Pay for student-athletes is a racial justice issue

By Debra Gore-Mann and De’Zhon Grace
San Francisco Chronicle


The college football championship game will be played Monday in New Orleans. Millions of dollars will go to the conferences and participating universities, trickling down to their coaching staffs, athletic administrators and everyone in between — except the student-athletes playing in the game, who won’t earn a penny.

As controversy continues over the NCAA’s recent decision — spurred by a new California law — to take a step toward allowing student-athletes to profit from the use of their name and likeness via endorsement and marketing deals, we need to remember the real issue at play here: race.

America since its founding has profited from the labor of black and brown bodies while excluding them from the wealth they generated. This was true for enslaved families on southern plantations in the 1800s, for servicemen of color who were denied G.I. benefits in the 1940s, and it’s true today for student-athletes.

The authors of this piece have seen this issue close up through their own experiences in college athletics: Debra Gore-Mann played basketball on scholarship at Stanford and went on to serve as athletic director at the University of San Francisco. De’Zhon Grace is a first-generation intercollegiate student-athlete from Oakland who played on the UC Berkeley football team.

The CFP National Championship reminds us that college athletics is a billion dollar business — with the NCAA reaching a milestone of $1.1 billion in revenue in 2017 while some coaches, such as Dabo Swinney, have landed contracts north of $90 million over 10 years. And coaching is white-dominated. Per the NCAA’s database, 80% of men’s basketball coaches and 86% of head football coaches are white, wildly out of proportion to the percentage of black student-athletes they coach.

It’s also not just the NCAA and coaches who profit. ESPN committed $5.64 billion to the owners of the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Cotton, and Peach Bowls for 12 years worth of broadcast rights. That’s equivalent to ESPN giving the 42,000 students at UC Berkeley more than $130,000 each. These “bowl game owners” are in effect a cartel. But that’s another story for another time.

These profits have not flowed — or even trickled down — to the student-athletes who make these teams and universities so profitable. In fact, coaches like Swinney threaten to quit rather than allow student-athletes to make a few thousand dollars. That’s right: A coach with a $93 million contract complained that “there’s enough entitlement in this world”— while some student-athletes literally went to bed hungry.

Unfortunately, this unfair system falls primarily on the shoulders of young people of color. According to the NCAA’s Demographic Database, 47% of Division I college football players and 55% of basketball players are black. While we don’t begrudge the $90-plus million paid to a head coach, we do take issue with the exclusion of the 85 scholarship student-athletes who make up his team — the people whose work, sweat and sacrifice create the value that everyone else gets to cash in on.

Let’s just leave it all on the field. While the NCAA has reluctantly opened the door a crack for this discussion around compensating student-athletes for their effort and labor, the NCAA and bowl games cartel must do more. We can’t help but wonder if the hesitation is because the largest grossing sports have the largest percentages of black athletes. We cannot have an honest conversation on compensation until we have an honest conversation about the role of race.

The NCAA has a unique and groundbreaking opportunity to provide an appropriate form of reparations and reduce the wealth inequality gap. The ball is in their court.

Debra Gore-Mann is president and CEO and De’Zhon Grace is economic equity fellow at The Greenlining Institute.

Why California should toughen standards for electric trucks

The Mercury News


From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, surges in online holiday shopping bring more than packages to our doorsteps. Every time we check out, we order fleets of heavy-duty delivery trucks to our streets, and toxic diesel pollution into our air. Even if shipping is free, our lungs, our communities, and our climate pay a steep price.

Online shopping doesn’t need to cost us our health or our climate: California has a historic opportunity to change the way we ship goods, for good. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is currently establishing the nation’s first electric truck manufacturing standard. If CARB passes a bold standard, California will jumpstart the electric truck industry, meaning more zero-emissions trucks on our roads and fewer toxic emissions in our air.

But, as currently drafted, CARB’s proposed rule is too weak, despite undeniable evidence that Californians suffer from an air quality crisis that requires aggressive policy intervention. The proposed rule only requires four percent of trucks on the road by 2030 to be zero-emissions electric trucks. While 4% is a start, it does not meet the scale of the worsening air pollution crisis — which exposes more than 90% of Californians to unhealthy air at some point during the year.

The draft rule also fails to protect communities living in “diesel death zones” — within one-third of a mile of a highway, port, warehouse distribution center or other freight corridor —with chronic exposure to truck exhaust. We know that African American and Latino Californians face 43% and 39%, respectively, higher rates of fine particulate matter pollution than white Californians, exposing them to health consequences like asthma, heart and lung diseases, cancer and premature death.

The good news is that we have the technology to address this air pollution problem. The heavy-duty truck market is naturally moving toward zero-emissions trucks, and all-electric trucking fleets will soon be the norm. Electric trucks are on the market from several manufacturers, with more on the way, and plans for adoption are already in the works. Here in the Bay Area, the West Oakland Community Action Plan in partnership with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have proposed transitioning to zero emission drayage truck operations by 2035. Private corporations such as Frito Lay, UPS, FedEx and Amazon have also committed to incorporating electric trucks to their fleets.

But our communities and our climate don’t have the luxury to wait for the market to move itself, especially as the online shopping and shipping industries grow rapidly. There are already 1.9 million heavy-duty trucks on California’s roads; in Southern California alone, the number of miles driven by trucks is projected to grow by 80% between 2008 and 2035. If we continue with business as usual and ignore the harmful impacts of diesel trucks, air pollution and smog in our state will continue to worsen.

CARB has a critical opportunity to once again lead the nation—and the world—in tackling air pollution and spurring a job-creating clean-air industry. With the right policies and training programs, this growing electric vehicle industry can offer family-supporting opportunity to workers from underserved communities.

We have all the parts required to set a competitive, health-protective electric trucks standard: the zero-emissions technology, the manufacturer buy-in, and a track record of bold leadership from CARB. CARB must wave the starting flag and set truck manufacturers on a race toward innovating the shipping industry and cleaning up the air for California’s most polluted communities.

Leslie Aguayo is the environmental equity program manager for the Greenlining Institute.

In the transition away from gas, California must not leave low-income people behind

By Carmelita Miller and Matthew Tisdale


California has passed dozens of laws designed to create a 21st Century clean energy economy, earning a reputation as a global climate leader in the process.

But this work does not end with the governor’s stroke of a pen. In fact, implementation of our clean energy future has just begun.

Nowhere is this challenge of policy implementation more evident than in the future of California’s gas system. This vast network of wells, storage fields and pipelines delivering gas to homes and businesses faces enormous challenges in coming decades.

Increasing infrastructure costs paired with a decline in demand will push the ever-increasing costs of maintaining the gas delivery system onto a shrinking pool of customers, setting up urgent equity concerns.

Our commitment to moving away from fossil fuel means that in the future, gas will play a smaller role in providing our power and heating our homes. Research shows gas demand may decline by up to 50% by 2050.

Yet the cost of safely maintaining the aging system has risen in recent years, and will continue to increase as utilities request funds for necessary safety upgrades.

While wealthier Californians will have the opportunity to avoid rising gas costs by switching to all-electric appliances, many other people won’t be able to make that choice easily or quickly. Poverty is a reality for many in California.

And close to half our state’s residents, and 70% of low-income Californians, are renters who do not choose what fuel powers their appliances. These customers, with the least ability to move off of gas or pay higher bills, will be hit the hardest.

In response to this challenge, the thinktank Gridworks convened meetings with consumer, labor, equity, utility and environmental representatives. The resulting report, California’s Gas System in Transition: Equitable, Affordable, Decarbonized and Smaller, makes one thing clear: we cannot leave a transition of this magnitude up to chance.

California policymakers must urgently plan for a smaller, more equitable gas system or put workers, low-income communities, and the economy as a whole at risk.

The first step to getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.

New residential and commercial construction in the state needs to be all-electric, to avoid expanding the gas system. We also must research and develop a plan to prune the gas system where it can be done most affordably and quickly.

And, importantly, we must develop a comprehensive strategy to empower low-income communities to access electrification options while supporting a just transition for workers.

We know we will need a well-trained gas workforce for decades to come, and an equitable transition depends on working in collaboration with unions to protect workers and ensure that utilities have access to the skilled labor they need to maintain a safe and reliable gas system, even as it contracts.

Targeted policy-making will ensure protections for the environment and for residents who are living on low incomes by helping them gain access to fossil fuel-free homes.

To help guide decision makers and advocates in this process, The Greenlining Institute and California’s Energy Efficiency for All coalition developed Equitable Building Electrification: A Framework for Powering Resilient Communities: Its important steps to community-led, people-centered policymaking include:

  • Assess community needs.
  • Establish community-led decision-making.
  • Develop metrics and a plan for tracking.
  • Ensure funding and program leveraging, and improve outcomes.

The California Public Utility Commission’s San Joaquin Valley Disadvantaged Communities Pilot Project is an example of how to get this right.

The project allowed communities without access to gas infrastructure to work with an on-the-ground team to identify the solutions that would best serve their needs. At least nine communities are moving to electric appliances powered by clean energy, and are doing it in a manner that was developed by the people who live in those communities.

With such high stakes, California can’t afford to leave the future of our gas system to chance, and we don’t dare do nothing at all. With conscious, thoughtful policies, we can show the world we deserve our title as leaders in the climate fight.


Carmelita Miller provides legal counsel to The Greenlining Institute’s energy equity team, Matthew Tisdale is the executive director of Gridworks, They wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

Trump Puts Housing Crash Foxes in Henhouse

By Debra Gore-Mann
The Progressive

The 2008 housing crash wiped out the savings of millions of people and sent America’s homeownership rate crashing to its lowest level in 50 years. But a few tycoons made out like bandits — and some of them are now guiding economic policy in the Trump administration.

This shocking and underreported history is laid out by award-winning journalist Aaron Glantz of the investigative news outlet Reveal in his new book, “Homewreckers,” published Oct. 15.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was working on Wall Street when investment banks bought residential home loans from commercial banks, bundled them into mortgage-backed securities, and sold them off. At first, regulations from the Glass-Steagall Act separated investment banks and commercial banks, and homeowners had some protection. But a variety of predators began chipping away at consumer protections until the whole industry came crashing down.

I left investment banking because I couldn’t see what value it provided. All the banks did was generate more transactions, more fees, and churn the same securities over and over. And the most frequent victims of these predatory lending practices were communities of color and working families.

Glantz, in his book, looks at how a few financiers scooped up piles of foreclosed properties at fire-sale prices, often with help from taxpayers. While many groups — including the Greenlining Institute, which I now lead — pleaded for more relief for struggling homeowners, federal agencies made sweetheart deals that turned former homeowners into renters and made some very rich people richer.

Worse, several of those who got richer on others’ misery ended up with plum jobs in the Trump administration, where they have weakened the rules set up to protect consumers and try to avoid another crash. They include Joseph Otting and Steve Mnuchin of OneWest Bank, now serving as comptroller of the currency and secretary of the Treasury, respectively, and Wilbur Ross, now secretary of Commerce.

Otting, for instance, is leading an effort to weaken the Community Reinvestment Act, the essential anti-redlining law passed in the 1970s, seeking to undermine the law’s goal of ensuring that banks invest in long-redlined communities.

Mnuchin, meanwhile, is working to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog put in place after the crash. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of CFPB’s original architects, put it, “It comes as no surprise that Donald Trump and Steven Mnuchin — two men who were deeply involved in companies that cheated thousands of customers — would want to gut the agency that’s held cheaters accountable.”

The administration weakened protections against predatory lending — for example, by slashing the rule designed to curb the worst practices of the notoriously abusive payday lending industry, infamous for trapping borrowers in cycles of debt. A rule that would have made these lenders confirm that borrowers are able to repay their loan went out the window.

As Glantz explains, the very people who profited from the misery of the housing crash are now setting the rules of the financial system in ways guaranteed to create more victims. “Drain the swamp” has turned into “invite the thieves to update your burglar alarm.”


Seeking to help people at greatest risk from climate change

By Amee Raval and Sona Mohnot

Californians have faced droughts, heat waves, wildfires and other climate-fueled crises that seem to break records every year. But while climate change impacts everyone, the experience can feel dramatically different depending on who you are and where you live.

Consider a severe heat wave. In an affluent suburb with tree-lined streets and an abundance of air conditioning, most residents might experience a little inconvenience but will largely stay out of serious danger. In an economically struggling farmworker community in the Central Valley, that same heat wave could be deadly

In the aftermath of wildfires in Ventura County, many undocumented farmworkers could not take paid leave and instead continued working in the fields amid dangerous air pollution levels without protective masks.

Power outages present health risks for people who rely on electrically powered medical equipment, not to mention serious mobility challenges for wheelchair users during evacuation orders.

We could go on with examples all day. But simply put: climate change acts as a threat multiplier that magnifies differences in income, race, health, zip codes, immigration status, housing, and other factors that determine whether a community can access the resources needed to cope and recover from climate disasters.

As we work to increase our climate resilience–that is, the ability of communities to adapt and thrive in the face of impacts from climate change–we need to be able to identify the communities that face the biggest threats. And then we need to make sure they have the resources they need. That takes conscious effort.

California is starting to make important decisions about climate resilience, but we’re doing it without the tools we need to identify and assist those most at risk. So our two organizations, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and The Greenlining Institute, have come together to jumpstart the process of creating those tools while we still have time to prepare.

New research from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters,” points to a critical need for applying an interactive mapping tool that layers all the various social, health and environmental factors that can contribute to, or add protections from, climate threats.

Such a  framework can provide essential information for state and local leaders tasked with making important decisions and appropriately prioritizing communities that face the biggest threats.

The good news is that the climate threat assessment tool we need is well within reach, with many of the needed indicators already in use across dozens of existing frameworks. It’s just a matter of putting the pieces together in a streamlined, usable form.

But once we’ve identified the people and places facing the biggest threats, then what? We want to help them prepare, but how do we turn those good intentions into reality? That’s where Greenlining’s research can help.

Greenlining reviewed over 30 California policies and grant programs and spoke to dozens of experts, distilling the findings into “Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Grant Programs and Policies: A Guidebook.”

The Guidebook lays out step-by-step instructions for building climate resilience policies that focus on equity, policies designed to ensure that communities can survive and thrive, even when faced with limited resources.

Greenlining’s framework shows policymakers how to consider not just physical threats like heat and sea level rise, but the factors that make them worse, like income levels and access to health care. And it provides guidance for addressing them while making sure policies center the experience and wisdom of our frontline communities, recognizing that community members have real expertise that even well-intended outsiders lack.

Climate change is here. How we prepare for its impact will determine whether we survive, or even come out thriving. California’s policymakers will need all the help they can get. We offer our research as a humble start.

Amee Raval is Senior Policy Researcher at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sona Mohnot is Environmental Equity Senior Program Manager at The Greenlining They wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

Opinion: Donald Trump vs. the Statue of Liberty

By Anthony Galace

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

— Plaque inside the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

— Update proposed by Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


The Trump administration has literally declared war on the Statue of Liberty and everything it stands for. Its new “public charge” rule — which Cuccinelli announced during the same Aug. 13 radio appearance in which he offered his rewording of the Statue of Liberty poem — aims to make the idea of the United States as a “land of opportunity” a relic of the past.

Set to take effect Oct. 15, the rule would deny the issuance of green cards granting permission to live and work in the United States to legal immigrants deemed “more likely than not” to receive public benefits. Those benefits include things like food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers and Medicaid.

Implementing this rule will not just punish legal immigrants who use public benefits. It’s written so broadly that it can even bar green cards to those judged “likely” to use them for a total of 12 months or longer during a 36-month period. Essentially, it’s a “No Trespassing” sign aimed at anyone who isn’t wealthy and educated, particularly for those coming from what President Donald Trump has called “s — -hole countries.”

This is not the America I grew up believing in. I was raised by immigrants and am proud to work with immigrants every day. Throughout history, millions of people have immigrated to the United States with nothing, sometimes needing help with housing or medical care to get started before going on to build successful lives, careers and families.

Immigrants are often entrepreneurial, attracted to this country by the idea that you can succeed if you have a good idea and a strong work ethic. A few years ago, researchers calculated that more than half of all startup companies worth $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants. They also estimated that, as of 2015, the nation was home to 2.1 million immigrant entrepreneurs who had less than a bachelor’s degree.

How many of these budding job creators will we now turn away?

Sadly, even though it hasn’t officially taken effect, the updated public charge rule has already done damage. After the idea was first floated in 2017, public health leaders found it had a chilling effect, causing immigrants to avoid seeking services, including nutrition programs for children and pregnant women.

In one survey of California health care providers, more than two-thirds noted an increase in parental concerns about enrolling children in Medicaid or food stamps, and 42% saw an increase in patients missing scheduled health care appointments.

Administration officials deny that this policy change, which the Migration Policy Institute estimates could affect up to 27 million people, is fueled by racism or xenophobia, arguing it’s just about “self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.” But these are also the same people who take migrant children from their parents and lock them in cages.

It’s been said that when it comes to Trump’s immigration policy, “the cruelty is the point.” This new policy to punish legal immigrants drives that point home yet again.

Anthony Galace is health equity director of The Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Opinion: Consumers suffer under California broadband deregulation

Mercury News


In 2012, California decided to deregulate the broadband internet industry until 2020 with the aim of encouraging greater consumer choice, economic growth and innovation. Eight years later, these benefits have not materialized.

Instead internet providers have taken advantage of deregulation to increase prices and evade oversight. Now internet providers are pushing Assembly Bill 1366, which would extend this disastrous policy for another decade.

While the telecom industry would have you believe that big government is after your internet, in reality, California needs to do much more to promote broadband competition, internet affordability and availability. Failing to do so means California will be left behind in our increasingly connected global economy.

A decade ago, Verizon, AT&T and Google were rolling out next-generation 1000 Mbps fiber internet to homes across California. Today, despite promises of increased choice under deregulation, Google and Verizon have pulled out of the market and AT&T has focused its fiber buildout on only the highest-income neighborhoods.

What’s more, half of Americans are stuck choosing between one or two internet providers. Meanwhile, in countries like Sweden or states like Utah, families can choose from ten different providers that deliver 1000 Mbps fiber internet for less than $50 a month.

A recent study showed that fiber buildout has actually slowed in the United States, a baffling trend given that fiber internet unlocks economic development by attracting high-paying jobs and increasing property values. Unlike California, other developed economies like China and the EU have realized that universal fiber connectivity is a key economic advantage and have embraced ambitious plans to make this crucial service affordable and ubiquitous. In other words, they’ve taken an approach that’s the exact opposite of California-style deregulation. Without pro-competition policy and oversight, Californians will suffer economically.

Nearly one-third of low-income students lack access to home internet, and the primary barrier to internet access in California is cost. This lack of access translates to a lack of job opportunities and poor academic performance.

However, providers have no incentive to lower prices or improve services if they don’t have any competition or oversight. AB 1366 would prohibit nearly all regulatory oversight of broadband internet services. In fact, the internet industry claims that current law — which AB 1366 would extend — limits the state’s power to even measure the affordability of their services.

AB 1366 also limits California’s ability to protect public safety. In 2018, Verizon cut data service to firefighters working to combat one of California’s largest-ever fires. Verizon’s actions meant our firefighters could not effectively coordinate and plan their efforts. AB 1366 would limit California’s ability to prevent this from happening again.

Similarly, AT&T plans to take taxpayer dollars to build an internet-based 911 system but is suing the state, claiming that California’s deregulatory policy bans any oversight over how they spend taxpayer dollars on this system. Opposing AB 1366 is crucial to ensuring that AT&T is not allowed to build such a critical service without any oversight.

In our view, California needs to be able to guide critical public investments in our broadband infrastructure and our agencies need to have the power to protect public safety, prevent price gouging and implement state and local policies to promote faster speeds and increased availability.

If AB 1366 passes, California’s broadband policy will continue to be dictated by internet providers and their shareholder interests — and consumers will suffer.

Trump Wants to Make Redlining Easier

The Progressive
By Preeti Vissa Kristipati

The administration is moving to cut public access to information on how, and to whom, banks loan money.

Redlining – the practice of denying loans to home buyers and others based on their race or ethnic background – has been illegal for decades.

But, last year, the investigative news outlet Reveal published a massive investigation strongly suggesting that redlining continues today. Now, the Trump Administration is moving to cut public access to the information that helped Reveal produce its report.

Reveal’s reporters spent a full year analyzing 31 million records collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), a law passed in 1975 to give policymakers the information needed to identify and combat lending discrimination. Under HMDA, banks and other mortgage lenders must report information like the type of property, the loan amount, and the sex, race and ethnicity of borrowers.

Reveal found that African Americans and Latinos—and in some locations Asian Americans and Native Americans, too—were far more likely to be turned down for conventional mortgages than white borrowers. That pattern remained even after controlling for factors like household income and the amount of the loan in relation to that income.

Reporting requirements under HMDA were updated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and again by the Obama Administration to give regulators a clearer picture of what’s happening. The updated rules required lenders to report every loan’s interest rate and the relationship between an applicant’s income and total amount of debt the would-be borrower was taking on. They also required more detail on ethnicity—like whether an Asian American borrower, for example, was of Chinese or Cambodian heritage.

Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—formerly a tough consumer watchdog that’s fast becoming a bankers’ lapdog—has proposed new rules that would roll back the information requirements added by the Obama Administration. The bureau says it will close a web portal that has allowed easy public access to this information, giving vague promises to eventually develop a new tool for this purpose.

The proposed updates would exempt some lenders, such as smaller banks and credit unions, from having to report at all—even though some of them make more loans to low-income borrowers than do major banks. The administration claims these changes will provide “much needed relief” from supposed regulatory burdens.

But this makes no sense. Banks had already begun collecting and reporting the data that was required under Obama. The systems and procedures to do it are in place and working. Changing the rules now won’t relieve any regulatory burdens; it will make lenders rewrite their procedures yet again.

Redlining produced an enormous racial wealth gap, in which the median white family has roughly twenty times the wealth of the median black family. While lenders no longer draw red lines on maps to mark off non-white neighborhoods as no-mortgage zones, Reveal found they often still either declined loans entirely to black people and Latinos or steered them into the sort of high-cost subprime loans that sent millions of people into foreclosure a decade ago.

If the Trump Administration succeeds, that discrimination will continue and be much harder to detect.

9 Major Opportunities for Electric Buses & Trucks

Meeting of the Minds
By Joel Espino

When most people think of electric vehicles, we think of cars, like Teslas, Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs. But trucks and buses are going electric, too, and the impact on both our air and our economy could be huge.

In 2016, we at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with The Union of Concerned Scientists to analyze the growing electric truck and bus industry, producing the report “Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California.” While we focused on California, where electric buses and trucks are taking off rapidly, what we found has major implications for the whole country. Especially at a time when many transit agencies across the country are committing to 100 percent electric, many states are increasing their efforts to get more electric cars, trucks, and buses on the road, and The Green New Deal is generating buzz and conversation on climate change.

Here are nine things we found.

1. Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming in California and nationwide.

Including carbon pollution from refining petroleum products, transportation accounts for more than 50 percent of global warming emissions in California, and the transportation sector recently overtook power plants as the largest contributor to climate change nationwide.

2. Trucks and buses form a major part of our air pollution problem.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. They also emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants. And they make up seven percent of the state’s global warming emissions—an amount projected to increase as freight shipments grow.

3. Air pollution from transportation discriminates, hitting poor communities of color the hardest.

Poor communities suffer disproportionately from exposure to traffic-related pollution because they are more likely than wealthier neighborhoods to be near busy roads and highways. Breathing lung-damaging exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis leads to higher rates of pollution-related diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. Race matters, too: even for people in the same socioeconomic class, people of color are more likely than whites to be exposed to pollution from cars, trucks and buses.

In fact, a recent Union of Concerned Scientists analysis that quantified pollution from on-road sources reinforces this finding.

4. Electric trucks and buses are cleaner than diesel and natural gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning you won’t have to gulp pollution while waiting for the bus or walking down the street. In terms of global warming emissions, smog forming emissions, and particulate matter; electric vehicles powered by clean electricity have the lowest emissions compared to any other vehicle technology, including natural gas. The clean air benefit continues even when you look at “life cycle” emissions from electricity generation and hydrogen production.

And these clean vehicles will only get cleaner: California will get at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, has virtually no coal power in the state, and will end contracts for coal power imported from other states by 2025. California also requires that at least 33 percent of hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, a standard the state already exceeds. Bottom line: We’re blazing a path toward clean power that other states can follow.

5. Electric trucks and buses are far more energy efficient.

Depending on the type of vehicle, electric trucks and buses are up to four times more efficient than diesel and natural gas vehicles. This means that for the same amount of energy used to power a vehicle, the electric vehicle will travel up to four times as far. This can lead to significant savings in fuel costs.

6. Electric truck and bus technology is here and ready to clean the air today.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky future dream. Battery-powered electric trucks and buses have ranges over 100 miles. One company recently announced a transit bus with a 350-mile range. Fuel cell trucks and buses have long had ranges over 200 miles. While these vehicles may cost more to purchase, reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is becoming competitive with traditional technologies. Electric trucks and buses can accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel and natural gas vehicles. They’re quieter, too.

7. The heavy-duty EV industry is creating good jobs.

Some of the leading electric bus and truck manufacturers in California pay assemblers $13-$20 per hour for entry level jobs, which is considerably above typical pay for assembly jobs in California. These jobs can also lead workers into higher-skilled, well-paid occupations. When we asked representatives of heavy-duty EV companies what jobs were likely to grow the most if demand for heavy-duty EVs increases, they unanimously identified assembler positions. Increased investment in this technology should spur growth of good, well-paying jobs—especially if unions and community benefits agreements like the one BYD struck are in the mix.

8. This industry can be a great source of jobs for underserved communities—if workers get the training and skills they need.

Leading electric bus and truck companies in California typically require one to three years of related experience for assemblers, a higher standard than assembly jobs in general manufacturing. Jobs in EV manufacturing, charging and maintenance require significant electrical skills. These requirements can be barriers to employment for people from low-income communities. But good, readily accessible training programs can overcome this barrier and make sure those most in need of good jobs will get a fair shot.

9. It will take conscious effort to bring workers from marginalized communities into the electric truck and bus workforce.

We don’t currently have enough training programs accessible to those who need them. Manufacturers can help fix this by partnering with workforce training organizations and community colleges to establish pathways for training and certifying workers from these communities and placing them in quality jobs. This emerging industry needs effective, equitable workplace policies, programs, and practices to ensure opportunity for all.

You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. We have to put the policies and actions in place now so that we can leverage the clean air and economic benefits of this technology to fight environmental injustice and give an economic boost to people most in need.

The proposed Green New Deal has already begun to stimulate new discussions of the role of transportation in fighting climate change and strengthening communities. Electrification of trucks and buses should be part of plans going forward to fight climate change, clean our air and – with help from the right policies — bring new opportunities to underserved communities.

California Blazes a Trail for a Green New Deal

The Progressive
By Alvaro Sanchez

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a federal plan to fight climate change and boost our economy, the Golden State is quietly showing how it could actually work.

While politicians and activists debate the idea of a Green New Deal to fight climate change and boost our economy, California is quietly showing how it could actually work. The state has a successful model program that could be used by any community that wants to make itself cleaner, more livable and more prosperous.

It’s called Transformative Climate Communities, or TCC, and it focuses on ways that different agencies can work together with communities to make neighborhoods better.

As it is, most governments put each of its various functions in separate buckets. One agency approves transportation projects, another deals with housing, and so on. Often no one considers how their agencies affect each other or what residents need.

But TCC puts communities in charge of pulling these various pieces together, with a goal of reducing carbon emissions.

This might mean replacing old, smoky diesel buses with clean electric buses or light rail, building affordable housing near those transit stops, and connecting it all with improved pedestrian and bicycle pathways. It might mean planting trees that shade those new bikeways and sidewalks even as they take climate-damaging carbon out of the air. It could mean outfitting those new, affordable homes with solar power and designing them to be energy efficient.

And instead of applying to a dozen different bureaucracies for a dozen separate grants, TCC gives communities a “one-stop shop” where they can get the whole package funded.

The result: A community that’s cleaner, greener and easier to get around, with less air pollution and traffic and lower energy bills for residents. And hundreds of people are put to work making it all happen.

This isn’t a fantasy. It’s happening right now in five California communities.

Consider Fresno. This medium-sized city in the middle of the state’s Central Valley agricultural heartland has long suffered from poverty and air pollution. As required by TCC, Fresno’s plan was put together by the residents themselves – who are, after all, the real experts in their community’s needs.

The plan funds about two dozen projects with dollars collected from polluters through the state’s cap-and-trade program. These include affordable housing close to transit, bike paths, a community garden, home weatherization for low-income families, electric car, vanpool and bikeshare programs. Taken together, the projects will make life better for thousands of low-income residents, clean the air, and put people to work in a region with chronically high unemployment.

There are also full-fledged TCC plans in Ontario, Sacramento, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Watts and the northeast San Fernando Valley.

My organization, the Greenlining Institute, worked with state legislators to create the TCC program and has been able to offer technical assistance to several communities seeking to apply for funds. But we’re the first to admit that we’ve barely scratched the surface. This sort of comprehensive, community-led effort should happen nationwide and on a much larger scale.

What’s needed is a commitment to community-driven transformation and reliable funding.

The proposed Green New Deal offers the opportunity to do that. The idea that we can fight climate change, improve our neighborhoods and build prosperity for struggling communities isn’t some fantasy. California is showing how to do it right now.