Civil rights groups send letter to Waxman and Markey: Opportunity for all in ACES!

Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

Dear Chairmen Waxman and Markey:

We commend you on the effort you have undertaken in crafting the American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACES) of 2009. We hope that you will include in the ACES manager's amendments language that will allocate some emission allowances in ACES to train workers in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, and that will make construction jobs under ACES available to all segments of the community.

As you recognize, climate change is not simply an issue of environmental policy. It is also one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. Unchecked, the impacts of global warming will be costly for everyone, but they will hit low-income people and people of color first and worst.

At the same time, the shift to a green economy has the potential to create large numbers of quality green-collar jobs for American workers and to ensure that those who most need work are prepared to do the work that most needs to be done.

Toward that end, we ask you to include in the ACES more concrete opportunities for the people in the communities we represent to gain pathways into prosperity in the clean energy economy.

Simply creating jobs is not enough for low-income workers, who too often are people of color. They need to acquire the skills, and the connections to unions and employers, to access and succeed in those jobs. This requires investments in workforce education to prepare workers for jobs and careers in the clean energy economy. It also requires that clean energy investments be tied to strategies that maximize opportunities for local workers and under-represented populations.

The following are goals that the ACES can realize with two key improvements:

1. Provide Green Pathways out of Poverty: Beyond the assistance it rightly provides to workers dislocated from carbon-intensive industries, ACES allocates no resources to train the vast majority of workers in this country who need new skills for the jobs that will repower and rebuild this nation. Without real pathways out of poverty, the legislation will fall well short of its economic and equity promise. Accordingly, we ask that you allocate some emission allowances in ACES to the Green Jobs Act, which trains workers for family-sustaining jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

2. Improve Access to Good Jobs: A number of tools designed to achieve "community benefits" have been field-tested with great success on local development projects around the country. Congressman Bobby Rush has authored a provision, which we believe must be included in the legislation, ensuring that the construction jobs created by ACES are good jobs that are accessible to all segments of the community.

We have an opportunity with this legislation to lay the foundation for a clean energy economy that will also improve the lives of low-income Americans. Please ensure that this foundation contains access to jobs and pathways out of poverty. If you have any questions, please contact Paul Edenfield, LCCR Senior Counsel, at 202-263-2852.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Deepak Bhargava
Executive Director
Center for Community Change

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
Chief Executive Officer
Green For All

Hilary O. Shelton
NAACP Washington Bureau

Stephanie Jones
Senior Vice President for Advocacy / Executive Director
National Urban League Policy Institute

Kim Bobo
Executive Director
Interfaith Worker Justice

Jorge Mursuli
National Executive Director
Democracia USA

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