The Rio Grande Valley is a place like no other. It’s composed of large stretches of green fields recently planted by the people of the valley and nourished by the nearby river. Fields, towns, roads, a border, and aguas frescas stands follow the river winding through this low land to its delta in the Gulf of Mexico. The Rio Grande Valley is a magical place but what makes it special are the people that form the soul of this 43,000 square mile tract of land. Their righteous resilience humbling the Energy Justice Delegation from the Department of Energy and igniting a fire to finally undue the harms agencies like our own have imposed upon these communities and their people.
Last week, the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED) led a delegation of fifteen DOE members to launch the Energy Justice to the People Roadshow. Three days, three cities, fourteen events, and hundreds of community members, elected officials, utility board members, and advocacy organizations joined the Energy Justice DOE Delegation in the Rio Grande Valley.
DOE spoke about clean energy investments available to BIPOC and disadvantaged communities, which have historically borne the brunt of the climate crisis, endured the pollution of the energy industry and -as in the valley- been excluded out of the energy system all together.
ED’s first stop on the Energy Justice to the People Roadshow was the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus in Edinburg, TX. On Wednesday, April 12, the Honorable Shalanda H. Baker delivered a keynote address with standing room only to industry leaders, local governments, community stakeholders, academics, students, and local businesses where she emphasized the Department’s commitment to advancing equity.
“DOE prioritizes equity and place-based strategies in our investments to model a clean energy transition that will deliver real benefits to frontline communities - especially those historically impacted by the legacy of pollution and environmental injustice,” said Director Shalanda Baker.
Director Baker, a native of Texas, joked that she took “director’s privilege” in launching the Roadshow in Texas. In reality, Texas leads the nation in energy production, providing us with 25% of the nation’s domestic energy product. It holds 32% of the nation’s refining capacity. But there’s a dark side to this. Texas leads the nation in oil and gas spills, it ranks first in the U.S. for toxic discharges into water, and places like Cameron County have a 36.3% poverty rate for children.
It was in one of the Colonias of Alamo, within Hidalgo County, where DOE met with local community action groups. One resident, Eva Carranza did DOE the honor of driving the delegation through her neighborhood.
The DOE delegation visited Brownsville, TX on April 13, and Corpus Christi, TX on April 14 where they held community engagement sessions and meetings with local government officials. DOE officials shared information about agency programs such as the $100 billion available in energy-efficiency upgrades, appliance rebates, community solar development, electrical grid infrastructure, carbon capture, and much more.
The agenda also included a visit to “The Farm,” the modular housing build site in Los Fresnos, TX run by come dream. come build. for its “MiCASiTA” housing initiative. DOE officials learned how this program is providing environmentally sustainable, disaster-resilient affordable housing to residents. Participants in the program are empowered to make housing decisions that address their physical needs and benefit their financial growth.
The DOE Energy Justice to the People Roadshow is just one example of how the department is embedding equity into the clean energy transition. The primary goal of this effort is to share information about DOE program offices that offer grant funding and procurement opportunities and ensure disadvantaged communities benefit from these investments. ED’s collaboration with industry leaders, local governments, community stakeholders and local businesses will result in real change that advances environmental justice, invigorates economic revitalization, and creates good jobs in frontline communities.
Upcoming tour stops for the Energy Justice to the People Roadshow include Port Arthur, TX, Lake Charles, LA, Cancer Alley and the Midwest.