Cornell University

April 29 2011

Clean Air Act

Job, economic and environmental impacts discussed

Clean AirCornell ILR's Global Labor Institute and the Labor Network for Sustainability organized a discussion between 30 labor leaders and Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation.

McCarthy encouraged labor to continue working with the federal environmental agency to ensure Clean Air Act rules protect existing jobs and industries.

"I'm really interested in having a more substantive dialogue on the rules that are now in play and the opportunities they bring to all of us to support the labor movement, grow jobs, build the economy and get some significant environmental benefits," she said during the April 20 teleconference meeting.

Unions and labor organizations participating in the discussion including the Association of Flight Attendants, Air Line Pilots Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Labor Council on Latin American Advancement, Laborers' Union, Operating Engineers, Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, United Auto Workers and Utility Workers.

More than 10 unions have gone on record in support of the Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Air Act, including the United Auto Workers. On March 17, it testified on the issue before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

"What our experience shows us is that the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles under the Clean Air Act is good for our industries and good for American jobs," said Barbara Somson, legislative director for the United Auto Workers.

Somson went on to say, "The members of the UAW are also citizens who are deeply affected by the environment in which they live and raise their families. They are concerned about the effects of human-induced climate change for themselves and for future generations. The benefits to human health and welfare flowing from the regulation of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act are substantial and have decided positive economic effects."

At the April 20 meeting, speakers included Andrea Delgado of the Labor Council on Latin American Advancement.

The council, she said, is a co-founder and member of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, a coalition created to build support for action on climate change and clean energy among the Latino community and build awareness about the issue.

"Traditionally, LCLAA has not worked on "environmental" issues or reducing emissions. But now, we realize it is not just about tackling climate change and job creation, it’s a public health imperative for our community. Latinos are more likely to live in areas with air pollution levels that don’t meet federal standards," she said.

"For us, it is about growing a clean energy economy, creating good jobs, and ensuring our workers and communities are well-trained … but it's also about improving air quality and making sure that it's not exacerbating economic hardship and poor health outcomes in our communities."