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2010 September - October

A Primer on Cap and Trade and Policies to Protect Low-Income Consumers

By Chad Stone, Jennifer Kefer & Hannah Shaw

Cap and trade features prominently in any discussion to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Regional agreements already use a system of cap and trade. Putting a price on carbon emissions will increase energy prices and could make poor families poorer and push more households into poverty. If designed properly, however, a system of cap and trade can generate revenue to fund a direct rebate program to low-income households while preserving the necessary higher energy prices. The rebate program must be carefully crafted to reach the most vulnerable households. The House-passed cap-and-trade bill and a Senate proposal do just that.

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Climate Change and Environmental Justice

Adapting to Changes that We Cannot Prevent

By Samuel Tobias Steinmetz

While policymakers debate the best responses to climate change and seek to forge legislative consensus, the effects of climate change are already being felt. Among the first to be affected are low-income communities that have long been disproportionately burdened by environmental problems. Devising methods of adaptation in these communities now, before the most catastrophic effects occur, will avoid higher costs and greater risks.

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How to Use the Weatherization Assistance Program to Green Affordable Multifamily Rental Housing

By Jessica Sklarsky

Focusing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Weatherization Assistance Program money on multifamily buildings will benefit tremendous numbers of low-income households by reducing their energy bills and emissions, by making their homes more comfortable, and by preserving affordable housing. Best practices developing from several states' experiences can help advocates ensure that the Act's weatherization funds are used most effectively on multifamily projects.

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"Do I Care?" Yes! How the U.S. Carbon Offset Market Can Save Rural Communities

By Daniel P. Schramm

Climate-change legislation can be a vehicle for rural job creation and community building. In assessing this legislation many advocates consider consumer protection. They should also consider that, if designed properly, carbon offset programs that are a part of most climate-change legislation can revitalize rural communities. Advocates who have not yet joined the carbon offset conversation can and should join it.

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Community Economic Development Lawyers Assist Nonprofit Organizations in Creating Holistic Green Communities

By Jessica Rose, Nicole Prenoveau & Daniel S. Hafetz

Nonprofit community-based organizations in Brooklyn, New York, are using a green development approach toward systemic neighborhood issues. In their local legal services office, community economic development lawyers are giving essential transactional legal assistance in the complicated legal aspects of these development projects.

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Opportunity and Risk in State and Regional Climate-Planning Efforts--Some Lessons from the Field

By Michael Rawson & Mona Tawatao

The growing awareness of the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions has forced state and local governments to adopt new strategies for changes in land-use and transportation planning. The risk in these changes is that reducing developable land area can also lead to increased  housing prices, gentrification, and the displacement of lower-income and minority households. However, with these changes come opportunities for advocates to instill awareness of the potential effects of climate action on lower-income communities, to gain support for affordable housing, and to combat segregation and exclusionary zoning.

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What Is the Smart Grid and Why Should We Care?

By Julie Nepveu & Nicole M. Diaz

The "smart grid" and "smart meters" may leave low-income people in the dark--literally. Smart-grid programs are spreading across the country and are accompanied by unaffordable costs. Consumers are being forced to buy smart meters that will automatically shut off power if they do not pay their bills. Advocates must press policymakers and utilities to ensure that low-income people retain procedural protections and can affordably participate in smart-grid programs through subsidies, weatherization, and other programs.Readers may also be interested in the archive of a webinar on the same topic.

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Urban Agriculture Takes Root

By William Kraus

As Detroit's population has fallen to less than half the number of residents it had fifty years ago, urban agriculture is giving hope to a battered city. Community gardens offer physical and mental health benefits, job training, and environmental improvements as they help residents come together and put abandoned land to good use. Advocates can help low-income communities launch urban agriculture by advising on land-use questions and helping community groups negotiate purchase, leasing, or licensing of public land.

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Environmental Justice and Climate-Change Policy--Lessons from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

By Gavin Kearney

The first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the country, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has generated substantial revenue for its member states. However, the RGGI and other cap-and-trade systems have serious limitations. Cap and trade must be evaluated at the community level, and RGGI (and cap and trade) does not take into account how communities of color and low income--already disproportionately burdened by pollution--will be affected by its policies. To ensure that the concerns of communities of color and low income are not ignored, advocates must weigh in as cap-and-trade policies are considered in other regions and at the national level. In New York advocates are doing just that.

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Home Is Where the Health Is

Bringing Green, Healthy Housing to Low-Income Populations

By Robin Jacobs, David E. Jacobs & Jill Breysse

The Green and Healthy Affordable Homes project at an apartment complex in rural Minnesota is one of the nation's first demonstrations of how rehabilitating low-income housing using green and health criteria can improve residents' health. Forging productive partnerships and engaging residents were factors in achieving positive health outcomes and improving building performance. Further advocacy is needed to bolster low-income green housing rehabilitation.

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An Industry at the Crossroads

Creating Quality Green-Collar Jobs in Energy Efficiency

By Elena Foshay

Making buildings more energy efficient can offer both environmental benefits and quality green-collar construction jobs. However, for low-income communities to achieve maximum benefit from investments in building energy efficiency, policymakers and employers must reject, as these jobs emerge, the low wages common in residential construction. A "high-road" approach will lead to higher-quality work and thus greater energy efficiency, while putting workers and their families on a path to economic security.

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Why Climate-Change Issues Are Relevant to Poverty Law Advocates

By Steven Fischbach

The legal and policy issues surrounding climate change and the emerging green economy seem far removed from the daily work of poverty law and legal aid advocates, but in fact these environmental issues directly intersect with the legal problems affecting low-income clients and can be relevant to a legal advocate's practice. Understanding the interaction of climate change, the green economy, and poverty law, advocates can find ways to improve their clients' lives in response to a changing climate.

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Using Climate-Change Policy to Improve Low-Income Communities' Health

By Marice Ashe & Robin Salsburg

Environmental factors--where people live--are stronger determinants of health than access to medical care, thus closely intertwining public health and climate-change policies. Land-use and transportation policies, by encouraging walking, biking, and use of public transit, can simultaneously enhance environmental quality and improve public health by, for example, encouraging physical activity and reducing respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution. Public health advocates are partnering with environmentalists in responding to climate change.

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