Recovery efforts still continue weeks after a winter storm plunged the Southern states into below-zero temperatures and buried them in inches of ice. Jackson, Mississippi, still doesn’t have running water. Texans have wiped out their savings to pay skyrocketing utility bills. In Dallas, the mayor said the full death toll from the storm may never be known.

Low-income communities and communities of color have historically been hit hardest by natural disasters. But climate and energy justice advocates argue that it’s not just after storms when the communities suffer. The energy system — from rate design that determines utility costs to polluted air in certain ZIP codes — has been designed in a way that harms the communities disproportionately every day.

“These are choices. There’s nothing inevitable about how you set things up,” said Shalanda Baker, the deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Energy Department.

“As we reckon with structural racism across so many domains in our society, the structural racism, structural inequality, that is just baked into the energy system should also be examined,” she said, “We just haven’t begun to interrogate it, but, I mean, I would ask why wouldn’t the energy system suffer from the same inequality that so many other aspects of our society suffer from?”

To examine the country’s energy system and its intersection with equity is why Baker was appointed.


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