For months now, the National Black Chamber of Commerce has been warning communities of color that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan will cause job losses and generate higher energy bills.
In fact, the opposite is true.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants will create clean-energy jobs, improve public health, bring greater reliability to our electric power grid, bolster our national security, demonstrate the United States’ resolve to combat climate change and maybe even reduce our utility bills.
By limiting the emission of carbon dioxide, the Clean Power Plan also will slow a main driver of extreme weather, which has inflicted widespread economic damage and human misery, including death.
That’s what the National Black Chamber of Commerce neglects to mention.
Why? As it turns out, the money behind the chamber’s campaign comes from polluters who stand to gain if the Clean Power Plan is blocked. According to The Post, the chamber received more than $800,000 over the past decade from ExxonMobil, and among the sponsors of the group’s national conference in August were other companies that oppose strong action to combat climate change.
At the heart of the chamber’s case is a now-discredited 2014 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that purported to analyze the then-proposed Clean Power Plan — not the actual plan the EPA advanced this summer.
That report has been widely debunked by fact checkers, including PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning independent media analysis organization, and The Post’s Fact Checker, which gave the Chamber of Commerce’s “report” its worst rating for veracity: four Pinocchios.
Here’s what the Clean Power Plan will actually deliver. In addition to cutting carbon pollution nationwide by 32 percent from 2005 levels in 15 years, it will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the Obama administration.
The chamber also conveniently leaves out why we must tackle climate change.
Extreme weather is on the rise and costing us dearly. Americans paid about $100 billion in 2012 alone just to clean up after extreme weather, including powerful storms, massive fires, severe floods and powerful storms.
Look at who suffered first and suffered the most after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.
It was the largely African-American communities in low-lying areas that got hit worst when the levees broke.
Fourteen of the 15 hottest years since record-keeping began in the 1800s have occurred since 2000, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization. And 2015 is on course to set an all-time heat record. We all know who suffers the most during extreme waves: folks who can’t afford air conditioning in their homes.
And consider who lives closest to coal-fired power plants and is most exposed to their pollution; 39 percent of the 6 million Americans who live within 30 miles of a power plant are people of color, according to the NAACP.
No wonder polls indicate that most African-Americans actually support provisions of the Clean Power Plan. Many people of color live on the front lines of environmental hazard and harm. According to a Nov. 4 poll by Green for All and the Natural Resources Defense Council, 77 percent of African-Americans recognize that their community suffers a greater burden from air pollution and climate change than the population at large.
That explains why 83 percent support limiting power plant carbon pollution under the EPA plan, according to the joint poll.
The national survey also found that 66 percent believe the Clean Power Plan will foster job creation.
African-Americans are not going to be fooled by any group supported by industrial polluters. They know that climate change is real and that we have to do something about it. Only 3 percent believe concern about climate change is overblown.
African-Americans and all people of color can benefit greatly by supporting the Clean Power Plan, which will help reduce the impacts of climate change and expand the use of clean, renewable energy from the wind and sun.
In so doing, we will join with Americans of all races in a vibrant coalition for environmental progress and justice — and secure a brighter, healthier and more prosperous future.
Martin Luther King III is co-founder of the Drum Major Institute.