On Thursday, October 1, Ohio Citizen Action Cleveland Program Director Anastazia Vanisko moderated the first stop on the Ohio Equity Team’s Virtual Equitable Energy Tour, a panel titled, “Meeting Our Energy Needs: Today and Tomorrow.” The panel features SeMia Bray of Black Environmental Leaders (BEL), Kim Foreman of Environmental Health Watch (EHW), and Achilles Morales of the Ohio Equity Team (OET). OET, sponsor of the event, works to ensure that clean, healthy, safe, and sustainable air and water are available to all communities, specifically historically marginalized communities.
Discussion begins with a question to all attendees: “How does energy policy affect your life?” Many people respond by acknowledging the Ohio Legislature’s failure to develop any sort of comprehensive energy policy. Instead, Ohio continues to fund outdated and harmful forms of energy, such as coal. As a result, we the consumers are forced to pay for the inefficiencies of outdated energies on our surcharged electric bills.
SeMia Bray is the first to speak after the initial discussion question to attendees. She is a consultant within the renewable energy space, including with BEL, an organization that advocates for environmental justice. Bray starts her presentation mindfully, acknowledging our Native brothers and sisters who have traditionally cared for the land we live on here in Ohio. She reminds us that our relationships with the trees and plants are symbiotic; they take care of us by cleaning our air and giving us oxygen to breathe, and we ought to take care of them. Though we all know we have a long way to go in Ohio in terms of renewable energy development, we can look to many places in the world for inspiration and hope. SeMia acknowledges that, as a planet, we are adding more capacity to renewable energy each year than coal, oil, and natural gas combined. And thankfully, wonderful resources exist in Ohio to help us get the ball rolling on renewable energy, including Power a Clean Future Ohio and Black Environmental Leaders.
Next, Kim Foreman speaks on her work as the Executive Director of EHW, a group that focuses on the health of the indoor environment, as well as tangible approaches to connecting folks to the policy efforts of issues that affect them. Foreman shares that often the people who are most affected by climate change issues are the least connected to the conversation on how to mitigate those effects. EHW has done deep energy retrofitting of houses, with affordability as the core goal. They found that there were amazing savings of $680 per year for those living in the retrofitted, newly insulated homes! Additionally, Foreman discusses a few other projects EHW works on, including a food co-op project, which emphasizes locally-sourced food and economic justice strategies. These on-the-ground programs help marginalized communities in Cleveland to push for effective policy change.
Morales, Co-chair of the Ohio Equity Team and Co-creator of the Ohio Equity Team’s Voting Ambassador Program, gives crucial updates regarding voting in the upcoming election.
To end, the guest speakers answer questions from the attendees, including some that lead to discussion of the repeal of House Bill 6.
To answer the first discussion question of the panel, when I think of how energy policy affects my life, I think of the missed opportunities the Ohio Legislature has had to provide options for cleaner, safer, and cheaper forms of energy to me and my fellow Ohioans. Unfortunately, we do not have the true opportunity to choose where our energy comes from. Ohio legislators continue to put many roadblocks in front of potential renewable energy development in our state. I want to be able to choose to turn my lights on and heat the water I use with Ohio-generated solar and wind energy. That is, until Ohio can guarantee that all of my energy comes from wind and solar powered plants! Maybe I’m a dreamer.
The Ohio Equity Team hosted a crucial conversation about meeting Ohio’s energy needs, presently and going forward. When it comes to working for tangible energy policy change in Ohio and centering marginalized communities in such conversations, we certainly have the right minds at work.
Watch the full conversation here: https://youtu.be/LSElA6oqrq0
-- Tatiana Rodzos, OCA Senior Field Manager