A voice for human and civil rights is Imperative to the Indiana 21st Century Energy Policy Taskforce

A voice for human and civil rights is Imperative to the Indiana 21st Century Energy Policy Taskforce

The voice for human and civil rights regarding an extremely important system that impacts every aspect of our lives, electric energy is imperative within the Indiana 21st Century Energy Policy Taskforce. 

We provided answers to the Energy Policy Taskforce that should lead to decisions that will assure that environmental justice communities/disadvantaged communities are adequately provided with an energy system that is reliable, resilient, affordable and just.

There are models we can turn to on how power outages that have affected environmental justice communities, such as the rolling power outage in Detroit that was out for over a week, and after Superstorm Sandy, New York utilities restored power to 95% of the population in 13 days, New Jersey in 11 days and West Virginia in 10 days.  After hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma the outages for the people in Louisiana only 3-quarters had restored power after 23 days, and of course hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands power outages for months. Who knows how long for the Bahamas. 

A model to consider comes from the Book Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions by Maggie Tishman of Economic Innovations about Community Anchor strategies.  There is power in community-anchor partnerships.  Hospitals, universities, major public institutions are a few examples of anchor institutions.  These entities have significant fixed assets in a given location, are unlikely to move and so will play a role in their local economies for the foreseeable future.These anchors provide employment, purchasing, direct community investment, sustainability and resilience. 

Many anchors are concerned about resiliency, particularly a model in New York City where hurricane Sandy caused physical damage in 2012 and the storm cut power at 400 NY City Housing Authority Buildings and heat and hot water at 386 buildings, stranding some 80,000 tenants without basic services.  The damage to the agencies portfolio was over $3 billion.In NY State a changing regulatory landscape is facilitating and incentivizing local energy generation, which can be cleaner, more efficient and more resilient.  Many anchors are considering efficient and trigeneration technologies or fully fledged microgrid, which operate independently in the event of a major power outage. 

How would the power outages affect environmental justice communities/disadvantaged communities, within the context of health, economic consequences and Summer vs Winter seasons? 

The people in the communities are typically food insecure, transit access challenged, and living in challenging housing stock.  Power outages in these communities would have an effect on the following:

Health

According to Dr. Ife Kilimanjaro a few such effects to health are

 ‘food – refrigeration would be compromised so unable to keep food, juices, medicine that require refrigeration.  If outage is community wide, could mean that grocery stores and restaurants are not viable options.”  

According to the NAACP Lights Out in the Cold Report,developed by Jacqueline Patterson, National NAACP Director indicates that socially vulnerable are impacted in varying ways when their electricity is disconnected.  Cases such as death because of dependency on a respirators,candle fires, and again the need for medicines requiring refrigeration and risk of injury from having poorly lit spaces that increase likelihood for injury…..and given the high rates of diabetes among communities of color there is therefore the increased risk that occurs with injury, as another compounded hazard to health that must be considered.”

Sanitation oftentimes toilets can get backed up.  This is especially problematic and a reality when it is overflowing.  For those with washers and dryers unable to utilize and for those without, if the outage is widespread and the entire community is impacted then the ability to utilize a laundromat to simply wear clean clothes would not be possible.

Emotional health and well-being for communities accustomed to living in particular ways (i.e. relying on electricity), it can be traumatic and disturbing to not have power.

A power outage in our ever increasing temperatures, urban heat islands is increasing deaths and is devastating to especially to environmental justice communities/disadvantaged.

The inability to leave and go elsewhere to be cooled and the same in our harsh winters.  Anchor stations acting as resilience hubs can save lives with cooling stations, heating stations and a source for food, water etc.

Income and employment, loss of wages for hourly workers they may not be receiving a living wage will be impacted economically.  The businesses in those areas will economically be impacted by loss and those cost will be passed in higher cost for food, and other products.  Call center jobs are increasingly a work from home model, these workers would be unable to do their work with power outage, and unable to charge phones etc.  Students’ ability to do homework based on lack of lighting and the challenging conditions will be a factor too.

Finally is Baseload relevant?  

It can be met with investments in local communities, ej/disadvantaged via stabilizing technologies, equitable energy storage,energy efficiency, geothermal is an extremely reliable source of renewable energy, along with solar and wind.  

If our communities were able to benefit from inclusive on bill financing or investments in community solar and rooftop it would support in our resilience.

Denise Abdul-Rahman has a BS, MBA, HCM, HIS and serves the 

Indiana State Conference of the NAACP as the Environmental Climate Justice Chair.

Denise Abdul-Rahman, 

MBA HCM HIS

Indiana NAACP Environmental Climate Justice Chair

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