Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Solar for All passes Senate fiscal committee

Hundreds of Environmental Justice Advocates Rally on Capitol Steps to Support AB 1990—an Historic Bill That Progresses Today to Senate Vote
Solar legislation will bring renewable energy, green jobs to communities in need

August 16, 2012 – Sacramento, Calif. – Today, hundreds of community advocates rallied on the state capitol steps and lobbied legislators in support of Assembly Bill 1990, known as “Solar for All.” Nearly simultaneously, news broke that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed AB 1990 onto the full Senate for approval. This groundbreaking bill that will advance equity in renewable energy and help address the “green divide” in clean energy and green jobs in low-income communities and communities of color.

Organized by California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), a statewide coalition that sponsors the bill, today’s rally had supporters chanting with banners, signs and solar panels on the West Capitol steps. At the rally, AB 1990 author Assemblymember Paul Fong and others spoke in favor of breaking down barriers to renewable energy and green jobs in environmental justice communities.

Strela Cervas, a coordinator for CEJA, stated that environmental justice communities have been the most impacted by dirty energy pollution and have been priced out of clean energy installations.

“There are communities throughout California that want to participate in the clean energy economy by putting solar on their roofs and hiring local contractors to install it,” Cervas said. “We can clearly see the green divide between communities that have clean energy and those that don’t.”

For example, National City, a lower-income neighbor of San Diego has only around a dozen solar rooftops versus San Diego’s 2,300. Cervas added that many of California power plants and refineries are located in low-income communities and communities of color, exposing nearby residents to air pollution and high asthma rates. She says, this is indicative of what we see throughout the entire state.

She added that current unemployment numbers also show the need for jobs in environmental justice communities. Unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are around 14 and 11 percent respectively while the U.S. average is at 8.3 percent. Cervas said Solar for All will improve the green jobs outlook for those that need work the most by creating about 3,200 jobs over two years.

At today’s rally, Maria Martinez, a community member from San Diego who participated in the two-day effort to lobby legislators, said she felt that her efforts among 150 other individuals from all over the state helped make a difference.

“I traveled to Sacramento to support my community of Barrio Logan and so many others who want to have more equitable access to clean energy,” Martinez said. “With today’s committee vote passing Solar For All onto the full senate, we’re one step closer to seeing solar on rooftops in neighborhoods like mine.”

Yesterday, supporters gathered for training sessions and preparation for the Solar for All lobby day. Then, early this morning, the group gathered for a panel discussion called “Powering the Movement: The Future of Climate Justice” featuring prominent environmental justice and renewable energy advocates Bill Gallegos, from Communities for a Better Environment; Wahleah Johns, from the Black Mesa Water Coalition; Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy; and Tom Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management and author of Proposition 39, the Clean Energy & Jobs Act.

After the panel, supporters flooded legislators’ offices to lobby then came out to the capitol steps for the rally. With momentum from the rally and the Appropriations Committee vote, AB 1990 supporters will continue lobbying in preparation for the full Senate floor and eventually the Governor’s desk.

When passed, AB 1990 will build small-scale clean energy projects targeted in low-income communities impacted by pollution and high unemployment rates. More than 100 environmental and community-based organizations and solar companies throughout California support this bill..