Clean Infrastructure

Buy Clean

Buy Clean policies promote spending taxpayer dollars on infrastructure supplies for materials that are manufactured in a cleaner, more efficient, climate friendly manner—helping to close the carbon loophole and rewarding companies that are doing things the right way.

The Challenge

The Problem

Infrastructure spending—from road building to courthouse construction—typically includes the cost of large quantities of steel, glass, insulation, and other materials.

The State of California alone spends more than $10 billion annually on infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads, and state facilities. Producing these materials creates large quantities of climate and air pollution.

And across the country, the need for repairs and modernization to our infrastructure is great. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a report card depicting the condition and performance of America’s infrastructure across a number of sectors of the U.S. economy, the latest being the 2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Link to report card). In 2017, the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card gave the U.S. an overall “D+” grade and found that to get to a “B” grade would require a $4.6 trillion investment over the next 10 years. “

What is the carbon loophole?

In the global fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, countries have mainly been concerned with their own domestic pollution, often ignoring the carbon pollution that results from importing manufactured materials. A recent report released by KGM & Associates and ClimateWorks estimates that 25 percent of the world’s total emissions pass through this “carbon loophole.”

The result of the carbon loophole is that any reduction in a country’s carbon footprint is offset by their consumption-based emissions from imports. A Buy Clean report covering European Union emissions makes it clear that the carbon loophole must be closed in order to fully combat climate change.

To read more about the carbon loophole, please visit buyclean.org.

The Opportunity

The Fix

Buy Clean policies that promote using taxpayer dollars on infrastructure supplies that are manufactured in a cleaner, more efficient and climate-friendly manner can help to address the carbon loophole by pressuring suppliers to clean up their operations and rewarding those that are doing things the right way.

A Victory in California

Led by the BlueGreen Alliance, Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and other business, labor, and environmental organizations, a coalition was formed in 2016 to push for a new law in California that required state agencies to consider the embedded carbon emissions of industrial products like steel and glass when contracting for state-funded infrastructure projects.

Buy Clean California was passed in the California legislature with bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 15, 2017.  In addition to further cementing California’s climate leadership, Buy Clean California also works to level the playing field for manufacturers around the U.S. and the world who have invested in clean, efficient manufacturing technologies and processes.

Beginning in 2019, Buy Clean requires contractors who bid on state infrastructure projects to disclose the greenhouse gas emissions data for certain materials they use in these facilities, such as steel and glass. As the world’s sixth largest economy, California has substantial purchasing power; Buy Clean California sends a powerful market signal to manufacturers to reduce their emissions in order to participate in the California market.

How it Works in California

The Buy Clean approach allows California to help clean businesses and industries maintain their position as strong, global leaders on climate action. It creates motivation for suppliers to reduce their climate pollution and will no longer reward manufacturers with the most polluting plants.

To “Buy Clean” means to spend California taxpayer money in a way that helps to cut pollution that causes climate change. It means that suppliers’ emissions performance will be taken into account when an agency is contracting to buy steel, flat glass, and mineral wool (insulation) for infrastructure projects.

California bill author Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) said Buy Clean will, “strengthen California’s climate leadership and make California the first state to align its public infrastructure expenditures with environmental goals. This bill rewards companies that have invested in clean technologies to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Looking Forward in Other States

Despite our early victories, Buy Clean work is nowhere near being done. The BlueGreen Alliance is now exploring how to build on the success of Buy Clean in California. After some initial research on how Buy Clean could be adapted to places outside of California, the BlueGreen Alliance launched a multi-state campaign to expand Buy Clean work to Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota and continue implementation efforts in California.

Washington

 One of the first steps was to look at the manufacturing sectors in each state to better understand what industries would be impacted by Buy Clean legislation as well as look at which unions would have a direct stake in the policies.

In Washington, a coalition was quickly stitched together and championed by Representative Beth Doglio (D- 22), who drafted and introduced a Buy Clean policy. Although the bill didn’t make it out of committee, the Governor’s office took an interest and contracted with the University of Washington to do procurement research for six different projects to see how Buy Clean would interact in Washington.

This study was released in January of 2019 and outlines a pathway forward for Buy Clean in Washington, as well as highlighting the obstacles that any policy would have to overcome. The BlueGreen Alliance, along with our partners, are working together in Washington to organize stakeholders and build a coalition for possible Buy Clean movement in the 2020 legislative session.

The future of Buy Clean Washington looks bright, and the BlueGreen Alliance will continue to work to shape a broader Buy Clean Washington policy, with the help of our partners and allies in the state. Follow our efforts here.

Oregon

As in Washington State, in Oregon the first step was to look into the in-state industries and unions that would be affected by Buy Clean legislation. BlueGreen Alliance held a meeting with key stakeholders in the state, including the Oregon Environmental Council, the OR AFL-CIO, the Oregon Sierra Club, and Climate Solutions.

Because the manufacturing sectors in Oregon and Washington exist in a different capacity than in California, the BlueGreen Alliance focused on major employment generators to work on incorporating a homegrown manufacturing benefit in any Buy Clean legislation.

In Oregon, Representative Dan Rayfield (D-16) previously introduced a version of Buy Clean policy in 2017, giving the BlueGreen Alliance an ally in the state as well as a solid place to start working with more state partners. Going forward, the BlueGreen Alliance is working to solidify a coalition around Buy Clean in Oregon, build support by working with labor and environmental groups in the state, and continue research to define a Buy Clean policy that works best for the state and the people. Follow our efforts here.

Minnesota

Moving from the West Coast to the Midwest offers different challenges for the future of Buy Clean, but they are welcome and surmountable challenges if the BlueGreen Alliance works closely with labor, environmental, and industry partners in Minnesota.

Currently, the BlueGreen Alliance is working with Representative Frank Hornstein (DFL-61A) on legislative research concerning which industries provide infrastructure materials, Minnesota’s ore industry and its place in infrastructure projects and the overall structure of a Buy Clean Minnesota policy.  In the 2019 legislative session, Representatives Horntein and Ecklund founded the BlueGreen caucus and introduced Buy Clean HR 2204 in the Minnesota state House, mirrored off the Buy Clean Washington Act. The BlueGreen Alliance is working with Minnesota agencies and stakeholders for possible movement of Buy Clean in the 2020 legislative session. Follow our efforts here.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about the work the BlueGreen Alliance and its partners are doing with Buy Clean, please visit buyclean.org, where you can be updated with the BlueGreen Alliance’s work in states, cities, and at other governmental levels around the country.

Key Facts

The Carbon Loophole The carbon pollution that results from importing manufactured materials. An estimated 25 percent of the world’s total emissions pass through the “carbon loophole.” (Source)

A huge issue The State of California alone spends more than $10 billion annually on infrastructure projects such as bridges, roads, and state facilities. Producing these materials creates large quantities of climate and air pollution. (Source)


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