Environmental Justice and the Green Economy

A Vision Statement, Recommendations, and Tools for Communities

Recommendations March 15, 2009

Recommendations for State and Local Stimulus Spending

Each state will be making choices about how to spend the federal stimulus. We believe that there are three key principles that should guide the stimulus towards building sustainability and democracy. Under each principle, we set forth recommendations for implementation.

a. Enable full, meaningful participation of all communities in spending decisions.
Environmental justice groups have modeled processes that enable our communities to “speak for ourselves” and engage in democratic self-determination. The participation of those that have historically been adversely affected by the current unsustainable economy is critical to ensuring effective long-term solutions.

  • Actively solicit input of lower income communities and communities of color on how funds might stimulate the overall wealth, well-being, and life opportunities of their neighborhoods. Fund the monitoring and evaluation of the Stimulus impact on environmentally and economically distressed communities.
  • Tap community expertise. While state processes for administering ARRA funds will differ, each state has access to established coalitions and service organizations that can help solicit community input. In states such as California, Massachusetts, and New York, statewide coalitions already exist that can help state leaders host community input sessions expediently and effectively.
  • Invest in the timely enforcement of ARRA’s accountability and transparency provisions. While several accountability guidelines exist within the ARRA, the states will be responsible for establishing and maintaining the systems to collect and publicly report data, The following data, only some of which is mandated by ARRA, is vital to ensuring equity:
  1. Race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and gender of those benefiting from the Stimulus, including those receiving jobs, training, and other funds.
  2. Number of jobs created and/or supported and the wages/benefits of those jobs.
  3. Environmental benefits and impacts and the geographic areas most directly affected.
  4. List of private, public, and nonprofit entities receiving funding, as well as their Boards, and their Executive staff.
  • Pilot new evaluation tools and indicators, to measure the impact of Stimulus spending in terms of human well-being, community cohesion, and sustained ecological integrity. Such tools would measure the impact of Stimulus spending on meeting basic human needs and sustaining local ecologies. Examples of alternative indices include the Genuine Progress Indicator and Index of Sustainable Human Welfare.

b. Invest only in truly sustainable infrastructure and economic development.

Environmental justice groups have promoted many policies that have raised environmental and health standards for all and have ensured that new development is truly green. We must be vigilant to ensure that new public investment builds the infrastructure for a new era of sustainability and does not perpetuate “business as usual.” whereby benefits are reserved for the privileged few.

  • Fund processes that ensure enforcement of environmental, labor, health, safety, and non-discrimination regulations in all Stimulus projects across all governmental, industrial, and agricultural sectors. While the ARRA contains guidelines to this effect, the states have the responsibility for overseeing their enforcement.
  • Invest in energy efficient, green, and affordable housing for low and moderate income residents and families.
  • Phase out old polluting power sources (fossil fuels and nuclear) and rebuild our energy infrastructure clean and green:
  1. Meet energy demands in the following priority: 1) energy efficiency; 2) demand reduction; 3) renewable energy and distributed generation. This means that energy efficiency projects, especially in low income communities, take priority over new power plants.
  2. Retrofit our buildings and homes to save energy, with a focus on reducing costs to lower income residents and locally owned businesses.
  3. Prioritize development of local renewable energy infrastructure over building new transmission lines.
  4. Phase out old polluting power plants. Replace them with clean, locally distributed generation resources.
  5. Refuse to approve new conventional power plants in already impacted communities.
  6. Require that 33% of energy come from renewable resources by 2020.
  • Provide assistance and incentives to local and state governments to reduce carbon use and other environmental impacts (through weatherization and energy retrofits of publicly owned buildings and schools, water conservation, community education, green building policies, etc.).
  • Direct transportation funds to public transit and alternative transportation infrastructure (sidewalks, bike lanes) and away from highways and roads.
  • Prioritize transit investment to economically distressed communities to increase access to economic opportunities and maintain affordability of fares.
  • Ensure the maintenance and sustainability of existing transit infrastructures before expanding new transit lines.
  • Fund infrastructure projects that are consistent with equitable development, regional equity, and smart growth principles.

c. Create shared green wealth.
Environmental justice groups are pioneering community-driven models for green development that also build wealth, opportunities, and assets within our communities. A portion of Stimulus appropriations on any approved project should include sufficient funds to monitor and publicly report project spending, ensuring that marginalized communities are benefiting equitably in all projects funded.

  • Prioritize investment in chronically economically distressed communities.
  • Invest in programs that build community involvement in neighborhood stabilization and revitalization projects, including developing anti-displacement and community engagement policies and ensuring that these projects result in local benefits for current residents.
  • Invest in and promote wealth creation and entrepreneurship programs in communities of color and low income communities.
  • Ensure job standards, worker health and safety, living wages, and local hiring for all work generated by recovery funds.
  • Protect the rights of workers in the new green economy to organize through labor unions and workers coalitions.
  • Target hiring for jobs generated by the Stimulus towards the chronically unemployed and underemployed (especially our youth ages 18-24). Ensure that such jobs have growth potential.
  • Provide a just transition for workers in the fossil fuel industry and others who will be displaced as the economy becomes sustainable. This transition includes job training and targeted hiring.
  • Establish education and job training programs to increase access to green jobs and careers by those who have been chronically under and unemployed. Prioritize institutions that already have effective programs for engaging and supporting our disadvantaged communities. Enable these programs to serve as placement sources for jobs created by Stimulus funding.
  • Fund primary and secondary education to prepare children to access the full range of future job opportunities in the green economy, from research and development, to construction, sustainable community development, and manufacturing.
  • Ensure contracting opportunities for local women and minority owned businesses and community nonprofit and Tribal organizations. At the same time, increase access for these entities to capital and technical assistance.
  • Establish incentives and assistance for non-profits, municipalities, cooperatives, and small businesses, including financial planning services and capacity grants, to develop green energy and infrastructure projects that are on par with those of private sector corporations.

Conclusion: The Stimulus is just the first mile marker along a new path of sustainability and justice. Whether we can stay on track and move forward depends on many of us coming together in new ways and uniting around a vision that is as green as it is equitable.

For the full version of this statement, which also includes Vision and Talking Points and Resources sections, download : EJ Stimulus Final 3.16.09.pdf.

 

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