Environmental Defense Fund and Blacks in Green have launched a new website that will help people around the country get involved in decisions about energy for their communities.
The website, Community Voices in Energy, gives people tools to participate in energy decision making so they can protect their health, environment and money. These tools work with other planks of the partners’ Campaign To End Energy Poverty, which is designed to help make energy more affordable for all. The American standard is that light and heat cost about six percent of household income, but some low-income and frontline communities pay 20 percent or more.
“Everyone should have a voice in creating our clean energy future and economic participation in the benefits. For that to happen, they need the ability to help shape decisions about the energy systems they rely on,” said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green and organizer of the campaign. “Our website is designed to help demystify the processes used by public utilities commissions and give people the tools they need to overcome participation hurdles.”
The energy sector is one of the largest sources of climate pollution in the U.S., yet few people know how to get involved and influence the decisions public utility regulators make to govern gas and electric companies.
Low-income and frontline communities often face more consequences from energy decisions than anyone else. Communities located near polluting power plants suffer from higher than average rates asthma and other lung diseases, lower property values, and worse air quality. At the same time, utilities have historically invested more in wealthier neighborhoods – so low-income communities can face more blackouts, slower repairs and less reliable service even while paying high and rising energy rates.
Community Voices in Energy provides resources to help people learn about energy issues in their area, a toolkit to help them get involved, and training to help them provide expert testimony that brings community interests into public utility hearings.
“A more just and equitable energy system is within reach, said Christie Hicks, EDF Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions. “When more people get involved in the process, it will change the information that regulators have – and that will change the way big decisions about energy are made. We hope this website will help utility regulators make rulings that lead to a more equitable, healthy and affordable energy future for all.”