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The Energy 202: Labor opposition to Green New Deal could be a big obstacle

with Paulina Firozi


The Green New Deal just got another opponent — and no, it’s not another Republican.

The national arm for labor unions is objecting to the ambitious new plan to combat climate change and could present a thorny problem for Democrats.

As my colleagues Colby Itkowitz, Dino Grandoni and Jeff Stein report, “support for the Green New Deal has become a benchmark for Democrats running for president. But the AFL-CIO throwing water on the plan complicates matters for Democrats who rely on labor support.

"Without the backing from unions or the business community, it will be a hard sell for Democrats to get it beyond grass-roots support.”

In a letter to the Green New Deal’s authors Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the group warned that the resolution could harm U.S. workers and “is not achievable or realistic.”

Members of the AFL-CIO’s Energy Committee — Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, and Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — said they could not support a proposal that did not address their concerns.

“We will not stand by and allow threats to our members’ jobs and their families’ standard of living go unanswered,” they wrote, according to my colleagues.

"Their opposition highlights the new political fault lines forming over the controversial proposal that, as my colleagues note, “marries climate change and income inequality as one all-encompassing issue.”

As my colleagues note, the plan “calls for the federal government to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions with a ‘fair and just transition’ for all communities and workers, including by creating millions of high-wage jobs, health care and housing for all, a sustainable environment and enormous infrastructure investments.”

And “there has long been tension between the environmental and labor movements, two major parts of the broader Democratic coalition, over worries that rules meant to curb pollution can lead to job losses in regulated industries with high-quality, good-paying positions.”

Republicans seem to recognize they have an opening. “Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said Tuesday the Green New Deal risks alienating labor groups, giving Republicans an opportunity with voters who side with conservatives on issues such as gun control and abortion. Exit polling from the 2016 presidential election showed a sharp decline for Democrats in support among union households. ‘If Republicans play it smart and stop antagonizing labor, there’s a real opening for us,’ King said,” according to my colleagues.

And see this from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.):

But Democrats are digging in their heels. Markey fired back on Twitter: “We will continue to work and partner w/ @AFLCIO, who is right to say that ‘doing nothing is not an option.’ But until Republicans say that climate change is real, caused by humans, and demands action now, the only people they are in agreement with are Big Oil and the Koch brothers.”

Some Democrats are acknowledging the concerns.  

“Co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), acknowledged during a news conference Tuesday that labor groups have some worries with the Green New Deal.

‘Anything we move forward on, we have to be recognizing that people could lose jobs,’ Pocan said,” according to my colleagues.  

One thing that’s clear: Labor wants to be consulted as the resolution proceeds.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters on Capitol Hill last week that labor was not consulted on the Green New Deal before it was released.

“Look, we need to address the environment. We need to do it quickly,” Trumka said, according to my colleagues. “But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t put these communities behind, and leave segments of the economy behind. So we’ll be working to make sure that we do two things: that by fixing one thing we don’t create a problem somewhere else.”


— Energy Secretary open to conversation about Green New Deal: Rick Perry said he would “absolutely” be open to talking with AOC about her ambitious climate proposal, CNBC reports. “I think having a conversation about the Green New Deal is a good thing — and to do it in a thoughtful and a polite and a respectful way,” Perry said during a panel at CERAWeek by IHS Markit, the annual energy conference in Houston. “Just because someone doesn’t agree with what I believe in, or I don’t agree with their take, doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue to have a conversation . . . I think it’s wise to have those.”

The energy secretary said he doesn’t think the New York Democrat should be “castigated and pushed aside.”

— Vote soon?: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to make good on his deal to bring the Green New Deal to the floor soon. The idea is to force Democrats up for reelection 2020 to cast votes on what some voters may see as a too-extreme blueprint to tackle climate change.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), McConnell's No. 2, said he thinks the measure will get a vote the last week fo March, the Hill reports. Another Republican Senate leader, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), also said he thinks the vote is set for that week. “A spokesman for McConnell said he didn’t have an announcement on timing for the Senate’s vote but that the GOP leader has said it will take place during the upcoming work period,” the Hill reports.

The Senate will be on recess next week but returns on March 25 until April 12, when there’s another two-week recess.


— Historic “bomb cyclone” over the Plains and Upper Midwest: The region is experiencing an intensifying winter storm that’s centered over the Colorado Front Range. In just 24 hours, it went from a typical weather disturbance to a historic cyclone, The Post’s Jason Samenow and Matthew Cappucci write. “The hurricane-force low has combined the worst weather of all four seasons into one — from a string of violent tornadic thunderstorms to damaging winds, blizzard conditions and even flooding.”

More than 1,000 drivers were stranded in Colorado as the storm caused whiteout conditions. Gov. Jared Polis (D) declared a state of emergency and activated the Colorado National Guard to help with search and rescue, The Gazette reports

What you need to know about “bomb cyclones”: The ominous term has been used to describe the storms hitting states from Texas to Minnesota this week. “Let’s begin with the easy part: A cyclone — specifically, an extratropical cyclone, to distinguish from its tropical counterpart — is a large weather system with low pressure at the center and precipitation along cold and warm fronts,” Russ Schumacher writes for The Post. “What, then, distinguishes a “bomb” from a run-of-the-mill cyclone? . . . It describes a cyclone in which the central pressure drops very rapidly.”

— U.N. report warns without “unprecedented action,” millions are at risk: The United Nations sixth Global Environment Outlook report said human action is degrading the Earth and its ecosystems, and without drastic action, “among other things, millions could die prematurely from air pollution and from deadly infectious diseases from water pollution by 2050,” The Post’s Emily Tamkin writes.

This latest report and an October report from the U.N. cautioned that the world has about a dozen years to limit the dire effects of global warming “both address the question of whether humans can continue business as usual and have enough clean air to breathe, water to drink and nourishing food to eat by 2050. Their answer is a resounding ‘no.’ ”

— Fighting for climate action could get this teen a Nobel Peace Prize: Three Norwegian lawmakers have nominated Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teen activist who has been pushing for action to reverse global warming, for the prize, according to the Associated Press. “Thunberg, 16, has encouraged students to skip school to join protests demanding faster action on climate change, a movement that has spread beyond Sweden to other European nations.”


— The road ahead for Tesla: The electric automaker is readying the launch of another electric vehicle, which CEO Elon Musk “needs to be a hit to turn the upstart auto maker into a mass-market car company,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The company is planning to unveil Thursday night its Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle, “expected to begin production in low volumes early next year, follows a year of corporate dramas that have tested Tesla’s reputation and investors’ resolve.” The announcement could also have an impact on demand for the Model 3 vehicle, RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak said in a note.

— Solar status: A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association found solar installation growth dropped 2 percent last year compared with 2017. The report also said solar was one of the top two sources of new electricity- generating capacity in the country for the sixth straight year. “The drop is being attributed to tariffs that the Trump administration placed on foreign imports of aluminum and steel last February, which solar companies relied on for the creation of solar cells used to create electrical energy,” the Hill reports.

— Fiat announces recall amid emissions probe: Fiat Chrysler announced it will recall about 965,000 U.S. and Canadian gas-powered cars because they don’t meet emissions standards, Reuters reports. “The recall, reported earlier by Reuters, was prompted by in-use emissions investigations conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and in-use testing by Fiat Chrysler as required by U.S. regulations, the agency said,” per the report. “EPA said it will continue to investigate other Fiat Chrysler vehicles that are potentially noncompliant and may become the subject of future recalls.”



  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on opportunities to improve access, infrastructure and permitting for outdoor recreation.

— The eagle has left the station: A team of wildlife and transit workers rescued an injured bald eagle from Metro tracks in Maryland. It took nearly two hours for the bird to be rescued and carried to safety, The Post's Marissa J. Lang reports