By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media
Timothy Simon, CEO of the California African American Chamber of Commerce, says a new clean energy program in Southern California is an “awesome opportunity” for Black businesses.
Simon, who is an attorney and former Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, says he looks forward to more Black entrepreneurs and companies participating in the emerging green economy.
Last Thursday, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) announced a proposal to introduce green hydrogen infrastructure in the greater Los Angeles region, an early step in a broader statewide plan to help replace fossil fuels by 2035.
The system, called Angeles Link, seeks to replace diesel powered trucks with hydrogen fuel cell trucks, eliminate smog-producing nitrogen oxide (NOx) gasses, and convert up to four natural gas power plants to green hydrogen.
SoCalGas President Maryam Brown told California Black Media that Angeles Link will help advance California’s climate goals.
“We plan to target it to power the sectors of the economy that are often called hard to electrify,” said Brown. “It positions California, in particular Southern California, to be a clean fuels hub of the nation.”
Simeon praised SoCal Gas for its “exemplary record” contracting with Black-owned business for past infrastructure projects.
“From financing, environmental planning and construction, the Gas Company has walked the walk. I expect the same in the building of the Angeles Link,” he said.
Brown says she expects a “dramatic” decrease in greenhouse gas and NOx emissions.
Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his support for the Angeles Link project during a press conference held last Thursday.
“I want to acknowledge what Southern California Gas did today as a step in the right direction, promoting something the state continues to promote and will be promoting more in the next number of years,” said Newsom.
Brown expressed SoCalGas’s commitment to support the governor’s zero-emissions goals.
“It’s about renewable electricity, from solar to wind, being complemented with clean fuels — like hydrogen, like renewable natural gas — so we can drive to that net zero number,” she said.
Newsom emphasized the impact climate change is having on California, including the ongoing drought, that is the worst in 1200 years, according to a team of researchers from NASA, Columbia and UCLA.
“There’s no bigger issue, outside of this issue that brings us here today, than the existential issues of climate change,” said the governor. “There’s no state more responsible for addressing this issue than the state of California because no state is more impacted by extremes than the state of California. What more evidence do I
need to give you than your 90-degree weather down here in the last week?”
The governor also spoke about the role big industry plays in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“The issue of addressing heavy industry — not just residential solar, not just wind, not just conversion of electric vehicles– but really going after big industry is critical in advancing our efforts of low carbon green growth,” said Newsom.
According to Brown, California has set an example in responding to the climate crisis.
“We pride ourselves in California on being a leader in energy and environmental policy,” said Brown. “This is the next big step in California’s leadership in the climate space.”
Supporters say the project is a job creator.
“As President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, my priority is creating good union jobs while also seeking solutions that protect workers and their families
when they return from a hard day’s work,” said Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
“The thought of creating a massive clean, green energy hub in Los Angeles, growing union jobs, and preserving the thousands of middle-class jobs for refinery, utility, and electrical workers is exactly the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that this project presents. This is infrastructure done right,” he added.
Brown said Angeles Link is not only a program committed to clean energy, but to environmental equity as well.
“There is absolutely an environmental justice component to our goals and ambitions around climate change and that’s why an initiative like this is meant to directly respond to that,” said Brown. “It is really important to us as we develop Angeles Link to have those considerations because it’s about developing infrastructure that cleans our communities and is designed in a way that is equitable in our communities as well.
Simon says the project is vital to the Southern California region.
“I expect to see more gas utilities advance green hydrogen infrastructure, as Governor Newsom referenced, presenting it as a carbon-mitigating fuel source,” he said. “Therefore, African American businesses have an amazing opportunity to be part of this historic environmental breakthrough.”