Patricia DeMarco Ph.D.

"Live in harmony with nature."


Labor Day 2019- A Fannie Sellins Commemoration and A Commitment

Patricia M. DeMarco With Guest writers Leann Foster and Frank Snyder

The Battle of Homestead Foundation held a Centennial Commemoration of labor heroine Fannie Sellins on August 26, 2019.  Many thanks to the efforts of Steffi Domike, Battle of Homestead foundation founding member and co-editor of “When River Ran Red”[2]for organizing this commemoration and for her enduring efforts to educate and organize workers for justice. Here are the dinner remarks of Leeann Foster, USW International Vice President and Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, given at the grave site of Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzelski.

The Great Steel Strikes of 1919 came in the wake of victory in World War I, a war intended to establish the rights of democracy for the people and workers of Europe. The munitions and supplies used in that effort came from the ramping up of industrial production for the sake of the war effort.  Workers felt valued, empowered and enjoyed some improvements in their working conditions during that time, but at the end of the war, conditions deteriorated. Workers endured twelve-hour days in the face of the horrific heat and danger of the steel mills.  Even as the steel corporations’ earnings soared, the wages were lowered, and conditions deteriorated to their past levels of desperation. No benefits came to the widowed or maimed. In 1919, in Pittsburgh alone 195 men died in the steel mills.  Discontent and worker organizing was met with brutality, oppression and terrorizing workers organizing for better wages, conditions and hours.  The 1919 strike crumbled in the face of these tactics.  

Fannie Sellins became a heroine to the cause of workers’ rights, and for the cause of compassion and social justice for the families of workers.  She was brutally murdered on August 26, 1919 as she pleaded for the private Coal and Iron Police to stop beating Joseph Starzelski, a picketing miner. Mother Jones wrote of the 1919 strike in her autobiography:

Human flesh, warm and soft and capable of being wounded, went naked up against steel; steel that is cold as old stars, and harder than death and incapable of pain. Bayonets and guns and steel rails and battle ships, bombs and bullets are made of steel. And only babies are made of flesh. More babies to grow up and work in steel, to hurl themselves against the bayonets, to know the tempered resistance of steel. The strike was broken. Broken by the scabs brought in under the protection of the troops. Broken by breaking men’s belief in the outcome of their struggle. Broken by breaking men’s hearts. Broken by the press, by the government. In a little over a hundred days, the strike shivered to pieces. [1]

Remarks of Leeann Foster:

Introduction and Acknowledgments:

Fannie Sellins was a proud union woman. She fought for a better life for herself, her family, her sisters and brothers, all workers and union members. Our steelworker delegation here today honors the life and work of Fannie Sellins and today we declare her to be an honorary Woman of Steel. I’m proud to be here with other Women of Steel: Mariana Padias is a USW organizer, originally from Tucson, Arizona; Colleen Wooten is a USW district 10 staff representative who was unit president out of Express Strips in North Huntington; Keli Vereb works for USSteel at the Irvin Works and is the district 10 co-chair for Women of Steel; Steffi Domike is a labor educator who got her first union card at USSteel’s Clairton Plant. And we have sisters here from ATI. I look forward to meeting you this afternoon.

I am particularly proud of this local, USW local union 1196, which has honored Sellins’ memory for the past century. You represent the best of our union: honoring Fannie Sellins who was martyred for our cause, for the cause of all workers fighting for justice. You strengthen our union for the future by remembering the struggles it took for us to gain representation, learning from our past and fighting every day for a better life for our members. The displays in this union hall are a testament to your efforts to keep your history alive. I thank you and ask for a round of applause for our Brackenridge local.

It is also a distinct honor for me to be here with my brothers and sisters from the United Mine Workers of America. It is here, in UMWA District 5 that the United Steelworkers of America was dreamed of by our common union forefathers. Philip Murray (the man who would become the President of both the Steelworkers Organizing Committee and the first International President of the United Steelworkers of America) was President of UMWA District 5 in 1919, and it was he who hired Fannie Sellins. In 1918 the UMWA took the lead with the industry-wide organizing committee created by the American Federation of Labor to support steelworkers in their fight for a union, for better pay and shorter working hours. I thank you and ask for a round of applause for our brothers and sisters from the United Mineworkers.

Today I have three objectives:

One is to join with you, brothers and sisters, to remember our brave sister, Fannie Sellins, and to take inspiration from her strength, her integrity and her commitment to fighting for a better life for all working people.

A second is to renew our solidarity with all of you: union members and sons, daughters, parents and children of union members, coal miners and steelworkers.

My third objective is to look at our movement today through the lens of the fights in 1919 and the eyes of Fannie Sellins and to ask, “What are the parallels for today?” What can we learn from the past?

Commemorating Fannie Sellins

Fannie Sellins, was a seamstress who came into the labor movement in 1902 by organizing St. Louis’ Local 67 of the United Garment Workers (UGWA). By 1909, she was local union president. An inspirational and passionate speaker, Sellins spoke of the need for all workers to have representation and she knew that our strength comes from our solidarity.

In 1909, Sellins spoke to a group of coal miners in Illinois, “Help us fight.” She said, “We women work in factories on dangerous machinery, and many of us get horribly injured or killed. Many of your brothers die in the mines. There should be a bond of sympathy between us, for we both encounter danger in our daily work.” 

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and the UGWA both understood this “bond of sympathy” between all workers. A century ago, these unions practiced “pragmatic industrial unionism,” expanding their organizing to include all who worked. As we say in my union, “Everyone in, nobody out!”

In 1913, Sellins’ was hired by the UMWA as an organizer and sent to Colliers, WV, a company town. There she worked with families of striking miners.  A federal judge (in the pocket of the coal operators) outlawed the UMWA. In defiance, Fannie Sellins walked the picket line with the strikers, was arrested and given a jail sentence of 6 months. She spent 3 months in jail until the UMWA raised her bail. As you heard up at the site of the murders earlier today and as you can see in this beautiful painting of Sellins as she sat in her jail cell, on December 3, 1913, Sellins declared her belief in her rights ad an American citizen:

“I am free and I have a right to walk or talk any place in this country as long as I obey the law. The only wrong I have done is to take shoes to the children in Colliers whose bare feet are blue from the cruel blasts of winter. If it’s wrong to put shoes on those little feet, then I will continue to do wrong as long as I have hands and feet to crawl to Colliers.” 

Knowing that for the labor movement to succeed, the steel industry had to be organized, in 1917 the UMWA sent Sellins to coal and steel company towns in the Allegheny Valley, including Brackenridge and Natrona, to organize the families of steelworkers to withstand a strike. She spoke with the women of the community and told them that there was a path out of misery and that path was with the union.

Fannie Sellins knew that the companies would try to exploit differences among workers to divide their loyalties. Here is an example of how she confronted this problem: Louis Hicks’ mines in the Allegheny Valley went out on strike in 1917. Instead of negotiating with the UMWA, Hicks brought in Southern black workers to break the strike. The strikers heard about a train of black workers coming to town. Sellins waited at a railroad signal outside of town; as the train slowed down, she ran along the tracks shouting “Don’t break the strike, support the union!” 100 men from Alabama abandoned the train.  After that, the Coal and Iron Police knew who she was and were gunning for her.

What are the parallels for today? What can we learn from the past?

The law was stacked against unions and union organizers in 1919 and, although we have made great strides to get the right to organize, our rights are constantly under attack now and we must fight to defend ourselves and to gain better legal protections for workers.

Law enforcement in 1919 was subject to being purchased by the powerful coal and steel operators. Today, corporate lobbyists have gained enormous power to influence legislators; the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United opened the doors for unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns. Big Money still can buy government and it’s as important as ever for us to work together to support candidates for office who support working people and who cannot and will not be bought.

Immigrants were discriminated against in employment and housing as well as being attacked physically as Joe Starzeleski was in Natrona on August 26, 1919. Even though most of us in this room are the children, grandchildren and great-grand-children of immigrants, today newcomers are demonized. We are seeing immigrants, both documented and undocumented, being reviled by the president of our country. Some of the recent mass shootings have targeted Mexicans and Spanish-speaking citizens. The United Steelworkers takes a strong stand against the current treatment of asylum seekers, particularly the cruel and inhuman family separations on our Southern border. 

The coal and steel companies of 1919 fanned the flames of racism by sending labor agents to the South to recruit unemployed black share-croppers as strike-breakers at Northern mines and mills. This is a dangerous, divisive tactic that unfortunately is still employed today.  During the recent lockout, ATI intentionally hired black mill guards and scabs, knowing full well that that would inflame old divisions among workers and in our communities.

Red-baiting was a company tactic in 1919 and is back in use today. Union organizers are called “communists” or “socialists” and when they speak of workers’ rights and workplace democracy, they are accused of introducing dangerous ideas to workers.

  • This prejudice strongly influenced the attitudes of the coroner’s jury to find the mine guards’ killing of Sellins’ as self-defense. 

But we know that Sellins’ ideas were the furthest thing from dangerous. At the 1921 UMWA commemoration of her death, Robert R. Gibbons, President of UMWA District 5, said, 

  • “Fannie Sellins gave her life in the attempt to put an end to the suffering of the miners and their families, to lead them out of wage slavery. 
  • “Mrs. Sellins was a noble woman. She had taken part in the organization of many mines in the Pittsburgh district.  For this work the women loved her, men revered her, children worshipped her and the enemy abused and murdered her. Her life was filled with ministrations of love, kindness and mercy.”

In thinking about the future of our important work to build and defend working people and build our movement, we can look at Fannie Sellins and take OUR cues from HER fights: Fannie Sellins was not a new immigrant, but she fought with and for new immigrants in the sweatshops of St. Louis. She fought for new immigrants on strike at mine portals and she urged new immigrant families of steelworkers in the Allegheny-Kiski Valley to join her in the fight for a better life. Fannie Sellins, the seamstress, fought for the nine-hour day a century ago so that we could enjoy an eight-hour day and the five-day work week today. We must defend corporate attacks on this right by resisting forced overtime. As the labor movement has fought for almost two centuries: “8 hours for work, 8 hours to sleep, and 8 hours for what we will!” Fannie’s leadership and bravery in the face of overwhelming corporate power and abuse inspires us to follow in her footsteps and tackle the problems in our communities and workplaces.

A woman of steel stands firm, does not back down. 

Thank you, Fannie Sellins, for your courage, your commitment and compassion. And thank you for your leadership.

Remarks of Frank Snyder:

Good evening. My name is Frank Snyder, and I am the Secretary-Treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and on behalf of our State Fed President, Rick Bloomingdale, and our 700,000 hardworking women and men who make up our organized labor Federation, I bring you greetings and all the appreciation I can muster, for you never forgetting the life of Fannie Sellens. While this day marks the 100th anniversary of her shocking death, a cowardly act of inhumane violence; it’s her life’s work that a century later serves as a profile in courage, perseverance, dignity and justice.

I digress. Two weeks ago, I came across what seemed to be endless stories marking the 100th anniversary of the death of another well-known name from that era – Andrew Carnegie. And the two could not have been more unlike one another. And in the articles I forced myself to read, they portrayed Carnegie with near religious exuberance. That twisted reality must come from when the richest man of his time, in the twilight of his life, tries to erase his guilt-ridden conscious for the pain he left on so many, with libraries, music halls, and colleges.

The 1892 Homestead strike in Pennsylvania and the ensuing bloody battle instigated by the steel plant’s management remain a transformational moment in U.S. history, leaving scars that have never fully healed after five generations. And no, there are no libraries or music halls or colleges that commemorate the senseless massacre of innocent steelworkers at Carnegie Steel, or the brutal murder of an “Angel of Mercy”. A period every bit as tumultuous as our own today, the 1890s saw sweeping changes in the economy, politics, and society, while giving birth to a technological revolution that would profoundly alter the lives of all Americans. Sound familiar?

Those few who knew how to exploit that new world, like Carnegieor Rockefeller, prospered handsomely; those who did not became icons of how the other half lives. A tale of two cities. The only thing – the only thing, that stood, and stands, in the way of those two cities of haves and have nots, are America’s unions. Men and women, assembled with one another in solidarity, for the purpose of social and economic security, protection, and advancement through collective bargaining.

Still, the war rages on. No, the battlefield is more subtle today than it was a century ago. A hundred years ago corporate America fought us with violence, imprisonment, exile, and in the case of Fannie Sellens, execution.

Today, they still fight us with tactics of fear, intimidation, harassment – all commonplace in today’s anti-union workplaces.

Our outdated labor laws are making us weaker at home and diminishing our standing in the world.

In more cases than not, a free and fair process for forming a union simply does not exist in America today. That must change.And it starts with the Unions of the AFL-CIO, fighting back with PRO Act, The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or H.R.2474, and its Senate companion Bill 1306. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act protects the right to join a union by:

  • Bolstering remedies and punishing violations of workers’ rights, 
  • Strengthening workers’ right to stand together and negotiate for better working conditions, and 
  • Restoring fairness to an economy that is rigged against workers.

Regardless of our profession, we submit to you all, that there is dignity in all work. And all need to be treated with respect, and a voice in the decisions that affect them. That’s what Fannie Sellens gave her life for. And rather than coming together to remember how she died, imagine when we gather in the future and remember how she lived throughout her short chapter in American history, that laid the foundation for meaningful labor law reform to enable all workers to share in social and economic justice and a voice at work through an organized labor union

Image Copyright to Bill Yund
African Americans from the South were deployed as strike-breakers during the 1919 Steel Strike. They also hoped for a better life. When the strike was defeated, most were left jobless, although some were retained in the hottest and dirtiest jobs. This steel plate loader was one of the more fortunate.

As we enter another cycle of elections, it is critical to keep focus on the needs of working people, the source of our productivity, and the soul of our nation in America and around the world. Without justice, there will be no peace. Without fairness, there will be no progress. Without compassion, there will be no true stability in our civilization. Workers standing together for a healthy world will assure solutions to the existential crisis of climate change and global pollution. A just transition must take account of labor, environment and health all together, not just economic considerations of corporations.

[1]Autobiography of Mother Jones. Chapter 24. The Steel Strike of 1919.  https://www.iww.org/history/library/MotherJones/autobiography/24

[2]David A Demerest, Jr., General Editor, Fannia Weingartner, Coordinating editor. Co-Editors: Steffi R. Domike, Doris Dyen, Nicole Fauteux,Russel W. Gibbons, Randolph Harris, Eugene Levy, Charles J. McCollester, Rina Youngener. “The River Ran Red” Homestead 1892. Pittsburgh Series in Social and Labor History. University of Pittsburgh Press. 1992.


Green Jobs and A Living Planet: Make It Happen

Patricia M. DeMarco

May 20, 2019

The fragrant, lush explosion of growth in the deciduous Pittsburgh landscape reminds me that Nature is resilient and has evolved through millions of years to thrive and flourish. Though the reality that human actions have precipitated existential crises from global warming and global pollution is undeniable, the burgeoning life of Spring brings hope. What humans have caused, humans can change. The laws of Nature are not negotiable, but the laws and policies of nations can be changed to preserve natural systems. The time is ripe and the tools for a sustainable transformation of our economy and our culture are at hand.

The Situation

The natural systems of the earth have evolved to provide everything we need to survive and thrive – the essential conditions for life as we know it: solar energy (both incident and stored), oxygen-rich air, fresh water, fertile ground, and the vast biodiversity of species that constitute the living earth. This essential life support system is under stress from human driven actions: fossil fuel combustion, resource extraction, uncontrolled population expansion, and hyper-consumption, especially in America. Americans comprise about 5% of the world’s population but use 25% of the worlds energy resources.[1]It would take five and a half planets to provide our lifestyle for everyone on earth, but we have only one Earth. The Mauna Loa Observatory has measured carbon dioxide levels at 415 parts per million, an atmospheric concentration not seen on planet Earth for over three million years. [2],[3]We are entering planetary conditions never experienced by current living systems, including human civilizations.

The situation is more urgent than ever. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) issued itsreport on Global Biodiversity compiled by 145 expert scientists from 50 countries. Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the IPBES said: “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. … it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”[4]

How can we accomplish this critical task? The Green New Deal framework presents a catalyst to stimulate creative discourse on bringing a positive transformation to our system.[5]Town Hall meetings on the Green New Deal are taking place across the country as people begin to work out the specifics of a green economy. These conversations offer an opportunity to bring many more people to awareness of the severity of the situation we are facing, and to move to action in every aspect of our lives. This problem is too important to leave to “other people” or “whoever is in charge.” Everyone has a stake in preserving a habitable planet for now, and especially for the future. Sustainability must become the new normal.

The Concept of Sustainability

We are not facing a technology problem- we are facing an ethics and a moral problem. There is ample evidence in recent history of America leading transformative changes in a short time when united in purpose and guided by a specific objective, as illustrated by the rapid industrialization of our economy in World War II to defeat Hitler. [6]Sustainability requires that we place a higher priority on taking responsibility to preserve a living earth for future generations. The Brundtland Commission definition of sustainability states simply: “Meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.[7]If we care at all about our children and grandchildren, it is critical to recognize that this an existential challenge for all of life on Earth, and an intergenerational imperative. We already experience the effects of a one degree increase in the average temperature of the earth.[8]To achieve sustainability within the next twenty years, we must pursue system solutions to systemic problems.  

Plan for a Sustainable Economy

A true transformation of our economy and lifestyle requires moving in a new direction on multiple levels. The energy system must shift from a fossil fuel basis, – oil, natural gas and coal – to energy use and production around modular, renewable resources. The food production system must shift from a chemical-dependent process to regenerative agriculture processes that restore the fertility of the land, sequester carbon, and provide food more locally.  The processes that create materials and goods must shift to using resources that do not create toxic products and by-products, such as plastics from fossil feed-stocks, but rather use components that can be broken down in natural systems. Moving these major systems to a different platform does not require new technology, but a commitment to shifting to a life-sustaining system instead.[9]The transformation is in process all over the world and in many places in America as well. When people visualize the changes in a positive light, they will no longer fear moving to the unknown. Workers in the oil, gas and coal industries, in the traditional petrochemical production industries, and commercial scale agriculture industry feel fear and uncertainty about changes proposed to achieve sustainability. The immediate threat of job loss and meeting needs of family overwhelm philosophical attention to the fate of future generations, even the rapidly approaching fate of today’s children. We must replace that fear with concrete plans for a sustainable economy. 

A just transition must include a plan for taking care of the workers in industries that need to change. That means protecting workers and their unions, including their wages, pensions and health benefits, providing meaningful training and re-training, and making investments in communities for new infrastructure, new systems and effective social infrastructure of laws and regulations. Simply mandating fuel substitutions is inadequate to this task. We need to re-frame the problem and reach to the root causes of social justice and environmental justice issues to make a meaningful and effective transition.

Re-Framing the Problem

We measure the well-being of our country on the basis of how well the economy is doing. Consumer confidence, the Gross Domestic Product, the performance of Wall Street, the size of the trade deficit all mark the measure of success. The most widely quoted indicator, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the sum of Consumption (Consumer spending) plus Investment by private companies plus Government Spending plus the net of Exports minus Imports. Our economy basically depends on turning raw material to trash as rapidly as possible with consumer spending at the heart of the system. This approach does not account for the priceless contributions of the living ecosystems that provide fresh water, clean air, fertile ground and support of the entire biodiversity of species. These essential functions are not explicitly reflected in what is measured, and in fact, the destruction of such essential services often counts as a positive value in the GDP, such as filling wetlands for building sites.[10]The priceless services the living Earth provides, like pollination, oxygen creation, water purification and so many others, do not count in the GDP. In a sustainable system, the economic value would be balanced with social and cultural values, and environmental values for a holistic approach to measuring the well-being of society.[11]By placing overwhelming emphasis on the economic value as indicated by the GDP, the balance of society is skewed. 

This one-dimensional way of measuringvalue obscures the full environmental and social consequences of consumer’s decisions. Prices of goods and services to not reflect the cost in environmental damage to land and ecosystems, the cost of air pollution on health, the contamination of water supplies, or the loss of farmland to prolonged drought. In fact, many policies actually supportenvironmental destruction. 

In the energy system, for example, moving toward sustainability requires that fossil fuel combustion must be quickly curtailed. Yet, government policies, some dating back to the early nineteenth century, heavily subsidize fossil fuel extraction.[12]In the U. S. direct production subsidies for oil, gas and coal extraction amount to $20.5 billion per year hard-wired into the tax and budget process.[13]PermanentInvestment Tax Credits for oil, gas, coal development amount to an additional $7.4 Billion/year.[14]This is compared to $1.3 billion/year for all renewables tax credits, which decline on a sliding scale and end in five years unless Congress explicitly extends them. There are additional federal tax credits and loopholes for oil, gas and coal amounting to $10 billion/year:

  • Intangible drilling oil & gas deduction ($2.3 billion)
  • Excess of percentage over cost depletion ($1.5 billion)
  • Master Limited Partnerships tax exemption ($1.6 billion)
  • Last-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting ($1.7 billion)
  • Lost royalties from onshore and offshore drilling ($1.2 billion)
  • Low-cost leasing of coal-production in the Powder River Basin ($963 million)[15][16]

Changing this wide array of subsidies would require explicit changes in the law by an act of Congress. 

Why do all of these subsidies matter? First, 98% of all operating coal plants are unprofitable if environmental controls are updated and enforced, and 50% of yet-to-be-drilled oil and gas wells are not profitable (at $50/barrel oil price) if they do not have tax preferences. [17]The fossil industries spend an enormous amount of money to keep these preferential treatments in place.[18]For example, in the 2015-2016 election cycle, oil, gas, and coal companies spent $354 million on campaigns and lobbying, and received $29.4 billion in subsidies.[19]The laws will not be changed as long as the people in Congress are beholden to the fossil interests. The status quo will not achieve sustainability within a reasonable window of time. It is too late for small incremental changes. Major changes through a comprehensive and bold initiative are necessary. The Green New Deal approaches a solution in a multidimensional way.

The Cost of NOT Acting on Climate

As initiatives ranging from the “cap and Trade” proposals of 2009 to the Green New Deal of 2018 come forward, the prevailing reaction has been that green options are too expensive and therefore impractical. However, failingto address climate change is already very expensive. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandated a climate assessment be filed to Congress every four years. The Fourth Climate Assessment was filedin November 2018, by 17 current federal agencies appointed under President Trump. The findings of this report are unequivocal:

  • $160 billion in lost wages a year from heat-induced productivity reduction;
  • $87 billion a year by 2100 in higher energy costs due to mounting demand on a power system made less reliable by extreme weather.
  • $507 billion worth of infrastructure damage from real estate at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels by 2100; and
  • $1.2 to $1.4 Billion/year from Inland flooding destruction of thousands of bridges by 2050
  • $230 million/ year—loss on shellfish harvests. 
  • $140 Billion/year recreation industry losses from disappearing coral reefs alone 
  • cold-water fishing and skiing would also be affected. [20]

These costs are considered to be minimum estimates of the potential damages and resulting costs as the result of climate change. The economic damages on industries, communities, individuals and institutions are already accumulating across the country, and around the world.[21]

Better Choices: The Green Jobs Economy

What is a “Green Job”? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Green Jobs are “Jobs in businesses that produce goods and services that benefit the environment and conserve natural resources.” These are in diverse fields and enterprises ranging from biological materials processing to regenerative agriculture.  For simplicity, I will focus here on the energy sector. 

Green jobs in the energy sector are expanding rapidly as technology costs in renewables are dropping sharply. In 2013, based on unsubsidized life cycle cost analysis by Lazard investment bank, both wind and solar utility scale systems fell below the cost of coal, and the costs have continued to decline against coal, oil and gas.[22]Demand is also increasing for energy efficiency and clean energy solutions as businesses seek to save operating costs. Businesses especially recognize that energy efficiency has rapid returns and is an under-used tool for productivity improvement. Investment in energy management software alone is expected to increase by 10% in the next four years. [23]In many states, more supportive policies encouraging renewable energy use and removing barriers such as restrictive zoning are advancing renewable energy systems.[24]

The green energy field has a diversity of job opportunities in sectors ranging from clean energy production to environmental management. All have shown robust job growth over the last decade, with trends increasingly positive.[25]Renewable energy systemsinclude hydroelectric, wind and solar energy, both passive solar incorporated into building design and active photovoltaic power generation. Solar energy alone employs more people than oil, gas and coal combined with 777,000 jobs posted in 2016. Solar jobs are growing at 25% per year and wind at 16% per year, though the trend has slowed a bit due to federal policy uncertainty and the tariffs imposed on imports of solar panels and components from China.[26]The renewable energy production field employs skilled workers such as Electricians, Electrician helpers, Solar Installers, repairers, and Electric power plant operators. When these renewable energy systems are built in America, they also employ machinists, construction workers, and building trades workers.

Energy Storage and Advanced Electric Gridopportunities showed a 235% surge in growth in 2016-2017with 98,800 jobs in storage and 55,000 jobs in advanced electric grid operations. These fields are critical for building the infrastructure to integrate renewable resources into a smoothly functioning electric system. Adding storage both as utility scale functions and as modular additions to individual buildings creates flexibility, reliability and resilience in the operations of electric service. Using artificial intelligence for grid management and load adjustments also expands the capability of the system. This is an exciting and rapidly growing field.

The Energy Efficiency fieldincludes diagnostics, engineering modifications, retrofitting, adapting and installing energy efficiency improvements to commercial and residential buildings. This sector employs 2.2 million workers, mostly in construction trades such as Roofers, Roofer- Helpers, Pipe-layers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters, HVAC Mechanics, and HVAC Installers. The opportunities in energy efficiency grow as communities and businesses invest in infrastructure improvements and modernization. Because these jobs are tied to local initiatives, they are an excellent bridge to a more resilient economy.

The transportation sector is undergoing a massive transformation in Advanced Vehicles and Transportation. Developing and manufacturing electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles provided 174,000 jobs in 2016-2017. It is a growing field, for example, Ford announced $11 Billion in investment for 40 EV and Hybrid vehicles targeted to be on the market by 2022.[27]In addition to traditional automotive workers, this sector adds skills in artificial intelligence, engineering and electronics. 

Environmental Managementin the green economy has a role of increasing importance.  This field defines the intersection of change where traditional systems are adapting to incorporate renewable energy, efficiency and operations. [28]Because of the strong financial benefit of sustainability, 43% of corporate executives have placed sustainability on the agenda for their operations. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track “sustainability” jobs at this time, there are strong indicators of rapid growth in this field.[29]Jobs in the energy management field include Hazardous waste management, Refuse Recycling management, Septic system engineers, Plant and system operators, Conservation scientists.[30]This field is evolving and is shaping the direction for future enterprises both from within corporations and as new business areas of opportunity.

Wages and Skills in the Green Economy

An often – repeated allegation about the green economy holds that green jobs don’t pay well.  This is not true. Wages in the clean energy economy are above the national average of $23.86 per hour. For Clean Energy Production (renewables) wages average $28.41 per hour; for Energy efficiency, $25.90 per hour; and for Environmental Management, wages average $27.45 per hour. [31]

The scope and range of job opportunities offer a wide array of skill requirements and opportunities.  This is an area of high diversity and high prospects for growth. Jobs that improve the environment and conserve resources offer a foundation for moving to a sustainable future. The barriers and impediments to this path can be overcome. The problem is much like that of the Suffragettes who had to overcome the objections of the men in power to obtain rights for women to vote. The fossil industry interests hold the power in Congress, and they must be overcome to accelerate the transformation necessary to address climate change and global pollution. Workers in current fossil industries such as coal mining look at green job opportunities through the lens of wages won by long and hard union negotiations, years of organizing for rights and benefits, and a generation of struggle. The jobs of the Industrial Revolution are not the jobs of the future. But the wages, benefits and conditions of work are negotiable, and can be improved. These new jobs have the benefit of being inherently healthier both for the workers and for the environment of the communities. Organizing, negotiating and demanding more equitable wages, fair distribution of resources between workers and corporate owners, and a basic respect for the dignity of work lie at the heart of this initiative for green jobs. The days of man-killing work are over, and we should rejoice that the future holds better choices.

A call to action

There is no reason to delay the rapid transformation to a sustainable green economy. We need only to listen to our children.  From young Greta Thornburg pleading for her future to the United Nations to our own children in lawsuits against inaction by the U.S. Government, children around the world are begging for their future. Our Constitution offers Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as an inalienable right. If we leave our children a planet so compromised that the life support functions we take for granted do not operate, haven’t we failed in our Constitutional obligation to them? As stated in the International AFL-CIO Confederation climate statement in Copenhagen this year, “Economic transformation cannot be left to the “invisible hand” of the market.”[32]This is a time for workers to unite and organize for the sake of our children and grandchildren, to learn the lessons of the union labor movement and demand a more equitable solution.

The laws of Nature are NOT negotiable. Climate change will continue its inevitable course with ever increasing disastrous consequences for all of life on Earth. OUR Laws must change to enable and promote “Green Jobs” instead of protecting fossil industries. The majority of Americans want action on climate change.  We must find the determination and organize broadly to change the direction of our government policies. The current policies of the United States are moving backward – rejecting the Paris Accord on Climate Action, refusing to sign the Plastics Reduction amendment to the Basel Accord on international trade in hazardous materials, and rescinding 87 environmental and health protections by Executive Order, for example. None of these actions serve the public interest, rather they seek to re-establish a world that no longer exists.

Momentum is building for action on climate change: 22 states, 550 cities, and 900 companies with operations in the US have made climate commitments.[33]All 50 states have some type of policy that could bring about emissions reductions. When people demand action, we can make change happen. The key elements for action on climate change include:[34]

1. Government-driven investments in the Green Economy

2. Innovation and skills development 

3. Social protection- especially pensions and benefits 

4. Consultation with social partners (unions and employers) 

5. Healthy environment for healthy people and planet

6. Equitable redistribution of resources and power.

These are essential to the necessary transformation to a better, sustainable future.

We can DECIDE to leave a Living Earth as a legacy for our children! 

Citations and Resources:


[1]http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

[2]Scripps Institution of Oceanography. CO2 Reading for May 11,2019. Mauna Loa Data Center. https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/

[3] https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/carbon-dioxide-hits-level-not-seen-3-million-years-here-ncna1005231 

[4]https://www.ipbes.net/document-library-catalogue/summary-policymakers-global-assessment-report-biodiversity-ecosystem)

[5]H. Res. 109. Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. 116thCongress, 1stSession. February 7, 2019. https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf

[6]https://prospect.org/article/way-we-won-americas-economic-breakthrough-during-world-war-ii Accessed May 15, 2019

[7]  World Commission on Environment and Development Report “Our Common Future.” 1987. https://www.sustainabledevelopment2015.org/AdvocacyToolkit/index.php/earth-summit-history/historical-documents/92-our-common-future

[8]See discussion of effects of elevated carbon dioxide levelshttps://www.cnn.com/2019/05/13/health/carbon-dioxide-world-intl/index.html)

[9]For more examples see P. DeMarco. Pathways to Our Sustainable Future- A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. 2017 University of Pittsburgh Press.

[10]R. Costanza, R. deGroot, P.Sutton, S.vander Ploeg, S. Anderson, I. Kubeszewski, S. Farber, R.K.Turner. “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services.” Global Environmental Change. 2014. 26:152-158.   https://community-wealth.org/sites/clone.community-wealth.org/files/downloads/article-costanza-et-al.pdfAccessed May 17, 2019.

[11]Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. “Economic and Environmental Benefits of Biodiversity”   https://conservationtools.org/guides/95-economic-benefits-of-biodiversity Accessed May 19, 2019.

[12]The National Energy Act of 2005 explicitly granted exemptions from seven federal environmental and worker safety protections to allow natural gas extraction from deep shale formations by hydraulic fracturing. 

[13]http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

[14]https://www.treasury.gov/open/Documents/USA%20FFSR%20progress%20report%20to%20G20%202014%20Final.pdf

[15]https://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/  also   https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-017-0009-8

[16] http://priceofoil.org/2017/10/03/dirty-energy-dominance-us-subsidies/

[17]http://priceofoil.org/2018/02/07/new-study-shows-axing-fossil-fuel-subsidies-could-deliver-major-climate-benefits-but-press-release-says-the-opposite/

[18]https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/03/oil-and-gas-industry-has-pumped-millions-into-republican-campaigns

[19]https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?Ind=E01

[20]https://nca2018.globalchange.gov

[21]https://www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment

[22]Lazard. Levelized Cost of Energy Report. 2018. https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2018/

[23]https://www.energymanagertoday.com/11-experts-predict-the-future-of-energy-management-in-2019-0180643/

[24] Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy  http://www.dsireusa.org

[25]https://www.labor4sustainability.org/post/green-jobs-in-a-global-green-new-deal/

[26]https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/01/25/u-s-solar-energy-employs-more-people-than-oil-coal-and-gas-combined-infographic/#7cc2b7228000  

[27]Ford announces $11 Billion investment in 40  hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autoshow-detroit-ford-motor/ford-plans-11-billion-investment-40-electrified-vehicles-by-2022-idUSKBN1F30YZ

[28]https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/sustainabilitys-strategic-worth-mckinsey-global-survey-results

[29]https://www.bls.gov/green/sustainability/sustainability.htm

[30]https://www.bls.gov/green/

[31]https://www.brookings.edu/research/advancing-inclusion-through-clean-energy-jobs/

[32]AFL-CIO Climate statement at Copenhagen  https://www.scribd.com/document/96838350/Final-Report-from-the-AFL-CIO-and-International-Trade-Union-Confederation-on-the-Copenhagen-Accord-on-Climate-Change

[33]Bloomberg Philanthropies. Fulfilling America’s Pledge: How States, Cities, and Businesses are Leading the United States to a Low-carbon Future. 2018. https://www.bbhub.io/dotorg/sites/28/2018/09/Fulfilling-Americas-Pledge-2018.pdf  Accessed May 22, 2019.

[34](for more ideas on a just transition see https://climatejusticealliance.org/just-transition/


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Support for the Federal Clean Power Plan

The following testimony was filed in the EPA Hearings in Pittsburgh on the Final Rule for the Federal Clean Power Plan.  There is a move in progress in the U.S. Senate to block this initiative.  If anything, this effort must be strengthened and accelerated, not stopped. Call you Senator TODAY!

RE: Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0199

Federal Plan Requirements for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Electric Utility Generating Units Constructed on or before January 8, 2014; Model Trading Rules; Amendments to Framework Regulations.

My name is Patricia M. DeMarco.[i] I reside at 616 Woodside Road in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I am speaking in trust for my grandchildren, and all the unborn children of the 21st century whose fate is set by the actions we take to address climate change.

The Federal Clean Power Plan presented in this regulation sets out a framework in which to begin curtailing emissions from existing power plants. I recognize the difficult political environment surrounding this effort. It is important to begin the process of curtailing fossil fuel combustion, but the cautious approach offered in the Federal Clean Power Plan will not meet the urgent need we face. There are three areas where more attention must focus going forward to control greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric generating units:

  1. The final target for acceptable emissions by 2030 is too low.
  2. Environmental and social justice issues are not adequately addressed.
  3. The plan does not encourage creative approaches that set the elimination of fossil fuel combustion as a firm goal.
  1. Target is too low.

If the Federal Clean Power Plan for Existing Electric Utility Generation is fully successful, by 2030 emissions from the electricity- generating sector will only be reduced by 32% below the levels in 2005. That will maintain 1.2 billion metric tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil electricity production.[ii] The World Meteorological Organization reports levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, climbing steadily towards the 400-parts-per-million (ppm) level, having hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984. Carbon dioxide levels averaged 397.7 ppm in 2014 but briefly breached the 400-ppm threshold in the northern hemisphere in early 2014, and again globally in early 2015.[iii] As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue to accumulate, the production of water vapor in the air accelerates due to warmer conditions, which magnifies the warming effect even more. Warmer temperatures are melting the permafrost releasing tons of trapped methane from the tundra in the Arctic.[iv] The goal of limiting atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million no longer appears achievable. The actions contemplated in this regulation are insufficient to the urgency of the situation our children will face.

As a practical matter, the EPA is attempting to retain a minimum disruption of business as usual for the electric utility industry. The final rule states: “Fossil fuels will continue to be a critical component of America’s energy future.”[v] This rule alone will not meet the need to maintain viable climate conditions for the future. A more comprehensive climate policy is required.

  1. Environmental and Social Justice Issues

There are three levels of environmental and social justice issues inherent in the Federal Clean Power Plan. First, the Community Impact Assessment in the Plan shows the burden of pollution continues to fall disproportionately on disadvantaged people within three miles of the target power plants. In Pennsylvania, fifty-one existing electric generation units are targeted in the Clean Power Plan. Within a three mile radius of these plants, 1,853,694 people are exposed to particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hazardous air pollutants, and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead emitted from coal combustion. One single plant in Pennsylvania affects 447,057 people of whom 61% are minorities, 49% are low income, 18% are below high school education, 6% are children and 12% are elderly. This plant emits pollution levels in the 89th percentile – it has pollutants above the recommended safe levels. The ethical and appropriate decision for this kind of plant is to take it off line, and seek replacements for this power from renewable and non-combustion power sources.

The second social justice issue pertains to the workers in the fossil fuels industries. 80,000 coal miners, 147,000 oil and gas field workers face declining employment opportunities as part of the transition to a non-fossil future. It is essential to proactively protect the future of these workers.[vi] The corporate behavior towards workers has not been encouraging to date, as companies such as Peabody Coal have off-loaded retirees and laid off workers with their pension and health benefit obligations, to shell corporations like Patriot Coal, which soon declares bankruptcy, leaving the workers to an uncertain fate.[vii] This behavior may be legal within the laws of corporate finance, but it is wrong. Federal subsidies of $18 to $35 billion per year flow to large multinational corporations for oil, gas and coal exploration, development and production.[viii] These funds could be used to address the social justice needs of displaced fossil fuel workers.

The third environmental justice issue is the unattended remediation and restoration of the land. When the continued production of fossil fuels is no longer a priority, companies will have even less incentive to restore land, watersheds or ecosystem services disrupted by extraction and production activities. As they have done for years, they will walk away taking their profits and investing in the next big thing, leaving the remains of their resource extraction to be addressed as public obligations. In Pennsylvania alone over 3,000 miles of streams have been permanently degraded from mining.[ix] More watersheds and lands are becoming affected by Marcellus and Utica shale drilling and production activities. The profits come in short term bursts to private companies, but the environmental impact may lag by years, even decades, and the cost of remediation falls to the public. Withdrawing from fossil fuel extraction must include remediation and restoration to the extent possible. Mountain tops removed for coal extraction remain as scars on the land, looking more like moonscapes than forested, rolling hills formerly sheltering homes and towns. We must build a future that respects and restores the land. On April 22, 2010, the world’s Peoples Conference on Climate Change adopted a Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth. It declares in part: “Article 3. respect, protect, conserve and where necessary, restore the integrity, of the vital ecological cycles, processes and balances of Mother Earth”[x] The United States should join the 126 nation signatories to this declaration. The time of brute resource extraction without restoration and protection of the living systems of the earth is overdue to end.

  1. The lost opportunity to challenge innovation.

The Federal Clean Power Plan appears to displace fossil fuels as slowly as possible, rather than as rapidly as possible. There is no aspirational goal of eliminating fossil fuel combustion by 2030 or even by 2050. There is no commitment to enable the maximum possible contributions from renewable resources and energy demand reduction by efficiency improvements. In fact, major impediments to using non-combustion technologies remain embedded in the energy system. For example, constructing a passive solar, zero net energy house in Pittsburgh requires 22 variances from existing zoning regulations.[xi] Subsidies to fossil fuel development and exploitation remain, while investment mechanisms for either renewable resource development or abatement of fossil fuel environmental effects are variable, and relatively limited. In 2014, US taxpayers were subsidizing fossil fuel exploration and production alone by $18.5 billion a year, an increase of 45% from 2009.[xii] An “All of the above” energy policy will not achieve the goal of eliminating fossil fuel combustion by 2050 to control life-threatening changes in the climate.

Using existing commercial technologies, it is possible for the United States to reach an electricity generation carbon dioxide emissions target of 750 million metric tons per year by 2050 at a cost of less than 1% of the annual Gross Domestic Product. According to a study completed in November 2014 for two national laboratories, deep de-carbonization requires three fundamental changes in the U.S. energy system: (1) highly efficient end use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry; (2) de-carbonization of electricity and other fuels; and (3) fuel switching of end uses to electricity and other low-carbon supplies.[xiii] “All of these changes are needed, across all sectors of the economy, to meet the target of an 80% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. Energy system changes on the scale described in this analysis imply significant opportunities for technology innovation and investment in all areas of the U.S. energy economy. Establishing regulatory and market institutions that can support this innovation and investment is critical. Both areas— technology innovation and institutional development—are U.S. strengths, and place the U.S. in a strong leadership and competitive position in a low carbon world.”[xiv]

Investing in clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the United States would add more than one million jobs by 2030 and nearly two million by 2050. By reducing emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, the United States would also increase GDP by up to $290 billion and raise household incomes.[xv] Gains in construction, manufacturing, and other sectors outweigh losses in fossil-fuel industries resulting in a net-gain of employment across the nation.[xvi] A strong commitment to eliminating fossil fuel combustion, with a just transition for workers, rather than slowly ramping down by “market forces” will be more likely to reach a meaningful goal for controlling climate change and will enhance economic viability during the transition.

Americans have demonstrated time and time again the ability to rise to meet a challenge. What is totally lacking in this Federal Clean Power Plan is the inspiration to reach for a new solution. This plan tinkers and tweaks the existing flawed and inefficient electricity generation system, retaining as much of the historic infrastructure and equipment as possible, with no intention to eliminate fossil fuel combustion as the end point. Our children deserve better! Think of the conditions we are imposing on the next generation, conditions we cannot even imagine because the earth has not experienced them for millions of years, if ever. Preventing the worst of the effects of climate change is our obligation to the children of the 21st century. We should set a challenge goal of zero fossil fuel combustion by 2050, and align all systems, the creativity of the American people, and the full might and weight of government resources to achieve that goal.

When President Kennedy challenged us to set foot on the moon, the goal seemed impossible. But the challenge inspired a generation. The technologies spun from that effort yielded results that transformed the world. Our survival as a species is no less of a challenge. There is no supply line to planet Earth but the stream of energy from our sun. It falls on us in a super-abundance to our daily needs. We have only to meet the challenge of organizing our energy systems to use it. Call on the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of our nation rather than stall, suppress and regiment innovation to preserve the systems of the past.

Sources and Citations

[i] Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph. D. full Curriculum Vitae is at www.patriciademarco.com

[ii] Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Energy Industry in 2005 Report #:DOE/EIA-0573 (2009)Release Date: February, 2011 http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/pdf/tbl6.pdf

(5,996.4 million metric tons in 2005 reduced by 32% = 1,918.8 million metric tons)

[iii] World Meteorological Organization of the United Nations. Bulletin November 6, 2015. “Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Hit Yet Another Record.” https://www.wmo.int/media/content/greenhouse-gas-concentrations-hit-yet-another-record Accessed November 9, 2015.

[iv] Kevin Schaefer. Methane and Frozen Ground. National Snow and Ice Data Center. https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/frozenground/methane.html Accessed November 10, 2015.

[v] Federal Clean Power Plan Fact Sheet. http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-overview-clean-power-plan

[vi] Jeremy Brecher. “How to Promote a Just Transition and Break Out of the Jobs vs. Environment Trap.” Dollars & Sense. November/December 2015. Pages 20-24.

[vii] Matt Jarmesky and Peg Brickley. “Patriot Coal Again Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.” Wall Street Journal. May 12, 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/patriot-coal-files-for-chapter-11-bankruptcyagain-1431435830 Accessed November 10, 2015.

[viii] ICF International. Economic Analysis of U.S. Decarbonization Pathways. November 5, 2015. http://nextgenamerica.org/news-reports/new-report-transition-to-clean-energy-will-create-millions-of-jobs-increase-gdp-and-raise-household-incomes/ Accessed November 10, 2015.

[ix] U.S. Geological Survey. Pennsylvania Water Science Center. “Restoration of Stream Water Degraded by Acid Mine Drainage.” http://pa.water.usgs.gov/projects/energy/amd/restoration.php Accessed November 10 2015.

[x] World People’s Conference on Climate Change. “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth” Cochabamba, Bolivia. April 22, 2010. http://therightsofnature.org/universal-declaration/ Accessed November 10, 2015.

[xi] Lucyerna DeBabaro personal communication. Cite Solarize Allegheny

[xii] Oil Change International. July 2014. “Cashing In on an All –of –the Above: U. S. Fossil Fuel Production Subsidies under Obama 2009 to 2014. Page 7.   http://priceofoil.org/2014/07/09/cashing-in-on-all-of-the-above-u-s-fossil-fuel-production-subsidies-under-obama/

[xiii] Energy and Environmental Economics, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. U.S. 2050 Report: Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States. November 2014. Page xv. http://deepdecarbonization.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/US_DDPP_Report_Final.pdf Accessed November 10, 2015.

[xiv] Energy and Environmental Economics, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. U.S. 2050 Report: Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States. November 2014. http://deepdecarbonization.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/US_DDPP_Report_Final.pdf Accessed November 10, 2015.

[xv] ICF International. Economic Analysis of U.S. Decarbonization Pathways. November 5, 2015. http://nextgenamerica.org/news-reports/new-report-transition-to-clean-energy-will-create-millions-of-jobs-increase-gdp-and-raise-household-incomes/ Accessed November 10, 2015.

[xvi] ICF International. Economic Analysis of U.S. Decarbonization Pathways. November 5, 2015. http://nextgenamerica.org/news-reports/new-report-transition-to-clean-energy-will-create-millions-of-jobs-increase-gdp-and-raise-household-incomes/ Accessed November 10, 2015.


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A Clean Power Plan for Pennsylvania

September 21, 2015

Comment on the Pennsylvania Clean Power Plan

There is no more serious or urgent issue facing us. I speak on behalf of those who have no voice in this matter but who will be affected grievously by the decisions we make -the unborn children of the next generation, and the living earth that supports all life as we know it.

System problem needs system solutions

Our economy is based on extracting resources to be burned for fuel and it operates on a regional basis. Finding solutions would be most productive in a regional setting, collaborating with economic districts established through trading and production patterns over many years, for example the Power of 32 Region, for which a Regional Energy Flow has been established. (enclosed as Attachment A.)

Coal and natural gas production and exports account for 43% of the energy produced in this region; and 41% is wasted as lost energy from electricity generation and internal combustion engines in transportation. Only 15% of the energy produced in the region is used for work: transportation, residential, commercial and industrial energy use. Only 6% of the energy used in the region comes from renewable resources. BUT, this this is about half of the energy we actually use to do work!

The energy system is designed around the production and use of fossil fuels. The majority of what is produced leaves the region for use in other locations. That means that the profits for the sale of extracted resources from Pennsylvania go out of the economy, with little remaining in the commonwealth in the form of tax payments or royalties; the profits go to private companies. They leave behind the acid mine drainage that has ruined over 3,000 streams in Pennsylvania, land subsidence, devastated landscapes that remain barren for generations from longwall and mountaintop removal of coal, the deep deposits of toxic materials lurking for incursion into the groundwater, and the devastation of mined out communities. Even in dense residential areas communities such as Churchill are threatened with industrial gas development with no recourse to protect residences, schools, cultural and historic areas, or sensitive places such as watersheds. The fossil bonanza has enriched a few and left the consequences to be paid on the public ledger, often a generation removed from the profiteers.

Leadership position in energy – innovation

We have the ability to offer leadership and innovation in the approach to modernizing and rebuilding our power system. If we establish a goal to use as much renewable and regenerative energy as possible, and fill in the gaps with natural gas bridging to bio-gas, we can craft a Clean Power Plan for Pennsylvania that empowers new industries, new investments and crafts a way forward that can sustain a diverse and robust economy. First, raise the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard from 9% to 50% as a 2030 goal. Establish a State Investment Tax Credit to supplement the federal incentives, and make the Green Energy Loan Fund available to homeowners as well as to commercial establishments. Allow Virtual Net Metering for community solar installations to promote shared use in suitable locations such as schools, churches, and municipal buildings. Establish model zoning guidelines to help communities set out the rules for maximum use of solar and wind systems. The City of Pittsburgh Zoning Overlay for renewable and energy efficient development may provide a model.

Take note of the innovations adopted at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and the guidance available from the Innovation Workplace at Carnegie Mellon University. Buildings can become generators of energy as well as users, with net positive results for the community.

Existing sources of natural gas can act as bridging fuels in the truest sense of the word. Investment in bio-gas from anaerobic digestion of municipal waste and sewer wastes can provide non-fossil based methane as a fuel. This process recognized and broadly used in Germany and Korea can support industrial applications and act as base load support for renewable energy in distributed sources. Investment and linking to technologies that do not burn gas, but use it in chemical power production mode, such as in fuel cells, can provide efficient energy supplies without the burden of carbon dioxide at the levels produced from burning methane for electricity production. (See Fuel Cell Energy, Inc. of Danbury Connecticut, which has many suppliers of parts in Pittsburgh www.fuelcellenergy.com)

Innovations using direct current micro-grid systems can increase energy efficiency at the point of use. Models of how to integrate these more efficient systems into the existing grid are in pilot mode at the Center for Energy Innovation. The regulatory system for allocating costs and resources needs to be re-visited in light of the shifts in technology from centralized large generation operations to resources integrating generation and use into the same locations. The PUC should convene a generic investigation to explore and conduct pilot trials of new utility paradigm structures that optimize the use of renewable and sustainable energy systems.

Simply shifting our electric power supply from coal to natural gas is not a true solution. It just kicks the can down the road to the next generation.

Attention to the just transition: workers, smooth integration of technologies.

Moving our energy system from a fossil base to a renewable base will require transitions. It is instructive to examine some of the issues that emerge from transitions that have been successful in the past. Moving from the horse drawn buggy to the internal combustion driven automobile occurred over a period of 15 to 20 years. In that time, the process was expedited by paving the roads, making rules for licensing vehicles and drivers to generate a revenue stream to pay for the roads, developed a fuel supply and delivery system. We set up a whole supply chain for the manufacture sale and distribution of vehicles.

The renewable energy system has struggled to become established, and now has reached a condition where the technical capability is stable, but the rules are different in each state, the business conditions of tax incentives and investment conditions are variable and uncertain, and the regulatory interface takes place in a hostile environment. Much of this comes from the fears and concerns of those displaced from the fossil industries, especially the workers. Miners, oil field workers, and the suppliers and supporters of the energy system as it is today have a vested interest in keeping the same process in place. An energy plan to move to a system that places a higher priority on environmental impact must address the displacement of workers.

A fair and just transition must recognize the needs of the fossil industry workforce. Transitions here must include re-deployment of the workforce, re-training and redress of the needs of workers for assurance in pensions and benefits earned through long years of service. The unions have played a huge role in establishing the rights and needs of workers, enriching the entire middle class, including non-union workers. It is essential to maintain the standards for working people in transition times. Communities depend on the stability and resilience of the work force. Embracing innovation can allow significant improvements in working conditions and in job opportunities. Jobs in energy efficiency infrastructure and renewable energy systems are not easily shipped offshore.

“Made in Pennsylvania” standards for renewable energy systems should be part of the 2030 goal for the Clean Power Plan. Re-deploying the workforce to do those jobs here should be a priority. We can replace the export of raw fossil fuels with the export of manufactured parts and systems for solar and wind energy systems, grid technology and software, and innovations in building materials and construction practices. The skills of today’s workforce are transferrable. The work ethic and the production system expertise of long tradition in Pittsburgh can be harnessed to expedite and optimize the transition to a renewable energy system. If it is not the job of the EPA or the DEP to “take care of the workers,” then, the Commonwealth should establish a parallel planning process to address these serious issues. Revamping our entire energy system cannot happen in a vacuum.

Intergenerational Justice:

We are experiencing a time of transition driven by the constraints of the natural world. The laws of nature are not negotiable. As we burn fossil fuels, we release sequestered carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over the last 50 years, the process has so accelerated that measurable changes to the composition of the atmosphere, and sea water have been documented. The need for change is urgent, and the changes we see are irreversible in our time. The window of opportunity for adapting to the existing situation and securing a measure of stability forward is critical. We resist change, and we resist dramatic changes with arguments, denial, and predictions of dire results. However, if we do not address this process of burning fossil fuels in a despicably wasteful manner, using technology from the 1800’s, we bear the burden of condemning the next generation to a future with fewer options, and a more dire and deprived state of being.

The choices we face are not those of technology alone. They are choices of ethical values. We have the obligation to look forward and take responsibility to preserve the resources of the Earth for the next generation. We owe our children a planet with its life support system intact. Oxygen rich atmosphere, fresh water and fertile ground supporting a broad diversity of living things are the only way forward to assure the survival of life as we know it. We do not have the right to squander the future for the sake of short term profits or instant conveniences.

We can embrace the challenge of living within the laws of the natural world, in harmony with the regenerative bounty of the living Earth. The sun provides 23,000 times more energy than we can use each day. We need only to organize our efforts to capture the flow that falls on us instead of extracting and consuming what is sequestered in the mantle of the Earth.

Presented to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection “Listening Session” on the PA Clean Power Plan.