Expanding Access to Solar Energy, Broadband Internet and Public Lands

Over the last couple of weeks the Obama administration has launched several new initiatives that have gotten drowned-out as the news media focused on Trump-mania and the Iran deal. But they are nevertheless worth noting.

The first initiative is about making solar energy more accessible/affordable to low income Americans.

Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent.

But we know that our economy is strongest when every American has the tools to get ahead. That means just as we are working to make high-quality health care and community college more available and affordable to middle-class and low-income families, we must also work to expand opportunities for families to use cleaner sources of energy that can help households save on their utility bills.

That is why today, senior Administration officials were joined by Congressman Cummings and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Baltimore to announce a new initiative to increase access to solar for all Americans, including low- and moderate- income communities, and expand opportunities to join the solar workforce.

Secondly, HUD is working to make broadband internet access available to children and families living in HUD-assisted housing through an initiative called ConnectHome. The goals are to:

1. Make broadband Internet more adoptable by building new models to provide broadband infrastructure and to offer residents free or discounted service.

2. Make broadband Internet more valuable by giving residents localized, free, and culturally sensitive training in essential digital literacy skills that will allow them to effectively utilize high-speed Internet.

3. Make broadband Internet adoption sustainable by providing devices and technical support to our residents and by refocusing existing HUD resources to supplement and sustain the work of ConnectHome.

Finally, President Obama designated three new national monuments.

Today, we joined community members from California, Texas, and Nevada to celebrate the President’s announcement of three new national monuments. The new monuments include Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas, and Basin and Range in Nevada. Together, these striking places demonstrate the wide range of historic, cultural, and natural values that make America’s public lands so treasured.

With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 19 national monuments. Today’s addition of three national monuments will protect more than 1 million acres of public land, adding to the more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters President Obama has protected for future generations – more than any other President.

It’s true that none of these initiatives has the kind of global reach of an agreement to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But they are good examples of how to ensure that we have a government that works for all Americans.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .