(Washington, DC) The NAACP has released a new report that assesses energy policy in all 50 states from a civil rights lens. Titled Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs, the report provides analysis of each state¹s energy sector policies based on both the environmental and economic impacts.
“Our report is a call to action for our community and our leaders,” stated NAACP Interim President and CEO Lorraine C. Miller. “This is both a monumental moment and an opportunity for civic engagement. The decision made about energy by public utility boards and local officials have a direct impact on our community. We must know who the decision makers are and spur them into action with our votes.”
The report assesses states on five different criteria: Renewable portfolio standards, Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, Net Metering Standards, Local Hire Provisions, and Minority Business Enterprise provisions. Additionally, the report lays out the potential for each state to become a leader in clean energy.
“The Just Energy Policies report lays out a vision, supported by practical data, of the path to transitioning from energy production processes that are harmful to our communities, to energy efficiency and clean energy policy landscape that reduces pollution and creates new jobs,” stated Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Director. “Given double digit unemployment and staggeringly stark wealth differentials for African Americans, the report explicitly details mechanisms for ensuring economic gain for our communities and businesses.”
Based on the analysis of the data, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York rank as the states with the best energy policies, while Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee are ranked at the bottom.
“While Alabama does a good job assisting families with their utility bills and winterizing homes, our state must put more money into research and create renewable energy in our state and stop depending on coal to produce our electricity,” stated Bernard Simelton, President of the Alabama NAACP. “The coal that we use to produce electricity causes pollution in our communities, river and streams and a vast majority of those facilities are located in or close to African American and poor communities. These plants causes health issues such as lung disease and the Governor has not extended Medicaid to those individuals that would have insurance coverage that live in these areas. Therefore, many will die early from exposure to pollution if we do not change now.”
“The NAACP views clean energy as a civil rights and social justice issue. In Tennessee, we have to step away from spending billions of dollars on imported energy resources and embrace the renewable energy resource opportunities in our own backyard,” stated Gloria Sweet-Love, President of the Tennessee NAACP. “Tennessee has no renewable portfolio, no energy efficient resource standards, no net metering standard and no state or local hiring goals.”
“But Tennessee is on the cusp of change,” continued Sweet-Love. “We already have a minority business enterprise certification provision, and just last year the state opened its largest solar plant. We must admit that African Americans are underrepresented in the energy sector workplace, having only 1.1 percent of energy jobs. Our new report identifies clean energy potential state-by-state. I am concerned that an African American child is three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and twice more likely to die of asthma attacks than a white American child,” she said.
“In Mississippi, the NAACP has long supported renewable energy,” stated Derrick Johnson, President of the Mississippi NAACP. “Over the last 7 years, we’ve been a part of a coalition supporting net metering. We believe that net metering is an appropriate approach for clean energy in a state like Mississippi where about half our power generating sources come from locally owned cooperatives.”
Johnson continued, “We want to see a state policy construct that allows African Americans and other communities to participate in the job market. The unemployment rate for African Americans in the state of Mississippi is in double digits, and the energy sector is one of the sectors that could provide gainful employment to communities around the state. Job creation in the state of Mississippi is something that we desperately need.”
“Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has evolved in its programmatic agenda. We clearly view clean energy as a civil rights issue,” stated Kathy Egland, Chairman of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Board Committee. “A history of racial and economic inequalities has left many communities of color in the shadows of the energy conversation. We all have a responsibility to leave this world better than we found it, and I believe the NAACP¹s new report will give our communities the tools they need to help meet that responsibility,” she said.