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A Role for State Attorneys General in a Just Transition


Climate change is already causing massive harms, in the form of more intense storms,
flooding, heat waves, and drought. Unchecked, it has the potential to cause even
greater damage and destabilize countries worldwide. As economic, regulatory, and
security needs push the United States towards cleaner technologies and away from
fossil fuels, important questions arise about this transition’s impact on workers. If the
new sector does not promise good family-sustaining jobs and worker protections are
not enforced, the shift to clean energy could exacerbate already harmful economic
trends that will undermine environmental goals, as well as the economy overall.

Experts and advocates have analyzed how best to address these challenges. They
have recommended policies that drive high-road working standards, including
good wages and benefits; laws that promote and enable unionization; and policies
safeguarding workplace safety and health in the clean energy industry as well as the
fossil fuel sector, all critical at the current moment when the clean energy industry
is newly developing, and practices are being established.

State attorneys general (AGs) can play an important role in driving a just transition.
As the top lawyers in each state, they are charged with protecting the public through
a wide range of powers, including enforcement, oversight, advocacy, representing
state agencies, and conducting investigations, all of which can be brought to bear on
just transition issues.

This Report catalogs numerous worker-focused recommendations by some of the
organizations that are most active on these issues. It then outlines how AG action
can play a role in this arena, offering a series of ideas and options for AGs to engage,
from actions to help create good jobs in the clean energy economy, to enforcement
and other measures to address issues in the fossil fuel sector. Many AGs have been
active on these issues already and the Report often points to those activities to help
illustrate the ideas. While these recommendations focus on the energy transition
as an illustrative example, the ideas and options laid out in this Report should be
applicable to the ongoing transition in other industries, such as the transportation
sector. The Report’s overall goal is to provide ideas and a framework for understanding
the role of AGs in promoting a just transition.

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