Though the nation has shone a spotlight in recent years on the economics of the environmental industry, the NAACP has issued a new report claiming that people of color are woefully underrepresented in the energy industry’s workforce—while at the same time most often facing potential health threats caused by the environment and facilities in their neighborhoods.
In the report, the NAACP calls on states to boost their commitment to renewable energy and provide more business and employment opportunities to minorities and low-income people—thus giving those groups more of a role in decision making.
Titled “Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs,” the 556-page report says people of color tend to spend the largest share of their incomes on energy but hold very few of the industry’s jobs.
Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP environmental and climate justice program director, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday that in 2009, African Americans held just 1.1 percent of energy jobs.
They are not part of the decision making, “but disproportionately experiencing harm,” Patterson said, as she urged states to make changes to reduce energy costs and bring more minorities and low-income people into the industry.
Among the suggestions offered by the civil rights group are for states to:
- Get at least 25% of its energy from renewable sources
- Set a 2% annual reduction target from previous year retail electricity sales
- Set up provisions that would make it easier for local residents to find out about potential jobs and apply for them; provide opportunities for locally owned businesses and minority owned businesses
Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi were singled out for their glaring failures in these areas.
During the conference call, Bernard Simelson, president of the Alabama State NAACP, pointed out that his state has the highest proportion of energy bills compared to average income.
“A crucial component of sustainability in the energy sector is equity. Therefore we must also ensure that workers and entrepreneurs of color are empowered in the transition and growth of the evolving energy market,” the report reads, touting the importance of hiring local and having provisions to ensure that requirements are met.
The report found that zero states had Minority Business Enterprise provisions specific to the industry.
“Of equal importance is establishing Minority Businesses Enterprise provisions within these energy policies. Such provisions will increase the access of entrepreneurs of color to businesses within the energy sector. Encouraging community and economic development models for every stage of the energy process will empower local communities to take ownership of their energy demands and end the history of retroactive engagement in America’s energy choices,” the report says.