NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

NN15 Panel: People Power: Energy, Electricity, & Climate Justice

Sign outside light rail station / credit : Rennie Sawade

Sign out­side light rail sta­tion / cred­it : Ren­nie Sawade

Dirty fos­sil fuel util­i­ties are oppos­ing pro­gres­sive change, rais­ing rates and killing the plan­et, but peo­ple across the coun­try, led by youth and First Nations activism, are tak­ing back pow­er. Cli­mate hawks and eco­nom­ic jus­tice activists are work­ing togeth­er to make our pow­er grid and pol­i­tics clean­er, and fight­ing for more afford­able and equi­table ener­gy costs. Nation­al lead­ers and Ari­zona activists share their sto­ries of how to build coali­tions and cre­ate a green­er, brighter future across polit­i­cal, class and racial boundaries.

The pan­el con­sists of most­ly Ari­zo­nans: Sandy Bahr, Lisa Hoyos, Elsa John­son, Lau­ren Kuby

The issues:

  • Coal is still key in Ari­zona. There are six coal-fired pow­er plants. They are locat­ed in poor­er areas of the state and in Native Amer­i­can reservations.
  • Five of the six plants are under review for gen­er­at­ing haze in the environment.
  • The H. Wil­son Sundt Coal Plant locat­ed near Tuc­son affects a large pop­u­la­tion with pol­lu­tion. They are work­ing on con­vert­ing to nat­ur­al gas, but that is not enough. There is a need to con­vince them to start con­vert­ing to solar.
  • There are mil­lions of dol­lars of “Dark Mon­ey” invest­ed in elect­ing coal friend­ly commissioners.
  • There is col­lab­o­ra­tion between com­mis­sion­ers and the Koch brothers.
  • Ads are run against roof top solar to stop the move­ment away from coal.
  • Solar adopters are pay­ing the high­est ener­gy rates when con­nect­ed to the grid.
  • Per­mit­ting is expen­sive to install solar.
  • Util­i­ties look at solar as destroy­ing their busi­ness practices.
  • Ari­zona has the most solar capac­i­ty in the nation, but obsta­cles are put in the way to pro­hib­it or slow adoption.
  • Offi­cials down­play the solar suc­cess in Ger­many by try­ing to claim (false­ly) that Ger­many has a lot of black­outs and brownouts.
  • Coal mines do not gen­er­ate enough jobs.
  • Right wing politi­cians are try­ing to block cli­mate change edu­ca­tion in schools.


  • Ari­zona cit­i­zens are orga­niz­ing, protest­ing and com­ment­ing around clean pow­er and reduc­ing haze.
  • What can we do? Speak up and tell your sto­ry; write blogs, opin­ion pieces; write to pub­lic offi­cials; attend EPA/ACC ADEQ pub­lic hear­ings, speak at pub­lic hearings…
  • Con­trary to what you might hear from media and politi­cians, solar ener­gy is very impor­tant to the local home own­ers. Many are inter­est­ed in adopt­ing solar.
  • Solar pro­duc­tion has gone up as the price the price of solar sys­tems have come down.
  • IINA Solu­tions Rur­al Renew­able Ener­gy Ini­tia­tive works to install 2 kW solar sys­tems and 1 kW wind gen­er­a­tors in rur­al areas and reser­va­tions, and work to make hous­ing energy-efficient.
  • We need to grow the cho­rus of cli­mate change activists.
  • When talk­ing about the effects of poor cli­mate deci­sions, it is impor­tant to stress the safe­ty of our chil­dren, because they must live in the cli­mate that we are cre­at­ing today.


Ren­nie Sawade

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