The Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, today announced the creation of a new Four Corners Rapid Response Team (RRT), bringing together 11 federal agencies and their regional staff to partner with local officials and community leaders in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah as they navigate the region’s energy transitions and transformations.
“Energy workers and communities have powered communities for generations,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk. “We are thrilled that the Biden-Harris Administration has made billions in investments available to help these communities realize new economic activities that are equitable and accessible to all.”
Today’s announcement follows a visit by federal leadership to the Farmington/San Juan County region, focused on prioritizing federal and private investments in energy communities across the Four Corners. Federal officials, including National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, White House Deputy National Climate Advisory Ali Zaidi, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk and Assistant Secretary Brad Crabtree, as well as leaders from tribal, philanthropy, labor and the private sector were in attendance.
The one-day trip featured tours of the Chuza oil and gas wells and the San Juan Solar project near the San Juan Generating Station. A private roundtable discussion was also held at San Juan College of Energy to address challenges facing energy communities and identify opportunities to support energy and economic transition in the Four Corners region and discuss the opportunities for energy communities in the newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act.
The new RRT will align federal resources, including regional staff on the ground in the Four Corners area, toward key communities experiencing recent or imminent economic impacts as the result of coal mine and power plant closures. Federal agencies serving on the RRT will partner with these workers, communities, and public officials to provide assistance with mapping their current assets and opportunities, navigating and accessing federal policies and programs, and leveraging significant new resources available through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
“Today’s Rapid Response Team announcement is a big step in the right direction to the revitalization of our nation’s energy communities. This team will help integrate the efforts among local leaders and the federal agencies who will support these communities through their economic transitions. We’ve heard loud and clear from folks in the Four Corners that what they need are opportunities – opportunities to work, to learn new skills, to succeed and thrive financially,” said IWG Executive Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D. “I’m optimistic about what the future holds for energy communities in the Four Corners and look forward to continuing to engage with the incredible people in this region.”
The Four Corners RRT will be led by Los Alamos National Laboratory, a national lab that has played a key role in leading the regional I-West initiative focused on the broader region’s transition to a clean energy economy. In addition, the RRT will include support from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Treasury, along with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Economic Development Administration. The Four Corners RRT will also work closely with the White House Council on Native American Affairs to ensure a strong focus on tribal self-determination in the energy transition work in this region.
Historical investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act present energy communities with a multitude of opportunities to revitalize communities, diversify workforces, and support energy workers.
The Four Corners RRT is modeled after a similar effort piloted in Wyoming. The IWG will announce additional regional RRTs in the upcoming months. The RRT is part of the IWG’s core goal of creating a national network of assistance for energy communities that is community-driven, in partnership with federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental organizations and leaders.
Established by an Executive Order in President Biden’s first week in office, the IWG is pursuing a whole-of-government approach to create good-paying union jobs, spur economic revitalization, remediate environmental degradation, and support energy workers in coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities across the country as the U.S. prepares to undergo a historic energy evolution to a carbon emission-free electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.