Open Coal Mine, Shutterstock_677778652
Open Coal Mine, Shutterstock
Project Report:
Policies to Assist Coal Workers and Their Communities – Part 2
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates the effect of the global financial system and/or the monetary system in fostering a sustainable economy.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


In this project, Brookings scholar Adele Morris worked with the Partnership for Responsible Growth (PRG) on their field-based listening sessions with community development and economic transition leaders in coal-reliant communities. She also conducted research and engagement on the issues independent of the PRG. This is Brookings’ second proposal to the Walker Foundation for this two-part project in which Morris will incorporate her findings from this work into a policy brief. The goal is to inform the provisions of carbon tax legislation that could provide funding for assistance to these workers and communities.


This memo summarizes the work through March 6, 2020 under the grant beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2020. Our goal remains to inform the provisions of carbon tax or other legislation that could provide funding for assistance to coal-reliant workers and communities. A small percentage of the revenue from a federal carbon tax in the United States could help meet the needs of already-stressed coalfield communities. Given that these resources could be many times larger than amounts previously proposed for coal worker and community support, the potential allocation and governance of these funds is important and novel.

Under this grant, as planned, Morris has participated in a series of local/regional meetings in both eastern and western coal communities. In November 2019, Morris and her research assistant, Siddhi Doshi, traveled to Wyoming for a series of meetings. First, they visited the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where Morris met with faculty and graduate students and gave a seminar in the Department of Economics. Then they drove to Sheridan, Wyoming, where Morris participated in a panel discussion entitled “When coal is no longer king” at the Power River Basin Resource Council’s annual meeting. A video of the event is available here: The panel included Morris, Denise Parrish, Deputy Administrator of the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate; Robin Cooley, Director of the Department of Workforce Services, and Wyoming House Minority Floor Leader Cathy Connolly. Activities for the rest of the trip included a follow up meeting with panelists and others the next day and a meeting with a former Wyoming budget official to discuss the revenue implications of coal’s decline in the state.

Morris returned to Charleston, West Virginia in February to be the keynote speaker at an event hosted by the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, the West Virginia Center on Climate Change, and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. The event was entitled ““Leaving No One Behind: Ensuring a Fair Transition for Workers and Communities.”

Morris included in her talks in Wyoming and West Virginia some of the findings of their paper with Noah Kaufman: “The Risk of Fiscal Collapse in Coal-Reliant Communities.” This paper has been invited for presentation at a May 2020 meeting of the National Bureau of Economic Research and, pending edits, for publication in a new prestigious journal, Environmental and Energy Policy and the Economy.

Finally, Morris has been appointed to a working group to advise the Dialogue at the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences (Casina Pio IV in the Vatican) on “The Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home” as it relates to “principles for a just transition pertaining to carbon pricing.” One aspect of this is how to craft carbon pricing policies that assist displaced workers and vulnerable communities. The Dialogue is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the University of Notre Dame. Morris’ work involves commenting on draft documents, participating a meeting in Chicago in March, and an event in June 2020 at the University of Notre Dame.


This project will allow further research to be conducted, which will contribute directly to the Walker Foundation’s purposes:

• it investigates the underlying causes of economic imbalances, such as depressions, recessions, and unemployment, and the factors which contribute thereto;
• it investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-enterprise system;
• it explores market-based solutions; and
• it investigates approaches that can be applied to solving economic imbalances that may affect the United States and challenges to the free enterprise system.

The project will directly serve these objectives by exploring a range of pragmatic approaches to ameliorate the disproportionate impacts that a carbon tax will have on those reliant on the coal industry.


Under this proposal, Morris will participate in a series of local/regional meetings in both eastern and western coal communities organized by the Partnership for Responsible Growth (PRG). Her goal is to help improve communication between local citizens and organizations in coal-reliant areas and policymakers who are considering legislation that would price carbon. Although a number of recent carbon pricing bills have included support for coal workers (or energy sector workers more generally), none of them have been comprehensive enough for appropriate implementation.

A major goal of the local meetings will be to find out what groups working in these areas have found to be effective tools over the past few years. A second major goal of this proposal is to help translate those findings into the potential provisions of carbon tax legislation.

Amount Approved
$25,000.00 on 7/1/2019 (Check sent: 7/29/2019)

Wyoming trip PRBRC
Wyoming, 47th Annual Meeting - When Coal is No Longer King: A Conversation on Wyoming's Future. Adele Morris was an invited speaker.

Wyoming trip PRBRC
Open Coal Mine, Shutterstock_677778652
The Coal Building, Pikeville


Elizabeth Jacobsen
Senior Development Coordinator, The Brookings Institution

Posted 3/29/2019 10:31 AM
Updated   3/31/2020 3:55 PM

  • Nonprofit

The Coal Building, Pikeville
The Coal Building houses facilities for The University of Pikeville - Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, Named for the coal industry's impact on the region.

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