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Montana receives $4.6M in funding aimed at retraining displaced coal workers

The U.S. Department of Labor announced $4.6 million in funding aimed at retraining roughly 1,700 coal industry workers across 21 counties in eastern Montana, the Associated Press reported Aug. 1.

The grant is especially aimed at helping coal workers who will soon be made redundant due to the planned retirement of units 1 and 2 of the 2,094-MW Colstrip coal plant by 2022.

A bill that would have required two of the plant's owners to pay for workforce transition costs and other financial losses related to the closure was rejected by a legislative committee in April.

Part of the funding will go to creating a workforce for reclamation projects, including cleaning up ash ponds near the plant and reclaiming coal mines.

"Obviously it will take many years to reclaim the land and reclaim the water, and these kinds of jobs will be there for a long time," the report quoted Mark Fix, chair of the coal task force for the Northern Plains Resource Council, as saying.