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CBC Releases Letter on Energy Priorities



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CBC Releases Letter on Energy Priorities

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Contact : J. Jioni Palmer

Washington, D.C.- Today, in recognition of Earth Day the Congressional Black Caucus Energy Taskforce released a letter sent to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman outlining priorities they would like to see included in comprehensive energy legislation. The letter read as follows:



The Honorable Henry Waxman


House Committee on Energy and Commerce

2125 RayburnHouseOfficeBuilding

Washington, D.C.20515



Dear Chairman Waxman,


As you draft and consider comprehensive energy legislation to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and to curb greenhouse gas emissions, we the undersigned Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) respectfully request your consideration of the issues discussed in this letter.


Climate change represents a tangible threat to the communities we represent as well as the United States as a whole and we, therefore, encourage and support your efforts to address this critical issue.  We support science-based legislation to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  The United States must be a leader on this global issue, and this target is consistent with the proposals of the Obama Administration.


Investment in the Green Economy


Comprehensive energy legislation will revolutionize our economy and energy infrastructure, spurring us to become more innovative and efficient.  The growing “Green Economy” presents an opportunity to create large numbers of quality green-collar jobs for American workers, to grow emerging industries, and to improve the health of low- and middle-income Americans.  Any public investment in the Green Economy should include serious efforts to train, employ and provide public service opportunities that lead to full-time employment in these industries.  This is a significant opportunity to make cost-effective public and private investments to rebuild and retrofit our nation.  We recommend the following:


•           Develop a career pipeline, particularly in low- and middle income communities, through training, job readiness and entrepreneurship programs, to ensure that people who most need work are prepared for the family-sustaining jobs and careers in energy efficiency and energy service industries.  Ensuring local hiring practices will be critical to engaging these distressed communities.

•           Development of Green Energy Centers of Excellence at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to research and develop new green technologies as well as train implementers in the deployment of green innovation.  HBCUs maintain unique relationships with communities of color, and we should use their expertise to educate these communities on the opportunities in green industries and the techniques needed to succeed.

•           Ensure local and national certification standards for technical jobs to ensure appropriate levels of expertise.

•           Apply large-scale energy-saving measures to the nation’s building stock, which will create hundreds of thousands of green-collar jobs while dramatically reducing American’s energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. 


Consumer Protection


A cap-and-trade system will increase the cost of energy derived from high-polluting production processes for all households.   Low- and middle-income households spend a greater share of their budget on energy costs than higher income households.   To help prevent climate change policy from being unfairly burdensome on these households, we recommend:


•           Measures to offset the disproportionate impact of increased energy costs that could take the form of a climate rebate equal to the loss in purchasing power extended to the lowest quintile, the second quintile and partially extended to the third quintile.  For households that file no tax returns, the rebate could be administered through the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system.  For all others, the rebate could be extended through a higher Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or alternative tax mechanisms that make the connection with this increased cost. 

•           Further investments in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

•           Prevent the creation of “hot spots” and “outsourcing” to communities of color and low-income or otherwise vulnerable communities domestically and abroad.


Job Leakage Protection


Many manufacturing jobs in this country produce goods that compete in global markets.  Under a domestic cap-and-trade program, these industries will face pressure from increased costs due to direct regulation of their emissions as well as higher energy costs.  If this is not addressed, these industries, as well as the workers and communities they support, will be forced to close or move operations to countries without similar regulations, producing the leakage of American jobs and emissions to foreign countries.  To protect the jobs of workers in the energy-intensive trade-exposed industries, the CBC recommends:


•           The United States should pursue international agreements on greenhouse gas reductions.  Engaging industrialized nations in an agreement to combat this truly global problem will more effectively meet emissions reductions goals as well as “level the playing field” for American workers and business. 

•           Until an international agreement can be achieved, climate legislation should include measures to protect against unintended disadvantages brought about as a result of global trading partners acting outside of a domestic or international greenhouse gas reductions scheme.

•           Provide assistance to ease and facilitate the transition of workers and communities dependent upon high emitting industries to the emerging low-carbon economy.





Regardless of our success in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, we can be certain that there will be ramifications as a result of global climate change.  These may include rising sea levels, increased weather disasters, changes in precipitation, loss of biodiversity and the increased spread and range of tropical diseases. This will affect rural, urban and island communities domestically and abroad, with low-income populations being at greatest risk.  Providing appropriate adaptation measures for these eventualities is imperative and this legislation should insure regular and predictable funding.  We recommend:


•           An ecosystem-based adaptation both domestically and internationally, investing in conservation techniques to preserve wetlands, tropical forestland and critical ecosystems such as coral reefs and their relevant fisheries.  Thriving ecosystems produce healthy communities, and promote sustainability.

•           Agricultural adaptation for areas experiencing shifting weather patterns.  Subsistence farmers should be provided aid to manage temperature change and its effect on their growing season.

•           Medical adaptation to prepare and prevent the spread of disease.  As temperatures rise, tropical-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever may proliferate in previously unaffected areas.  Preventing and addressing this through vaccinations, improved sanitation measures, and other burgeoning technology should be a priority in the legislation.


It is with the utmost respect and appreciation for your efforts that we present these policy recommendations to you.  We view these principles as essential to any climate change proposal. Please let us know how the Committee plans to incorporate these principles into the upcoming climate change legislation and how we can work with you to pass this critical legislation. 







Rep. Barbara Lee

CBC Chairwoman


Rep. Emanuel Cleaver

CBC Energy Taskforce Member


Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Rep. Mel Watt

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Rep. Alcee Hastings

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Rep. Sanford Bishop

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Rep. Bobby Rush

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Rep. G.K. Butterfield

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



Del. Donna M. Christensen

CBC Energy Taskforce Member



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