Gov. Polis appoints director to Office of Just Transition

Joshua Carney, Craig Press
Tri-State Generation and Transmission’s Craig Station. Tri-State is donating funds to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Sasha Nelson/ Craig Press

Wade Buchanan, who currently serves as Gov. Jared Polis’ director of policy and research, will leave that job at the end of February to head the Office of Just Transition, which will be part of the state Department of Labor and Employment, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Wade Buchanan (Courtesy Photo)

The Office of Just Transition was created by a law passed by the state Legislature last year. The creation of the office came shortly after lawmakers passed bills addressing climate and energy generation in the state, as Gov. Polis launched a push for the state to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

“As we work toward achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, we need to make sure that Coloradans in coal-dependent communities have the tools they need to thrive in today and tomorrow’s economy. Wade is just the right person to lead the office’s efforts as our economy makes this transition,” Polis said in the press release.

“Wade has years of experience advocating for practical and sensible energy and natural resource policy,” Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment Joe Barela said in the press release. “His ability to build coalitions, as well as his wealth of knowledge and significant leadership experience, will serve the state well as we all work together to ensure we create an economy that elevates all Coloradans.”

Buchanan had previously served as senior adviser on aging in the administration of former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and earlier in his career was acting executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and director of the Colorado Office of Energy Conservation for former governor Roy Romer. Buchanan also previously served as president of the Bell Policy Center, according to the press release.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced in mid-January that it will close all of its coal-fired power plants and mines in New Mexico and Colorado by 2030. The power provider serves nearly 20 rural electric cooperatives. Tri-State announced the closure of its Escalante Power Plant in Prewitt, New Mexico, by the end of 2020. It plans to close Craig Station Units 2 and 3, and the Colowyo Mine in Northwest Colorado by 2030.

That announcement also affected Trapper Mine in Moffat County, which provides coal for Unit 1 at Craig Station. With the impending closure of the plant, Trapper Mine will close between 2026 and 2030, according to President and General Manager Michael Morriss.

Due to the future jobs lost from the closures, the Office of Just Transition created an advisory committee in the hopes a developing a just transition plan by the end of 2020.

According to the press release, the bill creating the office requires that plan to include information and recommendations concerning proposed benefits for former coal workers to help them support themselves and their families, including through access to education and training leading to high-quality jobs, while also addressing strategies to help affected communities, and grants and other funding to help them create more diversified economies.

The Colorado Department of Labor is holding a Just Transition from Coal Advisory Committee Community Open House in Craig on Wednesday, March 4 from 6-8 p.m. at CNCC.

During the meeting, the Just Transition Advisory Committee wants to hear and learn from community members on how the state can best support Craig, Moffat County, and surrounding areas through an energy transition. Attendees will also be introduced to the newly formed Just Transition Office within the CO Dept of Labor & Employment and learn more about their charge and goals in assisting communities facing energy transitions.

For more information on the Just Transition Office and Advisory Committee, please visit online at:

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