September 26, 2016
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Does CA Climate Change Law Hurt Minorities?

By Ngoc Nguyen, New America Media

 

 SAN FRANCISCO—What types of jobs and economy does California want to have in the future? How could low-income and ethnic communities and small businesses benefit from the state’s groundbreaking climate change law?

These were among the key questions as supporters and opponents of Proposition 23 faced off Friday in a spirited but respectful debate over the ballot measure’s impact on ethnic Californians. The 90-minute discussion was organized by New America Media.

If approved by voters in November, Prop. 23 would suspend AB 32, the landmark global warming statute enacted by state lawmakers in 2006, until California’s jobless rate falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. 

“The regulatory environment in California [already] makes it the worst place to do business,” argued "Yes on 23" supporter James Duran, the founder and president of Duran HCP, a capital management consulting service Silicon Valley, who was representing the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Local businesses are going away… to Nevada and Asia because of the additional costs they are being subject to.”

Another Prop. 23 supporter, Roseville-based political consultant and event planner Edwin Lombard, highlighted the statewide unemployment rate for African Americans (17.6 percent) and Hispanics (14.7 percent)— both significantly higher than California’s overall jobless rate of 12.4 percent. He also noted that California is ground zero of the foreclosure crisis, which has hit communities of color especially hard. 

Lombard argued that these minority groups are bearing the brunt of the recession and cannot afford to pay higher energy costs as a result of AB 32’s mandates. 

But Chad Silva, policy analyst for Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, noted that ethnic communities have also been disproportionately burdened by air pollution—a situation that would only worsen if AB 32 were rolled back.

“Air pollution and greenhouse gases go hand in hand,” he said. Facilities that emit greenhouse gases also give off other “co-pollutants,” such as ozone and fine particle pollution, that cause asthma and other sometimes deadly lung ailments.

Citing a recent study by several universities, Silva noted that “46 percent of Californians live within a six-mile radius of a refinery, and 66 percent of them are communities of color. We bear the brunt of pollution.”

When asked by a journalist if the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce should show leadership in driving its businesses to become more green in anticipation of the long-term effects of climate change—including water shortages and loss of jobs in industries such as tourism and agriculture—Lombard said small businesses would be better able to handle these costs later, when the economy improves.

But Ian Kim, director of the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, complained that the ballot language is deceptive. Prop. 23 “claims to be a temporary suspension of AB 32, but it’s effectively a repeal of the landmark and bedrock law in California,” Kim said, noting that the conditions under which AB 32 would be reinstated have only occurred a handful of times since 1980.

Carl Pope, executive chairman of the Sierra Club, questioned where the “Yes on 23” campaign is getting its money. “If this is so good for California’s businesses,” he said, “why are no California businesses supporting Prop. 23?

Pope said the majority of the $8.3 million raised for Prop. 23 comes from Texas-based oil companies Tesoro and Valero and Kansas-based Koch Industries, which is owned by right-wing megafunders Charles and David Koch.

But Lombard disputed the notion that the measure is being pushed by “out-of-state” interests. “Tesoro and Valero employ 4,000 people in California, and they operate one oil refinery in Northern California and one in Southern California and they pay $100 million in taxes and fees to California…these are not just Texas companies, they function and operate in California,” he said. 

So far, the “No on 23” campaign has raised $19 million, mainly from environmental groups and venture capitalists, according to the Sacramento Bee. 

NAM Director of New Media Kevin Weston, who moderated the debate sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation, asked what is the difference between the money pouring into each campaign.

“I would say it is the money of the past fighting the money of the future,” said Kim, contrasting oil-industry money with that raised by clean-tech investors and environmentalists. 

Kim said the clean-tech sector was “the last to freeze and the first to thaw” in the economic downturn, and pointed to new startups such as Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, Calif. 

Duran countered that clean-tech companies are often subsidized by the federal government with taxpayer money, only to outsource their manufacturing to companies in Asia. He said SunPower, one of the largest makers of solar panels, builds the panels in China

“I asked [SunPower] about that,” Pope said. “The company said it moved their business to be closer to the market and customers in China, where the government has fostered an environment that created a market for the goods.”

With AB 32, Pope said, California is not only trying to lead the world to change, “it is doing it to catch up with China.”

Lombard and Pope agreed that clean-tech innovation will happen in the future, but “the question is where does it happen…here, Texas, Massachusetts, India, China. AB 32 is about making sure that it happens here,” Pope said.

“We’ve heard about green jobs, but they are not being created fast enough to make up for the number of jobs that are going away,” Duran countered. 

Duran used the example of the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., where a proposed retrofit met with strong resistance from local environmental justice groups, who said the “retrofit” would have allowed the refinery to process a heavier and dirty form of crude oil that would have spewed more pollution into the surrounding neighborhoods. Supporters of the expansion contended that nixing the project cost the city—where unemployment is already hocvering around 20 percent—another 1,000 jobs. 

“Now we’re importing the gas from someplace else,” Duran said.

But Kim argued that pitting environment versus jobs is a false choice.

He compared the current crossroads to the situation more than 30 years ago, when California responded to the ‘70s energy crisis by undertaking a massive energy efficiency program—over the complaints of many businesses.

“Fast forward 30 years, the energy efficiency measures have created 1 million jobs,” said Kim, citing a UC Berkeley study. 

Kim added: “AB 32 is really about the future of California’s economy and what kinds of economy and jobs we want to create in California as we move forward.”

A journalist asked the speakers what could be built into AB 32 to benefit small business.

“California ought to put in place a massive program for cheap and easy-to-get loans for energy-efficiency upgrades,” Pope responded. “We need to decrease the costs for small business and make it easy for [them] to borrow money to make their business more efficient through the purchase of new equipment or vehicles.” Pope said studies show that 25 to-40 percent of the energy used by small businesses is lost through inefficient equipment or buildings. 

Duran and Lombard were skeptical, citing big banks’ unwillingness to lend to small businesses and the state’s deficit as barriers to such a plan.

Although there has not been any legislation to address the impact of AB 32 on small businesses, lawmakers did pass a bill that would have directed a portion of the revenues generated under AB 32 to low-income and communities of color most impacted by climate change. That bill, AB 1405, was recently vetoed by the governor. 

Lombard urged ethnic leaders and community members to attend meetings of the Air Resources Board, which is hammering out regulations to enforce AB 32, to make their voices heard. “Will money generated by AB 32 trickle down to communities?” he said. “I don’t see venture capitalists writing checks to people impacted and to communities of color.”

SAN FRANCISCO—What types of jobs and economy does California want to have in the future? How could low-income and ethnic communities and small businesses benefit from the state’s groundbreaking climate change law?

These were among the key questions as supporters and opponents of Proposition 23 faced off in San Francisco on Friday in a debate geared toward the ballot measure’s repercussions for ethnic Californians. If approved by voters, the initiative would suspend AB 32, the landmark global warming statute enacted by state lawmakers in 2006, until California’s jobless rate falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. 

“The regulatory environment in California [already] makes it the worst place to do business,” argued James Duran, the founder and president of Duran HCP, a capital management consulting service Silicon Valley, who was representing the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Local businesses are going away… to Nevada and Asia because of the additional costs they are being subject to.”

Another Prop. 23 proponent, Roseville-based political consultant and event planner Edwin Lombard, highlighted the state unemployment rate for African Americans (17.6 percent) and Hispanics (14.7 percent)— both significantly above California’s overall jobless rate of 12.4 percent. What’s more, he noted, California is ground zero for the foreclosure crisis, which has hit communities of color especially hard. 

Lombard argued that these minority groups are bearing the brunt of the recession and cannot afford to pay higher energy costs as a result of AB 32’s mandates. 

But Chad Silva, policy analyst for Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, noted that ethnic communities have also been disproportionately burdened by air pollution—a situation that would only worsen if AB 32 were rolled back.

“Air pollution and greenhouse gases go hand in hand,” he said. Facilities that emit greenhouse gases also give off other “co-pollutants,” such as ozone and fine particle pollution, that cause asthma and other sometimes deadly lung ailments.

Citing a recent study by several universities, Silva noted that “46 percent of Californians live within a six-mile radius of a refinery, and 66 percent of them are communities of color. We bear the brunt of pollution.”

When asked by a journalist if the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce should show leadership in driving its businesses to become more green in anticipation of the long-term effects of climate change—including water shortages and loss of jobs in industries such as tourism and agriculture—Lombard said small businesses would be better able to handle these costs later, when the economy improves.

But Ian Kim, director of the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, complained that the ballot language is deceptive. Prop. 23 “claims to be a temporary suspension of AB 32, but it’s effectively a repeal of the landmark and bedrock law in California,” Kim said, noting that the conditions under which AB 32 would be reinstated have only occurred a handful of times since 1980.

Carl Pope, executive chairman of the Sierra Club, questioned where the “Yes on 23” campaign is getting its money. “If this is so good for California’s businesses,” he said, “why are no California businesses supporting Prop. 23?

Pope said the majority of the $8.3 million raised for Prop. 23 comes from Texas-based oil companies Tesoro and Valero and Kansas-based Koch Industries, which is owned by right-wing megafunders Charles and David Koch.

But Lombard disputed the notion that the measure is being pushed by “out-of-state” interests. “Tesoro and Valero employ 4,000 people in California, and they operate one oil refinery in Northern California and one in Southern California and they pay $100 million in taxes and fees to California…these are not just Texas companies, they function and operate in California,” he said. 

So far, the “No on 23” campaign has raised $19 million, mainly from environmental groups and venture capitalists, according to the Sacramento Bee. 

NAM Director of New Media Kevin Weston, who moderated the debate sponsored by the San Francisco Foundation, asked what is the difference between the money pouring into each campaign.

“I would say it is the money of the past fighting the money of the future,” said Kim, contrasting oil-industry money with that raised by clean-tech investors and environmentalists. 

Kim said the clean-tech sector was “the last to freeze and the first to thaw” in the economic downturn, and pointed to new startups such as Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, Calif. 

Duran countered that clean-tech companies are often subsidized by the federal government with taxpayer money, only to outsource their manufacturing to companies in Asia. He said SunPower, one of the largest makers of solar panels, builds the panels in China

“I asked [SunPower] about that,” Pope said. “The company said it moved their business to be closer to the market and customers in China, where the government has fostered an environment that created a market for the goods.”

With AB 32, Pope said, California is not only trying to lead the world to change, “it is doing it to catch up with China.”

Lombard and Pope agreed that clean-tech innovation will happen in the future, but “the question is where does it happen…here, Texas, Massachusetts, India, China. AB 32 is about making sure that it happens here,” Pope said.

“We’ve heard about green jobs, but they are not being created fast enough to make up for the number of jobs that are going away,” Duran countered. 

Duran used the example of the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., where a proposed retrofit met with strong resistance from local environmental justice groups, who said the “retrofit” would have allowed the refinery to process a heavier and dirty form of crude oil that would have spewed more pollution into the surrounding neighborhoods. Supporters of the expansion contended that nixing the project cost the city—where unemployment is already hovering around 20 percent—another 1,000 jobs. 

“Now we’re importing the gas from someplace else,” Duran said.

But Kim argued that pitting environment versus jobs is a false choice.

He compared the current crossroads to the situation more than 30 years ago, when California responded to the ‘70s energy crisis by undertaking a massive energy efficiency program—over the complaints of many businesses.

“Fast forward 30 years, the energy efficiency measures have created 1 million jobs,” said Kim, citing a UC Berkeley study. 

Kim added: “AB 32 is really about the future of California’s economy and what kinds of economy and jobs we want to create in California as we move forward.”

A journalist asked the speakers what could be built into AB 32 to benefit small business.

“California ought to put in place a massive program for cheap and easy-to-get loans for energy-efficiency upgrades,” Pope responded. “We need to decrease the costs for small business and make it easy for [them] to borrow money to make their business more efficient through the purchase of new equipment or vehicles.” Pope said studies show that 25 to 40 percent of the energy used by small businesses is lost through inefficient equipment or buildings. 

Duran and Lombard were skeptical, citing big banks’ unwillingness to lend to small businesses and the state’s deficit as barriers to such a plan.

Although there has not been any legislation to address the impact of AB 32 on small businesses, lawmakers did pass a bill that would have directed a portion of the revenues generated under AB 32 to low-income and communities of color most impacted by climate change. That bill, AB 1405, was recently vetoed by the governor. 

Lombard urged ethnic leaders and community members to attend meetings of the Air Resources Board, which is hammering out regulations to enforce AB 32, to make their voices heard. “Will money generated by AB 32 trickle down to communities?” he said. “I don’t see venture capitalists writing checks to people impacted and to communities of color.”


STORY TAGS: BLACK , AFRICAN AMERICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , NAACP , URBAN LEAGUE , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY, HISPANIC , LATINO , MEXICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , DIVERSITY , LATINA , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY

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