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By law, New York has to protect communities from climate change. Cuomo’s budget ignores that.

Nearly 300 climate activists from across New York State gathered in the halls of the capitol building in Albany late last month during an environmental conservation hearing. They formally submitted testimonies to the committee, spoke with Assembly members, and rallied inside the building, occupying the lobby and one of the grand staircases. They were there to tell New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that they’d noticed he had some unfinished business with regard to the state’s climate policy.

The rally came after Cuomo released his 2021 budget proposal. Although it included a $33 billion, five-year plan to fight climate change, environmental groups were surprised to see that the budget didn’t mention anything about protecting vulnerable communities from the climate crisis — even though the state is required to do just that under the Empire State’s ambitious new climate law, Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

The CLCPA, which commits the state to net-zero emissions by 2050, was signed last July and officially went into effect on January 1, 2020. The final version of the bill was not exactly what advocates had hoped it would be. They envisioned it as the state’s version of the national Green New Deal: sweeping legislation that would curtail the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a greener economy while also addressing racial and economic issues. But last-minute changes made by Cuomo slashed the original bill’s social justice and labor provisions — making it look a lot less like the federal Green New Deal.

What the CLCPA does contain, however, are provisions to address climate impacts on disadvantaged communities. The law says that state agencies, authorities, and entities shall direct resources “in a manner designed to achieve a goal for disadvantaged communities to receive forty percent of the overall benefits of spending on clean energy and energy efficiency programs, projects, or investments” and “no less than thirty-five percent.” But Cuomo’s spending plan for fiscal year 2021 does not mention anything with regard to that provision.

In a letter to state representatives, New York Renews — a statewide coalition of nearly 200 advocacy groups — expressed their disappointment in Cuomo’s spending plan. “You passed a law designed to protect communities, but the governor’s budget does not include the funding necessary to do so,” the group wrote. “The governor’s status quo climate budget ignores disadvantaged communities as if the CLCPA was never signed into law.”

The $33 billion climate portion of Cuomo’s budget proposal includes plans to invest in resilient infrastructure, planting more trees, preserve fish and wildlife habitats, expand renewable energy, install electric-vehicle charge stations, ban single-use plastics, and permanently ban fracking in the state. But for New York Renews, these proposals don’t go far enough because they don’t address the unequal impacts of climate change and environmental contamination.

“Low-income communities and communities of color across New York State have consistently faced the worst impacts of pollution and climate change, yet the Governor’s budget does not meet the standard set by the CLCPA that at least 35 percent of climate and energy spending target frontline communities,” NY Renews coalition coordinator Stephan Edel told Grist in an email. “This is a grave oversight, but there’s still time to fix it.”

As part of the solution, NY Renews is pushing for the Climate and Community Investment Act, which would fine corporate polluters. The money generated by that fine would go to large-scale renewable energy projects, updates to the electric grid, environmental justice community projects, energy-efficient transit systems, helping low-income New Yorkers with their energy bills, and providing financial assistance to workers and nearby communities when fossil fuel infrastructure closes. Since it will take time for the Climate and Community Investment Act to go into effect and begin collecting money from polluters, New York Renews is demanding a $1 billion Climate and Community Investment Fund to be added to this year’s budget to jumpstart spending to benefit low-income communities.

In response to a request for comment from Grist, a representative for Cuomo said in an email that state agencies, in coordination with a new Climate Justice Working Group, will figure out how to devote at least 35 percent of clean energy funding to disadvantaged communities as required by the CLCPA.

State budget negotiations between Cuomo and the legislature will continue through March and will be finalized by March 31. New York Renews is committed to pushing its demands: On February 28, the group is set to gather around 300 activists to visit state legislators within their districts to talk about the budget and the Climate and Community Investment Act. It also plans to start working with the Climate Action Council, a policymaking body that was created under the CLCPA and is set to convene for the first time this month to begin setting specific emissions reductions targets for the state.

“We’re hopeful that the Assembly and Senate budgets will include new spending for climate justice and frontline communities, and that those provisions will be included in the final New York state budget,” Edel said. “Make no mistake, we’ll continue to fight for climate, jobs, and justice at every step of the process.”

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By law, New York has to protect communities from climate change. Cuomo’s budget ignores that.

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This group is teaching new sailors how to tackle plastic pollution

The Bronx’s City Island docks are a strange mixture of outer-borough New York and New England coast. There are crusty boatyards and pristine yacht clubs, seedy seafood joints and fancy oyster bars, “my she was yar” schooners and “I’m on a boat” party cruisers. But the love of the ocean has always had the ability to bring disparate-seeming forces together — including, in this case, climate activism and the American Sailing Association.

On a recent summer morning, I headed to the docks to watch Dave Jenkins prepare a small sailboat. Life vests and nautical maps in hand, Jenkins — a charismatic middle-aged man decked out in an appropriate sailing ensemble (boat shoes included) — boarded a vessel which was moored at the Harlem Yacht Club. We had been going back and forth for months trying to find the right time to head out on the water, only to be forced to reschedule several times due to unfavorable weather conditions. First it was the cold, then the heat, then torrential rain — the kinds of extremes that climate scientists say we should expect more of in the near future.

But on that day, with the sun shining bright and a slight breeze in the air, Jenkins assured me conditions were “ideal for sailing.”

“This is my playground,” Jenkins said of the open water. But it’s not just his alone — the way he sees it, the water belongs to everyone. He takes his sailboat, the Mary Lou, out regularly, showing students how to explore the five boroughs by way of its many waterways. While many people think of sailing as an exclusive endeavor, Jenkins says there are ways to keep the sport accessible. For example, there are a lot of old sailboats out there that sell for cheap and don’t require expensive fuel compared to one of those pesky motorboats.

“There’s so much to do in the city, they forget about the sixth borough — the water,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ love of the water is infectious. But in order for future generations to continue to enjoy it, he knows seafarers like himself need to do more than attract new talent. They also need to keep the ocean as clean as possible. And so every time he takes the sailboat out to open water, whether he’s hanging out with friends or instructing students, he keeps an eye open for any plastic debris.

Grist / Paola Rosa-Aquino

Jenkins says cleaning up trash while you are out on the water is something many sailors have been doing for a long time. But thanks to a new ocean cleanup program by the American Sailing Association, one of the world’s biggest coalitions of sailing enthusiasts, trainers, and charter companies, the habit is becoming formalized.

The group started the crusade, called Operation Plastic Pollution Purge, last year. The campaign, which, according to the American Sailing Association’s website, has exposed around 111 million people to the concept of ocean conservation, urges boaters to reduce or eliminate the number of plastic items they bring on their vessels and to collect and properly dispose of any trash they see while they’re out on open water. It’s an especially important value to instill in new sailing enthusiasts, and something organization says it is uniquely situated to do given its 300 schools and 7,000 instructors.

“It has to start with one person, and what better group of people than sailors,” Lenny Shabes, CEO and founder of the American Sailing Association, told Grist.

Granted, not all types of boats are great for the environment. Big cruise ships, for example, run off of diesel fuel and can actually end up being more harmful to the planet per mile even compared to air travel. But sailboats are largely wind-powered, and when decked out with solar panels like the one currently transporting 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City, can provide a net-zero means of transportation even across long distances.

More than that, Shabes says sailing can benefit the planet because it can make people realize they have a special responsibility to the water. “It’s a very spiritual thing. There’s no propulsion involved, other than what the good earth gives you. The difference between living in New York City and going sailing in the Long Island Sound, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world to sail is immense. To see it become polluted because some yahoo doesn’t care and throws the plastic bottle overboard — it irks me.”

And between the planet’s warming waters and humanities’ growing trash problem, the oceans need all the love they can get. Scientists don’t know exactly how much plastic trash is in the ocean, but some estimates suggest that as much as 244,000 metric tons might bob on the surface. Another 8.5 million metric tons are though to settle on the ocean floor per year. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic debris in our oceans than fish.

“It’s as if you took a New York City garbage truck and dumped it full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day,” Jenkins said.

If that trash stays at sea, it could cluster up in trash hot spots, the most famous of which is a swirling mass of garbage twice the size of Texas. The patch is located somewhere between California and Hawaii called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There, currents deposit waste like abandoned fishing gear, bottles, and tiny pieces of pulverized plastics.

Back at the City Island docks, Jenkins and I were just about ready to set sail on our trash-finding venture. As the Mary Lou pulled out from the Bronx and into the open water, it felt like an escape from city life. To the east lay the Sound, Connecticut to the north and Long Island to the south. We headed toward the Long Island Sound.

Jenkins surveyed a nautical chart as we headed south and the ship neared the Throgs Neck Bridge. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first piece of refuse — a bright yellow bag floating on the waves. Jenkins quickly redirected the Mary Lou, grabbing a handy net. As we cruised by, he dipped it into the water and lifted it up to reveal a soggy bag of Funyons. After about three hours of sailing, we’d amassed a modest bag’s worth of trash. Jenkins said that if we’d gone sailing on a Monday after people were in surrounding beaches over the weekend, he would have expected even more prices of plastic surrounding the ship.

Grist / Paola Rosa-Aquino

Of course, it will take more than a few sailing trips to solve the ocean’s plastic problem. That’s why many countries are either restricting or even wholesale banning single-use plastics. But Bonnie Monteleone, executive director of the Plastic Ocean Project, says these small-scale clean-ups can still do a lot of good. As part of a separate cleanup effort, she hired charter fishermen to pick up trash they see offshore. “Just that exposure of getting people to become aware of how much trash is out there — I call it “the magic eye,” Monteleone told Grist. “Once you do you can’t unsee it. I think any opportunity that will get people out on the water [for this kind of effort] will cast a wider net and get more people proactive at picking up what they see. “

And the stakes are high: The billions upon billions of items of plastic waste choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers and piling up on land is more than unsightly and harmful to plants and wildlife. According to Lauren Coiro, the American Sailing Association’s marine conservationist, plastic Pollution is a very real and growing threat to human health. “In terms of the health of marine life, it’s not good,” Coiro told Grist. “In terms of our own health, it’s not good.”

Indeed, the toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and can be found in the blood and tissue of nearly every one of us. Exposure to these substances is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and a whole slew of other ailments. What’s worse, instead of breaking down, plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, making it even harder to clean up.

But on a macro level, ocean cleanups can still do their part to help rid the ocean of its plastic scourge. And who better to lead the way than people who are already on the waves? “Sailors are naturally a really easily motivated group of people,” Coiro says. “When we asked sailors to start talking about this and take leadership … a lot of sailors [were] happy to do it..”

At the end of our rendezvous on open water, Jenkins packed the sails away, a process that requires the utmost care to avoid twists, tears, and tangles. With the lines finally coiled and the sails covered, and Mary Lou was tucked in for the day — but perhaps not for long.

If weather conditions are favorable, Jenkins says he’ll go back out and do the same thing all over again tomorrow.

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This group is teaching new sailors how to tackle plastic pollution

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The Surprising Recycling Mistake You’re Probably Making

Who else has been proudly removing the cap from plastic bottles before tossing then into the recycling bin? After all, caps and bottles are generally made of different?types of plastic. Making sure that they are not stuck together is helpful, isn’t it?

It used to be. In the past, recycling plants didn’t have an?effective?way to separate the two different plastics, so capped bottles would jam up the entire system.?Recycling programs actually did ask us to start taking the plastic caps off our bottles (so good job remembering!).

But now, with our modern recycling methods, it appears the opposite is true. That’s right?most of us should be leaving the plastic caps ON our bottles before recycling them!

Why You Should Leave Bottle Caps on for Recycling

Modern processing involves?crushing the two types of plastic into particles and separating them in a water bath. The cap material sinks, while the bottle particles float, making it easy to keep them apart. And we’re not just talking water bottles. You should be leaving the caps on laundry detergent, shampoos, lotions, condiments, et cetera.

It makes the caps significantly easier to deal with and keep track of.

In fact, if you remove the caps, you might as well just be just tossing them straight into the landfill. Their small size often leads to improper sorting at the recycling center?likely, they’ll bypass processing altogether and just get tossed into the trash heap.

Of course, this isn’t true for 100 percent of recycling centers. Check in with your local center to make sure they’re equipped with modern sorting machinery. They’ll?definitively instruct you on whether to leave your cap on or off.

Another?Common Recycling Mistake

Don’t crush your plastic bottles before recycling. What?! But aren’t we helping to save space? The answer is no, and by flattening your bottles, they?are easier to missort, particularly at single-stream recycling plants. It’s generally easier for the machines to handle them if they are intact.

An estimated 5 billion plastic bottle caps pollute the shores of California alone. It’s important that we all do our part to clean this mess up.?Recycling centers already are dumping tons of our plastic recyclables into landfills?ever since China stopped?processing our low quality recycling for us?it’s a massive issue. Don’t let your bottle caps be part of the problem. Keep them screwed.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


The Surprising Recycling Mistake You’re Probably Making

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Atlantic Coast Pipeline delayed until 2021

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Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggle only grows worse.

If all had gone according to the company’s original plan for the contentious Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it would already be well on its way to carrying fracked gas. But the completion of the 600-mile pipeline — planned to run from West Virginia into North Carolina — has been delayed until 2021.

According to a spokesperson for Dominion, Karl Neddenien, all construction is halted because of multiple factors including increasing costs, and in part over a dispute regarding permits to cross the Appalachian Trail and national forests. He says the delay, caused by what he calls “well-financed” opposition groups, are impacting more than just the construction schedules, according to Neddenien.

“Their impact [of these delays are seen] in the communities and the families in their region. It’s really time to stop these pointless delays and get back to work building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” he said. “These delays are not improving or increasing environmental protections. We already have in place some outstanding protections.”

Opponents to the pipeline project, on the other hand, were encouraged by the announcement of the new, pushed-back timeline. “Anytime there’s a delay, we’re happy.” Chad Oba, chair of the Friends of Buckingham, an organization of Virginia residents opposed to the pipeline, told Grist. “It gives the public more opportunity to be informed about fossil fuel projects and how we don’t need more of them.” Buckingham is a historically black community where Dominion is slated to build a natural gas compressor station for the pipeline. Last month, the state’s Air Pollution Control Board voted unanimously to approve permits for the station despite vociferous community opposition.

Beyond construction setbacks, the project is going to cost a pretty penny: Estimated costs for the pipeline have ballooned to $ 7.5 billion (the original project was budgeted for around $6 billion.) And considering how demand for the pipeline is dwindling — thanks to competition from cheap, renewable sources — some experts aren’t sure the project will get up on its feet again.

Patrick Hunter, a Southern Environmental Law Center attorney, said the barrage of legal challenges and missing permits “leaves us with a serious question as to whether this thing will ever be built.” The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of many organizations to challenge Dominion’s construction, calling for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue its own stop-work.

(Dominion Energy did not immediately respond to Grist’s request for comment.)

Though the delay is good news for environmental groups, it’s a bit too early to whip out the champagne: Dominion said it currently expects the now-halted construction could begin again later this year.

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Atlantic Coast Pipeline delayed until 2021

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Can a sick teddy bear make politicians fix London’s air quality?

A giant robotic teddy bear is taking to London’s streets to raise awareness about air pollution. Meet Toxic Toby, the Paddington Bear of this hellacious timeline we’re in.

London sees some vehicle-related deaths every year, but far more Londoners die from sickness tied to the city’s horrific air quality — nearly 9,500 every year. That’s why advertising agency McCann London is taking Toxic Toby on a tour of the metropolis’ most toxic streets.

The 3D-printed bear is fed real-time air quality data from a company called BreezoMeter. When pollution hits dangerous levels, Toby lifts his little paw and coughs. The bear’s movements alert passersby to the fact that there is an animatronic bear in their midst, and, if a moving teddy bear isn’t arresting enough, Toby is also surrounded by bouquets of flowers that are meant to mimic a memorial.

But raising awareness isn’t Toby’s only talent. Every time he coughs, he sends tweets to local politicians with a message about air pollution.

What’s next for Toxic Toby? The bear and his trainers are taking their pollution awareness efforts national. The team is planning a tour through the U.K. — and they might even expand to other countries. Looks like Toby is trying to fix air pollution with his bear hands.

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Can a sick teddy bear make politicians fix London’s air quality?

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Trump has no standards when it comes to vehicle emissions

President Donald Trump just slashed vehicle mile-per-gallon requirements. That will not only lead to more gas guzzlers on the roads, but more greenhouse gases and pollution-related deaths.

The move stops gas mileage standards from ratcheting up past 2020 levels, nixing Barack Obama’s Administration standard which ramps up to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead, that target will top out at around 37 mpg after 2021.

The Trump administration also announced it was trashing a decades-old waiver that allows California to set its own pollution and gas-mileage standards above the federal government’s. Because California has so many car buyers, automakers follow the state’s guidelines, effectively making California’s higher standards the country’s.

Scrapping current mileage standards is likely to cost Americans billions of dollars, according to Energy Innovation, a pro-clean energy nonprofit. Allowing cars to guzzle more gas will also contribute to a host of pollution-related health problems: heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory disease.

Energy Innovation

Another risk is runaway climate change. By 2035, these changes will likely bump up yearly emissions by 11 percent from where they would be under the Obama standards. But, thanks to the popularity of electric cars, Energy Innovations expects things to take a turn for the better. More EVs on the road could help emissions reverse course by 2040.

Energy Innovation

The Trump administration’s move will also leave your wallet a little lighter. Junking the efficiency standards and the California waiver means we’ll all be buying more gas  — $457 billion more, according to Energy Innovation. It’s as if the Trump administration added a 57-cent tax in 2040. But instead of paying that money to the government so that it can repair roads and build better transit options, we’ll be giving it to the oil industry.

Energy Innovation

None of this is guaranteed. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is fighting to keep the standards in place. “We’re ready to file suit if needed to protect these critical standards,” Becerra said in April when the EPA said it might slash them. A few weeks later California and 16 other states sued the Administration.

At the very least, legal challenges could delay the revisions into November, when midterm elections will gauge the public’s enthusiasm for the administration’s policies. The legal wrangling could also reopen the case that gave the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases, giving an increasingly right-leaning Supreme Court the chance to weigh in. In the meantime, all this creates a lot of uncertainty for automakers, as they try to figure out what goals they’ll need to hit seven years from now.

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Trump has no standards when it comes to vehicle emissions

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Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

Electric cars are kind of a divisive issue. Those who drive electric vehicles often wax poetic about how much better they are for the environment while others, like the author of this Politico piece, like to point out all the ways that electric cars aren’t as green as they are made out to be.

What’s the truth about electric cars? It’s complicated.

Let’s talk about batteries.

On the one hand, the battery for electric cars is an environmental issue in its own right.

The rare, lightweight metals used in the batteries and throughout the cars often come from?not so eco mines?that are hugely environmentally polluting. Plus, as few as 5 percent of the lithium batteries used in electric vehicles actually get recycled (in the EU), which means they just sit in landfills and leach toxins into the environment. However,?Tesla claims to have a battery recycling plan that is actually cost-effective for both manufacturers and?recycling plants, which could improve the battery issue.

And while the manufacturing of electric cars produces more carbon emissions than manufacturing a gas-powered car, one look at Musk’s solar-powered Gigafactory puts that argument to rest.

Electric vehicle production may be secretly more dirty than you’d expect, it’s something that innovative companies like Tesla are working?to?tackle. When it comes to?of fueling electric vehicles, though, they’re as green as you make them.

The way you charge your electric car matters.

According to the author of Politico?s recent piece, increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will actually increase pollution. The idea is that new models of internal combustion vehicles are actually extraordinarily efficient, which is true.

?Today?s vehicles emit only about 1% of the pollution than they did in the 1960s, and new innovations continue to improve those engines? efficiency and cleanliness,? according to author Jonathan Lesser.

When comparing that sort of low?emissions pollution with the pollution caused by traditionally-powered electric vehicles, yes. A new gas-powered car is probably greener than a new, grid-powered electric car right now. But that only factors in electric vehicles charged through the grid.

Solar power, one of the cleanest and most independent forms of renewable electricity, needs to be taken into?serious consideration. The author relies on a projection regarding?the increase of renewables pumped into the grid, which may hit 30 percent by 2030–not enough to keep things clean for electric cars. But that bleak outlook only takes into account our existing infrastructure.

We need to ditch fossil fuels.

When considering the environmental cleanliness of new gas cars versus electric cars, one big factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the importance of getting our planet off of a dependence on fossil fuels.

While less-polluting gas cars are wonderful, they are still gas cars. They will always only be powered by oil and gas. An electric car, on the other hand, can be powered just as easily by?wind or solar as by fossil fuels, if the infrastructure were?there to support it.

And that’s why we need more electric cars. Sure, as they currently exist?they may not be as pristine and clean as we like to believe, depending on how you fuel them. But the renewable energy infrastructure will not grow around them unless there is a demand.

We need people driving clean electric cars to push towns, cities, and states to enact widespread projects to provide clean sustainable energy for the surge in electrically powered vehicles. That’s how we will begin to cut off our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Solar is the future (and the present) for electric charging.

I have always associated electric cars with solar charging. The vast majority of electric car charging stations I see?are solar powered. Even?certain grocery stores?have implemented free solar charging stations to reward?environmentally-conscious customers while they shop.

While I?can’t speak for the whole country, buying an expensive electric vehicle like a Tesla only makes financial sense if the electricity is very affordable–as it is at many?solar charging stations, including long term use of a personal solar station at home.

Granted, not everyone will exclusively use solar to power their cars. With the rise in popularity of luxury electric vehicles, it is natural that those who are less eco-minded but desire to indulge?their wealth will?buy a fancy electric car and not discriminate between renewable charging stations and fossil fuels. But that?doesn?t mean electric cars are actually worse for the environment. It means we need to make it easier for the indiscriminate to cleanly charge them.

Our infrastructure needs to grow and evolve in tandem with our vehicles. An electric car is a move towards cleaner energy. It should be charged that way, too.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

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Los Angeles schemes to sue major oil companies over climate change.

Over the next year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will install solar panels on 20 households and 10 community centers, train 100 people in solar job skills, and push for equitable solar access policies in at least five states across the U.S.

“Underserved communities cannot be left behind in a clean energy transition,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO, said in a statement about the new Solar Equity Initiative. “Clean energy is a fundamental civil right which must be available to all, within the framework of a just transition.”

The initiative began on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by installing solar panels on the Jenesse Center, a transitional housing program in L.A. for survivors of domestic abuse. The NAACP estimated that solar energy could save the center nearly $49,000 over the course of a lifetime, leaving more resources to go toward services for women and families.

Aside from the financial benefits, the NAACP points out that a just transition to clean energy will improve health outcomes. Last year, a report by the Clean Air Task Force and the NAACP found that black Americans are exposed to air nearly 40 percent more polluted than their white counterparts. Pollution has led to 138,000 asthma attacks among black school children and over 100,000 missed school days each year.

It’s just a start, but this new initiative could help alleviate the disproportionate environmental burdens that black communities face.

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Los Angeles schemes to sue major oil companies over climate change.

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Is Plastic Really That Bad?

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Is Plastic Really That Bad?

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Yoga Pants Are Surprisingly Harmful

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Yoga Pants Are Surprisingly Harmful

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