The fight over Proposition 23 in California has gotten national attention, and understandably so. This attempt by two Texas oil companies to roll back California's landmark clean energy law could deal a major blow to efforts to address pollution and climate change nationwide. But there are other issues at play, too, which haven't gotten as much attention.
The Latino, African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander communities that make up 58 percent of California's population are most at risk if Prop. 23 passes, and we're fighting back.
This is about the air our kids breathe and the environment we all live in.
It's well known that minority neighborhoods often have the dirtiest air, in part because highly polluting facilities like oil refineries and fossil fuel-burning power plants cluster in these areas. Indeed, three quarters of Californians living within six miles of an oil refinery are African American, Latino, or Asian/Pacific Islander. 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.
San Antonio-based Valero Energy and Tesoro Corporation are trying to sell their initiative to voters of color by claiming they want to save jobs in our communities. As a political tactic, it makes sense. After all, unemployment rates for Latinos and African-Americans are at least three to four percentage points higher then whites.
But if you believe these oil companies are spending millions of dollars on Prop. 23 out of the goodness of their hearts, I have a bridge to sell you.
Prop. 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 largely to AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which commits our state to moving toward 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.
Clean-tech investment in California has skyrocketed. Indeed, it's the only sector of California's economy that has steadily gained jobs during the recession.
And AB 32 specifically instructs the state agencies that implement the law to "direct public and private investment toward the most disadvantaged communities in California," a conscious attempt by the legislature to ensure that communities in need get their fair share of new, clean-tech investment.
The Texas oil giants don't like it. They wrote Prop. 23 to kill the law before it gets any farther -- despite claims that it's a temporary suspension, a mere "pause."
So they'll continue to profit while our kids continue to suffer.
Californians, particularly those Californians who have the least, are literally in a fight for our lives. We need you to join us.
To learn more about what communities of color are doing to fight Prop. 23 -- and how you can help -- go to http://communitiesagainstprop23.com/
Follow Preeti Vissa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Greenlining