A coalition of Black civil rights groups, nonprofits, business-owners and religious leaders on Wednesday called on the federal government to reject Indiana’s plan for a $100 million-plus investment in the state’s electric vehicle charging network.
“That plan must include all voices from the community, and especially the voices of those who have been underserved or overly burdened, and omitted from the planning process: our voices; Black voices,” said Barbara Bolling Williams, president of the Indiana State Conference of the century-old NAACP. She spoke at a virtual news conference.
The Indiana Alliance for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities said the Indiana Department of Transportation’s planning process was flawed, and thus, inequitable.
The agency held at least one meeting in a “sundown town,” said Denise Abdul-Rahman, chair of the Indiana NAACP’s Environmental Climate Justice Program. They’re white-dominated communities known for engaging in segregation through intimidation and sometimes violence.
Abdul-Rahman said INDOT’s working group on the plan was all white and that the agency reached just 2,000 of the state’s nearly 7 million people, with no ethnic and racial information on participants.
“We are calling on our comrade and fellow Hoosier [U.S. Department of Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg to come to Indiana, embark on a ‘Justice for EV Infrastructure’ tour and reject the Indiana plan until ethnic and racial justice commitments are met, as outlined by our alliance,” Abdul-Rahman said.
Speakers highlighted the transformative nature of the $100 million, which stems from the 2021 passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“Urgency is needed now because we don’t want uneven development, where certain segments of [South Bend] and the state have infrastructure and opportunities while others do not,” said Love Lee, a University of Notre Dame student and South Bend activist. “We must get this right.”
The alliance demanded that INDOT:
- Create an ethnically and racially diverse advisory board to guide the agency’s working group.
- Commit to placing chargers and making grid resiliency improvements in ethnically and racially diverse communities and properties.
- Create a public dashboard online tracking data for equity-related metrics.
- Add an overlay to an existing map showing diverse communities currently in the plan.
- Exceed 10% utilization of minority businesses in its procurement, with emphasis on Black-owned firms. The designation includes companies owned by women, non-white people and veterans.
- Commit to partnering with ethnically diverse workforce development programs, apprenticeships and unions.
INDOT submitted its plan to the Joint Office of the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation and says on its website that it “expects to receive plan approval” by September 30.
The alliance called on the joint office to ensure its asks are incorporated, or reject the plan.
“This is not about aid. This is about trade. [Governments] legislate money that was sent to them by us, we the people, the taxpayers. You’re not doing us a favor,” said Elder Lionel Rush, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.