The Indiana NAACP is asking the state to include an environmental justice advocate on the new energy policy task force. The group met with Gov. Eric Holcomb to discuss the issue and other things this week.
Barbara Bolling-Williams is the Indiana State Conference president of the NAACP. She says people of color and low-income folks are often hit hardest by the pollution and climate impacts that come from burning fossil fuels.
“The power plants are placed there. The toxic industrial companies are placed in those communities,” Bolling-Williams says.
Denise Abdul-Rahman is the environmental climate justice chair of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. She says in Michigan City, for example, the group found five generations of asthma sufferers living near NIPSCO’s coal plant. The association would like to see the plant shut down earlier than its 2028 deadline.
Holcomb will appoint about half of the members in the 15-person task force charged with developing the state’s energy policy.
Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) co-authored the bill that created the task force. She says other representatives wanted to make sure there were no special interests on the task force — including environmentalists and environmental justice advocates — but she thinks it’s important that those parties be a part of the conversation.
“There’s certainly a concern — and I share it — that there are aspects that are missing,” she says.
Errington says since nothing in the law requires environmental advocates on the task force, so whether Holcomb will include them seems uncertain.
Abdul-Rahman says the NAACP has participated in several discussions regarding energy in the state, from the long term plans of the state’s utilities to talks on high disconnect notices that impact its members. She says the NAACP also compiles several reports that would be useful to know in making these important energy decisions.
According to the American Association of Blacks in Energy, only about 1 percent of African Americans in the U.S. have a job in the energy sector.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.