This Earth Day, we take a moment to recognize that clean energy solutions can not only help save our planet from the devastation of extreme climate change, but also help save families from suffering due to high energy costs. Just this week, Memphis, TN was named one of the top 10 cities with the highest energy burden in the country in a new report, with Memphians spending an average of just over 6% of their income on energy bills. This percentage more than doubles for low-income families in Memphis, with those families paying over 13% of their income on utility bills – the highest in the country! Families with high energy burdens suffer significant negative health impacts and economic hardship. They face greater risks for respiratory diseases and increased stress, and too often have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their lights on.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy, joined moms in Atlanta last night to talk about air pollution and ways we can work together to provide cleaner air for our kids. The theme of her remarks was clear: “Keep talking.” She urged us to “keep making the case that the march to clean power [...]
The Clean Power Plan and the transition to the clean energy economy more broadly are creating immense opportunities for community engagement in helping shape our states’ energy futures. Environmental justice champion, Reverend Leo Woodberry, who we profiled in our Black History Month blog series last year, is therefore focusing on bringing people together to find common ground in acting on climate change.
When it comes to keeping kids safe and healthy, SACE member Dr. Yolanda Whyte knows that it takes more than a visit to the pediatrician. She is devoted to raising the alarm about the source of many health problems, especially for children of color and those who live in low-income areas: environmental toxics in our air and water. She graciously agreed to be interviewed for SACE’s Black History Month series.
In cities as old and historic as Memphis, TN, there are often many older, inefficient homes where energy seeps out through leaky windows, doors and poorly insulated attics. A city often remembered for its role in the Civil Rights Movement, Memphis is a majority-minority city with African-Americans comprising around 63% of the population. As of 2010, almost 27% of Memphians were living in poverty – and only a little more than half of the city (51%) owned their own homes. The other half of Memphians live in multi-family housing, like apartment buildings, duplexes, and condominiums, where families have less control over the energy efficiency of their residences.
Arlicia Gilliams is one Memphian who used to live in an extremely inefficient apartment that lost energy through poorly sealed doors, windows and a poorly sealed attic. Although gainfully employed and working hard, Ms. Gilliams was struggling to meet unnecessarily high utility bills while also on the search to buy a house. Now, Ms. Gilliams is the proud owner of a new energy efficient home built by Habitat for Humanity.
On Feb 5 I had the honor to accompany local and national advocates to Washington, DC for a briefing of the US Commission on Civil Rights regarding the environmental justice impacts of toxic coal ash. Together, we delivered an unequivocal message to the Commission: Communities are suffering from this byproduct of burning coal for electricity, and EPA’s rules leave a lot to be desired to protect them. In 2016, the Commission is reviewing civil rights implications of EPA’s policies and will provide a report to Congress and the President by September 30. EPA recently released two new rules related to coal ash, so the Commission held this day-long briefing to hear from several panels of impacted people, experts, and industry representatives about environmental justice and coal ash.
Wilmington North Carolina is a small coastal town in Southeastern North Carolina. It has pristine beaches that meet the mouth of the state’s largest river system known at the Cape Fear River. This daunting name has historical significance that serves as a great metaphor for the town’s deeply rooted justice issues that many Wilmingtonians fear bringing up. But Hollis Briggs is not like most Wilmington residents.
Last weekend, the 2015 Memphis Environmental Justice Conference – Envisioning a Cleaner, Healthier Environment – brought people together, both local and national, to hear speakers talk on issues ranging from transportation issues, labor and the environment and gender and environmental security. A common theme of the conference presentations was recognition that access to clean air, clean water and even clean energy should not be restricted based on attributes like one’s race, gender, religion or economic status.
El Plan de Energía Limpia ha sido estructurado para crear miles de nuevos empleos en los sectores de energía limpia y eficiencia energética, ofreciendo incentivos para crear buenos empleos en las comunidades vulnerables. El Plan recomienda estándares robustos para asegurar que los nuevos puestos de trabajo creados conduzcan a carreras de calidad. El Plan de Energía Limpia e iniciativas de política pública relacionadas también contienen protecciones vitales para los trabajadores en el sector del carbón y para sus comunidades. La EPA y el Departamento de Energía (DOE, por sus siglas en inglés) han tomado medidas para ayudar a asegurar que los sindicatos, los trabajadores afectados y sus comunidades sean tratados como partes interesadas, cuyas opiniones sean escuchadas y reflejadas en los procesos estatales para crear planes de implementación (en adelante “planes estatales”). Lo que es más, el Plan de Energía Limpia aborda las preocupaciones de los sindicatos en cuanto a la confiabilidad de nuestro sistema eléctrico, el período para su cumplimiento, y crédito por reducción de emisiones originadas por procesos industriales, como la cogeneración eléctrica y térmica.
Nuevas carreras en los sectores de energía renovable y eficiencia energética
En general, el Plan de Energía Limpia anticipa un mayor crecimiento de la capacidad de generación proveniente de energía limpia que la propuesta de regulación – 28 por ciento en el reglamento final, en comparación con 22 por ciento bajo la propuesta. Además, aunque la eficiencia energética ya no es un “pilar” para el establecimiento de metas estatales de reducción de carbono, el Plan de Energía Limpia aún proporciona fuertes incentivos para que los estados y las regiones implementen programas de eficiencia energética como mecanismo de cumplimiento.
The final Clean Power Plan is structured to create thousands more new jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency, with incentives to create good jobs in vulnerable communities. It recommends robust standards to ensure that the new jobs lead to quality careers. The Clean Power Plan and related initiatives also contain vital protections for coal workers and communities. The EPA and DOE have both acted to help ensure that unions, affected workers, and their communities will be treated as stakeholders whose views are heard and reflected in the state processes to create implementation plans. What’s more, the plan addresses concerns from affected unions about ensuring our power system is reliable, the timeline for compliance, and emissions reduction credits for manufacturing processes such as combined heat and power.