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LEWIS/MOORE: Solar, Powered by the People

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Solar power is abundant, affordable, and accessible in the District of Columbia

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By Kimberly Lewis and Michelle Moore

Solar power is abundant, affordable, and accessible in the District of Columbia. Every single solar panel that is installed with the projected $300 million that will go to build solar projects in our nation’s capital over the next five years will cut utility bills, create jobs, and build wealth – but for whom? There are only three certified minority and woman-owned solar businesses operating in D.C. The problem with our new green economy is that it’s propagating the same old inequities instead of reflecting the beautiful diversity of the places we live. That’s why we’re celebrating Black History Month by calling for a new chapter in the story of the solar industry in America, starting right here in Washington, D.C.

We see the disparities first hand as part of the leadership team of Groundswell, a D.C.-based nonprofit that builds community power. When we issued our first RFP for a community solar project, there were few to no minority or woman-owned solar businesses and hardly any woman or people of color on the leadership teams of the companies that responded. We wanted to know why and what we could do about it, so we reached out to NYMBUS Holdings, a local minority-owned research firm, for answers.  Their new report is a wake-up call that includes immediate and measurable steps we can take together to close the gap and make sure that solar is delivering on the promise of being power to, for, and by the people.

It’s the right thing to do. The District of Columbia is a richly diverse community that is blessed with some of the most progressive solar energy policies in the country. Not only is our city committed to using 100% clean energy, we have the nation’s biggest solar incentives and a Solar for All program that delivers free solar power to our low-income neighbors who are struggling to pay utility bills. The policies that make D.C. a great place for solar are enabled by the people of Washington, D.C. Our thriving local solar industry should look like Washington, D.C., too.

We’re not alone. These same inequities are tragically common themes at every level within the green movement. A new report about diversity in the environmental field by Green 2.0 shows that it is still predominantly male and increasingly white. The solar sector is no exception. Nationally, fewer than 30% of the people working in the solar industry are female. But when you look at who pays the most for energy, more than half of families paying disproportionately high electricity bills across the United States are African American. It’s not fair.

We’ve got to do better. The growth of the solar industry generates more than clean power – it creates jobs and builds wealth. It holds the promise of lifting more lives beyond financial stability towards greater ease. If more solar power just makes the same people richer, we’ve failed.

We can’t wait. We’ve got to get serious, set goals, and keep score. As the NYMBUS report highlights, while all the data sources tell the same story about the sad state of solar industry when it comes to diversity, there are no comprehensive, consistently measured and validated annual reports. Equitable economic participation belongs right next to 100% renewable energy on Washington, D.C.’s clean energy scorecard. To win, we’ve got to recognize that the technical, regulatory, and financial complexity of the solar industry presents significant barriers to new people and businesses entering the field. Taking a page from the tech industry’s playbook, launching a clean energy incubator could support local entrepreneurs with the knowledge and networks they need to succeed.

That’s just the beginning of what turning Washington, D.C.’s solar leadership into equitable economic empowerment could mean. The opportunity is now, and Washington’s got what it takes. Let’s put the people in solar power and make it Made in D.C.

Kimberly Lewis is a senior vice president of community advancement at the U.S. Green Building Council and Michelle Moore is CEO of community solar nonprofit Groundswell.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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Bay Area

California Gas Prices to Spike Even More with July 1 Tax Increase

Democratic lawmakers, backed by environmentalists, are digging their heels in, defending their decision not to suspend the inflationary tax increase that they fought hard to approve when they voted to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017. “As we’ve said before, suspending the gas tax would reduce critical funds available for road repair and improvement projects,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood said in a joint statement.

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As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.
As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

“I really don’t understand how the price of gas can rise so drastically in California,” said a Black woman and 55-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident who agreed to be interviewed for this article but asked to not be identified.

“Unfortunately, we need to purchase it regardless of the prices and that’s one of reasons, I believe, it continues to increase,” she complained. “Weekly, it is costing me approximately $75 to commute to and from work, which is $35 more than I used to pay.”

The woman, who is a collections officer with a lead abatement company, said filling her tank often means she has to forgo another obligation.

As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.

Now, news that the state is tacking an extra 3-cent tax on every gallon purchased — which will not be a significant increase — is still absurd, says the woman, considering that California already has the highest gas prices in the nation.

Because Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature missed the May 1 deadline to suspend an inflationary gas tax increase that is scheduled for July 1, it will still take effect.

Policymakers would have had to act 60 days in advance to avert the increase.

Democratic lawmakers, backed by environmentalists, are digging their heels in, defending their decision not to suspend the inflationary tax increase that they fought hard to approve when they voted to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017.

“As we’ve said before, suspending the gas tax would reduce critical funds available for road repair and improvement projects,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood said in a joint statement.

“Additionally, as oil companies continue to rake in record-high profits, there is no guarantee this relief would be passed onto consumers,” Atkins and Rendon continued.

With the tax hike, the average excise tax price per gallon in the state will go from about 51 cents per gallon to 54 cents per gallon.

Last month, with the May 1 deadline looming, Newsom’s office acknowledged that it would not be able to convince lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly to suspend the tax increase.

Instead, Newsom’s spokesperson Alex Stack released a statement suggesting that the Governor’s office was turning its attention to providing relief to Californians as the cost of gas, food and other commodities continue to skyrocket.

“We look forward to working with lawmakers on the governor’s proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices,” Stack said in a statement. “Helping offset the impact of inflation on California residents remains a top priority for the governor.”

Legislative Republicans blasted their Democratic colleagues for their “inaction” on the gas tax increase.

“Californians are desperate for any relief at the pump while paying the highest gas prices in the nation, but Democrats have decided to run out the clock and increase the state’s gas tax instead,” read a statement the state Republican Party released earlier this month.

Gov. Newsom and lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature have still not agreed on how to address the excessive cost of gas in the state.

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Black History

U.N. Climate Summit: Black Caucus Member Isaac Bryan Is Representing California in Scotland 

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

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During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.
During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is the only Black member of the California Legislature attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is not present at the summit as he abruptly opted out last week, citing personal reasons.

“Due to family obligations, Governor Newsom will no longer be traveling to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will instead be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies,” Newsom’s spokesperson Erin Mellon said October 29.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is attending the conference in Newsom’s place.

The conference began Sunday, October 31 and will last through Friday, November 12. It is co-hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy.

Bryan, who represents California’s 54th district and serves as the Assembly’s Assistant Majority Whip, joins 22 government officials attending the conference. He is also a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC).

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Bryan is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

“Isaac Bryan is a bold, visionary leader whose intersectional approach to policy is much needed in the California legislature,” said EnviroVoters CEO Mary Creasman.

“We do not have time to waste when it comes to climate justice, and California needs leaders who are willing to stand up to big oil and polluters. Isaac has proven that he will lead the charge and do what is right at this critical point. Assembly District 54 needs an Assembly member who will take bold action on the community values of racial, criminal, economic, and environmental justice, and Isaac Bryan is clearly that candidate. EnviroVoters is excited to endorse Isaac Bryan for Assembly District 54,” Creasman continued.

Bryan responded to this endorsement and another one from Equality California (EQCA) in a statement.

“This is our moment. The support of these two frontrunners for progress is an important call to protect our vulnerable communities, prioritizing the needs of our LGBTQ+ and BIPOC neighbors; ensure clean air and water for all; and lift people out of poverty by preparing for jobs in emerging technologies,” Bryan said.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Lee Joins Congresswoman Bush and Other Colleagues to Urge President Biden to End Fossil Fuel Expansion

Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) joined Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) and other progressive colleagues in calling on President Biden to live up to his campaign promises to protect our environment & mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis. 

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Pipeline in industrial district/ iStock
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) joined Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) and other progressive colleagues in calling on President Biden to live up to his campaign promises to protect our environment & mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.
“We write to you to express our grave concern that ongoing actions by your administration threaten to undermine our shared goal to further climate, racial, and economic justice,” the Members wrote. “Now is the time to use your authority under existing law to immediately stop fossil fuel expansion and declare a climate emergency as a fundamental part of your push to invest in good jobs, environmental justice, a just transition, and a future powered by renewable energy.”
“The failure of the United States government to phase out fossil fuels,” the Members continued, “is inextricably related to rising asthma rates and the fact that nearly every household in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley has lost someone to the deadly disease . . . The mistakes and failures that allowed Line 3 and other pipelines to proceed must not be repeated. Our communities demand better.”
Today’s letter is the latest step in the members’ efforts to hold the Biden Administration accountable to delivering on the platform it promised during the election. In April, Congresswoman Lee co-sponsored the Green New Deal for Cities Act introduced by Congresswoman Bush and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The legislation will make sure every city, town, county and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal.
The letter written by Congresswoman Bush is co-signed by Rep. Lee and Reps. Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Chairman James P. McGovern (MA-02).
“With every fossil fuel project approval, this administration pushes us closer to irreversible climate catastrophe,” said Kassie Siegel, Director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “President Biden needs to declare a national climate emergency and stop fueling it with oil, gas and coal.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.
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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest ranking woman of color in the U.S. Congress.

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