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Just Transition for Pennsylvania estimated to cost $115,000 per worker in latest report from PERI

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, February 8, 2021

In the latest of a series of reports titled Green Growth Programs for U.S. States, researchers provide analysis and proposals for economic recovery for Pennsylvania, considering both the impacts of Covid-19 and a necessary transition to a cleaner economy. In Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania: Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability, Robert Pollin and co-authors estimate that clean energy investments scaled at about $23 billion per year from 2021 to 2030 will generate roughly 162,000 jobs per year in Pennsylvania. They detail those investment programs for sectors including public infrastructure, manufacturing, land restoration and agriculture, and including plugging orphaned oil and gas wells.

The report estimates that 64,000 people are currently employed in Pennsylvania in fossil fuel-based industries – including in fracking for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions, as well as other oil and gas projects, coal mining, and fossil fuel-based power generation. As the state transitions away from fossil-fuel industries, the authors estimate that about 1,800 workers will be displaced each year between 2021 – 2030, and another 1,000 will voluntarily retire each year. The authors estimate that the average costs of supporting these workers will amount to about $115,000 per worker, with an overall cost of about $210 million per year over the duration of the just transition program. The report emphasizes: “It is critical that all of these workers receive pension guarantees, health care coverage, re-employment guarantees, wage insurance, and retraining support, as needed”.

The full series of reports, Green Growth Programs for U.S. States, includes similar analysis and proposals for Ohio, Maine, Colorado, New York, and the state of Washington. They are co-written by experts including Robert Pollin, Shouvik Chakraborty, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Tyler Hansen, Gregor Semieniuk, and Jeannette Wicks-Lim. The series is published by the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia and Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania: Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability

By Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, and Gregor Semieniuk - Political Economy Research Institute, January 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated severe public health and economic impacts in Pennsylvania, as with most everywhere else in the United States. The pandemic is likely moving into its latter phases, due to the development of multiple vaccines that have demon-strated their effectiveness. Nevertheless, as of this writing in mid-January 2021, infections and deaths from COVID are escalating, both within Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. Correspondingly, the economic slump resulting from the pandemic continues.

This study proposes a recovery program for Pennsylvania that is capable of exerting an effective counterforce against the state’s ongoing recession in the short run while also build-ing a durable foundation for an economically viable and ecologically sustainable longer-term recovery. Even under current pandemic conditions, we cannot forget that we have truly limited time to take decisive action around climate change. As we show, a robust climate stabilization project for Pennsylvania will also serve as a major engine of economic recovery and expanding opportunities throughout the state.

Read the text (PDF).

Costs and job impacts of Green Recovery and Just Transition programs for Ohio, Pennsylvania

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 2, 2020

Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Ohio: Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability was published by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) in October, written by Robert Pollin and co-authors Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, and Gregor Semieniuk. To achieve a 50 percent reduction relative to 2008 emissions by 2030, the authors propose public and private investment programs, and then estimate the job creation benefits to 2030. “Our annual average job estimates for 2021 – 2030 include: 165,000 jobs per year through $21 billion in spending on energy efficiency and clean renewable energy; 30,000 jobs per year through investing $3.5 billion in manufacturing and public infrastructure. 43,000 jobs per year through investing $3.5 billion in land restoration and agriculture. The total employment creation through clean energy, manufacturing/infrastructure and land restoration/agriculture will total to about 235,000 jobs. “ 

There are almost 50,000 workers currently working in the Ohio fossil fuel and bioenergy industries, with an estimated 1,000 per year who will be displaced through declining fossil fuel demand. As he has before, Pollin advocates for a Just Transition program which includes: Pension guarantees; Retraining; Re-employment for displaced workers through an employment guarantee, with 100 percent wage insurance; Relocation support; and full just transition support for older workers who choose to work past age 65. The report estimates the average costs of supporting approximately 1,000 workers per year in such transition programs will amount to approximately $145 million per year (or $145,000 per worker).

Cracked: The Case for Green Jobs Over Pterochemicals in Pennsylvania

By staff - Food and Water Watch, September 2020

While the national economy struggled to recover from the Great Recession, wage and employment growth in Pennsylvania was anemic. This experience mirrored national trends of increasing inequality and a hollowing out of the middle class. Despite the state’s aggressive embrace of fracking as a driver of economic growth, fracking jobs remain scarce and temporary. As frackers suffocate in a glut of natural gas (including ethane) and as Pennsylvanians struggle with the environmental damage wrought by fracking and other dirty industries, Pennsylvania lawmakers are attempting to artificially sustain the boom by offering lucrative concessions to mega-corporations and dirty petrochemical producers.

Doubling down on toxic industries won’t fix the region’s economic woes, but will instead foreclose opportunities for long-term, sustainable growth through green energy manufacturing. Given the economic uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, an aggressive commitment to public works investment in green energy is more important now than ever. Solar, wind and energy efficiency are necessary to avert catastrophic climate change. Wind and solar manufacturing would also employ more people than comparable investments in oil, gas, coal or plastics.

Read the text (Linked PDF).

Doing It Right: Colstrip's Bright Future With Cleanup

By staff - Northern Plains Research Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1638, July 2018

In 2018, Northern Plains Research Council partnered with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local union 1638 to conduct a research study into the job creation potential of coal ash pond cleanup in Colstrip, Montana.

Because coal ash pond closure and associated groundwater remediation is only now becoming a priority for power plants, there are many unanswered questions about the size and nature of the workforce needed to do it right. This study aims to shed light on some of the cleanup work being done now around the country and what that might mean for the Colstrip workforce and community.

From the executive summary: Coal ash waste is polluting the groundwater in Colstrip, but cleaning it up could provide many jobs and other economic benefits while protecting community health.

This study was conducted to analyze the job-creation potential of cleaning up the groundwater in Colstrip, Montana, that has been severely contaminated from leaking impoundments meant to store the coal ash from the power plants (Colstrip Units 1, 2, 3 and 4). Unless remediated, this contamination poses a major threat to public health, livestock operations, and the environment for decades.

Communities benefit from coal ash pond cleanup but the positive impacts of cleanup can vary widely depending on the remediation approach followed. Certain strategies like excavating coal ash ponds and actively treating wastewater lead to more jobs, stabilized property values, and effective groundwater cleanup while others accomplish only the bare minimum for legal compliance.

This study demonstrates that, with the right cleanup strategies, job creation and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand, securing the future of the community as a whole.

Read the text (PDF).

Prison Drinking Water and Wastewater Pollution Threaten Environmental Safety Nationwide

By John E. Dannenberg - Prison Legal News, November 15, 2017

Aging infrastructure concerns are not limited to America's highways, bridges and dams. Today, crumbling, overcrowded prisons and jails nationwide are bursting at the seams -- literally -- leaking environmentally dangerous effluents not just inside prisons, but also into local rivers, water tables and community water supplies. Because prisons are inherently detested and ignored institutions, the hidden menace of pollution from them has stayed below the radar. In this report, PLN exposes the magnitude and extent of the problem from data collected over the past several years from seventeen states.

Alabama

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been ignoring complaints of wastewater pollution from its prisons since 1991. Back then, the problem was limited to leaking sewage from the St. Clair prison. Although the Alabama Legislature promised to provide the $2.3 million needed to build a new wastewater treatment plant that would match St. Clair's vastly expanded population, no money has been appropriated.

Today, the problem has grown statewide and includes pollution from ADOC's Draper, Elmore, Fountain/Holman, Limestone prisons and the Farcquhar Cattle Ranch and Red Eagle Honor Farm. The problem has drawn the ire of the private watchdog group, Black Warrior Riverkeeper (BWR) and of the state Attorney General (AG), both of whom have filed lawsuits against ADOC. The AG's office claims ADOC is violating the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act (Act) by dumping raw sewage into Little Canoe Creek, from which it flows into the Coosa River. The AG has demanded that ADOC fix the problems and pay fines for the damage they have caused. All parties acknowledge that the problems stem from ADOC's doubling of its population to 28,000, while the wastewater treatment facilities were designed for less than half that number.

The environmental damage is huge. ADOC is pumping extremely high levels of toxic ammonia, fecal coliform, viruses, and parasites into local streams and rivers. When raw sewage hits clean water, it sucks up the available dissolved oxygen to aid decomposition. But in so doing, it asphyxiates aquatic plants and animals that depend on that oxygen.
Telltale disaster signs include rising water temperatures and the appearance of algae blooms. The pollution renders public waterways unfit for human recreation as well.

BWR notes in its suit that Donaldson State Prison has committed 1,060 violations of the Clean Water Act since 1999, dumping raw sewage into Big Branch and Valley creeks, and thence into the Black Warrior River. BWR seeks fines for the violations, which could range from $100 to $25,000 each. Peak overflows were documented at 808,000 gallons in just one day, which isn't surprising for a wastewater treatment plant designed to handle a maximum of 270,000 gallons per day. Donaldson, designed to hold only 990 prisoners, has 1,500 today.

One path to reformation was found in turning over wastewater treatment to privately-run local community water treatment districts. Donaldson came into compliance with its wastewater permit after contracting with Alabama Utility Services in 2005. Limestone and other ADOC prisons are now seeking privatization solutions.

Frackville Prison’s Systemic Water Crisis

By Bryant Arroyo - Earth First! Journal, November 5, 2017

On September 19, 21, 24 and 27, 2017, we prisoners at Pennsylvania’s SCI-Frackville facility experienced four incidences with respect to the crisis of drinking toxic water. While this was not the first indication of chronic water problems at the prison, it seemed an indication that things were going from bad to worse. This round of tainted water was coupled with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throats, and dizziness by an overwhelming majority of the prisoner population exposed to this contamination. This cannot be construed as an isolated incident.

The SCI-Frackville staff passed out bottled spring water after the inmate population had been subjected to drinking the toxic contaminated water for hours without ever being notified via intercom or by memo to refrain from consuming the tap water. This is as insidious, as it gets!

SCI-Frackville’s administration, is acutely aware of the toxic water contamination crisis and have adopted an in-house patterned practice of intentionally failing to notify the inmate population via announcements and or by posting memos to refrain from tap water, until prisoners discover it for themselves through the above-mentioned health effects.

In general, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) knows it has a water crisis on it hands. The top agencies like the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA know about this open-secret and have conspired to deliberately ignore most, if not all, of the prisoners’ official complaints. DEP has received four drinking water violations from the EPA. But the underlying problem is money, money, and more money.

Earlier this year, federal officials warned DEP that it lacked the staffing and resources to enforce safe drinking water standards. That could be grounds for taking away their role as the primary regulator of water standards, and would cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding.

In a letter dated December 30, 2016, EPA Water Protection Division Director Jon Capacasa stated, “Pennsylvania’s drinking water program failed to meet the federal requirement for onsite review of of water system operations and maintenance capability, also known as a sanitary survey.” He added, “Not completing sanitary survey inspections in a timely manner can have serious public health implications.”

One example in the City of Pittsburgh led to the closure of nearly two dozen schools and a boil-water order for 100,000 people. State environmental regulators had discovered low chlorine levels, after testing the city’s water as part of an ongoing investigation into its water treatment system. The city has also been having issues with elevated lead levels. The EPA also told DEP that the department’s lack of staff has caused the number of unaddressed Safe Drinking Water Act violations to go from 4,298 to 7,922, almost doubling in the past five years.

This leaves us with 43 inspectors employed, but, to meet the EPA mandates, we need at the least 85 full-time inspectors. That means Pennsylvania inspectors have double the workload, and this has resulted in some systems not being inspected. Logically, the larger systems get routine inspections, and systems that have chronic problems get inspected, but smaller and rural system like ours may not be because we are the minority that society doesn’t care about. Persona non grata!

To top it off, Frackville is in Schuylkill County, near a cancer cluster of the rare disease known as Polycythemia Vera (PV). While there is not definitive research on PV, it is believed to be environmental in origin and could be water borne. There’s no telling how many of us may have contracted the mysterious disease caused by drinking this toxic-contaminated water for years without being medically diagnosed and treated for this disease.

The DOC refuses to test the inmate population, in spite of the on-going water crisis. What would happen, if the inmate population would discover that they have contracted the disease PV?! Obviously, this wouldn’t be economically feasible for the DOC medical department to pay the cost to treat all inmates who have been discovered to have ill-gotten the water borne disease.

Many Pennsylvania tax-payers would be surprised to know that our infrastructure is older than Flint, Michigan’s toxic water crisis. Something is very wrong in our own backyard and the legislative body wants to keep a tight lid on it. But how long can this secret be contained before we experience an outbreak of the worst kind.

Silence, no more, it is time to speak. I could not stress the sense of urgency enough. We need to take action by notifying our Pennsylvania State Legislatures and make them accountable to the tax-paying citizens and highlight the necessary attention about Pennsylvania’s water crisis to assist those of us who are cornered and forced to drink toxic, contaminated water across the State Prisons.

If you want to obtain a goal you’ve never obtained, you have to transcend by doing something you’ve never done before. Let’s not procrastinate, unify in solidarity, take action before further contamination becomes inevitable. There’s no logic to action afterwards, if we could have avoided the unnecessary catastrophe, in the first place.

Let’s govern ourselves in the right direction by contacting and filing complaints to our legislative body, DEP, EPA, and their higher-ups, etc. In the mountains of rejection we have faced from these agencies as prisoners, your action could be our yes; our affirmation that, though we may be buried in these walls, we are still alive.

Left with no other choice, local pipeline opponents must protest

By - Lancaster Online, February 12, 2017

On Feb. 3, the dangerous marriage of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and billionaire energy companies was on full display.

For three years, residents of Lancaster County have demonstrated unprecedented opposition to the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. Yet when Williams gas company sent a brief letter to FERC asking that a decision be made seven weeks early —for no other stated reason than the company’s own convenience — FERC eagerly obliged.

The decision was so premature that the commissioners themselves had to include a 100-page addendum of issues that had yet to be resolved before permission could legally be granted.

The LNP Editorial Board last week opined that “protests and arrests aren’t going to change the reality” of this situation. To the contrary, history has shown that large-scale, nonviolent civil disobedience is one of the few, and arguably most effective, ways of changing systems of exploitation when all other means have failed.

The women’s suffrage movement did not achieve success by patiently waiting for the Supreme Court to acknowledge women’s right to vote. Nor did the civil rights movement overturn segregation by making timid, well-behaved appeals to Congress. Disciplined, creative, courageous civil disobedience gave women the right to vote and broke the back of legalized segregation.

Industry billionaires — along with cowardly politicians who serve them on both sides of the aisle — are hardly motivated to abolish the system that lines their pockets. The system will not change unless we, the people, force a crisis of conscience on a scale that can’t be ignored. Every successful movement to check systemic abuse in this country has known this.

It is not easy to protest.

At Standing Rock, North Dakota, members of local tribes spent months enduring enormous sacrifices to peacefully protect their sacred land and drinking water. My daughter was among those who faced pepper spray and attack dogs by industry-hired security thugs after Native Americans held a sacred ceremony on ceremonial tribal grounds threatened by construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Originally, the Dakota Access Pipeline was going to cross the Missouri River just above the city of Bismarck. However, the plan was scratched due to complaints that the route put the capital city’s drinking water at risk. The solution? Reroute the pipeline through the reservoir that provides drinking water to the entire Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Chris Stockton, the ubiquitous spokesman for Transco/Williams, loves to talk about all the adjustments they’ve made to the Atlantic Sunrise route due to public comments. He forgets to mention that our community doesn’t want an explosive, high-pressure, fracked gas pipeline-for-export running anywhere through our county. Moving the route simply poisons different streams, violates different Amish farms, permanently fragments different forests, threatens different families.

When someone is threatening to beat you in the head because you’re standing in their way, and they ask, “Would you rather I smash your kneecaps, instead?” we hardly praise the abuser for his mercy.

Lancaster County residents are facing the very real prospect of having our water poisoned, our forests clear-cut, our preserved farms violated, our Amish neighbors shamelessly exploited, and our ancient indigenous burial grounds desecrated. Thirty landowners in Lancaster County alone are facing condemnation proceedings for refusing to allow a company halfway across the country to inflate their profits by shipping explosive gas through their property to foreign markets.

Each of these abuses represents an unacceptable harm. Taken together, they represent an assault on Lancaster values and basic American liberties than many of us refuse to tolerate.

No wonder more than 500 local residents, in the past three weeks alone, have signed a pledge vowing to participate in creative, nonviolent, civil disobedience to stop this dangerous project.

The gas industry is already attempting to paint us as “radicals” or “outside agitators.” But here in Lancaster County, we know better.

We are teachers and students, counselors and construction workers, mothers and grandfathers, Republicans and Democrats, farmers and business owners who believe this land and community are worth defending, even at risk of arrest.

This is not the time for hanging our heads and saying “what a shame.” This is the time for courageous, creative, nonviolent, massive civil disobedience.

After three years of public comment, town halls, lawsuits, fruitless meetings with elected officials, and expert testimony confirming the irreversible harms we face, FERC’s approval Feb. 3 leaves us one option. We are compelled by a moral imperative to use nonviolent civil disobedience to change this fatally broken system.

For anyone willing to join us, we welcome you to our peaceful encampment at The Lancaster Stand.

PA Public School Employees, DIVEST!

By Dianne Arnold, et. al. - Berks Gas Truth, November 11, 2016

If you are a current or retired PA public school employee, please consider signing the letter being circulated by a group of teachers who have started a divestment campaign. Below is the email they have sent to colleagues that contains the link to the sign on letter.

The letter is based on research we did that found that 49% of the PSERS holdings are in fossil fuels and that many of the drilling and pipeline companies doing  harm in Pennsylvania are on the list.

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to you to ask you to join me in taking action today on a critical issue.  As you probably know, an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that continuing to burn fossil fuels is putting our planet’s future in peril unless we act decisively.  But, are you aware that 29 of the top 32 holdings in PSERS, our pension fund, are with fossil fuel companies? One of them, Energy Transfer Partners, has been cited for brutal treatment of Standing Rock Sioux members protecting sacred burial grounds and local water supplies from the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.  In Pennsylvania, Energy Transfer Partners and other companies are involved in massive pipeline build-outs to move gas to shipping ports.

An increasing number of retirement plans in the United States and across the world are divesting from fossil fuels and doing so profitably. In fact, a portfolio heavily reliant on fossil fuels is not financially sound.

Please join me and a number of our fellow educators and retirees in taking 3 decisive steps.

  • Sign the online petition,https://bitly.com/PSERSDIVEST, demanding that PSERS begins to divest from fossil fuels.
  • Forward this e-mail and attached petition to all educators you know who are members of PSERS.
  • Share the petition on Facebook or whatever form of social media you use.

We will deliver this letter, with the list of supportive current and retired educators, at the next PSERS board meeting on December 7.

Not only is this a financial issue, but it is a moral issue as well.   Our actions now will impact our children today and all future generations.

Thank you.

Dianne Arnold, retired educator, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Mike Kamandulis, retired instructor of Earth and Environmental Science, Penn State, DuBois

Robin Lowry, teacher, School District of Philadelphia

Anita Mentzer, retired teacher, Annville-Cleona SD

Max Rosen-Long, teacher, School District of Philadelphia

EcoDefense Radio: Alex Lotorto on Supporting Frontline Communities

By Ryan Clover - Eco Defense Radio, September 8, 2016

Audio File

Bio:

Alex has been the Shale Gas Program Coordinator for Energy Justice Network since 2011. Outside of his professional capacity, he has worked extensively as a volunteer organizer fighting for environmental justice in communities facing rural poverty.

Alex also has a labor union background and has been a union activist in both the private and public sectors, is a union delegate for the Industrial Workers of the World, and represents workers in unemployment compensation appeal hearings on a volunteer basis.

Main Message :

Foundations and major environmental groups (Big Greens) aren’t situated to help the people most in need and Organizers need to build their own support network if the most difficult and important work is going to get done.

What we talked about :

In this conversation Alex shares his experience working with his friends in Northeastern Pennsylvania. From working in rural communities, and with a history in labor organizing, Alex understands the importance of building support networks of our own – and not relying on large foundations or major environmental groups (Big Greens).

At first I was uncomfortable when Alex started sharing examples of how organizations like the Sierra Club can actually perpetuate the problems of fracking – I didn’t want this episode to come across as cynical. But Alex’s message isn’t cynical, it’s critically important – it’s empowering. He shares some concrete examples about how we can build support networks of our own, and has suggestions for how people working within large environmental organizations can help steer them toward supporting the front lines.

Links to stuff we talked about:

Pages

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