Share this article

print logo

Another Voice: ‘Clean power’ will impose hardships on minorities

By Harry C. Alford

With the Obama administration only two months away from releasing its so-called “Clean Power Plan,” much debate has focused on the supposed benefits of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years. Lost amid the rhetoric, however, is the economic hardship it will impose on millions of working families – especially the 5.7 million blacks and Hispanics living in New York.

That’s the finding from a new study commissioned by my organization, the National Black Chamber of Commerce. In summary, this regulation will leave minority communities with disproportionately fewer jobs, lower incomes and higher poverty than whites. State lawmakers should act before it’s too late.

It’s important to understand why the impact will be so severe. For one, the regulation – which is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency – will shutter many of our existing power plants. The new facilities will necessarily cost more, and also rely on more expensive energy sources. Our study estimates this transformation will increase annual electricity costs by $565 billion in the coming years.

Ultimately, these higher costs will be passed on to families in the form of higher electricity bills and higher prices at every store.

This is especially harmful to blacks and Hispanics. Right now, blacks spend 50 percent more of their family incomes on utilities than whites, while Hispanics spend 10 percent more. This regulation will exacerbate these disparities, increasing the energy burden on both blacks and Hispanics by around 35 percent.

Then there’s the matter of lost income and lost jobs.

Broadly speaking, minorities typically have lower-paying jobs that are most vulnerable to regulatory cost increases. Ours are the first to be affected when business costs rise.

Our study estimates cumulative job losses for blacks and Hispanics of 2.2 million and 3.8 million, respectively, over the next decade. We also estimate reduced annual household incomes for blacks and Hispanics by a respective $455 and $515 by 2035.

There are two ways to fix this problem. Governors can issue executive orders prohibiting their environmental agencies from submitting plans to the EPA. State legislators can pass legislation to the same effect. Either option ensures that elected officials have the final say over what happens to their constituents.

These are common sense and simple solutions that could prevent the impending burdens facing millions of black and Hispanic families: fewer jobs, lower incomes, higher costs and more poverty. New York lawmakers should do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.

Harry C. Alford is the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.