Jacqueline Patterson, the NAACP national environmental and climate justice program director, David Honig, NAACP Florida State Conference legal redress chair, and other representatives of the civil rights organization gave a presentation on how a number of the energy policies in Florida have a negative impact on communities of color, human health, the environment and the economy.
After studying the Florida Energy Policies in 2012, the NAACP and partner groups released a “cold blooded” report detailing the harm being done to low-income communities and people of color by the burning of coal. Coal is a major contributor to the regression in global climate due to excess emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gas.
The report lays a path for preserving the well-being of the community while creating economic enterprise opportunities.
“In October 2013 Florida generated 21.3 percent of electricity from coal, 66.4 percent from natural gas and petroleum and 10 percent from nuclear energy. But only 1.97 percent of electricity generated from other sources," Patterson said. “We have established the production of energy as a clear civil rights issue due to the environmental regression caused by energy practices and policies."
Despite the clean energy potential due to the accessibility of renewable energy in the Sunshine State, the study indicates that with $1.27 billion in expenditures, Florida spent more than 45 other states in the country in 2012 for coal imports.
Patterson elaborated, saying, “In spite of the fact that we do have resources that allow clean energy, we are spending $1.27 billion out of our funding to go out of the state to bring in coal that is not only harming our community but damaging our environment.”
Energy production in Florida has also affected communities of color. The African American Association of Blacks in Energy found that in 2009 blacks spent $40 billion on energy, yet only 1 percent of African Americans had energy-related jobs and out of a trillion-dollar revenue from the energy sector African Americas gained less than 1 percent of that revenue, even though they represent 13 percent of the population.
“This means that again there is great opportunity if we make a transition to clean energy. 4.9 million jobs could be created by 2020 across the United States by 2030. An estimated 20 percent of electricity will be provided by wind energy, and a solar power industry is projected to be a $15 billion industry by 2020,” said Patterson.
The NAACP also encourages each state to implement a local hiring division to recruit a specified proportion of local residents as workers from higher disadvantaged or minority populations. In addition, entrepreneurship and individual-owned businesses also encourage community and economic development.
Honig provided a brief background on how energy policies have evolved in the state of Florida throughout the years. He explained that in 2006 Florida began to provide tax credits for renewable energy. In 2011 the Florida energy and efficiency and conservation acts had a statewide goal of 3.4 percent reduction in power production by 2019 while adding more renewable sources.
“In 2011 the Florida energy and efficiency and conservation acts had a statewide goal of 3.4 percent in reduction of power consumption by 2019 and added more renewable sources such as solar energy, wave energy and solar energy. Actually, it's 2014 — we're almost there!” said Honig.
Today, several utilities offer low-interest loans to energy-efficient services including water-run energy supplies, solar panels and other utilities including home energy assistance for low-income residential consumers.
The NAACP Florida State Conference hosted a conference call on Friday to discuss its new report, “Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs."