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)


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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What is Climate Change?

By  Denise Abdul-Rahman, Environmental Climate Justice, NAACP, Indiana 

What is Climate Change?

Our climate (temperature and weather) are changing. It is changing because of carbon pollution (CO2) that is emitted into the air. 

These emissions come largely from industrial plants and from automobile emissions. Some studies even include meat consumption as a major factor. 

Whatever the cause we have huge gigaton of carbon emitted and it is warming our beautiful planet over 2 degrees Celsius and fast approaching 4 degrees Celsius. 

This warming causes the glaciers to melt and when the enormous glaciers melt the sea levels rise, this rise has and will create flooding. 

Scientists say in 50 years islands like Haiti, Dominican Republic will be engulfed by water. Washington, DC and U.S. states have water for borders will be pushed further inland. 

There are extreme weather consequences too. This impact the most vulnerable people, low income and communities of color. These communities are face few resources, no preparedness plans, high unemployment, thus poverty and no reserves.  These communities reside in food deserts, most negatively impacted by high rising cost of agricultural yield, due to droughts and floods. 

These are reasons why there is a climate change agreement among 46 nations to reduce carbon pollution. This meeting is called Conference of Parties and this December in Paris, France, will be the 21st meeting and thus it is called COP21. 

The challenge is developed countries like the U.S. and China emit far more than underdeveloped countries therefore we should do more to reduce carbon pollution. This COP21 Climate agreement is voluntary and it should be mandatory. 

We should act on climate change with a fierce urgency of now to reduce our carbon emissions individually, locally, nationally and globally. 

We should act on climate change now!  It is a moral, civil and human right.