Nearly 14,000 laws and regulations prevent or restrict formerly incarcerated people from being able to work in the energy sector 

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (February 13, 2024) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, sent a letter today to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to make good-paying clean energy jobs accessible to currently and formerly incarcerated people. While the DOE forecasts that the clean energy revolution will generate billions of dollars in economic opportunities and good-paying jobs, nearly 14,000 laws and regulations are in place across the country that prevent or restrict people with criminal records from obtaining professional licenses that are required to work in the energy sector.   

The Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative aims to deliver 40 percent of overall benefits from federal investments to disadvantaged communities. However, clean energy jobs are largely inaccessible to formerly incarcerated individuals. Formerly incarcerated people encounter numerous obstacles when seeking jobs in the energy sector, including: background check policies, existing stigmas, and a lack of educational opportunities. Additionally, formerly incarcerated people who already work in the energy sector disproportionately work in fossil fuel jobs that put their health and safety at risk, such as coal electric generation. 

In his letter to Secretary Granholm, Senator Markey wrote, “Achieving energy equity requires us to generate quality jobs for populations historically neglected by government investment. It also requires us to expand renewables in the communities most severely impacted by pollution from fossil fuels. As the Administration’s executive orders demonstrate, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations offer a barometer to measure progress toward these goals. The gap between formerly incarcerated workers employed in renewables versus fossil fuels, though, demonstrates that we have not yet succeeded.”  

Senator Markey continued, “DOE has a critical role to play in supporting the Administration’s twin priorities of restorative justice and clean energy deployment through deeper engagement with populations impacted by incarceration. DOE can improve outcomes by expanding its programming for, and increasing investments in, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.” 

Senator Markey requests the DOE to respond to the following questions by March 22, 2024: 

  • What is DOE’s understanding of structural obstacles to second-chance employment in the clean energy sector?
  • How is DOE programming advancing second-chance hiring in the clean energy sector?
  • What are DOE’s investments in currently and formerly incarcerated individuals? 
  • How is DOE coordinating with other agencies regarding programming for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals? 
  • As a member of the Federal Interagency Alternatives and Reentry Committee, what steps is DOE taking to further the Administration’s goal of enhancing the reentry process for returning citizens?