NAACP Calls on Policy Makers to Tighten Energy Standards in Utah

naacp4The NAACP released a report last week linking energy policy and human rights issues.

According to the report, 68 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal power plant and suffer long-term health complications as a result of continued exposure to plant emissions. At the same time, only a small number of African-Americans actually hold energy jobs and share in the profits.

Recommendations include the adoption of a local hire provision and expansion of the state’s Minority Business Enterprise provisions beyond transportation. With a local hire provision, workers would be required to live near their place of employment.

The organization is also calling for a mandatory energy efficiency standard, which would require a 2 percent annual reduction in retail electricity sales from the previous year. Utah currently does not have an efficiency standard, and such a mandatory policy would require intervention from the legislature or the executive branch – an unlikely proposition for the pro-energy development state.

The report also proposes that Utah move from a voluntary renewable energy standard of 20 percent to mandatory standard of 25 percent by 2025. Under a mandatory renewable energy standard, a certain percentage of energy is required to come from alternative sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. Utah wouldn’t be the first state to adopt such standards. Twenty-nine states as well as the District of Columbia already have mandatory standards.

“Utah has tremendous potential to meet the recommended standards, while increasing job opportunities and energy affordability for its residents. More aggressively tapping into its renewable energy resources like solar, wind, and geothermal energy development will help Utah become a more resilient state. Additionally, further leadership on Utah’s current hiring and procurement policies will strengthen local economies and ensure that residents benefit from the energy sector’s expansion,” the report states.

Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy (UCARE), a grassroots organization advocating for solar energy, released a statement praising the report. “The NAACP is right: energy issues are human rights issues. The social costs of carbon has been ignored far too long. As the group’s report clearly states, health costs associated with fossil fuel pollution hurt everyone, but place an even greater burden on poor families. Advocates for social justice should follow the NAACP’s lead and press Utah political and business leaders for clean energy policies.”

The state is already making inroads with regard to clean energy. A $1.5 billion energy storage site in Millard County has been proposed. It is part of an $8 billion power project that would start with turbines on a Wyoming farm and result in supplying electricity for over 1 million households in Southern California. The project would bring tax revenue to rural Utah as well as create several new jobs.

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