Minorities Fight Back Against Prop. 23

By Orson Aguilar

They’re at it again:  Once more, special interests are trying to hijack California’s state ballot to enrich themselves at the expense of our communities. The Latino, African-American and Asian communities that make up California’s new majority are most at risk, and we’re not taking this lying down.

San Antonio-based Valero Energy and Tesoro Corporation claim they want to protect us and save jobs in our communities. Yeah. Right.

It’s no surprise that they’ve targeted communities of color with their bogus “protect jobs” pitch, since unemployment rates for Latinos and African-Americans three to four percentage points higher then whites.

But Proposition 23 won’t protect jobs in our communities; it will take them away. It will strangle the fastest-growing segment of California’s economy, green energy and clean-tech, just as it’s beginning to soar.

The clean energy economy is growing faster in California than any other state, thanks in part to AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, that commits our state to moving towards a healthier and cleaner economy.

For businesses that want to retrofit homes for energy efficiency, make solar panels or build electric cars, the law has provided assurance that there will be a growing market for their products and services. And they’ve responded, creating over 500,000 new jobs, according to the state Employment Development Department, including over 93,000 in manufacturing and 68,000 in construction.

And AB 32 is written to ensure that our communities get our fair share of these jobs. It specifically instructs the state agencies to “direct public and private investment toward the most disadvantaged communities in California and provide an opportunity for small businesses, schools, affordable housing associations, and other community institutions to participate in and benefit from statewide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Since the law was enacted, clean-tech investment in California has skyrocketed, and now greatly exceeds all of the other leading states combined. A new economy that can boost all of our communities is being born, here and now.

And the Texas oil giants and the rest of the dirty-energy industry don’t like it. They wrote Prop. 23 to kill the law before it gets any farther – despite claims that it will only “suspend” our clean energy law.

But it’s not just about jobs. It’s also about our neighborhoods – the air our kids breathe and the environment we live in.

Minority neighborhoods often have the dirtiest air, in part because highly polluting facilities like oil refineries and fossil fuel-burning power plants have clustered in these areas. Such clusters appear in a number of parts of the state, including the “Toxic Triangle” that connects Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco to Oakland and Richmond, and the Wilmington-Carson area of Los Angeles County. Such areas are marked by higher than average rates of asthma and lower than average life expectancy.

By strangling efforts to move away from oil and other dirty energy, Proposition 23 guarantees that our children will continue to breathe polluted air for decades.

Between now and November, the oil companies will try to convince us to vote against our own communities with phony claims of “protecting jobs,” and will spend millions of dollars to do it. But we know the real way to protect our jobs – and our air, and our kids – is to say a loud NO to Texas oil and NO to Prop. 23.

For more about what communities of color are doing to fight Prop. 23, go to http://communitiesagainstprop23.com/

Click here for more on our Proposition 23 series sponsored by EOS Climate.

Orson Aguilar is executive director of The Greenlining Institute, www.greenlining.org

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