Greenwire - CLIMATE: Group urges Obama to spotlight warming's impacts on minorities, the poor

Written by: Allison Winter, E&E Reporter
Originally posted on Greenwire, an E&E Publishing Service

An environmental group focused on improving life in minority communities is asking President Obama to use his State of the Union speech tonight to point to climate change's outsized effects on the poor and minorities. 

In a press briefing today, Green for All urged Obama to lay out an aggressive agenda to address climate change, express support for U.S. EPA and boost investment in clean energy.

"I am hopeful he will announce a series of executive orders that the administration could enact with his 'We can't wait' framework," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. "He could take a variety of executive actions and hopefully will come up with a bold proposal not only to encourage Congress to act, but in lieu of that, to announce that he is going to act."

Residents of states affected last year by Superstorm Sandy visited the White House to ask Obama to take a stronger stance against the fossil fuel industry, including a rejection of TransCanada's application for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline to carry crude oil from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico coast (E&E Daily, Feb. 12).

Green for All and its allies followed suit today, noting that severe weather events like Superstorm Sandy can wreak havoc in urban, lower-income areas populated by African-Americans and Latinos. Pollution is often worse in these same areas, according to the group, and projects like the Keystone XL pipeline could run potential pollutants right through minority communities.

"Communities of color are the first and worst hit," said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green for All. "Something has to be done to combat climate change in our neighborhood."

Climate change was barely mentioned in Obama's last two State of the Union addresses, but the president vowed at his inauguration to "respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Said Lee, "I hope he frames it in a way that people understand that climate change is real, and that part of our deficit-reduction strategy is job creation ... and the green energy sector is a huge sector that can create good-paying jobs that will help reduce the deficit in the long run." 

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