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The Work of the Energy and Environmental Task Force of the Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. LEE of California. Thank you very much.

First, let me thank Representative Fudge from Ohio once again for holding the Special Order today as Congress continues to work to break away from this business-as-usual with regards to our Nation's energy future. Thank you Congresswoman Fudge for selflessly each and every Monday night coming to the floor making sure that the voice of the Congressional Black Caucus is heard on each and every issue, day in and day out.

Let me also take a moment to thank the Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus's energy and environmental task force, Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Emanuel Cleaver, and Sheila Jackson-Lee. I want to thank them for their leadership and their tireless efforts to promote proper stewardship of our communities by protecting the environment.

It's so important that we continue to call for action on these issues surrounding global warming and the continued degradation of our environment that is perpetrated by our perilous--and I mean our perilous--and I think the whole country understands what we mean now when we say ``perilous dependence'' on fossil fuels.

As I have said time and time again, there is no way that we can deny the interconnection between our stewardship of the environment and the state of the economy, public health and our communities. The drastic acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions has often been concentrated in low-income and in minority communities putting these vulnerable populations on the front lines, mind you, of the fight against environmental degradation and global climate change. In fact, 71 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of Federal air pollution standards--that's 71 percent of African Americans--and 78 percent live within 30 miles or within the toxic perimeter of a coal-fired power plant. This is shameful.

Day after day, the communities in my district, for example, face the severe consequences of pollution, urban sprawl, and environmental injustice which harshly affects people of color and low-income families. Sadly, this epidemic is hitting our children the hardest. Back home in my district, children growing up in west Oakland are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than the average child in California.

None of us can afford to take this lightly. The health of our community and our neighbors affects us all. Simply put, climate change has and will continue to exacerbate the problems of poverty and inequality.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Energy Task Force and myself recently wrote a letter to Chairman Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee expressing support for comprehensive climate legislation and investments in the green economy. I won't read the letter in its entirety, Mr. Speaker, but I will insert the letter into the Record.

Basically, we talked about investments in the green economy, we talked about consumer protection, job leakage protection, adaptation, and of course we talked about why we thought this bill should move very quickly and move forward with these key elements in place. In this letter, we also stress the importance of shielding low-income households from price shocks to ensure that they do not bear a disproportionate burden as we transition to a low-carbon economy. We also called for the expansion of complimentary energy-efficient programs, and for regular and predictable funding for adaptation and mitigation assistance abroad.

By the year 2030, it is estimated that the cost of adapting to global climate change could amount to more than $100 billion annually, with up to $67 billion per year to meet the needs of the developing world alone.

Now, earlier this year, I introduced H. Con. Res. 98, a congressional resolution which recognizes the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change. This resolution illustrates the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental degradation on the world's most vulnerable populations. More importantly, it reflects the reality that any strategy to combat global warming and climate change will really need to include meaningful and equitable action on the international level.

The United States must provide support for adaptation and sustainable development abroad, as well as assistance to ensure affordable access to emerging clean technologies. It is time to think big, not small. And the challenge of addressing global climate change will require a truly comprehensive and transformative solution.

I am greatly encouraged by the actions already taken by the Obama administration to reengage with the international community in order to find solutions to this global challenge. And I also applaud the Environmental Protection Agency's recent finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, which finally recognizes the need to protect our communities and the global ecosystem by acting immediately to curb carbon pollution.

And, Congresswoman Fudge, as I was listening to the other side talk a little earlier, I couldn't help but wonder really where they were for the last 8 years because, had some of these actions and initiatives been put in place in the last 8 years, perhaps we would be much further ahead in our overall climate change efforts. And the public health, of course, would be, I think, much better protected. I think we heard a little bit of revisionist history tonight, so I just have to say that as I move forward.

As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, let me just say that we want to continue to work with the Obama administration--and all of my colleagues here in a bipartisan way--to help pass responsible and comprehensive climate change legislation that will spur the development of clean, renewable energy and the deployment of much needed energy-efficient technologies.

Legislation which sets us on a path toward energy independence and a new low-carbon economy will help to maintain the United States' position as a leader in innovation and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying green jobs, and finally, help us get off of this addiction that we have to oil, especially break the stronghold that really has been crippling us in terms of our dependence on foreign oil.

One of the most exciting and inclusive solutions to many issues facing environmental health is the possibility afforded to us by promoting green jobs training and the growth of the green economy in America. And I am very pleased to say that the President, in his economic recovery package--which, of course, the other side I don't think mentioned tonight--included $100 million for green job training. We have to have people prepared for the new world, the new jobs that are going to be provided by this industry. And so $100 million would get us started on that path. But again, we have to look at this in a bipartisan way, and I hope that at some point we will.

To that end, I recently reintroduced legislation entitled, the Metro Economies Green Act, or the MEGA bill. This is H.R. 330. This establishes grant programs to encourage energy-efficient economic development and green job training and creation of green jobs. This legislation would also create a national institute to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in order to facilitate the successful expansion of green jobs on a national scale.

As a representative of California's Ninth Congressional District, I would also just like to take a moment to recognize the role that California's East Bay is playing at the forefront of the green jobs industry and the green jobs movement. We have a number of innovative initiatives in my district in particular, including the East Bay Green Corridor Initiative, the Oakland Green Job Corps, the Joint BioEnergy Institute, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Energy Biosciences Institute at Berkley.

I recently visited the Oakland Green Job Corps with the special advisor to President Obama on energy and climate change, Carol Browner--who is doing a fantastic job in this position--and also with Mayor Ron Dellums, who is providing tremendous leadership in this area. We visited the Oakland Green Job Corps to show the Obama administration really a groundbreaking example of green-collar jobs, workforce development, and what we are doing in Oakland in terms of preparing our young people for these jobs of the future. This is already up and running in Oakland, California.

The Oakland Green Job Corps is a partnership of community organizations, trade unions, private companies, and the city of Oakland. It provides Oakland's residents with the necessary training, support, and work experience to independently pursue these careers in the new energy economy.

One component of the Corps is called the Cypress Mandela Training Center. This provides invaluable pathways out of poverty, which is extremely important to recognize that these positions provide this new industry. Also, it provides vocational training for Bay-area men and women, especially those with barriers to employment.

Green has already become the fifth-largest industry in the Nation. And with the proper support and funding, we will continue to see an explosion of innovation and the expansion of economic opportunities surrounding the green movement.

There is no doubt in my mind that a greener future will lead to a more prosperous future for our communities, the Nation, and the world, but it must be a movement that is inclusive of all and that leaves no community behind. So I urge my colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, to act swiftly to move America beyond its dependence on oil, address the climate crisis, and really help protect America's natural resources for our children's future. And as a person of faith, I just must say that we must preserve and we must protect God's creation, which is our planet.

Thank you, Congresswoman Fudge.


Ms. LEE of California. Thank you very much for yielding.

And let me just thank the gentlewoman from Ohio for that very comprehensive, succinct, and very clear statement. I think it summarizes many of the issues that the Congressional Black Caucus believes are important as we move forward with our comprehensive energy legislation.

And I must say you highlighted the involvement of minority- and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in this effort, also the role of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The role of the Congressional Black Caucus, as many know, is to make sure that no one is left behind, that no community is left behind. And the Congressional Black Caucus historically has been and continues to be the conscience of the Congress.

So, Congresswoman Fudge, I'm really pleased that you have laid out for us tonight what the Congressional Black Caucus sees as important in this energy legislation as we communicate it to our great chairman, who is doing a fantastic job, I must say, Chairman HENRY WAXMAN. And we have communicated this to him, and we are very confident that as this energy legislation moves forward that the Congressional Black Caucus's views and input and ideas to expand this legislation to make sure it's comprehensive and that it includes all communities in our country will be part of that.

Thank you for your leadership tonight. That was a very wonderful presentation, Congresswoman Fudge. The Congressional Black Caucus is very proud of you.

Ms. FUDGE. Thank you so much, Madam Chair.

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