Historically marginalized communities in the U.S. are not only first and worst impacted by climate pollution, they are also largely last and least likely to reap the benefits of new clean energy and energy efficiency measures in municipalities around the country. Portland, Oregon is exhibit A for this reality. Low-income communities, communities of color, and the organizations that center them in their work have been mostly left out of the conversation about what the clean energy transition can mean for the region.
On the ballot for November 6, the Portland Clean Energy Fund may start to change this dynamic for the City of Roses. Following their work to ensure that the City and County commit to meet 100 percent of community-wide energy needs with renewable energy, people in Portland are working on a corporate accountability measure that will reinvest in clean energy justice.
Here’s what the initiative does:
- Places a 1% business license surcharge on billion-dollar retailers with over $500,000 in annual sales in the City. This is estimated to generate roughly $30 million per year in revenue.
- Establishes a grant committee of 9 residents who will reflect the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of experience and backgrounds important for successful implementation of the measure.’
- Nonprofit organizations, schools and other government agencies, can apply for grants from the fund to weatherize homes, install solar and other renewable energy projects, provide job and contractor training, expand local food production and build green infrastructure.
- Workers on funded projects will earn no less than 180% of the minimum wage, which currently amounts to $21.60 per hour (as of July 1, 2018).
- Grantees must prioritize skills training and workforce development for economically disadvantaged and traditionally underemployed workers, including communities of color, women, people with disabilities, and the chronically underemployed.
The structure of the coalition’s steering committee is worth noting. Organizations that center communities of color are in the lead – the NAACP Portland Branch, Native American Youth and Family Center, Coalition of Communities of Color, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and Verde – with historically white-dominated environmental groups in supportive roles: 350 PDX, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Here is Reverend E.D. Mondaine, chief petitioner of the measure, pastor of Celebration Tabernacle Church in North Portland and president of the NAACP Portland Branch from a recent piece in the Oregonian:
“Now is the time for our society to do some serious soul-searching on the foundations of our capitalist society. We must change our definition of success to ecological and social well-being, not the concentration of wealth and power. Billionaire corporations have gained their wealth through unsustainable extraction of natural resources and exploitation of workers worldwide. We have an unprecedented opportunity now to help them regain their civic soul.”
The Portland chapter of DSA is proud to endorse the early coalition effort that laid the groundwork for the Portland Clean Energy Fund. Our members are involved in the campaign on multiple levels, including communications, phone banking, canvassing, field organizing, and data.
Many members see this as part of a suite of potential local and regional initiatives, including Tax the Rich PDX, that can help Portlanders gain more environmental, political and economic power. And many members are interested in exploring structural shifts in our state’s energy system to democratize, de-commodify, decarbonize, and decolonize. PCEF is an important near-term tangible victory that will materially benefit people in our city as we work toward big, bold goals.
– Members of Portland DSA’s PCEF Caucus