Climate 411

Environmental remediation and infrastructure policies offer crucial opportunities for fossil fuel communities in transition

This second report in a joint research series by Environmental Defense Fund and Resources for the Future examines U.S. federal environmental remediation and infrastructure policies that can create jobs and restore communities that have been historically reliant on fossil fuels. Daniel Raimi of RFF authored the report described in this blog post. All views expressed here are EDF’s.

When a fossil fuel plant or mine shuts down, jobs and economic prosperity are lost — but often, the pollution stays. Communities across the U.S. reliant on fossil fuels — and those located near them — have dealt with the dangerous air and water pollution that abandoned oil and gas wells, coal mines and coal-powered plants can leave behind. In Montana, for example, residents in the small town of Belt were surprised to discover dissolved aluminum in their local creek that was 144 times the surface water quality standard; it was coming from an abandoned coal mine upstream.

This is just one example of a massive problem: There are millions of sites in the US in need of environmental remediation, and there will be many more as the US transitions to a clean economy in the coming years.

Furthermore, the closure of a local power plant, mine or other high-carbon industry can result in a loss of government revenue that keeps crucial infrastructure that communities rely on, like roads and clean water, safe and intact. And both consequences of this loss — pollution and aging infrastructure — further worsen the potential for new economic opportunities that can revitalize a town.

This next report in our research series on fairness for fossil fuel workers and communities aims to give federal policymakers an understanding of how environmental remediation and infrastructure policies can support communities affected by the transition to a clean economy. Policymakers can also harness some of these policies to immediately create jobs in communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, we summarize Raimi’s key observations from a review of the largest existing federal programs focused on environmental remediation and infrastructure.

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Posted in Jobs / Comments are closed

Our new report shows the importance of “accelerating to 100% clean” vehicles

Drone photo of busy highways over Denver’s Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods and schools. Credit: Chance Multimedia

Air pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world. In the U.S. almost half of all people live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution. More than 20,000 Americans die prematurely every year as a result of the motor vehicle pollution on our roads and highways, according to a new peer reviewed study by EPA  experts. Pollution from our roadways disproportionately harms people of color and lower income communities. Transportation sector pollution is now also the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S.

A new EDF report includes these facts and other comprehensive information about the dangers of transportation sector pollution and about strategies to address it. The report, Accelerating to 100% Clean: Zero Emitting Vehicles Save Lives, Advance Justice, Create Jobs, compiles the best and most recent information on the issue.

Here are a few key findings. Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Green Jobs, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Four reasons why investing in clean energy is essential for rebuilding the economy

Working upon wind turbine, over 80 meters of high in a wind farm.

As federal lawmakers continue to debate different approaches for jump-starting our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they must also consider how the investments we make today can be designed to avoid the worst environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change in the long run. Amid much disagreement, one promising area of investment continues to stand out: clean energy.

A big investment in clean energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency deployment and R&D can generate substantial returns on job growth and emissions reductions. Boosting these areas now can be a critical step toward building a 100% clean economy over the next 30 years, a science-based goal that calls for allowing no more climate pollution produced than can be removed from the atmosphere across all sectors of the economy.

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Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs / Comments are closed

New report: How economic development policies can support fossil fuel communities in the move to a clean economy

This first report in a new joint research series by Environmental Defense Fund and Resources for the Future examines US federal economic development programs and policies that can revitalize communities that have been historically reliant on fossil fuels. Daniel Raimi, Wesley Look, Molly Robertson of RFF and Jake Higdon of EDF contributed to the report described in this blog post.

For a long time, Boone County, West Virginia was a vibrant coal community at the center of Appalachia, ranked consistently as the top county for coal production in the state. At one point, the county was able to capitalize on a surplus of revenue, derived largely from the state’s coal severance tax, to fund new sports fields and judicial buildings. But the decline in US coal production over the last decade, driven by increasingly competitive energy alternatives, including wind and solar, led to mine closures in West Virginia — and an exodus of coal workers and their families. Boone County’s budget diminished along with the closures: Its General Fund Revenue fell by half in the last five years.

In 2019, local officials faced a $2.5 million budget shortfall, forcing them to make difficult cuts to essential community services.

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Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs / Comments are closed

New research series: Ensuring fairness for workers and communities in the transition to a clean economy

EDF and Resources for the Future (RFF) partner on a new research series to inform policymaking on fairness for fossil fuel workers and communities in transition.

Coal burning plant in Conesville, Ohio.

Coal burning plant in Conesville, Ohio.

The shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate across the United States, with tens of millions unemployed and workers in every sector in need of support. The energy sector is reeling from the impact — especially the many workers and communities living in coal-dominated regions already grappling with job loss.

In Northeast Wyoming, the Powder River Basin region experienced the largest round of coal mine layoffs in years. In West Virginia, Longview Power — cited as the most efficient coal-fired power plant in the country — filed for bankruptcy. And in Somerset County, Pennsylvania a local coal mine went “indefinitely idle” and laid off 100 workers. These are just a few examples from this spring that reveal how the steep drop in energy demand, largely a result of shutdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19, exacerbated loss in the coal industry. But they don’t capture the whole story.

The loss of these coal jobs will cause a ripple effect beyond the workers: these families will see a drop in income, making it harder to make ends meet, and may also lose health care and other critical benefits. Surrounding businesses — from restaurants to gas stations — will see a drop in customers and the communities and towns dependent on taxes from the coal industry for building roads and schools face an uncertain future too.

But well before the coronavirus outbreak, coal-dependent regions were already facing chronic job loss, public health crises, and other hardships. The rise of cheaper energy alternatives, including the dramatically improving costs of wind and solar power, has been steadily moving the needle toward a low-carbon economy in the US.

For years, many coal communities anticipated the gradual decline in jobs and revenue; few were prepared for the free fall from coronavirus.

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Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs, News / Comments are closed

As Amazon deforestation rises, so does the need for urgent action

Deforestation in the Amazon. iStock.

The year 2020 was expected to be a “super year” for global action on climate change. Instead, it’s become an “extraordinary year” for a global community trying to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amidst this backdrop, deforestation throughout the Amazon has been rising steadily, jumping 55% in the first four months of 2020 compared to the same period last year. This is no coincidence. Loggers, miners, land-grabbers and individuals clearing land for soy and livestock are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to illegally clear the forest.

Enforcement of forest protection was already severely weakened across the Amazon, due in part to anti-environmental leadership and rhetoric, such as that of President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The virus has forced many of the field agents responsible for keeping forest invaders out to retreat, making it virtually impossible to enforce environmental laws and leaving these areas open to destruction. As we enter fire season, deforestation could get much worse due to warmer than average sea surface temperatures which could exacerbate the spread of fires. It all makes for a “perfect storm” that is threatening the Amazon forest and is already having disastrous impacts on the Indigenous communities who depend on forests.

Increased deforestation will jeopardize the rainforest’s rich biodiversity and extensive carbon stocks. It’s pushing the Amazon closer to the tipping point where deforestation will be irreversible. And it’s hindering global climate change mitigation efforts.

If the global community is going to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, the New York Declaration on Forests and other frameworks, then countries and companies need to prioritize forest protection.

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Also posted in Brazil, Forest protection, Indigenous People, International, REDD+ / Comments are closed