Trade unions and climate groups are calling for the “decarbonization” of public school buildings in RI

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“Dilapidated fossil fuel schools are bad for children, teachers, support workers, lunch workers, and our planet,” said George Nee, president of the AFL-CIO of Rhode Island. “It is time to convert our schools for the future – with solar panels, energy efficiency retrofits and climate-safe school buildings. And with the strictest labor and equality standards in the country. “

While the coalition is still trying to figure out how much the total decarbonization work would cost, Cornell University researchers estimate that it would take an investment of $ 2.45 billion over nine years to achieve “net zero” emissions coalition policy analyst Mike Roles said.

Cornell University’s Worker Institute estimates that working Rhode Island could create more than 11,200 jobs in nine years. And school districts – which spend up to $ 35.2 million on energy bills for electricity, natural gas, and heating oil – would save millions of dollars by investing in energy efficiency, solar power, and other upgrades, the coalition said.

As a result of the work, school buildings could generate as much energy as they use in the course of a year. Possible examples of this work are:

● Meeting the highest efficiency standards in design, construction, windows, walls, insulation, roof, plumbing, household appliances and HVAC systems

● On-site solar systems

● Geothermal installations on site

● heat pumps

● Battery storage

The average public school building in Rhode Island is 56 years old, and problems with poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, leaking roofs, mold and lead pipes pose potential health risks for students and teachers, the group said.

“From leaking roofs to broken air conditioning and lead pipes, collapsing school buildings can pose serious health risks and make our schools more vulnerable to climate impacts such as extreme heat and flooding,” said Patrick Crowley, treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and co-chair of Climate Jobs Rhode Island. “Green and healthy schools are an absolute necessity when it comes to the climate crisis and the safety of our children and communities.”

Priscilla De La Cruz, senior director of government affairs for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and co-chair of Climate Jobs Rhode Island, said school buildings across the state run on “dirty fossil fuels” and many have been modernized for decades.

“Building green and healthy schools – with an emphasis on investing in colored communities on the forefront of climate change – can take action against climate change, create thousands of good union careers and promote racial justice,” she said.

Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, noted that Rhode Island has commissioned the country’s first offshore wind farm near Block Island. “Rhode Island can continue to lead the nation on climate protection by becoming the first state to decarbonize all public school buildings, creating thousands of good union jobs in the process,” he said.

Roles noted that the state passed a $ 250 million school loan in 2018, but school districts were able to use those funds to raise equivalent dollars from community and federal programs, bringing the total to 1.4 so far Billion dollars.

“The return on investment for a bond like the one we’re asking is exponential,” said Roles. “Not only would districts be able to use equivalent dollars from elsewhere, but the benefits, which are less difficult to quantify, are enormous. These include improving health and educational outcomes for future generations of children, combating climate change, improving the local economy through better access to quality jobs and saving money in the districts and the ability to divert funds for other needs. “


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.



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