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Working in MN to Cool Off Cost Increases from Climate Bill

August 19, 2009

ST.PAUL, Minn. - Supporters of federal legislation to curb global warming pollution are well aware that making polluters pay to emit carbon gases could also end up hiking prices for consumers, both in terms of energy costs and new technology that could reduce their energy use. So, advocates are starting now to make sure those least able to absorb these additional costs won't be left out in the cold, literally.

Leah Gardner, outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Budget Project, organized a recent information session in North Minneapolis with labor representatives, conservation groups, low-income service providers and others to map out a strategy. Their goal, she says, is to help those who can't readily squeeze such things as energy-efficient appliances and new cars that use less fuel into their household budgets.

"They're bearing a very large portion of the cost for something that they are least able to address themselves, so it's really a justice issue."

The legislation that has already passed in the U.S. House offers hundreds of dollars a year to low-income families for weatherization, utility relief and transportation costs. Participants in Gardner's Minneapolis session told her they'd like to see the relief extended to families in slightly higher income ranges, too.

"We really wanted to have people discuss what the opportunities are, within current legislation, to address climate change in a way that is going to benefit, as opposed to harming, low-income individuals."

Gardner and other supporters of the bill believe discussing the details now could build support for it, and also help prepare for whatever changes result if it becomes law. They hope to successfully counter concerns from critics of the bill, who say the current economic climate is no time to be increasing costs, either for citizens or government services. The Senate is expected to tackle the legislation after the August recess.

Art Hughes, Public News Service - MN