Fresh on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever proposed nationwide limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, the Memphis Branch NAACP and several community partners recently held a media event to amplify the need for “just energy policies.”
The session at the Benjamin Hooks Main Library followed last month’s government release of its third National Climate Assessment. The assessment, said session organizers, documented “the alarming extent to which climate change already is adversely impacting Tennesseans, underlying the importance to take strong and just action to curb pollution from power plants before the impacts worsen.”
Gloria Sweet Love, NAACP national board member and president of NAACP Tennessee branches, presented the NAACP report on climate change and energy policies. Jacqueline Patterson, the author of the “Just Energy Policies and Practices: Tennessee Report on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policies,” was also on hand to present the results of the Tennessee study. Patterson’s report concluded that:
* Tennessee has no renewable energy standard. Therefore Tennessee must establish an aggressive policy to reach the recommended goal of at least 25 percent renewable energy (solar, wind & geothermal) by 2025.
* Tennessee has no energy efficiency standard, therefore an energy efficiency policy must be established to meet the recommended standard of at least 2 percent annual reduction of each previous year of retail electricity sales.
* Tennessee has not met the net metering standard, which would require utility companies to provide retail credit for excess renewable energy produced by consumers. (The MLGW representative indicated that this is not a valid point due to the relationship MLGW has with its consumers.)
* Tennessee has met one provision of the NAACP recommendation and that is to implement a training, funding and communication program to ensure minority participation for jobs and contracts for energy projects.
The NAACP, the Sierra Club and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) are backing the recent EPA effort by the Obama Administration to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. Such emissions, the groups argue, “affect the health of our children and seniors and especially impact those in low income minority communities.”
Environmental justice is seen as a civil rights issue along with education, health, criminal justice and housing.
“Communities of color nationwide are, and have historically been, beset by human and civil rights violations, including disproportionate exposure to pollution, crime, substandard living conditions and more,” according to Patterson’s report.
Community leaders from west Tennessee NAACP units, Sierra Club members and SACE members and interns were present for a roundtable discussion on climate change in Tennessee.
Memphis Bioworks Foundation member, Kirk Williamson, described the Bioworks job training programs for energy projects, which develop skilled workers for the new energy environment. The Rev. Keith Norman, president of the Memphis Branch NAACP, emphasized the impact of renewable energy policy on employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. It was noted that some people estimate job losses without identifying the changes in the workplace with cleaner, healthier job opportunities.
Rita Harris, Sierra Club environmental justice representative, said there would be future meetings to “communicate and address community issues involving climate change and environmental justice.”