EPA policy angers minority groups
Minority group advocates blast new EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, saying they'll lead to job losses.
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Story by Michael T. Ruhl with additional reporting by Sara Sciammacco, CNC News
Democrats generally count on African Americans and Hispanics for their support on policies related to health care, education and the economy. However, a rift has emerged over energy policy.
"President Obama wants to price us out of energy, this is a war on how we live in America and don’t regard it lightly," said Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which reaches 100 thousand black-owned businesses.
Alford and several minority group advocates converged on Capitol Hill on Monday to blast President Obama’s new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas emissions that are likely to go into effect next year. They argue they will disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics nationwide.
"We need to fight them, we need to fight them hard, fight them fierce," Alford said.
The new EPA regulations would, among other things, place fees on the use of fossil fuels. According to a new study commissioned by the Affordable Power Alliance, 12 millions jobs are at stake by 2030. Advocates say the job losses would be concentrated in electrical utilities, petro chemicals and the industral sector, said Roger Bezdek, who authored the study.
"The loss of jobs is staggering," said Bishop Harry Jackson. He runs a national coalition of faith-based leaders, ministers and churches.
The report details the historically higher unemployment rates in minority communities compared to whites. It finds that African Americans have generally seen twice as high unemployment as whites. Additionally, unemployment length tends to be longer, and minorities have a harder time getting back to work after a recession, the report finds.
Advocates say minority families would be hit hard by a tax on fossil fuels because Hispanics and African Americans on average have higher utility usage. The average black family spends 50 percent more on utilities than whites, and Hispanics spend 10 percent more.
The Environmental Protection Agency crafted the rules after a 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the EPA authority to regulate emissions that pose a threat to human health. The regulations come as the US Department of Energy is sparking new, government-subsidized alternative energy programs, which the President has said will create new jobs in green energy.
"This study shows a net loss of jobs in our communities," national Hispanic leader Carlos Duran said. "We don’t care about green jobs, or brown jobs, or purple jobs. We care about net jobs."
Those new rules could pose a problem for Democrats in November.
"We don’t plan to make a political statement as such in the upcoming elections but we do plan to support policies and candidates that support our agenda in terms of energy and having a comprehensive approach towards energy development," said Niger Innis of the civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality.
EPA officials defended their effort in a written statement:
"African-American and Latino communities see more sick days from work and school, and increased medical costs due to the ravages of greenhouse gas pollution. We must act to stop this now, while seizing the opportunity to bring green jobs and green small businesses."
Democrats and Republicans have introduced legislation to delay or stop the new guidelines from going into effect.
"I know that the Supreme Court has said that the EPA has the authority, and I don’t dispute that, but on something this major on climate control and carbon control, I would really hope the EPA would let the elected officials deal with it," Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) said. "The House passed legislation, and the Senate is working on it now. It’s not stalled. It actually could be moving."
Alford still wants African Americans in Congress to put up a fight to it, though.
"Every member of the Congressional Black Caucus will be pinned on this question: why in the world are you supporting something like this?" He said. "Have you lost your mind or do you need to retire?"
But Rep. Danny Davis, (D-IL), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, feels comfortable supporting it, though has some concerns about the job impact.
"I am in agreement with those that say we need to have cleaner air, and that we need to improve the environment, but I also know that you can’t get the rain without the thunder and the lightning," Davis said. "There might be some costs attached to it."
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