As many know, the fears of job loss from federal cap-and-trade legislation runs high in West Virginia. WVU predicts that it could cost West Virginia 25,00 jobs unless significant worker protections and new capital toward sustainable energy development are included in the legislation.
This doesn’t have to be our fate. We CAN have a cap on carbon emissions and protect West Virginia workers. In fact, there is already legislation in the hopper that represents a valuable step forward in protecting worker and communities affected by climate legislation. It’s called the American Worker and Community Assistance Act and it was introduced by Senator Bob Casey and cosponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown. This bill, among other things, would provide those that have lost their jobs do to climate change legislation with 70% of their wages for three years. It also provides a health care and relocation allowance, job training and employment guidance, and grants to communities for economic development. The legislation could be strengthened with more funds for economic diversification projects such as green jobs, more money for education, and it could guarantee that no worker would lose their pension or health coverage. We could also incorporate ideas such as these so that we are building a more sustainable bridge toward the future.The costs of implementing such a strategy would be far less than many of the other solutions to addressing carbon emissions. (side note: The CBO has issued a fiscal note on the bill).
Hypothetically, if we provided a ten-year $50,000 subsidy to each of the 25,000 workers who *could* lose their job due to climate legisation it would cost $12.5 billion over 30 years. This is only a fraction of the $200 billion subsidy that lawmakers are considering for CCS (which should also be considered).
Approaching the cap-and-trade bill from the lens of working families would also give advocates a big leg up over the industry folks who are often exploiting the inadequacy of worker protection provisions to gut or defeat climate legislation.
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