Harry Alford is the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

By Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new regulations intended to reduce carbon emissions from America’s power plants. It’s now become clear that a measure we’ve been told will do good in our communities will actually be among the most impactful policies passed in our time – and not for the better.

Last week, EPA visited just four cities – Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. – to solicit input on the proposed carbon regulations. This will be the only opportunity, besides submitting written comments, for the American people to weigh in on the proposal. While I and members of my organization hoped to testify and share our concerns about how these regulations will impact the Black business community, the spots filled up in minutes. This wasn’t surprising; EPA’s carbon regulations are both complex and unprecedented. While many came forward to express misgivings about the proposal and its impact on their constituencies, the hearings appeared to be overrun with environmental groups that seem hardly concerned about the high price our community will pay if these regulations move forward.

EPA’s carbon regulations seek to override state authority by prescribing a specific energy mix for each state. The regulations, as proposed, will effectively eliminate coal-based power generation, which also happens to be the most abundant and affordable energy source in the U.S. I fear that by moving too quickly in a direction toward more costly energy sources, the EPA has failed to consider the economic consequences inherent in its proposal.

Our small businesses are the lifeblood of America, and they sustain our communities, supporting the livelihoods of owners and employees. Black small business owners have faced more challenges than most and deserve the support of their leaders as they grow and develop their operations. Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed carbon regulations will do just the opposite. By causing utility rates to rise, these regulations will create an impossible environment for economic development, instead of fostering growth.

And when the price of electricity rises, prices of goods will rise across the board. For low-income families, too many of whom are African-American, electricity bills are already a monthly struggle to afford without sinking into debt. This is the wrong time to implement policy that will surely hurt lower- and middle-class families the hardest. We need to invest in our communities through job creation and economic empowerment, not by imposing policy that knowingly pushes families’ monthly budgets to the brink.

I want our government to do everything it can to empower innovation among Black entrepreneurs. We’re blessed to live in a country that has recently experienced a manufacturing renaissance, spurred in large part by the innovation intrinsic to the very fabric of America. The uptick in manufacturing is closely tied to having an all-of-the-above energy portfolio and the low-cost power diverse energy use affords. We cannot take this for granted. We need to utilize all sources at our disposal from coal to wind, natural gas to solar, hydro power to nuclear. It would be irresponsible for us to sit by while EPA dictates that we must use the most expensive and least reliable energy sources.

I spend a great deal of time worrying about the future of the Black community. This is, in large part, because the median household income has decreased for African-American families since the economic crash in 2008. And I became all the more concerned when learning of the EPA’s dangerous carbon regulations that will increase energy costs that in turn create a domino effect of job losses, higher bills and a bleak economic future. The Black community should pay close attention to the debate as it unfolds and call for our government to invest in Black business owners, workers and families; not leave us struggling to survive.

They seem to smile when we claim small business will hurt.  It is like the EPA and radical environmental extremists get a “kick” out of the idea.  Increased poverty is not the way to make the world a safer place.  It brings poor health which isn’t what they say there mission is.  It brings crime and violence.  It makes America less than it can be.  My people, we must rise to this threat and fight it with all we have.  The phony hearings, false science and claims should be challenged.  Contact your political leaders and ask them don’t they see this coming?

We are going to fight this in the fashion we used to fight Cap and Trade legislation.  We defeated it even when both the Senate and Congress were controlled by the White House.  It will take some time but in the end we all must be fierce and unrelenting in our activities against this very severe threat to our communities.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®.  Website:  www.nationalbcc.org  Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.


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