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Pursuing a Just and Renewable Energy System: A Positive and Progressive Permitting Vision to Unlock Resilient Renewable Energy and Empower Impacted Communities

By staff - The Climate and Community Project, et. al., May 2023

It is indisputable that the climate emergency requires the United States to rapidly transform its majority fossil energy system to 100% clean and renewable energy.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent sixth synthesis report makes absolutely clear that an unprecedented bold transition to renewable energy with an equally aggressive effort to halt new fossil fuel development and phase out existing fossil fuel usage is absolutely vital to avoiding the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

This necessary transformation presents a tremendous opportunity to pursue a far more just path forward—one that ends the status quo entrenchment of the fossil fuel industry; empowers federal agencies to use their authorities to accelerate the transitions to a justly sourced, justly implemented, resilient, and equitable power system; actualizes the principles of environmental justice; and preserves our core environmental laws.

This system is composed of our most commonsense and affordable solutions that can be deployed in an efficient and just manner: energy conservation, distributed and resilient renewable energy and storage, and responsibly-sited utility-scale renewables, all paired with robust community engagement and opportunities for real energy democracy.

However, both Congress and the Biden administration are failing to exercise their imaginations to embed justice in a renewable energy future.

After the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, both Democratic and Republican Congress members have proposed numerous “permitting reform” proposals, but the majority continue to argue that achieving a fast transition to renewable energy necessarily means undermining bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

This false logic must be interrogated. While these proposals might marginally improve the deployment of utility-scale renewable energy particularly on pristine lands, our energy needs can and must also be met with renewable energy on built surfaces that is more resilient, affordable, and respectful toward communities and wildlands.

Furthermore, any such purported gains of “permitting reform” proposals would be massively dwarfed by the emissions of fossil fuel projects that would also be expedited and result in deepening substantial environmental injustices for countless communities around the nation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Destruction is at the heart of everything we do: Chevron’s junk climate action agenda and how it intensifies global harm

By Rachel Rose Jackson and Adrien Tofighi-Niaki - Corporate Accountability, May 2023

This exposé brings into question Chevron’s proclaimed climate action and ‘green’ image. Analysis of the activities associated with Chevron’s ‘net zero’ climate action plan raises significant concerns about whether its ‘climate action’ is displacing the needed emissions reductions to avoid climate catastrophe, spurring harm to communities and ecosystems, and further hindering the likelihood of meaningful climate action globally.

Key findings this research yielded:

  • More than 90% of the carbon offsets Chevron has retired through the voluntary carbon market to ‘cancel out’ its emissions seem to be worthless— presumed ‘junk’ until proven otherwise.
  • The technological ‘low carbon’ schemes appear to be failing to capture the emissions promised, in some cases missing targets by as much as 50%.
  • A major proportion of the schemes it’s investing in as part of its ‘net zero’ plan are linked to claims of local community abuse, environmental degradation, and/or may even be fueling further emissions. Almost all of the harm claimed to have been inflicted is on communities in the Global South.
  • Chevron’s ‘net zero’ pledge—even if fully implemented to the greatest effect without causing harm—overlooks 90% of the total emissions associated with its business practices.
  • Chevron is ignoring the scientifically founded need for a fossil fuel phase out, projecting emissions for 2022-2025 equivalent to that of 10 European countries during a similar period.
  • It invests millions annually to manipulate the political will for climate action, seeking to shape climate policy to its will.

It’s imperative that shareholders, policymakers, and the public see Chevron’s green claims for what they are—greenwashed destruction. As this exposé illustrates, Chevron appears to be continuing its legacy of preventing, not promoting, the legally binding regulations, the rapid deployment of real solutions and the fast track to Real Zero emissions that needs to happen to avert climate catastrophe.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

THE ROAD TO TRANSIT EQUITY: The Case for Universal Fareless Transit in Los Angeles

By Chelsea Kirk, et. al. - Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and Alliance for Community Transit Los Angeles (ACT-LA), May 2023

Los Angeles is a place like no other, and that is especially true when it comes to public transportation. Its primary public transit agency, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LA Metro), is one of the largest in the nation, with nearly one-fourth of California residents living in the agency’s 1,433-square-mile service area.

But LA Metro currently serves very few Angelenos—just 78 out of every 1,000 Los Angeles– area residents ride the bus or train. The majority of public transit riders in Los Angeles are low-income people of color who are financially burdened by the region’s high housing and transportation costs. Seventy-six percent of LA Metro ridership identifies as Latinx or Black, and approximately 63% of riders earn household incomes of less than $25,000 annually, with 40% subsisting on household incomes under $15,000 per year.

Additionally, LA Metro, unlike most public transit agencies in large U.S. cities, nets very little revenue from fares. Government grants and sales taxes mostly fund the agency’s operations and capital expenses, with fares projected to make up just 4.8% of the agency’s operations budget in fiscal year 2023. LA Metro has attempted to solve the financial burden of fares on their riders through fare capping and means-tested discount programs. These initiatives are not only expensive to run, but they also have low enrollment rates. And, ironically, if LA Metro successfully enrolled all those eligible for discounts, their earnings from fares would be even more negligible than they are now. In effect, the agency is spending millions of dollars to get the majority of its riders to pay less in fares. Why not just go fareless?

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Fossil fuel layoff: The economic and employment effects of a refinery closure on workers in the Bay Area

By Virginia Parks, PhD and Ian Baran - UC Labor Center, April 26, 2023

On October 30, 2020, the Marathon oil refinery in Contra Costa County, California, was permanently shut down and 345 unionized workers laid off. We surveyed (n=140) and interviewed (n=21) these refinery workers to document their post-layoff employment experiences. The findings in this report focus on these workers’ post-layoff job search, employment status, wages, and financial security. The Marathon refinery’s closure sheds light on the employment and economic impacts of climate change policies and a shrinking fossil fuel industry on fossil fuel workers in the region and more broadly.

In the aftermath of the refinery shutdown, workers were relatively successful in gaining post-layoff employment but at the cost of lower wages and worse working conditions. At the time of the survey, 74% of former Marathon workers (excluding retirees) had found new jobs. Nearly one in five (19%) were not employed but actively searching for work; 4% were not employed but not looking for a job; and the remaining 2% were temporarily laid off from their current job. Using standard labor statistics measures, the post-layoff unemployment rate among Marathon workers was 22.5% and the employment rate was 77.5%. If workers who have stopped actively searching for work were included, the post-layoff unemployment rate was higher at 26%.

Former Marathon workers find themselves in jobs that pay $12 per hour less than their Marathon jobs, a 24% cut in pay. The median hourly wage at Marathon was $50, compared to a post-layoff median of $38. A striking level of wage inequality defines the post-layoff wages of former refinery workers. At Marathon, hourly pay ranged between $30 to $68. The current range extends as low as $14 per hour to a high of $69. Workers reported benefits packages comparable to their pre-layoff Marathon benefits.

Workers found jobs in a range of sectors. The single most common sector of re-employment was oil and gas, where 28% of former Marathon workers found post-layoff jobs but at wages 26% lower than at Marathon. These lower rates of pay stem from loss of seniority and non-union employment. The utility sector (electrical power, natural gas, wastewater management) was the second most common sector of re-employment. Workers reported that utility jobs were a good fit for their skills, reputed as “good jobs,” and highly sought after. The median hourly utility wage was $41. The third most common re-employment sector was chemical treatment. Less than half (43%) of all post-layoff jobs were unionized.

Overall, workers reported worse working conditions at their post-layoff jobs, even in higher wage jobs. Workers described hazardous worksites, heavy workloads, work speed-up, increased job responsibilities, and few opportunities for advancement. Above all, workers cited poor safety practices and increased worksite hazards as the most significant and alarming characteristics of degraded working conditions.

Workers had difficulty finding jobs that matched their skills when searching for work. They emphasized two primary frustrations: 1) employers’ lack of knowledge about refinery work and refinery workers’ skills and 2) workers’ inability to prove their skill or experience through certifications or a verification process.

Nearly all workers (91%) would consider job training. Approximately half (49%) said they would enroll in a job training program, 42% responded “maybe,” and 9% said they would not. Workers aged 40 to 49 reported the greatest willingness to enroll in training followed by workers aged 30 to 39. Hesitation was highest among workers over the age of 50. Workers’ most prevalent concerns about training were cost, needing to earn while training, and training program length. Many workers were apprehensive about the efficacy of training. Workers were uniformly uninterested in going back to school to earn degrees.

Workers reported increasing financial insecurity after the layoff. A full third of all workers described that they were “falling behind financially” a year following the layoff compared to only 3% before the layoff. Nearly one-third of all workers took early withdrawals from their retirement accounts to make ends meet following layoff. Most re-employed workers did not move to find jobs, likely associated with the high rate of home ownership among Marathon workers (81%). Many expressed deep anxieties about their long-term ability to make mortgage payments.

Laid-off workers are highly motivated to put their skills and experience to use in new jobs, in new sectors. They require coordinated assistance to transition successfully into new jobs and for the region to retain them. Our research findings identify four critical types of assistance that workers need most. First, third-party skill certification would facilitate more efficient and accurate skill matching between jobs and workers in the labor market. Certification would help workers communicate, and verify, their skills to new employers. Certification would aid employers who are unfamiliar with the refinery sector make better decisions about assessing their workforce needs in relation to the skills of former refinery workers.

Second, workers require targeted job search assistance that focuses on a broad scope of strategies, including effective job search techniques, resume and online profile preparation, and career counseling. Both workers and job counselors require an up-to-date and nuanced assessment of jobs and industries to which refinery skills transfer.

Third, a fair and equitable transition for workers out of the fossil fuel sector depends upon a robust economic development strategy that generates new jobs comparable in quality to the jobs these workers are leaving behind. Successful transition requires both transition assistance and high-road job growth. One without the other will leave workers, and the region, behind.

Lastly, regional economic development strategies aimed at reducing fossil fuel dependency must account for the adverse financial impact these strategies will have on workers and their families. Loss of income will invariably result. A just transition for working Californians needs to include financial support, in the form of cash assistance or wage replacement, to cover losses in wage income.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Implementation Guide

By staff - Blue Green Alliance, April 24, 2023

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act together provide billions of dollars to states, local governments, and private entities to support transportation decarbonization through the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, or EV supply equipment (EVSE). States—even when not the direct grantees or program administrators—have the capability to shape what these historic EV charging infrastructure provisions mean for the workers and communities impacted by the infrastructure, manufacturing facilities, and new job opportunities that come with them.

This guide supports states seeking to maximize the employment and economic benefits that can accompany EV charging infrastructure provisions in the BIL and Inflation Reduction Act.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

Green Steel in the Ohio River Valley: The Timing is Right for the Rebirth of a Clean, Green Steel Industry

By Jacqueline Ebner, Ph.D., Kathy Hipple, Nick Messenger, and Irina Spector, MBA - Bob Muehlenkamp, April 17, 2023

For more than a century, steel has played an important role in the economy and culture of the Ohio River Valley. But the traditional method of making steel, known as BF-BOF (blast furnace-blast oxygen furnace), requires lots of energy and produces lots of climate-warming emissions. The iron and steel sector is currently responsible for about 7% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Shifting to fossil fuel-free steelmaking could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost jobs, and grow the region’s economy. Fossil fuel-free DRI-EAF (direct reduced iron-electric arc furnace) steelmaking uses green hydrogen—created with wind and solar energy—to make steel with nearly zero climate-warming emissions.

Investing in fossil fuel-free steelmaking is a win for the climate and the economy. This report looks at Mon Valley Works, a steelmaking facility in southwestern Pennsylvania, as a model for transitioning from carbon-intensive BF-BOF steelmaking to fossil fuel-free DRI-EAF steelmaking.

Key takeaways:

  • A transition to fossil fuel-free steelmaking could grow total jobs supported by steelmaking in the region by 27% to 43% by 2031, forestalling projected job losses. Regional jobs supported by traditional steelmaking are expected to fall by 30% in the same period, data show.
  • Transitioning to fossil fuel-free steelmaking will cut Pennsylvania’s industrial sector emissions by 4 million metric tons of CO2e per year, improving quality of life and saving the state $380 million in health, community, and environmental costs.
  • The Ohio River Valley is uniquely positioned to become a decarbonized industrial hub. A skilled workforce with applicable manufacturing experience, ready access to water and iron ore, and high potential for solar, wind, and green hydrogen development situate the region to lead a growing green manufacturing industry.
  • Billions in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act will boost demand for American-made steel while supporting worker retraining programs, hydrogen infrastructure, and renewable energy development.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Public transport fit for the climate emergency: More services, more jobs, less emissions

By Liz Blackshaw; Gareth Forest; Kamaljeet Gill, et. al. - Trades Union Congress (TUC), April 11, 2023

Public transport has a vital role to play in decarbonising our economy and safeguarding a planet fit for our children and grandchildren to live in. Improving our public transport is not only about protecting our environment, it’s also about the quality of life in communities all over England and Wales.

Decent public transport is essential for access to work across the economy, it also means that grandparents get to see their grandkids, and working parents get home earlier to spend time with their children, we call get to share in culture and entertainment. It means that teenagers can get to school and adult learners can access training that can transform lives. It means people on low incomes can visit town centre shops, and businesses can get the customers they need to reinvigorate local economies.

For too long, people have had to put up with inadequate services. All too often, buses are expensive and infrequent, with routes that get cut because the private providers are driven more by private profit than by a public service ethos. Train services are expensive and chaotic, with services frequently delayed – when they’re not cancelled at short notice due to staffing levels cut to the bone and maintenance services outsourced and short-staffed. The transport workforce has suffered alongside passengers. Years of frozen pay and attacks on terms and conditions are a poor reward for those on the frontline during the pandemic.

Public transport fit for the climate emergency sets out a plan for the investment in public transport throughout England and Wales that has long been needed. From town and cities, to villages and rural communities, this plan would mean more services, new routes, cheaper fares and modern fleets of low emission vehicles. This radical transformation must be funded by central government and delivered by local and regional transport authorities. And we should all get a say on the transport needs where we live and how this investment is allocated.

Passengers, local communities, and transport workers should all be consulted on public transport improvement plans where they live and work.

The investment proposed by this report would achieve the transition to low-carbon transport needed to honour our climate action agreements with the rest of the world. It would generate green and sustainable economic growth in regions across England and Wales. And it would directly create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the transport sector, plus many more in construction and manufacturing supply chains. As well as cheaper, more extensive and reliable buses, trams and trains, we would have cleaner air to breath. And the roads would be less congested for all road users.

To make sure that every community benefits as fully as possible, with ongoing investment and the best value fares, our public transport should be publicly owned.

The climate emergency means we must act. But the benefits of affordable, reliable and extensive public transport are so great that we should want to anyway – for the lower cost of living and higher quality of life it will bring. This report lays out the blueprint for 21st century public transport, all that’s left is to build it.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

Employment Creation through Green Locomotive Manufacturing at Wabtec’s Erie, Pennsylvania Facility

By Gregor Semieniuk and Robert Pollin - Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), April 2023

This report estimates the prospects for job creation through expanding green locomotive manufacturing at the Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies (Wabtec) Corporation’s Lawrence Park facility in Erie, Pennsylvania. We consider the employment effects of three types of green locomotive manufacturing activities at Wabtec’s Lawrence Park site: 1) Tier 4 diesel-electric locomotives; 2) battery-electric locomotives without onsite battery production and 3) battery electric manufacturing with onsite battery production.

We estimate employment creation under 2 scenarios: an initial Phase 1, in which Wabtec produces 500 green locomotives per year at Lawrence Park and a Phase 2 in which production at Lawrence Park expands to 1,000 green locomotives per year. As of 2008, Wabtec had been producing locomotives at the Phase 2 level of about 1,000 locomotives per year. Phase 2 would therefore just return the Lawrence Plant facility to its earlier level of manufacturing activity.

We estimate that by producing 1,000 green locomotives per year at Lawrence Park, employment creation would range as follows, depending on which specific locomotive production activities are operating at the plant:

  • 3,400 – 5,100 jobs at Lawrence Park itself;
  • 3,060 – 5,100 jobs in Erie County outside of Lawrence Park;
  • 9,860 – 14,960 in the U.S. economy overall.

About 800 people are currently employed at Lawrence Park directly involved in locomotive production. Expanding production to 1,000 locomotives per year would therefore produce a net increase in employment at the facility by between roughly 2,600 – 4,300 workers.

Expanding green locomotive manufacturing production at Wabtec’s Lawrence Park facility will produce major gains in employment conditions in Erie County. This will be true both through the increase in the number of job opportunities relative to the 126,000 people that currently comprise the area’s labor market, and through the relatively high compensation levels associated with jobs at the Lawrence Park facility itself.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Certified Disaster: How Project Canary and Gas Certification Are Misleading Markets and Governments

By Collin Rees, Allie Rosenbluth, Valentina Stackl, et. al - Oil Change International, April 2023

This report examines the gas certification market, specifically one of the current industry leaders, Project Canary. We raise serious concerns about the integrity of gas certification and so-called “Responsibly Sourced Gas” (RSG). Our investigation, which included field observations of oil and gas wells in Colorado monitored by Project Canarya, exposed significant shortcomings in its operations and claims.

  • Project Canary monitors consistently fail to detect pollution events: Earthworks’ trained oil and gas thermographers captured alarming evidence of Project Canary monitors failing to detect emissions in the field. The seven-month survey found that Continuous Emissions Monitors (CEMs)b failed to capture every significant pollution event detected with Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras. Our observations suggest that the company is misrepresenting the capabilities of its technology – a concern echoed in the testimony we gathered from several industry experts – and the underlying data behind certified gas.
  • Greenwashing: Project Canary’s marketing aggressively positions its certification services as a conduit to a ‘net zero’ emissions world. Its CEO has openly discussed fixing the gas industry’s “brand problem.” In doing so, the company appears to be aligning itself with gas industry lobbyists and pushing the concept of ‘net zero’ to new levels of incredulity, which risks sabotaging rather than serving global climate goals. The company is pushing a false narrative that methane gas is an energy source compatible with climate goals as long as it is certified as being produced below a certain methane threshold.
  • Lack of Transparency: Despite claims of ‘radical transparency’ and third-party verification, there is limited access for regulators, academics, or the public to the data generated by the certification process. Given the evidence that monitoring may not be reliable, there is clear justification for greater scrutiny from regulators, scientists, and concerned citizens.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Evidence suggests that a key Project Canary DIrector and Advisory Board Members have direct financial interests in the same gas companies it certifies.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Impact of Refinery Row on the City of Corpus Christi

By Tanya Stasio, PhD, Sachin Peddada, Elisabeth Seliga, Jordan Burt, and Liz Stanton, PhD - Applied Economics Clinic, March 20, 2023

On behalf of the Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend (IPCB), this Applied Economics Clinic (AEC) report summarizes the economic impact of the petroleum industry in Nueces County, Texas and the negative impacts of the polluting facilities located in the City of Corpus Christi and its “Refinery Row” district. While major petroleum companies have promised economic benefits, Corpus Christi's petroleum refineries employ less than 2 percent of the City's workforce. In the absence of more stringent reporting requirements and enforcement actions, Refinery Row releases high levels of harmful pollutants with minor consequences while nearby neighborhoods suffer higher rates of asthma and cancer prevalence rates than other areas in Corpus Christi. 

This report was funded through AEC's Pro Bono Fund, which provides pro bono analysis, research, testimony, policy briefs, or detailed reports to Environmental Justice groups on topics including energy economics, climate and other environmental impacts, and diversity, equity, and inclusion analysis.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

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