The Huntley coal plant in Tonawanda, New York, was once the area’s biggest polluter. But it was also the town’s biggest taxpayer.

So when the plant was slated to close, the town was concerned about job losses – not just for company employees, but public sector workers like teachers and paramedics.

“Those tax dollars that company pays … goes to the folks picking up garbage, and goes to people fixing the roads, and helps fund special ed,” says Rebecca Newberry, executive director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.

To ease the transition, her group partnered with the town, local businesses, unions, residents, and community groups.

Together they created an economic development plan to help the town make up lost revenue over time. It’s designed to grow local businesses and create new jobs, especially in manufacturing and technology.

The group also helped convince the state to provide funds that fill the more immediate gap in revenue.

The plant closed in 2016, and Newberry says that since that time, “not one public sector employee, to our knowledge, has lost their job because of the closing of this plant.”

So Tonawanda has moved away from a coal-powered economy while helping protect the community.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.