NAACP Indiana presentation at Facing Race “Our plight living within a hyper conservative state with hyper conservative policies”

We have over 35 NAACP branches across the state of Indiana. I serve as the NAACP Indiana Environmental Climate Justice  Chair.  I am a third Generation Human/Civil rights Activist, serving as  I am a member of Indianapolis Air Pollution Control Board, Grassroots Global Justice delegate to Paris COP21, and a member of many movements/environmental justice related boards.

Attendees at Facing Race “It Take Roots” workshop.

Julian Bond said, “If you don’t use your voice no one can hear you.” I had already been utilizing my voice, he just gave me full permission.


We, as Dr. Robert Bullard eloquently entitled his book, are working to eliminate environmental racism, in a “Quest for Environmental Justice”.  Over 15,000 of us marched  the streets of Paris. The more we connect, the more movement will occur. Our systems are  broken and systemic, not just in Indiana, but all over the world.

We Stand with Flint, We Stand with Standing Rock (See Statement) and We Stand with East Chicago.

Members of Climate Justice Alliance

When Fighting The Bad (Our Context History):  A lot of folks wonder about Indiana, and whether folks of African Descent even exist, let alone our struggle. What could possibly be our plight or oppression?

Our plight is living within a hyper conservative state with hyper conservative policies, with redistricting, so well designed that unless we move out into these rural areas, many times racist environments, making it difficult for us to make compromises within the State House or take over the State House with our agenda.

We are within a heat zone, we are an agricultural and manufacturing state, we are subjected to many tornados and floods.

However, we have high populations of folks of African Descent in Indianapolis, Gary, East Chicago, Michigan City, Fort Wayne, Hammond, and Terra Haute. There is a pattern of oppressive policies, these communities lack resources and investments, no greenways, no roundabouts, high levels of violence, high crime rates due to over policing policies, high unemployment, dismal public education and high poverty.

One of several boarded up and abandoned homes in East Chicago, Indiana

Practically all of these cities are hosting pollution within a 3-mile radius:

Indianapolis- hosting a power plant that just stopped burning coal, but now burning natural gas,

East Chicago– hosting BP Oil refinery, Amoco Oil refinery, and now learning that for over 40 years folks have been living and hosting lead and arsenic contaminated land

Michigan City & Terra Haute- hosting a Coal-fired power plant(s)

Building the new/moving the money: We work within a frame that engages/educates our members and their respective communities regarding resiliency planning, concepts. We have hosted Just Energy: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs, Bridging the Gap: Connecting Black Communities to the Green Economy, ReClaiming Our Systems, and Environmental Genocide, Black Faith and Our Power.


We’ve fought against bad legislation like fixed rate charges on utility bills, fees on distributed generation (solar&wind). We’ve inserted our voices within the State House, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and the Electric Utilities, Integrated Resource Planning meetings, where they are planning their energy and infrastructure needs for the next 20 years, and they will request rate increases to support their archaic business model. (a model that wants us to support their burning coal).

We’ve engaged and educated over 80 city officials across the state helping them to identify environmental justice projects that create resiliency. We’ve presented educational environmental climate justice toolkits to educators. We have Public utility toolkits and we have proposed Environmental Justice Commission bill for local and state and a community solar bill.

We’ve changed the story/rules by writing our own op-ed s, we’ve partnered with academia to have their law students, predominately of African descent, provide research and data that is Indiana specific that helps us to tell our story.   We’ve hosted private meetings with only the Indiana legislative Black Caucus and Town halls and we’ve placed ourselves within the State House with our narratives/testimony.

We’ve protested within the City County Council demanding that they amend a resolution that sought to retire a coal-fired power plant by 2020 when we were demanding 2016. (It stopped burning 2/2016). We had our own resolution with signatures from the Black Nurses, Concerned Clergy, NAACP etc.

The State House was driving an ALEC narrative that said folks of African descent believe it is unfair for privileged white folks to have access to solar, and send their solar energy over the grid for free. We proclaimed that this narrative is false. That we in fact believe solar is good for our communities, it can be urban, it can make our communities, healthy, we can become economically empowered with solar once we gain access as the emerging market, and we can obtain the job training for this new green economic model. (See Midwest Energy News)

Building a movement:  We’ve partnered with stellar grass-rooted organizations like Kheprw Institute a brilliant self reliant, cooperative, Just Transitioning model working on aquaponics, hydroponics, systems thinking/social enterprises, food cooperative and varying bootstrap initiatives, intergenerational and academia partners.
We have partnered with our branches to identify what type of environmental just projects that would like to see incorporated within their cities; what resiliency models they’d like to employ within their communities; Our branches have participated in many social media campaigns (Just Energy, Clean Power Plan and Peoples Climate March)

Reverend Phillip Karl James, Mount Zion Baptist Church (October 2015, People’s Climate Movement-Day of Action)


ReClaiming Our Systems with the Phenomenal Pastor Michael Jones

Today we spent the first hour discussing Environmental Justice and how to reclaim our systems with the N.A.A.C.P. We had Jacquelyn Patterson (National Director of Environmental and Climate Justice) and Denise Abdul-Rahman (State Director of Environmental and Climate Justice) lead our discussion.

HB 1082 Disproportionately Impact Environmental Justice, Meaningful Engagement&the Clean Power Plan

Source: HB 1082 Disproportionately Impact Environmental Justice, Meaningful Engagement&the Clean Power Plan

HB 1082 Disproportionately Impact Environmental Justice, Meaningful Engagement&the Clean Power Plan



The Proposed Law “No More Stringent Than” will create significant, real obstacles for our state regulators.

First, the proposed law will impose additional costs on state agencies over and above the usual costs of rulemaking, in terms of staff time, money, and available expertise, most state budgets are already strained keeping with Federal regulations.

Second, the proposed law raises tendency to single out for further scrutiny—by executive branch overseers, lawmakers, and the public—proposed regulations that are more stringent than the federal baseline. Although state rulemaking is always a public process, the presumption that seems to underlie qualified stringency provisions is that a more-stringent state regulation is unnecessary or unjustified until proven otherwise.

Third, these provisions can, expressly or impliedly, place an agency in the difficult position of arguing that the federal rule is insufficient to protect the people of the state— rather than simply explaining why the proposed more-stringent regulation is more protective. Together, these considerations create a disincentive for state agencies to pursue more-stringent regulations. And even when agencies decide to proceed in the face of qualified stringency requirements, they must bear opportunity costs in terms of other regulatory initiatives that will receive correspondingly fewer agency resources according to Environmental Law Institute,2013.

According to Abrams Environmental Law Clinic

“no stricter than” law are that federal regulations are not necessarily aligned with the needs and the constituent desires in Indiana, that such a law is just an obstacle when a stricter rule is needed and symbolic otherwise, that such a law prevents the state from being a ‘laboratory’ for environmental policy, and that such a law improperly prioritizes the interests of businesses over individual state citizens.[1]

How Does This Proposed Law Compare to Similar Laws In Other States?       The proposed law, in its current form, appears much more stringent than similar laws in other states. First, by applying the law to all environmental rules under the purview of the ERB and IDEM the proposed law is very broad. Most states with some form of “no more stringent than federal” law in the environmental context direct the law to a specific concern or at least a specific medium (e.g. water).[2] Second, most states with such a law provides an exception that is less burdensome than the specific statutory authorization exception in HB 1082.[3] For example, the state with the closest law to HB 1082, Oklahoma, still has a significantly less burdensome exception. Oklahoma law requires a written statement of economic impact and environmental benefit be submitted to the governor and Legislature before any ‘more stringent’ rules can be adopted

Environmental Justice Perspective-

In terms of EJ concerns, the effect of this proposed law would presumably not be to make disadvantaged communities any worse-off environmentally than under the status quo, but it could impede efforts to improve conditions for those communities. AND OF COURSE WHEN Conditions in EJ communities of concern, would still require action from IDEM if falling short of federal standards.

Yet, if conditions in such communities in Indiana were at the bare minimum for federal standards – or if federal standards specified a larger area of assessment such that the plight of the community of concern is buried in a compliant average – any efforts to improve the conditions would face a serious impediment in addition to the usual political and economic obstacles facing any such effort.

For example, assuming a situation where the NAACP, on behalf of EJ communities reached out to IDEM would have been enough to secure extra monitoring of air quality WITHIN AN EJ COMMUNITY beyond federal minimum requirements under the status quo, the same outcome would require additional reaching out to sufficiently to secure a majority in the General Assembly to authorize this rule, as well as additional time for the legislature to pass the legislation, relative to an IDEM Rule making process, and a time restriction in the form of the Assembly’s legislative session.


This proposed law will dismiss any meaningful engagement, as proposed by the Clean Power Plan (ALBIET IN A STAY WITH SCOTUS), whereas, Environmental Justice Communities will not have the means to effectively reach out to IDEM if what the communities seeks is more stringent than the EPA current requirements for Indiana.  This proposed law will disproportionately impact EJ communities.







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Abdul-Rahman, receives Environmentalist of the Year

Thank you to President & Chair of the Board Tom Barrett, Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda and all of Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) for honoring Denise Abdul-Rahman, NAACP Indiana Environmental Climate Justice Chair with the 

HEC Environmentalist of the Year Award.


Abdul-Rahman says “It has been an honor to collaborate with HEC on environmental policy. We have supported the opposition to HB 1143 No more Stringent Than, we opposed Senate Resolution regarding ozone and smog, and we helped HEC increase its engagement in Lake County with air monitoring kits”

Abdul-Rahman even supported correspondence to Marion County Health advocating for water testing at Indianapolis Power and Light, Harding Street Power Plant site. 

Abdul-Rahman says she “holds the award up

  • To grassroots leaders embedded in the trenches. 
  • I hold the award up, In honor of Dr. Amos Brown, III Servant Leader, Demographer, Chronicler of Indianapolis Communities
  • I hold the award up, In solidarity to All subjected to terror, to Paris, France and the piano player in the streets of Paris playing John Lennon, Imagine. 
  • I hold this award up to our global and Indiana delegation to COP21 Paris,

Fear not, let us move onward and forward with deeper purpose, courage and conviction, Thank you.” from left to right, Denise Abdul-Rahman, Shannon Anderson, Amanda Shepherd, Lauren  Kastner and  Garrett Blad not pictured 

(Left to Right: Denise Abdul-Rahman, Shannon Anderson, Amanda Shepherd, Lauren Kastner and not pictured Garrett Blad)

Dr. Amos Brown, III, Me and Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Amos Brown was one of the major Intelligentsia of our community.  I personally admired how he debated positions for justice and equity fully backed by data and research, oh such wizardry.

I so wanted to call him, meet for coffee and ask him how he mastered extrapolating data and research on African Americans within Indiana and Indianapolis, oh so seamlessly.
My brief time with Amos involved seeing him in public and introducing my children to him, to include “Indiana Kid Governor,” getting Kid Governors photo opt, not mine and being on his show, only about five times, and then pushing the environmental climate justice agenda.

At Governor Pence announcement of HIP 2.0, Indiana Kid Governor meets Dr. Amos Brown, III
The most memorable time was just August the 4th, 2015,  Obama’s Clean Power Plan  as Amos stated “It’s the Presidents birthday.” I felt so honored to be on Amos’s show, although this time I had to phone in from Hampton, MA where I was attending a summer institute with the Center of Popular Economics.

This program was rigorous starting early morning, walking all over Smith College and ending a 9:00 pm at night. But I had to be ready for “Afternoons with Amos.” I had to study and prepare to know “Obama’s Clean Power Plan” and its goals for Indiana. I knew Amos would be beyond prepared and would not be lienent because he had a high standard and I always wanted to meet it and exceed it.

I shared how the Clean Power Plan would produce hundreds of thousands of jobs. I shared how Indiana’s plan is one of the least stringent plans out of all fifty states. Then I had to keep myself from laughing on the air when Amos said ‘wait a minute are you saying Indiana has the least stringent?, The Governor says this is the worse plan …since….for Indiana, well what’s wrong with Governor, did he not read the plan, did he get up on the wrong side of the bed or what?’

I really just wanted to laugh, but had to suck it up and respond, but that was being on Amos, smart, witty with great humor.

Another time I was privileged to air in the studio with Amos, we were introducing a national known African American Environmentalist Jerome Ringo. We were conversing about climate change, and Amos ask me something about Indianapolis Power and Light, he said ‘you have been on IPL so bad I’m surprised they haven’t cut off your electricity just for GP’

No I did not know Amos, personally, but I did get a couple of calls with some advice, and I still wish I had called and asked for a coffee meeting, but until then I will hang on to August 4,2015 when he said ‘Always a pleasure’


This Changes Everything 

This Changes Everything based on Naomi Klein’s Book 
Hosted by NAACP, Indiana Environmental Climate Justice
Thursday, November 12 

7:30PM – 9:31PM

AMC Showplace  Traders Point 12 

5920 W 86th St, Indianapolis , IN, US, 46278 

Click Here for tickets 

We would like additional tickets to share with communities most impacted by climate change.  
Contact Denise to discuss:


This Changes Everything