Wash. Times Touts Industry Allies To Deny Black And Hispanic Support For Climate Action
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER, DENISE ROBBINS & CRISTINA LOPEZ
The Washington Times relied on statements from fossil fuel allies and a coal industry poll to allege that blacks and Hispanics "increasingly are turning against" President Obama's climate change agenda, supposedly out of concern for the poor. But non-industry-funded polls show that blacks and Hispanics strongly support the U.S. government taking action on climate change, and many black and Hispanic organizations have endorsed the EPA's plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants because of the financial and health benefits it will provide for their communities.
Washington Times Baselessly Claimed Minorities Oppose EPA's Carbon Pollution Standards Out Of Concern For The Poor
EPA's Clean Power Plan Would Cut Carbon Pollution From Power Plants. Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, a key aspect of President Obama's climate action plan. [EPA.gov, accessed 5/4/15, Whitehouse.gov, accessed 5/4/15]
Washington Times Claims "Blacks, Hispanics Reject" Clean Power Plan "Over Concerns For The Poor." On April 30, The Washington Times published an article headlined: "Blacks, Hispanics reject Obama climate change agenda over concerns about poor." The Times reported that "[t]he very same voters who helped put Barack Obama in the White House increasingly are turning against the president's climate change agenda, with influential black and Hispanic leaders warning that stiff regulations to limit carbon emissions will have a devastating effect on the poor and will further stifle economic opportunity for minorities." The Times cited statements from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Charles Steele Jr., all claiming that the Clean Power Plan will increase electricity bills and place an economic burden on low-income communities. [The Washington Times, 4/30/15]
Washington Times Also Cited Coal Industry Poll To Claim Action On Climate Change Is Unimportant To Hispanic Voters. The Washington Times reported that an October poll from the coal industry group American Coalition For Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) indicated that a majority of black and Hispanic voters "say the administration should focus on keeping energy prices low rather than pursuing climate regulations." [The Washington Times, 4/30/15]
But Non-Industry-Funded Polls Show A Strong Majority Of Blacks And Hispanics Support Climate Change Action
Harstad Poll: 70 Percent Of Latino And African American Voters Support The Clean Power Plan. A Harstad Strategic Research poll conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council in nine battleground states from November 18-24 found that 70 percent of Latino and African American voters favor the EPA's carbon pollution standards.
[Harstad Strategic Research, December 2014, via NRDC]
NY Times/Stanford/Resources For The Future Poll: Majority Of Hispanics Rate Global Warming As Important To Them Personally, Think The Government Should Address It. A poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future found that a majority of Hispanic-Americans rate global warming as "extremely" or "very" important to them personally and think the U.S. government should do "a great deal" or "a lot" to address the issue. An article by The Times further described the poll's findings:
Among Hispanic respondents to the poll, 54 percent rated global warming as extremely or very important to them personally, compared with 37 percent of whites. Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics said they would be hurt personally to a significant degree if nothing was done to reduce global warming, compared with half of whites. And 63 percent of Hispanics said the federal government should act broadly to address global warming, compared with 49 percent of whites. [New York Times/Stanford/Resources for the Future poll, conducted January 7-22, 2015; New York Times, 2/10/15]
Pew: Recent Poll "Found High Concern Among Hispanics Over Global Warming." Pew Research reported in February that a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that a majority of Hispanics consider climate change a "critical threat" to the U.S. in the next ten years and believe the U.S. government isn't doing enough to tackle the issue:
[A] survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs also found high concern among Hispanics over global warming. More than half of Hispanics (54%) called climate change a critical threat to U.S. vital interests in the next 10 years, compared with 32% of non-Hispanics. A similar share of Hispanics (54%) said the U.S. government is not doing enough on climate change, compared with 49% of non-Hispanics. [Pew Research, 2/27/15; Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll, released 2/24/15]
Latino Decisions Poll: Nine In 10 Latinos Want Government To Take Action On Climate Change. A January 2014 survey conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Latino Decisions indicated that support for climate action among Latinos is "broad and deep":
Nationally, nine in 10 Latinos want the government to take action against the dangers of global warming and climate change.
- Of those, 68 percent of Republican Latinos say that it is important--including 46 percent of Republicans who say it's very or extremely important--for our government to tackle global warming and climate change.
Nationally, eight in 10 Latinos want President Obama to curb the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
- Of those, 54 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Independents support presidential action.
Nationally, 86 percent of Latinos support setting limits on carbon pollution power plants discharge into the air to fight climate change.
- Of those, 71 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Independents strongly support setting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
"Influential Black And Hispanic Leaders" Wash. Times Cited Have Industry Ties
Institute For Southern Studies: Steele Has "Close Personal Ties To Energy Interests." Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Charles Steele Jr., the only black or Hispanic leader that The Washington Times mentioned by name, has deep fossil fuel industry ties. According to a special report by the Institute for Southern Studies, Steele previously made "exaggerated claims about the cost of coal ash regulation" at an EPA hearing while representing Working People for Fair Energy, an organization with "close ties to industry interests with a financial stake in fighting coal ash regulation." The report further detailed that Steele cited research during the hearing from a group called the Affordable Power Alliance, which is affiliated with another organization that has "supported anti-environmental initiatives such as expanded oil drilling while accepting money from Exxon Mobil and other corporations." The Institute for Southern Studies concluded that "Steele's perspective is shaped by the close personal ties to energy interests forged during his decade in the Alabama senate":
In an interview with Facing South, Steele said he didn't see a problem with WPFE's and [Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy's] relationship with industries that have a financial stake in fighting coal ash regulation.
"Our issues are the same," he said.
Steele's perspective is shaped by the close personal ties to energy interests forged during his decade in the Alabama senate, where he chaired the Industrial Recruitment Committee. Alabama Power -- a major player in state politics -- was one of the biggest contributors to his campaigns.
When Steele left the state senate in 2004 to head SCLC, he was taking the helm of an organization in deep trouble financially and otherwise. But Steele's connections helped turn around the SCLC's money woes. He built a new $3 million headquarters for the organization with a capital campaign headed by Mike Garrett, president and CEO of Georgia Power, "whom Steele got to know during his days in the Alabama legislature," as Ebony magazine reported. [Institute for Southern Studies, September 2010]
U.S. Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce Is Funded By Oil, Coal Interests. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's corporate partners include coal and oil interests such as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the American Petroleum Institute, BP, Cloud Peak Energy, ExxonMobil, Shell, and TransCanada. Further, the National Black Chamber of Commerce has received at least $800,000 from ExxonMobil. [USHCC.com, accessed 5/4/15; ExxonSecrets.org, accessed 5/4/15]
Both Chamber Of Commerce Groups Teamed Up With ACCCE To Release Anti-EPA Poll. The ACCCE polling cited in the Washington Times article, which claims that "Hispanic and African-American voters are largely unconcerned with climate change," was released "in partnership with the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce," according to ACCCE's press release. [AmericasPower.org, 11/5/14]
Both Chambers Are Also Affiliated With U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, Which Published False Clean Power Plan "Study" That Was Debunked By Media Fact-Checkers. Both the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce are affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which published a false "study" attacking the Clean Power Plan before it was even released. PolitiFact noted that the Chamber acknowledged its "estimates are not based on the [EPA] goals as announced," and determined that the Chamber's numbers were "false." The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog similarly noted that the Chamber had admitted its figures "do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written," and awarded "four Pinocchios" to Republican officials who cited it to criticize the EPA. [U.S. Chamber of Commerce Member Directory, accessed 5/5/15; U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Regional Map, accessed 5/5/15; Washington Post, 6/3/14; Politifact, 6/2/14]
Largest Black And Hispanic Organizations Support The Clean Power Plan
NAACP Applauded The Clean Power Plan. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which describes itself as "the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization," released a statement in support of the Clean Power Plan. In the statement, NAACP Interim President and CEO Lorraine Miller said:
African Americans overwhelming live in areas where millions of tons of carbon pollution are trapping, concentrating, and intensifying the myriad of toxins they breathe every day. And as we have witnessed with natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, which are part of a pattern of shifting climate conditions driven by power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, our black and brown communities are being hit first and the worst. I commend President Obama for taking such a bold step for environmental justice in protecting our most vulnerable communities. [NAACP.org, 6/2/14]
The League Of United Latin American Citizens "Fully Supports" EPA's Clean Power Plan: The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a prominent Hispanic civil rights organization, said the Clean Power Plan "will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most," citing their over-exposure to pollution which will be ameliorated by the plan:
The League of United Latin American Citizens, this nation's largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, fully supports the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut carbon pollution from America's power plants. Given that half of the U.S. Latino population lives in areas where the air quality does not meet EPA's health standards and that Latinos are 30 percent more likely to have to visit the hospital for asthma related attacks, the Clean Power Plan will benefit Hispanic Americans more than most.
"According to NRDC's January 2014 national survey, nine out of ten Latinos overwhelmingly support the government taking action to combat climate change," stated LULAC National President Margaret Moran. "We understand that climate change has been destructive to our communities, with increasing carbon pollution affecting our families' health. By making polluting power plants accountable for their carbon emissions, we will be able to eliminate a substantial amount of dangerous pollution from our air. We applaud EPA's action today."
"Given the types of occupations where Latinos are over represented including agriculture, construction, and landscaping, Latino workers are at increased risk of exposure to dirty air and the increased temperatures exacerbated by global warming, which carbon pollution drives," stated LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. "We are delighted that the Obama administration has listened to our concerns and developed a set of common sense policies that will finally motivate the power plant industry to clean up their act." [LULAC.org, 6/2/2014]
National Council Of La Raza: Latinos Support Action On Climate Change. The National Council for La Raza (NCLR), another prominent Latino advocacy organization, published an op-ed in the Huffington Post discussing how Latino voters support "the president taking action to reduce climate change," citing the Clean Power Plan as an example. The op-ed continued that Latinos are "disproportionately injured by the current broken system" and added that "Latino voters care about green energy and climate change because many are experiencing the harmful effects of fossil fuels right now." [Huffington Post, 7/3/14]
Joint Center For Political And Economic Studies Commended Obama's Commitment To Regulate Carbon Pollution. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonprofit think tank focused on policy issues important to African Americans, released a statement applauding the President Obama's climate action plan. From the statement:
We applaud the President's ongoing commitment to hold dirty, outdated power plants accountable for their toxic carbon pollution. However, the country needs to make additional environmental commitments to American families - and African Americans families in particular - to ensure a safe, healthy planet for themselves and their children. African American families, in particular, are disproportionately hurt by climate change despite having a smaller carbon footprint.
Dr. Michael Dorsey, Energy and Environment Program Interim Director, added, "If we are truly serious about fighting the climate crisis, we must work further than an 'all of the above' energy policy and ensure that our use of fossil fuels meets rigorous pollution control standards that ward off dangerous climate disruption and protect public health, especially in marginalized communities." [Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 1/30/14]
Other Hispanic Groups Expressed Support For Climate Plan In Letter To EPA. A letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed by officials from a variety of groups, including GreenLatinos, AZUL, National Hispanic Medical Association, Latino Decisions, Mujeres de la Tierra, National Hispanic Environmental Council, Presente.org, CHISPA, Hispanic Federation, and Protegete: Our Air, Our Health, stated the following:
We strongly support EPA in moving forward with the proposed Clean Power Plan in the strongest form possible. We know that communities of color and low-income communities, including the Latino community, are frequently among those most negatively impacted by carbon pollution. Whether it is exposure to health damaging copollutants associated with carbon emissions or the present and worsening effects of climate change, these impacts are both direct and indirect and they threaten the social and economic order of overexposed and overburdened communities. [Comments on the EPA Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule, 12/1/14]
And Many More Hispanic And Black Groups Have Endorsed The Clean Power Plan. The EPA's website lists public comments from several Latino and black community groups supporting the Clean Power Plan. In addition to the groups mentioned above, organizations supporting the Clean Power Plan include: Voces Verdes, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, Mi Familia Vota, Latino Ranchers and Farmers, National Black Farmers Association & Association of American Indian Farmers, and the National Black and Latino Council. [EPA.gov, 6/3/14]
Clean Power Plan Will Bring Health, Economic Benefits To Low-Income And Minority Communities
National Climate Assessment: New Hispanic Immigrants Are "More Vulnerable To Changes In Climate." The 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that new Hispanic immigrants are "more vulnerable to changes in climate," due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing," all of which are "critical obstacles to managing climate risk." [National Climate Assessment, May 2014]
NRDC: Low-Income Communities In U.S. Helped By Clean Energy Shift. A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that low-income communities in the United States face disproportionate health impacts from fossil fuel pollution, and that shifting to low carbon energy sources can lessen these impacts:
[T]he shift to clean energy offers a chance to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, while lessening the toll that dirty fossil fuels are currently wreaking on some of our most vulnerable communities.
Nationally, the Clean Power Plan's efforts to curtail carbon pollution will help prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, 3,300 heart attacks, 2,800 hospital admissions, and 490,000 missed work/school days annually in the United States. A sizable impact will be felt by those with the least resources and least access to quality healthcare -- low- and fixed-income Americans; in part because low-income communities are stuck living closer to dirty power plants. [NRDC, accessed 4/29/15]
EPA Administrator McCarthy: "Communities Of Color" Are Hardest Hit By Climate Change. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in an op-ed that "communities of color and low-income Americans are the hardest hit" by climate change and cited statistics to show why African-Americans in particular could benefit from the EPA's plan to reduce carbon pollution:
[W]hile climate change hurts everyone, communities of color and low-income Americans are the hardest hit.
Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur and arsenic, there are currently no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation's largest source. That's not smart, it's not safe, and President Barack Obama has determined that it needs to stop. Close to 3 out of 4 African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and African-American children have an 80 percent higher rate of asthma and are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma than their white peers. [The Root, 7/29/14]
EPA: Clean Power Plan Will Result In Lower Electricity Bills Due To Energy Efficiency Gains. Contrary to the claims of the Chamber of Commerce officials cited by The Washington Times, according to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will ultimately reduce consumers' electricity bills due to gains in energy efficiency:
States, cities, businesses and homeowners have been working for years to increase energy efficiency and reduce growth in demand for electricity. EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will continue - and accelerate - this trend. Nationally, this means that, in 2030 when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills would be expected to be roughly 8 percent lower than they would been without the actions in state plans. That would save Americans about $8 on an average monthly residential electricity bill, savings they wouldn't see without the states' efforts under this rule. [EPA.gov, Fact Sheet, accessed 5/1/15]