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Season 2 Ep. 5 - Movements Start from Within

Sustainable Water, Energy, and Economic Transition in Alabama (SWEET Alabama)

Building Resilience to Extreme Heat in California

Justice40: Strategies and Successes

Los Angeles Just Transition Strategy

Sunflower Alliance Webinar: California Climate Justice Plan

Understanding the Impacts of Hydrogen Hubs on EJ with The Equity Fund

What Is Needed For A Just Transition To Renewables?

By Carolyn Fortuna - Clean Technica, November 2, 2022

Big Oil is trying to get climate liability lawsuits moved from state to federal courts, where they believe they’d be more likely to prevail against efforts to make them pay for damaging the environment. Key communities are laying out explicit steps to help move their economies away from coal. Debates are taking place in the tech sector that analyze the social and political changes inevitable to implement renewable energy at scale. These are all dilemmas within what’s called a just transition, and it’s at the core of renewable energy activism.

In its original incarnation, a just transition pointed to workers’ rights, but, over the past few years, the concept expanded into relevance for fields beyond the labor market. A just transition is a future-oriented concept, guided by principles of sustainability and climate justice.

Unfortunately, these concepts don’t always work in concert.

What is a Just Transition, Anyway?

The transition to a clean energy economy is escalating, yet it takes thoughtful planning and robust resources. There are several dimensions to a just transition to move economies and regions away from fossil fuels and towards creating sustainable value and solving issues of climate injustice.

An opposition point of view claims that the shift to clean energy will spur gaps in well paying jobs with good benefits, loss of health insurance, reduced property values, gaps in local tax revenues, unfunded liabilities for environmental cleanup, and uncertainty around future community economic development.

Include social and political participation of affected groups: A just transition is about focusing on support for communities that bear a disproportionate burden of industrial and fossil fuel pollution. These citizens suffer tremendous health effects and are denied commensurate economic benefits. Locations where deep pockets of industrial fossil fuel pollution occur are known as “sacrifice zones,” where toxic air inflicts health problems such as asthma and high rates of cancer. They’re also typically where low income communities of color live and where institutional barriers have afflicted generations of citizens.

Assist workers in unsustainable sectors whose jobs will get lost in the economic reorganization: For many advocates, a just transition encompasses not only support for displaced fossil fuel workers and front-line communities but also a tectonic shift in the design of the economy. For example, workers who engage with toxic materials face the likelihood of illness and death, yet these provide the world with the energy and the materials it needs to recreate energy systems.

Recognize where benefits are accumulated by only a small part of relevant stakeholders: A just transition considers less wealthy countries that depend on fossil fuels for a major part of their GNI. Many advocates are calling upon wealthier nations to help countries with less total domestic and foreign input to switch to clean energy.

Create reskilling and new opportunities for workers whose jobs are lost due to restructuring: A just transition means taking an extractive economy — one that exploits workers and resources — and transforming it into a regenerative economy — one that relies on renewable resources and puts people’s well-being before profit. Just transition initiatives shift the economy from climate polluting fossil fuels to energy democracy. No longer do highways receive mass federal funding; instead, an emphasis on public transit takes place. Costs for discarding waste in landfills skyrockets as do incentives to compost and purchase compostable packaging. Ecosystem destruction halts and ecosystem restoration becomes a huge focus. All of these will create new job opportunities.

A Pick Axe and a Heart Attack: Workers Suffer As They Clean Up Toxic Mess That Vernon’s Old Battery Recycling Plant Left Behind

By Mariah Castañeda - L.A. Taco, October 26, 2022

When workers tasked with cleaning up toxic lead dust spilled by the Exide battery recycling plant from Guadalupe Valdovinos’ yard started packing up, she noticed they hadn’t finished. She saw a large patch of soil on her property that they hadn’t touched. 

When she insisted they missed a spot, she remembers the clean-up workers rudely said that cleaning up the untouched corner of her property “wasn’t part of the plan.” 

Valdovinos says that the apparent disregard for her home started early in the clean-up process “They would hit and break things. We expected them to repair it. They were hostile. They were they would grunt or be very like, well, we didn’t do that,” said Valdovinos, “Like, we didn’t come at them attacking them. We were just pointing out, hey. You broke something. And they took it very offensive, like, No, we didn’t do that. No, that’s not our problem. So that was another issue. Yeah, it wasn’t a friendly environment.”

She complained about the clean-up at an Environmental Board Meeting in July and addressed California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), the state agency responsible for cleaning up the mess made by Exide Technologies’ battery recycling plant. For decades, Exide belched out thousands of tons of poisonous lead dust across the predominantly Latino communities surrounding the industrial city of Vernon. 

“I’m here to urge the Council and DTSC not to contract the cleaning crew National Engineering Consulting Company Group, also known as NEC because they are not professional,” said Valdovinos at the Environmental Board Meeting.

She was hardly the first to complain of sloppy standards affecting the cleanup of more than 7 million pounds of lead dust spewed out by Exide. Residents have long complained about issues with the cleanup, and now employees of the contractors responsible for the cleanup are speaking out too. Reporting by L.A. TACO found two incidents of severe injuries to subcontractor workers due to possibly unsafe working conditions and questionable treatment of poisonous lead dust. 

One cleanup worker died after suffering injuries inflicted by a Bobcat digger at one site in 2020. At another, in the spring of 2022, an employee of a state contractor was severely injured by a pickax blow to their chest and shoulder area after a site was not appropriately cleared for overhead hazards. 

A Discussion on the Inflation Reduction Act and Climate Justice

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