First 100 Days: Just Transition & Climate Actions & implications for Kentucky | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

First 100 Days: Just Transition & Climate Actions & implications for Kentucky

KFTC chairperson met with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in January 2019, just days after she was sworn into office.

The text below was updated on March 26, 2021.  (All previous weekly updates can be viewed here.)

(Almost) Weekly Update to KFTC members and allies regarding Just Transition policies in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration

April 1, 2021

Hold onto your hat: It’s infrastructure week, April fools, and Earth-Day-Week-Month! This week’s update focuses only on the first of those items: infrastructure! By next week we’ll get caught up on the many, many important climate policies that are being rolled out this month.

1. Actions to take right now:

A. Send a letter to members of Congress (Rep and US Senators) urging support for the For The People Act and Thrive Agenda

B. RSVP for a virtual KFTC Just Transition Art Show Launch Party: May 19, 2021 at 7 pm:

C. Watch a recording of Our Time To Thrive Town Hall about Just Transition and Climate Justice in Kentucky (1.5 hours)

2. The THRIVE Act sets the tone, pace, scale of what’s needed for a Just Transition

On Monday, March 29, Senator Ed Markey, Rep. Debbie Dingle, and other members of Congress stood with many environmental justice, climate justice, and labor organizations to launch the THRIVE Act. This legislation will officially be filed in Congress later in April.

As KFTC chairperson Cassia Herron explained in a virtual town hall event on March 31, “The Thrive Act calls for a 10 year, $10 trillion investment in a Just Transition, creating 15 million good jobs by addressing the climate crisis and investing in the care economy. It is literally our chance to transition our economy. It calls for 50% of investments to be made in historically underserved and overburdened communities. It requires new jobs to meet or exceed high labor and equity standards, and for the federal government to respect for Tribal sovereignty.”

An analysis from economists at the University of Massachusett shows the Act would create 129,000 new jobs in Kentucky in the first year, and sustain those jobs for the next decade.

Resources to review and share about the THRIVE Act:

1-page summary of the THRIVE Act

Section-by-section summary of the THRIVE Act

Kentucky Specific Jobs analysis of the THRIVE Act 

Talking points about a KY-specific jobs analysis of the THRIVE Act

3. KFTC and allies hosted Our Time to Thrive: a Town Hall Meeting on Just Transition and Climate Justice in Kentucky 

On March 31, KFTC hosted a rich discussion featuring dynamic Kentuckians who are already leading the way to shape a Just Transition in their communities and in our state. 

The conversation was then joined by Congressman John Yarmuth, who represents Louisville and serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Together with KFTC chairperson Cassia Herron and Lexington KFTC member Chris Woolery, he shared perspectives on the American Rescue Plan, the For The People Act, the Thrive Act, and the opportunity to transform rural communities by investing in rural electric cooperatives. 

It was an inspiring conversation from start to finish. We’re grateful to everyone who participated and tuned in!

KFTC will edit the 1.5 hour discussion into pieces so we can share widely. In the meantime, the whole thing is well worth watching!

4. President Biden proposes a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan

On March 31, President Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan - part of his Build Back Better Agenda - at an event in Pittsburgh. He called on Congress to invest in upgrades to US infrastructure and the care economy, to the tune of $2.25 trillion over the next 8 years. 

What’s in it?

Whitehouse Fact Sheet

9-page analysis of the American Jobs Plan from Congressional Progressive Action Fund.

Some headlines:

$621 billion transportation infrastructure

$400 billion home- and community-based care

$300 billion manufacturing and small business

$213 billion housing (build, preserve, and retrofit 2 million homes)

$180 billion R&D

$111 billion drinking water

$100 billion broadband

$100 billion power infrastructure

$100 billion upgrade and build public schools

$100 billion workforce development

$25 billion child care facilities

$18 billion VA facilities

$12 billion community colleges

$10 billion federal buildings

$2 trillion in revenue (focused on corporate side)

Calls for the PRO Act, prevailing wage, labor protections, local hire, registered apprenticeships, Buy America, and increased penalties for workplace safety and health violations.

A few more details about what’s in the plan:

Biden’s Jobs plan includes $16 billion for reclamation of abandoned mine lands and clean up and closure of orphan oil and gas wells. There are not yet details available about how the funds would be allocated across those different programs. For comparison, the RECLAIM Act calls for $1 billion in existing Abandoned Mine Lands funds to be appropriated over a five year period, and a new Environmental Justice Legacy Pollution Act from Sen. Corey Booker calls for $10 billion to be spent from the general treasury on mine lands reclamation. 

It includes $111 billion for drinking water infrastructure! That is being touted as enough to replace all lead drinking water pipes in the country and make substantial upgrades to America’s waste water, drinking water, and stormwater systems. 

It supports a transition to a 100% carbon free electric grid by 2035 by establishing: a ten year extension of renewable energy tax credits; block grants to help local governments and tribes invest in clean energy, worker transition, and environmental justice projects; an “Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Standard” or EECES; electrifying the federal vehicle fleet; purchasing 100% clean energy to power federal buildings, and more. 

It invests $213 billion to build or retrofit affordable and sustainable housing and calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning laws, which are used by wealthier communities to protect their property values and exclusive access to other benefits (like wealthier schools and parks) by preventing the development of multi-family units and other forms of affordable housing.

Analysis: How good is it? How big is it? How does it stack up with the THRIVE Act?

There is early consensus among progressive groups that there is a lot to like in the American Jobs Plan (major investments in climate and care economies with strong labor , equity and environmental standards) - - that it’s not enough - - and that there are some devilish details. 

The Energy Effiiency and Clean Energy Standard (EECES) could be a transformative federal policy, and it’s complicated. The broad strokes of this policy are similar in many ways to the Clean Energy Opportunity Act that KFTC and our allies pushed in the Kentucky General Assembly for more than a decade. It would require electric utilities to source a greater and greater share of their power from energy efficiency and clean energy sources. HOWEVER, the devil(s) are, of course, in the details. Many climate justice groups and climate champions in Congress are already gearing up for significant fights over how this policy will define “clean” energy. Will waste incineration count? Will biomass, and if so what kinds? Will nuclear energy? Will the bill extend the life of natural gas by driving the use of hydrogen fuel derived from gas? Will coal and gas industries carve out a future for themselves in this policy by securing hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars for carbon capture and sequestration schemes? 

Speaking of devils and details, the Biden proposal calls for dozens of massive, industrial scale new facilities to be built in distressed communities. For example, it envisions 15 “decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects,” “ten pioneer facilities to demonstrate carbon capture retrofits for large steel, cement, and chemical production facilities” and support for “large scale sequestration efforts,” including retrofits of existing power plants and industrial applications. The language used by the Whitehouse cheerfully adds, “all while ensuring that overburdened communities are protected from cumulative pollution.” 

These kinds of massive new investments in industrial-scale projects could undermine the President’s executive order that 40% of federal investments to address climate change must benefit historically overburdened and underserved communities. (If a bazillion dollars are spent on risky, expensive, and potentially harmful projects in distressed communities, does that count as a “benefit”?)

Here are some ways to evaluate the size of Biden’s Jobs plan, compared to the THRIVE Act (This analysis is from the Congressional Progressive Action Fund):

Overall scale: The Biden plan is less than ⅓ the scale of investment called for by the THRIVE Act. It invests $2.25 Trillion over eight years, while THRIVE calls for $10 trillion over ten years. 

Jobs: Biden’s proposal would create about 5 million jobs, less than a third of the jobs that THRIVE would create. 

Energy: Biden’s plan invests $69B.  The official factsheet is missing dollar amounts for a couple of line items, which could affect the total amount for energy investments. But based on what appears to be the total for this sector, this proposal would cover just 2% of the THRIVE investment in clean energy, leaving an annual gap of $274B and 3.1 million jobs, due to very low investments in the electric grid and renewable energy expansion. 

Transportation: Biden’s plan invests $621B.  This is 32% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $115B and 1.9 million jobs, due to low investments in surface transportation, electric vehicles, and rail. 

Buildings: Biden’s plan invests 378B (though some items did not have $ amounts).  This is 40% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $47B and over 785,000 jobs, due to low investments in public housing and schools. 

Lands: Biden’s plan invests$31B.  This is 12% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $22B and nearly 350,000 jobs, due to low investments in plugging orphaned oil and gas wells and Brownfield and Superfund cleanup. 

Agriculture: There are virtually no investments in agriculture in Biden’s proposal.

Water:Biden’s plan invests $111B.  This is 34% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $18B and nearly 270,000 jobs. 

Broadband: Biden’s plan invests$100B.  This is 29% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $23B and over 225,000 jobs.  

Care: Biden’s plan invests $400B.  This is 52% of the THRIVE amount, leaving an annual gap of $28B and over 785,000 jobs.  

Several sectors in the proposal would receive more investments than in THRIVE, or were not included in THRIVE.  Those include: Manufacturing, R&D, Resilience, and Workforce Development. 

5. Next up: What's the process for moving an infrastructure bill in Congress?

The American Jobs Act is only part one. In April, the President will also lay out The American Families Plan as part two of his Build Back Better agenda. That plan will call for investments in health care, paid leave, child care, education, working family tax credits, and taxes on the wealthy. It is not clear (to me) if Congressional leaders intend to fold both proposals into one giant bill. But I think so.

It’s also not clear yet if Congressional leaders will try to move some pieces of the President’s plan forward using “normal order,” in which case they would need to get 60 votes in the Senate. It’s likely that many, most, and perhaps all of the pieces will get rolled together into one bill that is passed using budget reconciliation rules. In that case, the bill could pass the Senate with only 50 votes + the Vice President. However, as we saw with the minimum wage fight in January, using the reconciliation pathway makes it difficult to include policies that are not narrowly tied to federal spending or tax rules.

Speaker Pelosi wants the American JOBS plan to pass the House by July 4th, a VERY swift timeline. We can expect hearings to begin in the House when Congress returns in mid-April, and committee markups in May. If the House moves that fast, then the next hurdle will be to move the package through the Senate before their August recess or early fall.

6. Feedback is welcome! Contact [email protected] if you have questions, reactions, or items to include in future weekly summaries.