The Town of Hanna and community minded groups in the area are trying to come to grips with what might happen if and when the nearby Sheerness Generating Plant is shut down or converted to natural gas from the current coal fired boilers.
Trisha Sewell is an economic development officer for Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corporation, which is working to figure out the cost to the community in lost jobs and what can be done to mitigate the impacts of the move.
"People do want to see as much of the utility stay here as possible and keep those jobs for our community," she told 99.5 Drum FM. "The reality, though, then is we have the Westmoreland Coal Mine and it very much concerns us about how do we take those workers and find opportunities for them as well."
"A lot of the people that work with the coal mine have some very strong skill sets," she pointed out. "They've worked with heavy equipment and they have trades, so how do we take those skill sets and maybe turn it into something that another industry can utilize?"
Cactus Corridor has applied for a CARES (Community and Regional Economic Support) grant to fund the creation of an action plan for Hanna and area with regards to climate change. They're still waiting to hear back from the Alberta Government.
Nearly 200 peope are employed by the coal mine and power plant and a shift to natural gas from coal could cost as many as three quarters of those jobs. Sewell said new job opportunities have to be made available to those people.
"We've done an impact study so we could work with the Government of Alberta and get them to understand why our citizens are so concerned," she outlined. "We also did an asset map and opportunities study to really get an idea of what are the opportunities available to our region."
The government's climate change strategy calls for closing or converting most of Alberta's coal fired generators by 2030. ATCO, which owns the Sheerness plant, has indicated it may make a voluntary switch to natural gas even before that, although that has not yet been confirmed.
An advisory panel appointed by the government is due to make its long awaited report sometime this fall.

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