BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

Graphic courtesy of Climate Central.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2015 was officially the second-hottest year on record in the U.S. The temperature was 2.5 degrees above the 20th century average.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We’re not just going to stay with what we’ve already done. We’re going to look for other opportunities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on her agency's plans in 2016.

WHAT’S TRENDING

All bluster – The House will take up a bill next week designed to block an EPA clean water rule. President Obama is expected to veto the bill if it comes to his desk. (The Hill)

Posted In: The Source

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

Last weekend, the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was wrapped up and it has now been signed by nearly 200 nations. The BlueGreen Alliance’s Executive Director Kim Glas said, “This is a proud moment in world history and a strong step forward to solving the biggest challenge of our time. While not perfect—the Paris Agreement urges a just transition for impacted workers and underscores the obligation to protect human rights.” (New York Times & BlueGreen Alliance)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“…exporting oil will cost U.S. refinery workers their jobs. The oil they would have converted to gasoline and other products will, instead, be shipped overseas to be refined, and then hauled back to the United States as gasoline. The ban on exporting U.S. crude helped save jobs at two refineries in Philadelphia just four years ago.” – former United Steelworkers International Vice President Gary Beevers.

WHAT’S TRENDING

Budget – The House passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September. (Politico)

Lead – In Flint, Michigan, there is a water crisis due to the amount of lead in the water. (Washington Post)

Posted In: The Source
A jet-lagged, but hopeful, Michael Williams at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris.

The following post is from Michael G. Williams, Vice President of Strategic Development for the BlueGreen Alliance. 

Greetings from Paris. Week two of climate negotiations is now underway! All signs still point towards a comprehensive agreement, which is not a huge surprise given the amount of work put in beforehand to get us this far. Week two is typically the change from the dog-and-pony show to serious negotiations. As such, I thought it would be useful to take a look at each of the five key principles we released last Monday. Let’s start with the issue we’ve had as a priority at the COPs since the BlueGreen Alliance’s founding: Just Transition.

We sent a letter to Todd Stern, the lead negotiator for the United States, succinctly describing our position. In short, we need explicit language on just transition in the operative part of the agreement. This means that when each country submits its contribution every two years or so describing how they are taking on the challenge of climate change, they also have to describe how they are taking into account the impact of workers and communities.

When the negotiations started, we had exactly that. In the operational portion (Article 2) of the draft negotiating text was direct reference to just transition and decent work, as part of a paragraph that captured core issues to broader civil society, notably gender equality and human rights. (FYI, for more background on just transition, there’s no better place to go than the International Trade Union Confederation.) Frustratingly, as the first week bore on, our language along with references to other portions of the human rights ask was taken out amidst arguments involving the United States, Norway, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries. 

Posted In: Climate Change

Congress acts. Legislators—and stakeholders— come together to start repairing America.

By Zoe Lipman, Senior Policy Advisor at the BlueGreen Alliance.

Diagram from Denver Regional Transportation District shows where parts came from for their RTD Rail System.

On Thursday the U.S. House and Senate passed a 5-year $305 Billion transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (or “FAST’” Act), and on Friday the President signed it. After more than a decade of short-term extensions that hobbled desperately needed forward-looking investment, legislators came together to agree on a long-term bill that makes possible the city, state, multi-state, multi-modal investments on which the health of the economy depends.

Kudos to the lawmakers who put American communities, workers and businesses ahead of partisan grandstanding, to the cities and states who led by example over the past decade, and to the many transportation advocates (including a number of the BlueGreen Alliances’s labor and environmental partners) who sweated the details that go into crafting (and negotiating) a policy agreement.

Several of our partners and key transportation advocates have more detailed overviews of the bill and lay out a variety of strengths and weaknesses (See here what the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), NRDC, Transportation for America, and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, (TTD) had to say, amongst others). But several features jump out as key steps down the path of repairing America’s infrastructure and economy:

Posted In: Transportation, Amalgamated Transit Union

By Lee Anderson, Director of Legislation and Policy for the BlueGreen Alliance.

For the last year and a half, while much of the world has been focused on two of the largest international trade agreements ever proposed—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the United States has been simultaneously working on an under-the-radar trade agreement with a seemingly benign title, the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). Working with 13 other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, the U.S., to hear the U.S. Trade Representative’s office tell it, has simply been negotiating the EGA in order to remove tariffs on hundreds of items deemed to be “environmental goods.”

So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? After all, wouldn’t it be great if environmentally beneficial things like clean energy technologies could be traded around the world as easily as possible? Well, maybe, but first we’d all have to agree what is meant by that innocent sounding term: environmental good. For instance, would you consider a yacht to be an environmental good? How about bulldozers, lasers or, my personal favorite, human blood? All those things, and many, many more items of uncertain relation to the environment are on a lengthy list of goods slated for inclusion in the EGA and, as a result, a removal of tariffs on their trade.

Posted In: Trade/Make it in America

EDITOR’S NOTE: After a hiatus we’re back! From here on out, the BlueGreen Source will now be a once-weekly recap of the news sent out on Friday mornings.

YOU SHOULD KNOW…

A top economist looks at how the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could be used to undermine climate change protections. (Grist)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“On Oct. 14, I took part in a national day of action organized by the People’s Climate Movement. A diverse group of people banded together to talk about how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan can help Minnesota. The Clean Power Plan is an opportunity to become more energy independent, reduce the pollution driving climate change and impacting all of us—especially communities of color and low-income communities—and drive the growth of quality jobs in our state.” – Jamie Gulley is the president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the SEIU Minnesota State Council. (MinnPost)

WHAT’S TRENDING

Paris – Read this opinion piece from United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres about how the world is gearing up to tackle climate change. (The Guardian)

Posted In: The Source

The White House yesterday announced new commitments from 81 companies around the country to push for an international climate deal in Paris and to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action. The companies that took the American Business Act on Climate pledge have operations in all 50 states and employ over 9 million people. 

The pledge is straight forward, it states: 

We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future. 

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.

Posted In: Climate Change

The following blog post is from Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The original post can be found here.

Today, a new public poll was released showing Americans’ widespread support for chemical safety reform. The headline might not seem so remarkable but the data show an impressive level of support across demographics. Let’s dig in, shall we?

The poll was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, along with the BlueGreen Alliance, Center for Effective Government, Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace, and United Steelworkers, and conducted by Lake Research Partners. The poll surveyed 1,009 adults, including 794 likely 2016 voters and asked about chemical safety issues.

Across demographics, the majority of likely voters polled favored requiring chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes in order to protect communities.

Across demographics, the majority of likely voters polled favored requiring chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes in order to protect communities.

Posted In: Work, Environment and Public Health, Union of Concerned Scientists

Green buildings and more efficient building practices and materials have taken the construction sector in the U.S. by storm and a new study shows that a third of the U.S. construction market could be green by 2018. 

The growth of green in construction is a huge boon to the U.S. economy and to workers. The report from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) found that green construction has generated $167 billion in the U.S. over the last three years and will account for an estimated 2.3 million American jobs this year. 

By 2018, the study finds that green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs, which is more than a third of the entire U.S. construction sector. It will also generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. In Texas alone, almost 1.26 million jobs in the green building sector are projected between 2015 and 2018.  

Posted In: Energy Efficiency

The following blog post is from Kim Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, and is cross-posted from the Huffington Post

It's expected that the House will soon vote on a bill to lift the long-standing ban on crude oil exports. We should take a step back and see how this 180-degree shift in policy will impact us all. Lifting the export ban would not only risk undoing recent gains in America's energy security, but would also threaten jobs, economic security and the environment.

The bill—H.R. 702—would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and would prohibit any federal office from imposing or enforcing the ban on crude oil exports.

In terms of economic impact, lifting the crude oil ban would provide an incentive for companies to move refining offshore, which would impact jobs of the men and women employed at U.S. refineries and the communities that rely on the tax base generated from these wages. Refinery and related industry occupations are good paying, middle-class jobs. They support more than $1.8 million in value-added to the economy per employee, which translates to jobs that support families and sustain local economies and communities.