny military recruiters access to campus.VLS has not sought federal appropriations, grants or contracts covered under the Solomon Amendment since 2000. The federal law has made VLS ineligible to receive federal funds from the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and certain related agencies. As a result, VLS has foregone the opportunity to receive an estimated $500,000 a year in federal funds. The school has continued to receive funding from other federal agencies, including the Departments of State and Energy. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Solomon Amendment, but the VLS faculty, trustees and students repeatedly reaffirmed the school’s nondiscrimination policy and its practice of denying access to military recruiters until the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law is repealed.Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service, a Master of Environmental Law and Policy degree and two post-JD degrees, the Master of Laws in Environmental Law and the LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers). The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center and the South Royalton Legal Clinic. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu(link is external).last_img read more

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  • IEEFA Welcomes Gerard Wynn as Energy Finance Consultant in Europe

    first_imgIEEFA Welcomes Gerard Wynn as Energy Finance Consultant in Europe FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Gerard Wynn, a 10-year veteran of energy and economics reporting at Thomson Reuters, has joined the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) as a U.K.-based energy finance consultant.  Wynn will focus on analyzing key decisions by electric utilities in Europe and on the economics of several proposed and existing coal-fired power plants. “Financial markets and investment decisions made in Europe resound around the globe, as do choices European utilities can make to accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels,” said Sandy Buchanan, IEEFA’s executive director.  “We know IEEFA’s work in this area will benefit greatly from Gerard’s extensive knowledge about energy economics and top-notch investigative skills.”  Wynn has authored numerous research papers on the energy industry, including on solar power development in Great Britain and coal-fired generation in China and India. He publishes the Energy and Carbon blog.  Wynn has a PhD in environmental economics from the University of Aberdeen, a master’s in agricultural economics from Imperial College at Wye, and a bachelor’s from the University of Cambridge.last_img read more

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  • Environmentalists push strict coal ash cleanup plan as a jobs initiative for Colstrip area

    first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Billings Gazette:A Montana conservation group is urging the state to hold Colstrip power plant ash pond cleanup to the highest possible standard, a move it says would keep 218 workers employed for a decade.Drawing on its federally funded 2019 study of Colstrip cleanup options, the Northern Plains Resource Council said Wednesday that completely de-watering the power plant’s coal ash ponds and putting the ash in dry storage would do the most to stop groundwater contamination, and keep more than 200 people employed.An estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water seeps from Colstrip ash ponds every year. The area’s groundwater is undrinkable. The town of Colstrip relies on drinking water pumped from the Yellowstone River primarily to serve the power plant. A highly concentrated coal ash sludge known as “bottom ash” is the most harmful pollution in the 800-plus-acre pond complex. The contaminants of concern, according to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), are: boron, sulfate, molybdenum, manganese, lithium, selenium and cobalt.The Montana DEQ has asked Colstrip operator Talen Energy to consider excavating ash from the Colstrip ponds. Depending on which cleanup options DEQ agrees to, the cost of the project could be $400 million to $700 million. Those cost estimates, for the cleanup of all three ponds, were produced by Talen and Colstrip’s largest utility shareholder, Puget Sound Energy, according to DEQ.Talen Energy hasn’t backed full excavation as its preferred cleanup plan. DEQ will decide which cleanup measures are most adequate.Northern Plains’ Kate French said the “high and dry” cleanup measures preferred by the conservation group would increase the remediation cost to $900 million.More: Coal ash pollution cleanup could create 200 Colstrip jobs for a decade, conservationists say Environmentalists push strict coal ash cleanup plan as a jobs initiative for Colstrip arealast_img read more

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  • Florida regulators halt utilities backsliding on efficiency goals

    first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Tampa Bay Times:In a rare rebuke to Florida’s major utilities, state regulators rejected plans on Tuesday that would have let them all but eliminate programs that help their customers save energy.They later sided with utilities, setting the stage for a process that would allow the industry to charge its customers for hardening the grid from storms by spending as much as $50 billion burying power lines.Florida Public Service Commission member Julie Brown, a Tampa lawyer, urged her colleagues to maintain existing energy efficiency goals by continuing to offer savings programs for customers. The vote was 4 to 1.The proposal by the utilities was “a drastic reduction in our state in conservation efforts, and I frankly do not believe it’s what the customers want,’’ Brown said. “I don’t believe it’s in the public interest.”Florida’s state’s five investor-owned utilities, which include Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co., are required to submit goals every five years outlining how much energy they expect to save through programs that push for customers to reduce their power consumption and make energy-efficient upgrades to homes and businesses.Programs include such things as rebates for LED light bulbs and more energy-efficient appliances.Earlier this year, utilities submitted what environmental advocates called “zero” goals for the next five years. Duke Energy asked to drop its target for reducing energy consumption though conservation by 15 percent to save just 166 gigawatt hours. Florida Power & Light, which serves much of South Florida, requested a 99 percent decrease to 1.03 gigawatt hours. Tampa Electric was the only utility to propose increasing its goal by 14 percent, to 165 gigawatt hours.More: Florida regulators reject utilities’ proposed energy efficiency goals Florida regulators halt utilities backsliding on efficiency goalslast_img read more

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  • U.S. groups push economic transition plan for coal miners, coalfield communities

    first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):A group of local, tribal and labor leaders in U.S. communities where coal has traditionally been mined unveiled a “National Economic Transition,” or NET, platform to help former workers and communities transition to an economy that derives increasingly less power from coal.U.S. coal consumption has been declining rapidly in recent years and the U.S. Energy Information Administration recently forecast coal production will drop 25% below 2019 levels this year. The one-year development process behind the NET was led by the Just Transition Fund, an organization that is working to create economic opportunities for communities traditionally dependent on the coal sector and addresses challenges including climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality in communities that once relied on coal.“Workers and families affected by the changing coal economy are facing a profound crisis complicated by unique difficulties. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic decline, coal facilities closures, layoffs, and cuts to vital services were devastating to people and places dependent on the coal economy — many of whom are still struggling following earlier economic declines, the loss of manufacturing jobs, or inequality and widespread poverty,” the report released June 29 states. “For low-income communities and communities of color already disproportionately left behind by the status quo, the need for equitable and inclusive economic growth is vital.”The new platform is based on seven pillars that include: investing in local leaders and long-term economic development planning; expanding investments in entrepreneurship and small businesses in new sectors; providing bridge support and pathways to in-demand, family-sustaining jobs for workers; reclaiming and remediating coal sites to create jobs while cleaning up the environment; improving inadequate physical and social infrastructure; addressing the impact of coal company bankruptcies and coordinating across various programs to ensure communities have access to the resources they need. The coalition’s report points to solutions that are community-driven, tailored to a specific location, inclusive to all and supportive of communities and families as the most durable approaches to economic transition.More than 80 organizations and individuals collaborated on the platform, the report states. Two immediate first steps recommended by the report are the creation of a national transition task force charged with creating a national action plan and the development of a new federal Office of Economic Transition.“The livelihoods of thousands of communities and tens of millions of people rely on us getting this transition right,” the report states. “Political leaders across the country must make the decision to engage and make significant investments now using the community-driven framework and scalable solutions provided by this platform.”[Taylor Kuykendall]More ($): Coalition launches a national economic transition plan for U.S. coal country U.S. groups push economic transition plan for coal miners, coalfield communitieslast_img read more

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