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By Natalie Roper 

We know from our experience supporting economic transition in coal-impacted communities that the best way to achieve successful outcomes is to plan early and ensure that all affected stakeholders are at the table to help craft solutions. These best practices hold true for communities working to transition their economies away from other fossil fuels, as we’ve recently experienced in our work to help develop a just energy transition roadmap for oil workers with the Los Angeles Just Transition Task Force. By planning years before any oil well closure—and by engaging affected stakeholders ranging from labor to environmental justice leaders—we were able to help create one of the country’s first plans focused on oil transition to make sure oil workers and frontline communities aren’t left behind.

The LA Just Transition Task Force

Starting last year, as LA County and City started to advance plans to phase out oil extraction, they wanted to make sure they did so in a way that didn’t leave affected communities and workers behind. The City and County created the Just Transition Task Force to develop recommendations for meeting the needs of impacted workers and communities throughout the phaseout. Initially convened in September 2021, the Task Force is made up of stakeholders from state and local government, labor, Tribal Nations, environmental justice and workforce development groups, academic institutions, and the oil industry to grapple with the following goals:

  • Provide oil workers impacted by the phase-out with the necessary support to transition their skills into jobs of comparable, family-sustaining compensation or retirement in ways that promote livelihoods and dignity.
  • Properly remediate closed oil well sites and integrate input from frontline communities and sovereign Native Nations, on whose ancestral homelands Los Angeles is built, in community visioning, remediation, and land use redevelopment planning processes.
  • Leverage public and private funds to equitably and sustainably finance and coordinate the successful implementation of the Just Transition Strategy.

The Just Transition Fund facilitated the Task Force, helping navigate and bridge differences between members to develop comprehensive recommendations. The City of Los Angeles reached out to us after seeing the work of the National Economic Transition (NET) coalition and platform. Throughout all of our work—including the NET initiative and our other community-driven, inclusive technical assistance engagements—we bring together a broad range of affected stakeholders to find common ground.

Just Transition Strategy for Oil Extraction

The Task Force has recently released a report outlining its Just Transition Strategy, which is directly informed by the lessons we’ve learned working in coal communities (more to come on this in a later blog post!). The report identifies a series of recommendations informed by worker needs and through research by Intelligent Partnerships, a consultancy with global experience in workforce strategy development. After determining that there are 664 oil extraction workers in the City and unincorporated L.A. County, Intelligent Partnerships identified industries with job opportunities that offer wage parity and skill alignment. It also identified up to $620 million in state and federal funds available to support oil extraction worker transitions. Early identification of this funding is an essential next step in ensuring these recommendations can become a reality.

The recommendations include 19 strategies to achieve the goals, including:

  • Create a Workers Advisory Council to gather input and feedback from oil workers throughout the duration of the phase-out
  • Develop a pilot Transition Navigators program that provides specialized on-site assistance for oil extraction workers to easily and equitably access the retraining and reemployment programs
  • Begin a County and City General Plan Amendment process to include principles for increased stakeholder engagement and input in the site remediation and land reuse planning process of closed oil sites
  • Develop and execute a community engagement and education program to increase understanding and awareness of the existing local remediation and reuse planning processes and increase the ability of community members to be actively involved
  • Advocate for a California Just Transition Fund, an expansion and continuation of the Dislocated Workers Fund Pilot, to support workers and communities in the oil extraction transition

The full set of recommendations can be found here

Implementation & Next Steps

The work to implement the Task Force’s recommendations is just beginning. The relationships built during this process and the recommendations that resulted will require ongoing collaboration and investment. The JTF will continue to support the Task Force in 2023 to ensure ongoing stakeholder engagement in this next phase. We look forward to continuing to share lessons learned with the Just Transition Fund community!

Natalie Roper is Director of Special Projects at Just Transition Fund. She previously worked as Executive Director of Generation West Virginia.

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