Equity alliance discusses how to hold Indiana agencies accountable under Justice 40
An Indiana equity alliance wants to ensure that Black and Brown communities are able to access money promised to them by the Biden administration.
The Indiana Alliance for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Economic Opportunity held an event on Monday to talk about electric vehicles, energy and how communities can hold the government accountable to the Justice 40 initiative.
The goal of Justice 40 is to make sure at least 40 percent of certain environmental grant programs benefit disadvantaged communities. But “disadvantaged” can mean many things — and, so far, Indiana hasn’t prioritized Black and Brown communities for electric vehicle charging stations and water infrastructure improvements like lead pipe replacements.
Denise Abdul-Rahman is the environmental and climate justice chair for the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP. She said this funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for equity and to improve Black lives.
“And the work and the onus for that is on us. We're the ones we've been waiting for. We're the ones we've been waiting for,” Abdul-Rahman said.
Mustafa Santiago Ali is the executive vice president of the National Wildlife Federation and consults with vulnerable communities on how to address environmental and public health concerns.
As the keynote speaker, he highlighted a number of new federal grants communities can access — everything from helping churches get solar panels to getting green businesses off the ground.
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Ali said this funding can address the health issues that come from pollution as well as create jobs. He said that 40 percent is just the federal government’s baseline.
“We have an opportunity to continue to do even more and to do better. And by doing that strengthening, lifting each other up and creating a better and more bright future for both our states and our country,” Ali said.
Ali said communities and nonprofits can better compete for federal dollars by building coalitions to leverage their skills.
Margaret Smith works for the U.S. Department of Energy’s vehicle technologies office and encouraged the alliance to continue to make their voices heard.
“Continuing to talk with INDOT is going to be the most effective way of seeing equitable outcomes from that funding due to the limited authority that the federal government has once that formula funding is allocated,” she said.
The alliance has already had some success in holding the state Department of Transportation accountable. Based on their suggestion, the agency plans to create an online dashboard where people can track the EV charging infrastructure program’s progress on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Similarly, the White House Council on Environmental Quality hopes to release its first environmental justice scorecard soon to hold federal agencies accountable to Justice 40.
Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.