Author Archives: Lucía Oliva Hennelly

How the Clean Power Plan Can Benefit Latino Communities

rp_CPP-Latinos-Final-300x300.jpgEarlier this month, the United States announced a major step forward in addressing air quality concerns and climate change threats to Latinos.  I’m talking about the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from powerplants and places us on a path to heed Pope Francis’s call to protect our planet.

Unfortunately, critics began attacking the plan even before it was final.  Some of these attacks have targeted the Latino community in particular, arguing that the Clean Power Plan will disproportionately and negatively harm Latinos.  These are baseless claims and arguments that have been debunked by experts.

When the Clean Power Plan takes full effect, Latinos will be among the many Americans who will share in the benefits of a cleaner, healthier future that also affords us good jobs and energy savings.

Cleaner energy, less cost

Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind: Will the Clean Power Plan make my electric bill more expensive?

According to analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Power Plan will reduce electric bills by about $7 per month by 2030.  (It will also provide up to $54 billion dollars in public health and climate benefits.)  Latinos are likely to feel these positive impacts directly because the benefits of clean energy, which replace polluting energy sources like coal, can reach us through health, environmental, and economic avenues – and sometimes all of these at once.

Take solar power, for example.  The price of solar has fallen 80 percent since 2008, and rooftop solar is now being deployed in middle class neighborhoods in places like Arizona and California where the median income ranges from $40,000 to $90,000.

Technologies like solar keep our air clean and our kids healthy.  This is key for the Latinos who work outdoors as roughly 1 in 4 workers in the construction and agriculture industries, and for the 14 percent of Latino children who have ever been diagnosed with asthma.

Solar power can also save us money on our bills.  This is especially true when they are coupled with incentives like net metering, which allows solar customers to receive a credit on their bill for sending excess energy they don’t use back to the grid.  Solar power is also becoming increasingly accessible to all Americans. Thanks to new financing models like solar leasing programs (if you do not want to pay a large up-front cost) and community solar programs (if your rooftop is not suitable for solar panels or you rent your home), you don’t have to be rich to get in on the clean energy revolution.

More jobs

The Clean Power Plan will also help Latinos by creating tens of thousands of good, new jobs in the clean energy sector by 2040.  This is part of a broader trend: In 2014, the solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average and is poised to add another 36,000 jobs in 2015.

According to a 2013 report by National Council of La Raza, many of the jobs in this sector are highly accessible to Latinos, and Latinos are already engaging in the growing clean energy economy in locations across the country.  In some places, like McAllen, Texas, Latinos are overrepresented in some of the top clean economy occupations; in others, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Latinos could benefit from higher wages by transitioning to jobs in the clean economy.  Most “green jobs” pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations, and this wage advantage holds true even outside of these traditional jobs.

Prioritizing low-income communities

What about the most disadvantaged communities, those who are most in need of cost savings, cleaner energy, and protections from climate change?  The Clean Power Plan aims to prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities through the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).  By providing a mechanism to award states extra compliance credit for efficiency programs that provide energy savings to low-income communities, the CEIP is designed to help lower electricity bills and bring jobs to people in these communities.

A report by Environmental Defense Fund demonstrates that savings to families could be significantly greater with more widespread deployment of energy efficiency—securing a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 and generating annual average household savings of $157.  Measures like the CEIP, along with strong stakeholder engagement requirements and other measures, will help ensure the Clean Power Plan benefits all Latinos – and all Americans – in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

Setting the record straight

Claims that the Clean Power Plan will hurt Latinos, drive up energy bills, and disadvantage low-income communities are simply false.  Rather, these are the very claims that spread harmful misinformation to our communities and create the most serious barriers to accessing clean air, affordable energy, and good paying jobs.

At the same time, as with any ambitious challenge, our work is not done.  States must finalize and deliver implementation plans to meet their pollution-reduction goals.  This is where the rubber hits the road, and the states that get out of the gate quickly to achieve these goals will more swiftly capture the benefits.

We must be engaged in this process, urging states to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy for all communities. First, we must tell our decision makers in Washington to support the Clean Power Plan.  Then, Latino communities must demand a place at the table and advocate for states to act now – as should everyone who wants to ensure the benefits of America’s Clean Power Plan are shared by all.

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Green Jobs, Policy| Leave a comment

Urgency and Opportunity for Latino Leadership on Climate

Las Vegas -- Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas — Wikimedia Commons

When I landed in Las Vegas last week, the weather was a broiling 108 degrees. Ouch.

I braved the Las Vegas heat for one of the most inspiring convenings of Latino leaders in the country, the Annual Conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). We had a chance to hear from established and rising Latino leaders, as well as from Presidential candidates, about the challenges facing Latino communities and the many paths forward for creating a brighter future.

What we did not hear about was a vision for places like Las Vegas, where summer temperatures are bound to get hotter and water will become even more scarce in the face of climate change. In fact, there was no formal conversation about what climate change means for the U.S., and specifically for Latinos.

Here’s the short version of the missing conversation on climate: climate change presents challenges to everyone but it is having, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on Latinos in the United States.

To illustrate, let’s look at the three states that house more than half the Latinos in the US:

  • California, and the state’s majority Latino population, is facing its fourth year in historic drought that’s been exacerbated by climate change.
  • This summer, Texas experienced unprecedented flooding, nearly canceling out the state’s prior state of drought, in a demonstration of the kind of extreme weather linked to climate change.
  • Florida’s real estate and freshwater is already threatened by initial increases in sea-level rise, which are also eroding the state’s beaches.

There are more than 28 million Latinos facing climate threats in these three states alone. That does not count the millions of other Latinos nationwide who will face extreme heat and longer wildfire seasons in the Southwest this summer. It does not account for all 49 percent of Latinos nationally who live in coastal communities and will face more frequent and intense hurricanes and flooding. It also does not account for the full 14 percent of Latino kids diagnosed with asthma, who will face greater challenges to managing this condition due to more days with unhealthy levels of smog.

That was the bad news. It points to the fact that our leaders should not ignore the impacts of climate change on the Latino community. As climate impacts the air we breathe, threatens water we use for drinking, swimming, farming, and fishing, and even endangers our health, leaders at all levels need to take a proactive stance to protect our communities by addressing climate change.

Here’s the good news — the support is already there to act on climate. National polling has shown that 63 percent of Latinos think the federal government should act broadly to address global warming, while 8 in 10 Latinos want the President to curb the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

There are also some great opportunities hidden among the challenges. For example, today’s clean energy economy is creating more jobs than the fossil fuel economy. Jobs in the clean energy economy also offer higher wages to a wide range of workers, relative to the broader economy.

Which brings me back to Vegas. While there was no formal climate change discussion on the program, Latino environmental leaders from around the country were sparking conversations in the halls about conservation, climate change, and la comunidad. Advocates from New Mexico's Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and Outdoors talked with conference guests about the importance of protecting our public lands. Colorado's Nuestro Rio shared their work protecting the Colorado River and our bond to this precious resource.

EDF also played a role, teaming up with GreenLatinos, Green 2.0, and Nuestro Rio to host a reception and highlight the importance of addressing climate change at a national level. Nearly everyone we spoke with about our work was interested in hearing about solutions and how to do more.

As we participated in conference events last week, Pope Francis reminded us that we “have the duty to protect the earth and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.” Latino communities, and our leaders, are no exception. We have a duty to address climate change — protecting our families, our children, and our climate is something we cannot afford to gamble on.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Science| Comments are closed

Top policies to help Americans breathe easier, and what you can do

Source: Flickr/Kate Gardiner

A year ago, we joined our partners at the League of United Latin American Citizens on Twitter to ask U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the impacts of air pollution on our health.

Many of the questions participants raised focused on the connection between air quality and asthma.

In a follow-up to the event, McCarthy reminded us that while there’s no known cure for asthma, “understanding how indoor and outdoor air pollutants can trigger an asthma attack or episode is an important step in managing this condition.”

Fortunately, decision-makers are now considering several new policies that would decrease the number of asthma attacks and the severity of symptoms.

Cutting climate and air pollution

As global temperatures rise, more ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, builds up. This, in turn, leads to more frequent and intense asthma attacks.

To address these problems, the EPA is working on several measures to limit the pollution that causes climate change, worsens air quality and threatens our health. The agency is:

  • finalizing a rule to reduce emissions from power plants, the largest source of climate pollution in the United States.
  • working on a rule to limit climate pollution from oil and gas production. It would also reduce toxic chemical releases during the energy extraction process.
  • proposing a stronger ozone standard to reduce smog pollution and restore healthy air.
Reducing the threat of toxic chemicals

Many chemicals found indoors are also known or suspected “asthmagens,” environmental agents that cause or exacerbate asthma. These chemicals can affect us in our homes – or in any of the indoor areas where Americans spend about 90 percent of their time.

Today, we’re exposed to chemicals in everyday household products in large part because of a 40-year old chemical safety law that has failed to protect us. The law is so weak, in fact, that EPA can’t even regulate chemicals known to cause cancer.

Congress is therefore considering reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act. If a new bill passes, we will have better safeguards against many asthmagens.

Get involved

Asthma affects nearly 26 million people in the U.S., including 1 in 10 Latino children who currently suffer from asthma. An even higher proportion of Latino kids, 14 percent, have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, this illness presents a particular concern for Latinos in our country.

Studies have also shown that Latino-Americans are less likely than non-Latino whites to be diagnosed with asthma, have an asthma management plan, or use a controller medication. As a result, Latino children are 40 percent more likely than non-Latino white children to die from this condition.

If you’d like to hear more about these topics, you can join us for our Latino Health and the Environment Twitter Town Hall Series.

First up is an Earth Day Twitter Town Hall, where McCarthy will be answering questions about environmental issues and human health, why the Latino community is disproportionately affected by climate change, and what we can all do to protect ourselves.

Then stay tuned in May for our second Twitter Town Hall, which will focus on the health impacts of toxic chemicals.

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

Posted in Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed

Why Latinos are disproportionately affected by asthma — and what we can do

(This post first appeared on EDF Voices. Para leer en Español haga clic aquí)

This post was co-authored by Rachel Shaffer  and Declan Kingland, National Health Programs Coordinator for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Today in the United States, Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups. Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from this chronic respiratory illness. Addressing the dangerous indoor and outdoor air pollution that is linked to asthma is critical for the health of Latino communities – and for all Americans.

Socioeconomics

Latinos are one of the poorest demographics in the United States, with roughly 1 in 4 Latinos living under the poverty level. Many Latinos also face challenges due to limited English-language proficiency, and in some cases, low levels of education. These issues can lead Latinos, particularly new immigrants, to low-paying jobs, often in the fields of agriculture, construction, and service.

Too often, these jobs expose workers to serious respiratory hazards from both indoor and outdoor air pollution, yet they frequently provide no healthcare benefits. For example, the toxic chemical formaldehyde, which is linked to asthma, can be found in glues, insulation, and wood products to which construction workers are disproportionately exposed. Asthma-related toxics can also be found in paints, cleaning products, carpets, and foam cushions.

Housing

Low-paying jobs held by Latinos lead to low-income families, and these families can be at even greater risk for asthma if their housing is substandard or if their home is located near major roadways, factories, or power plants, which produce air pollutants that can exacerbate asthma. People with asthma are especially sensitive to the pollutants released from cars, buses, heavy machinery, factories, and power plants, including particulate matter (soot), ground-level ozone (smog), carbon monoxide, and more.

Nearly 1 in 2 Latinos in the U.S. live in counties that frequently violate ground-level ozone standards.  Latinos are also 165% more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution than non-Latino whites, and nearly 2 in 5 Latinos lives within 30 miles of a power plant. Asthma triggers can also be found inside the home – from ethanolamines found in cleaning products, to bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic chemical found in plastic products and food can linings.  Some asthma-linked toxic chemicals are even found in personal creams and lotions.

Healthcare

Statistics show that Latinos face disproportionate exposures to asthma-exacerbating indoor and outdoor air pollution. At the same time, Latinos face added challenges when seeking adequate healthcare. This is due in part to the language, educational, and economic barriers mentioned previously, which can limit access to or awareness of available health care resources that may be available. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 Latinos lacks health insurance.

These barriers to health care access can have significant consequences:

  • Compared to non-Latino whites, Latinos with asthma are less likely to be prescribed appropriate asthma medications and less likely to have access to asthma specialists.
  • Latinos who have an asthma emergency that sends them to the ER or hospital are also less likely to receive follow-up care or an asthma action plan.

Combined, these serious issues can make an otherwise manageable disease life-threatening.

What we can do

While these challenges are daunting, we have an opportunity to address part of the problem by demanding that our leaders take action to reduce asthma hazards – for Latinos, and for the nation as a whole. This is why EDF and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have come together this year to help raise awareness among and empower Latinos in the U.S. to better combat this often preventable illness by strengthening the air pollution and chemicals laws that protect us.

We at EDF and at LULAC encourage you to ask your Congressman to:

Nationwide, Latinos are among the 25 million people – including 7 million children – affected by asthma.  We can help address the immediate problem through other avenues – like improving health care coverage or worker protections.  But ultimately, we need to address the root of the problem. We need to get rid of the air pollution and toxins that are linked to asthma.  All of us, including our Latino communities, should act now to get rid of the underlying causes of the disease. Until we do, we are all at risk.

Posted in Health, Partners for Change| Read 2 Responses

What the growing Latino community can do for climate politics

(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices. Para leer in Espanol haga clic aquí)

In 2012 Latinos made up 1 in 10 voters and helped decide the Presidential election with record-setting voter margins. Last month in California, the most populous state in the nation, the Hispanic population surpassed that of non-Hispanic whites. The only other state to reach this benchmark is New Mexico, where the Latino population is almost 10% larger than that of non-Hispanic whites.

As the Latino population continues to grow across the country, so does its influence in key political arenas. In battleground states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada, Latinos accounted for 17, 14, and 18 percent of voters in 2012, respectively, an increase from previous elections. The trend has reignited a lively discussion about the influence of the American Latino community, the “sleeping giant” of American politics.

There’s also a lesser-known political trend that is emerging among the country’s youngest and fastest-growing demographic: the demand among Latinos for action to address climate change. In a new national poll released last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Latino Decisions:

  • 9 out of 10 Latino voters “want the government to take action against the dangers of global warming and climate change”
  • 8 in 10 Latinos want the President to curb the carbon pollution that causes climate change
  • 86% of Latinos support limits on carbon pollution from power plants

How is this demographic shift significant to environmental advocacy?

The implications of this demographic moving so clearly in favor of pro-environmental policies is significant. For one, environmental policy issues are likely to fast become determining issues for Latino voters on both sides of the aisle. According to Latino Decisions, a leader in Latino political opinion research, the only other policy issue that has received such high levels of support is immigration reform, an issue in the lead among the most significant deciding issues for Latino voters across the political spectrum.

This demographic shift is also significant as the impacts of climate change become more severe. In recent months, key electoral states with large Latino populations have felt the devastating effects of climate change, from the unprecedented flooding in Colorado to California’s historic drought. With 50,000 Latinos turning 18 every month, a solid stance on environmental policy may fast become a make or break issue for elected officials in these states and at the national level.

Combined, these trends paint a clear picture, one of a Latino population that disproportionately supports action on climate change and that is increasingly influential in key political states.

Environmentalists, take note: this is a major opportunityfor the environmental movement to move forward policy that has stalled in the past. Equally as urgent, it is a tremendous opportunity to elevate the voices of Latinos, among other communities of color, disproportionately affected by environmental issues. A few examples:

  • It’s a chance to build support for green jobs initiatives, many of which will be undertaken by Latinos and Latinas
  • It’s a call to arms to better address the environmental health impacts that disproportionately affect Latino communities

Perhaps most important, it’s an open door to create more space for diversity in a movement that needs broader support to succeed, and one that will be more effective by better engaging underrepresented communities. How well we do this will be a measure of how quickly and how equitably we hope to meaningfully address climate change, the defining issue of our time.

Posted in News| Read 1 Response
  • About this blog

    Expert to expert commentary on the science, law and economics of climate change.

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Categories

  • Meet The Bloggers