Nebraska ranks third nationally in industrial customers relying on electricity, largely generated by coal-fired power plants, mostly to power irrigation systems. (Jplenio/Pixabay)

February 10, 2021

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LINCOLN, Neb. – New analysis from the financial giant Morgan Stanley projects coal will be all but eliminated from electricity generation in the U.S. by 2033, primarily because of falling prices for renewable sources including wind and solar.

Patrice Tomcik, national field manager for the group Moms Clean Air Force, believes shifting away from fossil fuels can’t come soon enough.

She said everyone exposed to air pollution from coal-fired power plants face health risks, but some Nebraskans are more vulnerable.

“The reality is that Black, Brown, indigenous and other people of color, and low-income populations and children, are especially impacted by these polluting sources,” Tomcik contended.

Pollution from burning fossil fuels at coal-fired power plants and other sources is responsible for one in five premature deaths globally, according to findings published in the journal Environmental Research.

In 2019, Nebraska relied on coal for 55 percent of its electricity, with just 20 percent generated by wind.

Critics of President Joe Biden’s goal of transitioning to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 warned the move could cost jobs.

Yale University survey found 83 percent of Americans support a jobs program for former coal workers to safely shut down mines and restore natural landscapes.

Tomcik agreed as the nation recovers from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s critical for families to have jobs that pay a living wage.

“And that’s why we are concerned about having a just transition,” Tomcik explained. “So that people who are relying on coal to put food on the table, that they can have a transition into other good-paying jobs.”

Colorado recently released a Just Transition Action Plan, outlining 29 actions to assist communities and workers that have depended on coal, tapping existing state resources.

Workers can elect to retire early, get training for a different career, or work on reclamation efforts close to home.