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Climate change policies create American jobs

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Solar panels are seen on the rooftop of the Chinatown Public Health Center in San Francisco. (Aleah Fajardo/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)


It’s been a month since the Women’s March, and yelling at politicians in Washington, D.C., on the television feels old. Thankfully, there’s a chance to resist again next Wednesday. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a listening session in San Francisco on its proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

The EPA announced its intention last October as deadly wildfires choked California. The Clean Power Plan would combat climate change by requiring utilities to reduce carbon emissions. Although it has not gone into effect since it was passed in 2015, the plan also promises to lower asthma rates, increase energy efficiency and spur renewable energy investment. It would help the United States remain competitive as the world transitions to a clean energy economy.

Despite the Clean Power Plan’s numerous benefits, the EPA will probably repeal it. From net neutrality to gun reform, the Trump administration repeatedly ignores common sense, popular opinion and science.

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But San Francisco can’t let this inevitability stop us from speaking out on Feb. 28. We must take every opportunity to show the world the Trump administration doesn’t reflect American values. Our country is not divided on the issue of renewable energy. From California to coal country, solar and wind are helping our economy grow and putting Americans to work.

“A policy environment that is forward looking and supports the growth of a new market opportunity triggers investment,” Jeanine Cotter, president and CEO of local solar company Luminalt, told me. “Climate change policies have created a lot of different jobs.”

Luminalt is an example of how these policies benefit the economy. In 2004, Cotter and her husband were running the company out of their Sunset garage. Today, 35 employees work at the company’s office on Potrero Avenue. When The City’s GoSolarSF program launched in 2008 to help residents and businesses install solar, Luminalt was the first San Francisco company to become GoSolarSF workforce-certified. This meant puting locals to work, even during the economic crisis 10 years ago.

The company is only one part of a growing network of businesses, organizations and manufacturers that make up the renewable energy industry. According to The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the solar sector grew nine times faster than overall U.S. employment from 2010 to 2017. It now employees more than 250,000 people.

The growth isn’t limited to California. Americans, in both blue and red states, support clean energy.

In West Virginia, solar is helping young people from coalfield communities find new jobs and provide for their families. Solar Holler was the first company in the state to offer a solar job training and apprenticeship program. Dan Conant, a native West Virginian and the company’s founder, believes embracing the “renewable energy revolution” can make the region the country’s power center again.

“For more than 100 years, Appalachia has powered America,” Conant told me. “We’re training the first generation of solar installers in towns and counties most impacted by mine closures, so we can continue to power the country for the next 100 years and keep our friends and neighbors here.”

Solar has also created manufacturing jobs in other Appalachian states. Conant said the company buys nuts and bolts to attach panels to the roof from EcoLibrium, a company based in eastern Ohio.

While repealing the Clean Power Plan won’t make coal king again, keeping it could help companies like Luminalt, Solar Holler and EcoLibrium grow. It could further unite Americans and help more unemployed workers find jobs and support their families. The U.S. could remain a global leader by funding research and development. Plus, it could help keep people and the planet healthy.

There are numerous reasons why San Francisco must resist the EPA’s proposal. Investors and policymakers are listening to us, even if the Trump administration is not. The City is a voice for progress. That’s a reason why the late Mayor Ed Lee wanted the EPA to hear from us.

“He believed there’s only one future — a clean energy future,” Tyrone Jue, the mayor’s senior environmental advisor, told me. “He said the faster we move in that direction, the greater the prosperity, whether it be for solar in San Francisco or coal workers in West Virginia.”

The EPA will hold the listening session at the San Francisco Main Library on Feb. 28. I’ll be there as part of the Mom’s Clean Air Force group. Join me by registering with the EPA to speak online; today is the deadline. Go to www.sfex.news/EPAinSF to register or submit written comments on the appeal by April 26, 2018.

“I work in a restaurant and was told thermal paper is for the compost bin. I thought it was toxic. — Lynn McArdle

If you’re a waiter or cashier, you’re probably asking about receipts, a form of thermal paper. Thermal receipt paper often contains Bisphenol A (BPA) or Bisphenol S (BPS). Exposure to either chemical has been linked to reproductive problems, obesity and attention disorders.

If you believe your receipt is printed on thermal paper, put it in the black bin. But the best approach is to avoid thermal paper completely. If possible, ask customers before offering a receipt. Customers should decline or ask for a receipt via email or text.

Thank you for the great question! Please send more sorting inquiries to bluegreenorblack@gmail.com.

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.

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