To address our climate crisis we need a transition to energy resources that reduce the carbon in our atmosphere– but that will require many fossil fuel companies and industries relying on fossil fuels to either become truly carbon free or cease to operate altogether. This presents a considerable challenge for many regions where these industries are the main source of jobs and tax revenue.
How can we ensure that the labor force in these industries are not unduly burdened by this needed transition? The answer is to provide a framework for this transition that provides dignity, safety and justice for both workers and local economies. In the climate movement, this is called a ‘just transition’.
In Louisiana, the need for a just transition from fossil fuels is dire. Time and again we find that the fossil fuel labor force is at the whim of a boom and bust cycle. The community is often sacrificed during these downturns through the rollback of environmental or safety regulations that pollute black and brown communities and endanger workers.
There is an enormous potential for this transition in Louisiana, if we work together to achieve it. The shallow waters off the coast of Louisiana can be the site of a new offshore wind economy that utilizes former oil and gas workers, and the state’s excellent solar energy potential can create thousands of jobs. Additional jobs can be created in coastal restoration and mitigation of fossil fuel pollution. Through a just transition, the needs of these workers can be met, and we can ensure that their health and safety come first.
Our Just Transition group is focused on policy driven solutions that will help transition the economy from fossil fuels to other economic sectors that offer a sustainable economy, better and safer jobs, and a sustainable climate for Louisiana.
On August 31, 2018 we filed a request to City Council along with 34 community groups to open a rulemaking docket to establish the Gulf South’s first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). An RPS is a regulatory requirement that utilities meet a specified percentage (or wattage) of their power supply using qualified renewable resources. Our coalition is pushing for an RPS that also ensures equitable outcomes and centers resilience as a goal.
On July 15, 2019 Energy Future New Orleans (a coalition of organizations) submitted a proposal for a Resilient and Renewable Portfolio Standard for NOLA.
While countless utilities are replacing gas plants with storage and demand-side management (DSM), Entergy New Orleans (ENO) is currently building a fracked gas peaker plant in New Orleans East. Meant to turn on only when demand is high to shave off peak demand, it is projected to run for just 50-200 hours a year. Despite the fact that New Orleans has one of the highest rates of energy poverty in the US, ratepayers are expected to foot the bill — likely $900 million over the next 50 years, including a 10-11% profit for Entergy.
This dirty gas plant is also being built in a flood zone, next to Black and Vietnamese communities in New Orleans East. Building the gas peaker plant in New Orleans East is environmental racism.
ENO used paid actors and fear tactics about “cascading outages” to create approval for this project. A large coalition of local community groups worked together for several years and organized widespread, sustained opposition against the gas plant.
The fight is not over! We are still engaged in two legal battles: One lawsuit challenges the Council’s March 8, 2018 permit for ENO to build; the other alleges that City Council violated open meetings law after ENO hired actors to make up for the lack of community support for the project which prevented opponents from testifying before the Council. To learn more, go to NoGasPlant.com.
We are intervenors on a number of dockets, including the 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), community solar and 90 megawatts of utility scale solar. We are pushing for ambitious goals in energy efficiency and a growing supply of renewables, in accordance with the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Ongoing work includes showing solidarity with other groups in their efforts to establish better working conditions and labor rights in the state of Louisiana.
Louisiana is often referred to as an ‘energy state’, but jobs in the fossil fuel sector have been on the decline for the past three decades. The future of climate action is referred to in terms of adaptation and mitigation, but it’s equally important for the workforce in the state to adapt.
The state of Louisiana in 2020 has begun to shift from a heavy focus on adaptation, to an emerging interest in greenhouse gas emission reduction. In a state that has been historically considered a leader in the energy industry, Louisiana is at a critical juncture in terms of how to adapt to the energy transition and it is vitally important that workers are at the center of this conversation. Measures in Louisiana which were introduced this year leave much to be desired when compared to other states and localities, but nonetheless, policy actions have opened up a discourse between the public and decision makers about how the state should decarbonize.
The 350 New Orleans 2020 Energy, Labor and Policy Report is a product of years of coalition work in policy and grassroots action aimed at facilitating a just transition for workers and environmental justice for frontline communities.
This report is meant to raise awareness of solutions that have been implemented by states that have been more proactive than others in the effort to decarbonize and preserve labor standards. It is also meant to educate and catalyze advocates around policy options that can help address the question of how the state can move onwards from an extractive economy to a restorative economy for the Gulf Coast that preserves equity, jobs and a livable future for Louisianans.
We are actively working with the following organizations on these issues.