Congressman DeSaulnier Unveils Energy Transition Model

March 8, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) announced his effort to create a model that will help transition our economy off of fossil fuel to cleaner, renewable energy while simultaneously supporting workers, communities, and state and local governments. The model will also create more investments in our transportation system, developing an inter-connected, world-class public transportation network and creating jobs. The coronavirus pandemic has expedited our transition away from fossil fuels, which increases the urgency of a planned and serious effort to make sure we shape this transition in a way that works for everyone. Congressman DeSaulnier’s model will allow local communities to come together with workers, industry, environmental leaders, mayors, and other local elected officials to proactively plan for the transition away from the fossil fuel industry and support worker transition and training.

As part of this effort, Congressman DeSaulnier announced three bills that will address this transition. The first bill, the Protecting Workers for a Clean Future Act, addresses the imminent market evolution to renewable, clean energy by providing direct support to local communities to convene industry, the local fossil fuel workforce whose jobs are at risk, environmental justice (EJ) advocates, and environmental groups to make a plan to transition workers to meaningful, sustainable work. The market is inevitably moving to cheaper, more sustainable energy sources, and refinery workers across America will fall victim to joblessness if we do not act now. 

The second bill, the Jobs for a Carbon Free Transportation System Act, takes a unique approach to addressing the intersection of three of the biggest challenges our nation faces: climate change, outdated infrastructure, and job insecurity. The bill prioritizes and invests in state-of-the-art transportation system reforms that would improve mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by developing low-carbon, efficient, inter-connected, and smart transportation corridors all while creating good paying union jobs. With the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels these improvements would have, it also supports workers to transition out of the fossil fuel industry and into meaningful, more secure work.

The third bill, the Clean Corridors Act, would launch a federal program that would accelerate the expansion of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to help reverse climate change and modernize our country’s infrastructure. Specifically, the Clean Corridors Act, which Congressman DeSaulnier also introduced in the 116th Congress, would direct $3 billion over the coming decade to construct and install infrastructure to support technologies like hydrogen fuel cell and electric battery-powered vehicles. With this legislation, we can help sustain the growth of the EV market, which means more jobs, a healthier Earth, and a strong economy.

“We’re seeing firsthand in Contra Costa that refineries are idling, fossil fuel workers are losing their jobs, and local governments are losing their tax base because of the decrease in fossil fuel consumption during the pandemic. Failing to address the market shift will inevitably create a snowball effect including dramatic job loss and decreased local and county revenues, which in turn create drastically underfunded schools. The time is now for the fossil fuel industry to shift toward more sustainable sources of energy, but they cannot leave thousands of workers jobless in their wake,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “At home in Contra Costa and around the country, we have the opportunity to set the stage for green jobs that are both worthy of workers’ skills and help our nation in the much-needed fight against climate change. This effort can help make Contra Costa a model for the rest of the nation.”

In developing this effort, Congressman DeSaulnier has held dozens of meetings with stakeholders over the past two years, including with local mayors, county supervisors, the Contra Costa County Administrator, other elected officials, EJ advocates, environmental representatives, labor leaders, university researchers, and other thought leaders on the energy transition.

“I am proud to support Rep. DeSaulnier’s transition model that will support workers while also incentivizing the move toward clean energy. These three bills are a critical step forward in using renewable energy right here in our community while also ensuring that workers have the opportunity for retraining and job opportunities in new industries. I am proud that our region can be an example in this important step toward tackling climate change and paving the way forward for green jobs,” said Congressman Mike Thompson.

“We welcome Congressman DeSaulnier’s bold effort since our county is on the front lines of the transition to cleaner energy. Given the plans of two Contra Costa refineries to end crude oil production and convert to the world’s largest renewable fuels plants, we need to ensure our workers and local economy are not left behind and that residents in communities which bear the burden of pollution benefit from the transition to clean energy,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia (from Richmond).

“Contra Costa County is one of the first counties to consider how best to transition our economy away from fossil fuels. We welcome leadership and assistance from the Federal government as we develop plans to help workers, bolster our economy, and support communities that have historically been the most impacted by fossil fuel emissions,” said Contra Costa County Administrator Monica Nino.

“As we transition to clean fuels and high-tech energy, it is a matter of equity and economic justice that we support the growth of high-paying jobs and industries to replace those which are being phased out. The green economy presents us the opportunity to not only protect our planet, but to also empower workers, particularly those within historically-marginalized communities, by investing in their training and education,” said California Assemblymember Tim Grayson.

“The effects of climate change cannot be ignored, nor should the concerns of workers. The future of work in the green economy can not be a race to the bottom in terms of labor standards and not having a voice at work. Contra Costa’s Labor movement is encouraged by Congressmember DeSaulnier and all those who are committed toward the future by building the bridge between the green economy and working families,” said Contra Costa Labor Council Executive Director Josh Anijar.

“The clean energy economy can work for everyone, providing good paying jobs for a just transition, giving all of us more options,” said Ann Notthoff, retired Natural Resources Defense Council California Advocacy Director.

“The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers has a history of being at the forefront of innovation related to clean, reliable energy. We support all efforts that mitigate climate change while preserving our members' jobs, the economy and social stability,” said International Vice President for the Western States Section of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Tom Baca. “To that end, we continue to advocate for carbon capture, use and storage and other carbon capture technology as a solution that can truly mitigate climate change and provide reliable energy production through a realistic mix of renewables and clean fossil fuels—all while preserving and creating jobs, economic growth, and social stability.”

“The Contra Costa Building Trades Council represents over 35,000 skilled and trained, middle class working men and women.  These hard working Union men and women are members of one of the following Unions: Asbestos, Lead, and Mold Remediation Laborers, Boilermakers, Brick and Tile Layers, Carpenters, Carpet and Linoleum Layers, Cement Masons, Electricians, Elevator Constructors, Glaziers, Heat and Frost Insulators, Iron Workers, Laborers, Lather, Millwrights, Operating Engineers, Painters, Pile Drivers, Plasterers, Plumbers, Roofers and Waterproofers, Sheet Metal Workers, Sprinkler Fitters, Steamfitters, Teamsters, and Underground Utility and Landscape Workers. Many of these Unions have many of their men and women working in energy related industries.  The Contra Costa Building Trades Council applauds Congressman DeSaulnier’s the reasonable and deliberative approach of his proposals.  We believe his action plan is a positive first step forward as our City, County, State, and Federal Governments work collaboratively to solve the multi-faceted and complex issues of climate change that confronts us.  The Building Trades Council further agrees with the Congressman that it is important that Labor, the workers, have seats at the table. Without Labor’s participation we believe it is inevitable that any attempts at a just transition will only end up in justunemployment!,” Bill Whitney, CEO Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council.

"Contra Costa​ County's refineries are well aware of the energy future and work every day to help meet it. Local refineries have invested billions to upgrade their facilities as California leads the nation with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets to address climate change," said President and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council Kristin Connelly. "Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted countless industries including the local energy sector. Protecting the thousands of high paying jobs created by these employers must be a top priority. The East Bay Leadership Council looks forward to working with Congressman DeSaulnier in facilitating industry’s engagement in this process."

"To address the climate crisis, the American economy must transition away from fossil fuels. Congressman DeSaulnier has clearly thought about the American workers and communities that will be impacted by this transition, and he is seeking solutions to ensure those workers and communities are supported as we move into a low-carbon future," said Citizens’ Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds.

Congressman DeSaulnier is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Oversight and Reform Committee. He previously served as the Chair of the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and in the State Assembly as the first freshman in history to chair the Assembly Transportation Committee. He is also a former City Councilmember, Mayor, County Supervisor, and member of the California Air Resources Board.