On January 28th, the day after the President’s “State of the Union”, the AABE Legislative Issues and Public Policy Committee (LIPPC) led the AABE Energy and Climate Change Summit. This historic meeting brought together more than a dozen principally African American organizations to discuss the issues around energy, climate change and the impact on communities of color. Some of the organizations represented included the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), the African American Environmentalist Association, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), La Raza, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Organization of Black County Officials, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. While not every invited organization could be in attendance, many others gave their support. The Summit was opened by Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and also featured Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, and Christopher Miller, Senior Policy Advisor – Energy and Environment, Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They shared with attendees their perspectives on proposed legislation and heard some concerns about potential unanticipated consequences. While the event, in and of itself, was very well received, the next steps are even more important. The stakeholders have drafted a set of principles which will be shared with the members of each respective organization as well as with some of our country’s most important policy makers. You can expect to hear a good deal more about this effort in the very near future.
The 2011 federal budget was presented in early February and the AABE was invited to attend the budget roll-out for both the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. I attended the presentations at the Department of Energy and had the opportunity to hear, in detail, the administration’s plans. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear and clean coal appear to be the areas of most significant increase while the budgets for support of oil seem to fare the worst. Of particular note is that the Weatherization Assistance Program is scheduled to get one of the largest budget requests in its history. Understanding this budget is important to our organization because it is the best outline for our country’s energy priorities.
Several of our board members have spent time with our chapters this past month. Chair Carolyn Green had the opportunity to spend some time with the folks in Saint Louis and had a very productive time. While there, Carolyn met with Ameren’s Diversity Council. David Owens, the chair of the LIPPC, visited with the Los Angeles Chapter and was the speaker at the chapter’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. David reported that he sincerely enjoyed the meeting and noted that the chapter is growing and has a very active program. Carolyn Green, Paula Jackson and I will attend the New York Metropolitan Area Chapter’s (NYMAC) Executive Networking Reception hosted by Con Edison’s Chairman and CEO, Kevin Burke. The NYMAC has had a strong focus on education and community outreach this year, and we are looking forward to a report on those efforts.
The AABE has been asked to serve as a member of the Department of Energy’s Advisory Council to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. This assignment is to assist the Department in its efforts to work with and to facilitate contracts to small and disadvantage businesses. We met for the first time earlier this month to hear the Department’s plans for reinvigorating its relations with small and disadvantaged businesses. If you have ideas of how the Department of Energy can improve its work with these businesses, please share those thoughts with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or with Carolyn Green (email@example.com). We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with the Department in this very important area.
Now in the midst of Black History Month, we are not only reminded of the contribution African Americans in our country, but we are also reminded of how much work is still to be done in our communities. Energy and environment are not only hot topics for political discussions there are elements that touch the lives of all of our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately too many of our folks don’t understand either the importance of these issues or what they could or should do about them. We are the ones who have the knowledge of energy and environment technologies and policies. It is therefore up to us in AABE to serve and support our communities in these matters. Education, community awareness, employment assistance, and youth development are just four of the types of programs that AABE chapters have hosted. We are all part of a large multi-national family, and like most families, we have our good points and our not so good points. Nevertheless, we have a commitment to each other that transcends time and location. This is the time each year when we should be particularly mindful of the family and the allegiance that we owe each other. Let’s share the love.