BlueGreen Alliance

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Posts About Infrastructure

On a beautiful summer morning on Minnesota’s Iron Range last week, local members from several unions including the United Steelworkers—many of whom work in the taconite mines—and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) met with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (MN – 8) to talk about the need and opportunity presented by repairing America’s infrastructure systems and making large, industrial energy users in Minnesota more efficient. About 25 union members gathered in Mountain Iron for the roundtable discussion that also featured State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL –Virginia). 

Congressman Nolan spoke on a variety of topics, including the need for Congress to address critical transportation needs by passing a long term, fully funded transportation bill by through Congress and the importance of strong Buy America provisions to ensure materials used to repair our infrastructure systems are made here in the U.S. “I was pleased to be part of this great event and it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies,” said Nolan. 

"it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies. - U.S. Rep. Nolan

Bob Ryan, Rapid Response Coordinator for United Steelworkers (USW) District 11 also spoke to the gathering saying, “Repairing our infrastructure will create good, union jobs making the steel to rebuild bridges and rails and the concrete that will be poured to repair our roads, and building the systems used to generate renewable energy, like wind turbines and solar panels. And, it will help our environment.” 

In addition to the infrastructure focus, the group discussed the need to make Minnesota’s industry more energy efficient, highlighting a new law that passed this year that will allow the Department of Commerce to provide low-interest loans to companies, hospitals, and other large energy users to cut their energy waste. Rep. Metsa championed the law in the legislature and Ryan said of it, “this is a good start toward improving energy efficiency for large energy users and we should build on this program to implement other strategies to help companies remain competitive by reducing energy waste.” 

Earlier this year, the BlueGreen Alliance released recommendations for policy changes and executive actions to spur industrial energy efficiency efforts in the state. Competing to Win: Spurring Industrial Energy Efficiency in Minnesota summarized the benefits of increasing industrial energy efficiency, quantified the opportunity for the state of Minnesota, identified the barriers preventing projects from being installed, and issued a series of recommendations to address these barriers.   

All in all, it was a fine event at the local city hall where solar panels from a local manufacturer help power the facility and wind turbines stand majestically on a ridge overlooking the small community. We thank Congressman Nolan, Rep. Metsa, and the union members who joined us to show their support for a more prosperous and efficient economy. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure, United Steelworkers, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union

Congressional gridlock will spell out real traffic headaches for commuters unless Congress approves federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund before it officially runs out September 30. Luckily, this hard deadline and a looming August recess where lawmakers will leave DC and will have to defend what they’re doing to solve transportation problems in their home districts, has finally motivated some lawmakers to go for broke to prevent the trust fund from running out.

The Short-Term Fix

Senator Wyden from Oregon has emerged as a leader on those efforts, having brokered an agreement with Republicans on a plan that would provide almost $11 billion in funding for the Highway Trust Fund—which is enough to keep it up and running until May 2015. Last night showed signs of progress as the House of Representatives approved a measure that funds the Highway Trust Fund for one year, similar to the agreement Senator Wyden hammered out. Now the measure awaits Senate action.  

Further bolstering support for a short-term fix, the White House has signaled it would back a similar measure. However, President Obama and other administration officials haven’t lost sight of the long-view priorities of the Grow AMERICA agenda which the president spoke about in a Washington, DC event recently.

 "Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future," said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.

BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Kim Glas attended the event and said, “The state of our nation’s infrastructure not only impacts our economy, but our environment suffers as well. Congress should act now, not just to make the repairs desperately needed, but to build the modern infrastructure essential to create and sustain jobs and to build a stronger, more competitive economic future. The GROW AMERICA Act will help us accomplish just that.”

A Problem That Isn’t Going Away

We can and must do better than another short term fix though. Americans need and deserve a long-term plan that provides adequate funding, sets necessary policy, and gives states time to set priorities and plan projects. America’s roads and transit systems each earned a “D” grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Our nation’s bridges—which have an average age of 42 years old and nearly 65,000 of which are closed or have load restrictions due to age—didn’t fare much better, earning only a “C+” grade.

Now that the House has passed an extension, it’s the Senate’s move. Failing to act on a short-term fix to rescue the Trust fund puts 700,000 jobs at risk immediately—which would be like Congress firing everyone in Wyoming, Washington, D.C., or Vermont.  But our long-term job growth depends on finishing the job.

We still believe Congress can come through on a plan to save the Highway Trust Funding from going bankrupt. But, more than that, we know it’s time for Congress to work together to pass a long-term, fully funded transportation bill that will fix the problems caused by decades of neglect and that will repair and modernize our infrastructure to support a prosperous 21st century economy.

Posted In: Transportation, Infrastructure

The following blog is by Rob McCulloch, Director of Infrastructure Programs for the BlueGreen Alliance. 

Recently, as part of a continuing effort to engage key constituencies to help craft and implement the president’s Climate Action Plan, the Department of Energy (DOE) hosted representatives—including several BlueGreen Alliance members and allies across the labor movement and industry—to a wide-ranging discussion on methane reduction. The event was led by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and the president’s advisor on energy and climate, Dan Utech. 

Progress on the Climate Action Plan 

As outlined by the Climate Action Plan, “reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air.” 

The intersection of job creation and a more sustainable economy lies squarely in BlueGreen Alliance’s interest. In particular, the alliance and our partners—to include the AFL-CIO—have spent the past several months focusing on natural gas distribution pipelines (the networks delivering gas at the community level to our homes and businesses) in our Repairing our Cities Aging Pipelines campaign. Our goal is to drive investment in the repair and upgrade of these systems, especially older, more leak-prone pipes—to reduce system leakage, which would help avert atmospheric methane while making our energy systems more reliable, resilient, and create U.S. jobs. 

Pound-for-pound, methane represents at least 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, making it critical that we keep this gas in the system. [EB1] Additionally, families and businesses should expect that the gas they pay for is being efficiently delivered rather than lost to leaks through the system.

 

Pound-for-pound, methane represents at least 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, making it critical that we keep this gas in the system.

 

Putting people to work, driving solutions 

We have the opportunity to modernize our natural gas distribution system by repairing the thousands of miles of older pipes under our cities with advanced, American-made pipe, investing in our communities and putting people to work in the installation and operation of a 21-century gas infrastructure—not a 19th century one. 

Last week’s roundtable and other forums initiated by a pro-active administration are a key opportunity to elevate this important aspect of reducing methane. In particular, the Quadrennial Energy Review underway by the DoE has a stated focus on finding ways to address with these ‘downstream’ systems, 

Featured in last week’s discussion was the role DoE can play to reduce methane, from improving the accounting greenhouse gases, developing and deploying better technology, and how the federal government can assist states and local communities maintain more efficient natural gas systems. 

BlueGreen looks forward to helping drive these solutions, as we also continue to work at the state and local level to advance investment mechanisms and policy approaches that restore our infrastructure to a good state of repair.

 

Posted In: Infrastructure

The following blog has been cross-posted from the CWA blog Resistance Growing. The original is available online here.

T&T cities identified for faster internet capacity

AT&T is expanding its ultra-fast fiber network to 100 cities nationwide.

The fiber network will deliver AT&T’s U-verse at broadband speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second. Just how fast is that? At that speed, in one second, you could download 25 songs. In three seconds, you could download an episode of your favorite TV show. And in 36 seconds, you could download an entire HD movie.

AT&T’s network build-out is “world changing, as more communities come on line with fiber networks that are 100 times faster than what they have today,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.  

“This is what fast means. It will be great for our members and overall employment, will accelerate business and economic development, provide for new and not-yet-realized services, make state-of-the-art television and other services available to consumers, and help the U.S. regain its place as a leader in true high-speed accessibility,” he said.   

For more than eight years, CWA’s “Speed Matters” campaign has pushed for the expansion of true high-speed fiber networks in the U.S. as necessary to keep pace with economic growth, job creation and global competition.  Speed matters on the Internet, and CWA has been calling for policies to promote faster Internet speeds and higher capacity networks. 

Until now, companies have focused their high-speed build outs in smaller metropolitan areas.

AT&T's announcement is a big step towards laying cables that customers need to tap into the Web across the country. We're finally inching closer to national, affordable high-speed Internet access for everyone.

Read more at: http://www.cwa-union.org/blog/entry/fast_and_furious

Posted In: Infrastructure, Communications Workers of America

This crosspost is from Callum Beals, an editorial intern at Sierra. You can find the original here

April 10, 2014

Chinatown station on the LA Metro Gold LineThe American Public Transportation Association is partying like it's 1956. That's because Americans took 10.65 billion trips on public transit systems in 2013 -- numbers not seen since the 1950s. In its annual ridership report, APTA stated that more Americans were using trains, buses, and subways as an alternative to commuting to work by car.

The 2013 numbers narrowly surpassed the post-1950s high of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices ballooned. According to APTA, what makes the 2013 numbers so exciting is that gas prices are lower now than they were in 2008.

Public transit powerhouse New York City saw a 4.2% heavy rail ridership increase. More surprisingly, Los Angeles posted a 4.8% heavy rail increase coupled with a 6% light rail increase for 2013.

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is betting big on public transit as the future of the area. "It has to be," said Marc Littman, the LA Metro's deputy executive officer of public relations. "Mobility is the linchpin of the economy."

By the end of 2014, the LA Metro will have started construction on multiple new heavy and light rail projects that will become operational over the next decade. "Voters in LA are so fed up with traffic that in 2008 they voted to tax themselves three times over," said Littman. The taxes he is referring to are all part of Measure R, a 2008 county ballot that will award around $40 billion of taxpayer money to traffic relief and transportation upgrades over the next 30 years.

While traffic reduction was undoubtedly at the forefront of voters' minds, so too was an increasing environmental consciousness. "You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20 pounds of COper day," says Littman. "We've tapped into people who are fed up with traffic as well as those that are environmentally conscious."

This green rider is exactly who APTA believes is behind 2013's surge in public transportation ridership. In an interview with the Associated Press, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy proclaimed, "People are making a fundamental shift to having options for getting around. This is a long term trend. This isn't just a blip."

Quantifying the affect of environmentalism on increased public transit ridership is difficult, but the fact that 2013's levels resemble those of the 1950s can't be ignored. With the rise of the automobile and suburbia, public transit has long been a secondary option for commuters.

Littman believes that Americans, especially Los Angelenos, want a return to a sprawling public transit infrastructure. "In Los Angeles, there were more than 1000 miles of track 100 years ago, and people want it back. It's kind of like that baseball movie [Field of Dreams]. If you build it, they will come."

To get involved with local public transit projects, visit publictransportation.org

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

Posted In: Infrastructure, Transportation, Sierra Club

We all have a general awareness about the power of severe weather—that it can cause a lot of damage and that it can destroy millions of dollars of property in a matter of minutes or seconds, for example. What we didn’t know was the full extent of what it is all costing us. A new report out by Climate Central reveals some sobering facts that show just how prevalent and destructive extreme weather has been over the past few years, and how we need to so something about it. 

Sticker shock 

Climate change is getting worse. Weather-related events caused 80 percent of all outages between 2003-2012. Michigan led all of the states with 71 major weather related outages. Michigan residents certainly paid for it too—to the tune of $277 million—which is what it cost to repair all weather related damages in the state last year. All in all, from 2011-2012 Americans spent $188 billion in repairs on extreme weather damages. 

Apart from having clean water, electricity is a basic need that we all depend on. When outages are interrupting our lives more and more frequently, like they are today, it’s time to talk more about what we can do about it.

Map of Hurricane Sandy 


A basic need we can’t do without 

According to the Climate Central report, “The U.S. electrical system is one of the country’s most critical infrastructure components. Distributing electricity to homes, businesses, and industry, as well as large sections of the transportation sector, the bulk power system is a vast and interconnected grid that people depend on in all parts of their daily lives.” 

One of the ways we can address this problem of power outages is to strengthen the electric grid in the first place. Making the repairs that will prevent widespread power outages in the future will create jobs and stimulate growth in communities. Looking at Minnesota alone, an investment of $400 million per year on electricity infrastructure over the span of five years is creating or sustaining an estimated 5,200 jobs throughout the economy each year. 

Power outages aren’t simply an inconvenience. They cost us lost time and money that adds up and holds back the economy over the long term. Weather-related power outages cost Americans between $20 and $55 billion per year. That’s all money that could be much better spent boosting our bottom line.

America's electricity network
Courtesy of mapoftheweek.blogspot.com

 

The problems that plague the electric grid are indicative of so many of our infrastructure systems like inefficient water management systems, crumbling roads and bridges and much more. It’s time to repair the electric grid so that when the power goes out we don’t also lose access to clean water, so that strong winds and down power lines don’t pose the same threat they do today, and to get to work on the greater vision to Repair America. Join us today!

Posted In: Infrastructure

The following blog post is by Susan Diegelman, Director of Public Affairs for AT&T. 

We recently marked the fourth anniversary of the National Broadband Plan, a roadmap created to bring broadband connectivity throughout the US. Connectivity is a necessary resource for everyone in this digital age, but many Americans continue to have difficulties obtaining access. Once we meet the plan’s stated goals, we will have increased the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband service in all areas of the country. Many of the Plan’s goals align with BlueGreen Alliance's Repair America objectives to modernize America’s infrastructure, and in so doing revitalize America’s economy and address pressing energy and climate challenges. We applaud the FCC, both on the Plan itself and on the progress made so far. 

In the plan, the FCC characterized broadband deployment as "the great infrastructure challenge of the 21st century." Any American with broadband connectivity can access a wide variety of opportunities, from higher education to Internet entrepreneurship to telecommuting jobs. Broadband also delivers increased opportunities for convenient health care, civic engagement, educational enrichment, and social and professional networking, as well as easy access to news, information, and entertainment. But in addition to these benefits to individuals and communities, many people don't realize that increased access to enhanced broadband service can also help our planet. Advanced broadband technologies enable vital benefits for public safety and national security, and especially for our environment. Expanding access to modern broadband connectivity across the country will help create a cleaner, greener America and a more efficient and competitive economy. 

Implementing policies that encourage the expansion of advanced high-speed broadband networks will promote safety and sustainability—enabling energy, water, and gas utilities to identify leaks, and monitor performance. In the transportation sector real time information is already helping individuals avoid and transportation systems reduce congestion and travel-related carbon emissions, while vehicle to vehicle communication will improve safety and efficiency of vehicle operations and design. Upgrading our old energy networks and transitioning to smart grid technologies – in energy generation, transmission, distribution, and in our homes—will help us will help us fight climate change by enabling new efficiency opportunities, and new ways to connect and use renewable energy, electric vehicles, and smart appliances. It will also help us make our energy systems and communities more resilient. Overall, advanced broadband and communication technologies can help jump-start a new era of healthier and greener economic development. 

Since the adoption of the National Broadband Plan, the United States is closer to reaching many of its objectives, including several important speed and availability goals. The FCC has accomplished substantial progress in a short period of time, and we're confident that they will achieve even more going forward as long as the focus now shifts to designing rules that create the right environment for broadband to thrive and expand. Working to protect consumers while also adopting smart rules that encourage innovation and incentivize additional private investment will be vital to achieving those nationwide broadband connectivity goals.   

On that front, exciting progress was recently made when the FCC approved the concept of broadband network beta trials, which would allow for real-world testing of these advanced all-broadband networks in limited geographic areas. These trials represent an opportunity for industry leaders, policymakers, and consumers to work together to identify the challenges of these new technologies and create solutions. So far, one major provider has stepped up with a proposal to do just that, and we hope that other carriers will soon get on board and help pave the way forward to a greener America. 

With so much at stake, we encourage the FCC to continue down its path toward the right policies for broadband deployment. Only when our entire nation and all consumers can access broadband can we really reap the full benefits and rewards of energy efficiency and clean economic prosperity.


Posted In: Broadband, Infrastructure

The following blog is written by Hillari Howard, communications intern for the BlueGreen Alliance.

New Yorkers learned many hard lessons from Hurricane Sandy, and the need for better, stronger infrastructure was one of them. Recent efforts by the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) stand as an example of how utilities can better prepare for the effects of climate change. The other states should follow in the footsteps of New York as we prepare to face increasingly severe weather in the coming years.

We can learn from what happened during Hurricane Sandy, where eight million residents lost power, as did crucial institutions such as Bellevue Hospital, which had to evacuate its more than 700 patients.  Throughout this, utility workers were crucial in helping the city weather the storm. But unfortunately, we also learned some utility companies, like Consolidated Edison (ConEd), must do more to take better care of the utilities we rely on and ensure there’s an adequate number of workers to fix the failing system.

New York City officials and residents are making sure they’re better prepared next time. For example, the New York Public Service Commission introduced the Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative to address four areas of improvement: storm hardening standards, alternative resiliency strategies, natural gas system resiliency, and risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis. This collaborative is designed to strengthen the infrastructure systems, make them more energy and cost efficient, and ensure they utilize the most modern technologies and alternatives.

The NYPSC mandated ConEd, the largest electricity provider in New York, to form a Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative in an effort to prepare their utilities for future climate change. ConEd responded by preparing a Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative Report which contains Collaborative results and future plans, including the goal of using newer infrastructure models such as non-wire alternatives, like microgrids. Microgrids provide electricity to a small group of facilities without the use of major power lines, so when a storm knocks out the power, this group of residences or businesses will still have electricity. Microgrid pilot projects, like those in Connecticut or Brownsville in Brooklyn, are saving ratepayers money and creating more resilient and efficient grids.

Likewise National Grid, an electric and gas company, is working to create sustainable energy solutions and support economic growth while preparing their systems for the future. In March 2014, they began expansion of the Interstate Reliability Project (IRP) in Rhode Island to increase the dependability of the area’s electric transmission system. In Massachusetts, National Grid is working to withstand expected climate change by continuously upgrading their infrastructure. Doing their best to prevent power outages during storms, National Grid will invest over $2 billion in electricity and gas infrastructure over the next five years.

Most people may not expect utility companies to come to mind when they think of the climate change-related challenges we face. But climate change is expected to produce increasingly severe storms, like Hurricane Sandy, rising sea levels, heat waves, and larger storm surges, and it is the utility companies  that must run to the rescue after severe natural disasters like these. The utilities’ opinions and insight on how to sustain our systems are imperative when modernizing infrastructure. For this reason, ConEd joined with Columbia University and similar organizations to research and strategize long-term utility resilience.

After a series of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the NYPSC is strengthening their utilities. The Center for Climate Change Law, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund petitioned the NYPSC to require utilities to factor in the long-term threats posed by increasing climate change in their infrastructure and service delivery planning. In turn, NYPSC instructed ConEd to research and apply the newest technologies to defend its utilities from anticipated climate change damage. The Commission’s Order endorses $1 billion in storm hardening and resiliency.

Many of America’s major cities are located along the coast, making them susceptible to hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change related events. We should all follow the examples set by New York and utility companies along the East Coast to prepare for more dramatic weather events, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Posted In: Infrastructure

The following blog post is from Susan Diegelman, Director, Public Affairs, AT&T.

Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology and the broadband networks that deliver its value are revolutionizing how we are shaping a greener environment. Thanks to M2M solutions, cars have become more than just machines that help us get from point A to point B and our building systems have never run more efficiently. If deployed en mass, M2M technology could provide solutions to America’s infrastructure challenges.  

The proliferation of broadband technology and M2M solutions has enabled us to more efficiently carry out green building practice; creating safe, healthy, sustainable and intelligent buildings. During the "Smart Buildings Make Happy Workers" panel at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference, U.S. Green Building Alliance detailed how their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, have helped make “green buildings” into a standard practice. Several practices that were considered revolutionary at the start of LEED are now common practice and some are even now standard building code—lessening the overall impact the commercial building sector has on the environment.

A panel discussion on connected cars and their environmental benefits recognized that new options have arrived for vehicles that increase fuel efficiency and lessen environmental impact. Many of these M2M advancements address reducing harmful emissions, a priority at both state and federal levels of government. This event also highlighted additional connected car benefits, like improved design, more options for safety and security, and other choices that enhance efficiency of transportation as a whole.

Broadband enabled vehicles and smart building technologies provide significant environmental benefits with real-time data gathering, processing and analysis through M2M connectivity. Put quite simply, M2M is fueling innovation. The road to a greener future will be powered by a next-generation broadband infrastructure that covers every corner of the country and delivers the internet-based services and functionalities we need for 21st century living. 

To build, improve, and expand that advanced broadband network, our country will need skilled workers, private sector investment, and modern regulations that encourage continued innovation and help us move forward. Better informed vehicles and smarter buildings can accelerate our path to a cleaner environment, but the right infrastructure must be in place to fully unlock that potential. 

Posted In: Broadband, Infrastructure, Energy Efficiency

The following blog was originally posted on the Sierra Club's "The Planet" blog.

Good-Jobs-Green-Jobs

Last week more than 1,300 business, labor, environmental, and civic leaders -- including some 100 Sierra Club staff, volunteers, speakers, and community partners -- took part in the seventh annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference, whose motto is, "Where Jobs and the Environment Meet," focused on repairing the infrastructure Americans rely on every day -- our water systems, electrical grid, transit, road, pipelines, and schools -- with an eye toward environmental sustainability and family-sustaining jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Michael-Brune-keynoteThe Sierra Club is one of the primary sponsors of the conference, along with the BlueGreen Alliance, the United Steelworkers (USW), and Alcoa.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (right) was among the keynote speakers on the conference's opening day. "We need to recreate our economy with clean energy that takes the place of fossil fuels," Brune said. "Everybody here knows it’s going to be a challenge to do that. But we must. The ultimate rewards for all of humanity when we achieve that goal will be greater than we can imagine. The Sierra Club is 100 percent committed to creating an economy that is 100 percent powered with clean energy."

BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster, who emceed the conference, said that "to some of our critics, 'good jobs, green jobs' is a quaint notion; that you can have both good jobs and a clean environment. But you can't solve a 21st-century problem like climate change with the 19th-century infrastructure that caused it. The theme of this year's conference -- Protect, Produce, Prosper -- sums it all up: We can create all the jobs we need and fix our environmental problems by repairing America."

A secondary theme that ran through the conference was the growing income disparity between the very wealthy and all other Americans, and how the middle class will benefit from the creation of good, green jobs. "One thing 20th-century America taught the world is that a lot of wealth in a few hands is never going to be as productive as a lot of wealth in a lot of hands," Foster said.

Leo-GerardAlso speaking at the opening plenary session were USW President Leo Gerard (at left), AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Gerard recalled that when the USW and the Sierra Club joined forces to create the BlueGreen Alliance seven years ago, their shared concerns were carbon emissions, chemical safety, and trade. "Then you come back seven years later and you see what we've done," he said. "The membership of the affiliate organizations in the BlueGreen Alliance represents 14 million Americans. Imagine what we could do to advance our agenda if we mobilized that membership."

Trumka followed, saying that the biggest challenges facing our society are climate change and restoring economic prosperity. "I'm here on behalf of the labor movement to tell you we remain committed to stopping runaway climate change," he said. "There is no other path for our children and grandchildren. We must keep up the fight for generations to come. The people who want to solve climate change must engage with the people whose jobs are at stake. The challenge of climate change can only be solved when we find a formula of clean energy that meets every day people's needs."

The conference officially kicked off the evening before with a panel discussion featuring Brune, Gerard, Jim Harrison of the Utility Workers Union of America, Rick Terven of the United Association, and Marc Norberg of the Sheet Metal Workers Union of America.

"Addressing climate disruption is an opportunity, not just an obligation," Brune asserted. "We have to be big and bold in our ambition to build a clean-energy economy that works for everybody."

Gerard emphasized how a concerted effort to upgrade America's infrastructure fits into the equation, citing the most recent Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave America's infrastructure a grade of D+. The report card was mentioned frequently throughout the conference.

All the panelists were united in their belief that creating good jobs and a clean environment are not in conflict. "We don't have to decide between protecting the environment and good jobs," Harrison said.

The next two days featured three plenary sessions and more than 50 workshops organized around nine basic themes: Climate Resiliency and Adaptation; Creating Good, Green Jobs; Energy; Health and Safety; Manufacturing; Repairing our Democracy; Schools; Transportation; and Water Systems & Pipes.

Good-Jobs-Green-Jobs

Brune, Gerard, and Foster penned a welcome letter to conference attendees, entitled Uniting to Repair America. "Climate change will not solve itself," it read in part. "Good jobs will not miraculously appear to resolve our country's unemployment and inequality crisis. Good Jobs, Green Jobs is an opportunity to talk with old friends and make new connections, listen and learn about how others are finding ways to Repair America, and share your own efforts to address climate change and create good jobs in your home state."

Joining Brune in giving a keynote speech on Day One of the conference were EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, United Autoworkers President Bob King, and U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. Keynotes on Day Two were given by U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison of Missesota, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkeley of Oregon, and National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger.

Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program, participated in a moderated panel discussion at the Day Two plenary session about how trade agreements like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership can undermine our communities and our environment and should not be fast-tracked to approval.

Sierra Club staffers and volunteers who sat on workshop panels included Solomon, Labor Program Director Dean Hubbard, New Orleans organizer Darryl Malek-Wiley, My Generation campaign organizer Allen Hernandez, Beyond Coal director Mary Anne Hitt, federal campaigns representative Liz Perera, Our Wild America campaign representative Jackie Ostfeld, and clean-energy activist Al Weinrub.

On the eve of the conference, the Sierra Club released a new report, "Workers, Communities, and the Clean Energy Economy," laying out a vision for workers in the transition to a clean-energy economy. Brune, Foster, and Gerard were joined by United Auto Workers President Bob King, Utility Workers of America President Mike Langford, and Communications Workers of America Senior Director George Kohl in a press conference announcing the report. The leaders stressed that now is the time for working families and environmentalists to come together around a strategy that can end the economic and environmental abuse of our planet and its people.

Posted In: Clean Energy, Infrastructure, Sierra Club
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