Tlaib, energy activists push $10T clean energy plan

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the cost of President Biden's infrastructure plan. The cost of the plan is $2 trillion. 

Highland Park — U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday joined with environmental justice groups to push for the congressional passage of the THRIVE Act to protect the climate and create millions of "green" jobs in urban areas.

The proposed legislation, which backers say would create 15 million jobs across the country, was touted at Parker Village, a community solar project that advocates say is providing economic cost savings into this impoverished area.

"You talk about community led empowerment, this is it. What they're trying to do is become much more independent especially with such a high concentration of poverty to be able to create our own energy, our own resources," said Tlaib, D-Detroit.

"When I see the high rates of high rates of utility shutoffs, water shutoff because poverty's increasing and also the cost of living ... this is the kind of projects that help communities like mine and especially Highland Park."

Juan Shannon, owner, of Parker Village, speaks about how clean energy jobs can revive poor communities during a press conference at Parker Village in Highland Park on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. The THRIVE Act would invest $1 trillion per year for 10 years in an effort to create 15 million jobs, address racial injustice and cut climate pollution in half by 2030, advocates say.

Tlaib represents the 13th Congressional District, which includes Highland Park.

Analysts have noted the legislation requires the federal government to spend $1 trillion a year on green energy and infrastructure, as well as creating union jobs. The spending would be guided by a 20-member board with representation from labor groups, impacted communities and indigenous communities.

But the $10 trillion Thrive Act faces an uncertain future in the House and Senate, which the Democrats narrowly control, because of its price tag, which is more expensive than President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan over 10 years. 

The operators of Parker Village, which was once an shuttered school building in the heart of a neighborhood, has been seeking green technology and renewable energy. Everything there, said owner Juan Shannon, from electric vehicle charging stations to street lights, a solar pergola and a future cafe, will be powered by solar.

Shannon said his project is about building a "smart neighborhood that is based in renewable energy, technology, media and agriculture" which is set up to help people "live better, healthier lives."

"Different fossil fuels create different ailments," Shannon said. "And so having a project that is run with renewables, it's like a list of things that it helps. If you get an oil spill, people and animals die. If you get a solar spill, it's just a bright, sunshiny day."

The Transform, Heal and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy Act is an effort pushed by racial justice and environmental groups and some Democrats in Congress to pass legislation to promote clean energy and slice climate pollution in half by 2030. The proposal was introduced last month and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, is a co-sponsor.

Shannon said the act if passed, it would not only infuse cash into his operation as a community resources center but train people in new jobs and provide clean energy in the community that barely has working street lights.

"It would give lower prices and less pollution," he said. "This would jump-start a lot of upward mobility and the middle class and wages."

Shimekia Nichols, who belongs to the racial environmental activist group called Soulardarity, said the THRIVE Act would be a boon to a neighborhood like hers and help to "close the digital divide that's happening," especially with urban school children.

She pointed out that street lights had been out for years, but solar lights "give us some say so in terms of what we can do to begin to save energy and make a better impression on the earth."

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (right) D-Detroit, listens to Juan Jhong-Chung of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition address on how a $10 trillion proposal would create jobs, clean the environment and improve impoverish communities of color on May 25, 2021.

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