Apr 29, 2024 - Axios Events

Axios Event: Community focus is crucial to foster trust, equity in Louisiana energy transition

BATON ROUGE, La. – Local leaders are pushing for better community engagement and representation in the decision-making over the anticipated buildout of cleaner energy infrastructure like solar and wind.

Why it matters: Prior practices of excluding communities from decisions or overlooking environmental damage have led some people to distrust the energy industry in Louisiana.

  • Axios "1 big thing" host Niala Boodhoo and Axios New Orleans reporter Chelsea Brasted moderated conversations with Center for Planning Excellence president and CEO Camille Manning-Broome, LSU Institute for Energy Innovation executive director Brad Ives, Greater New Orleans executive director of future energy Lacy McManus, and Democratic Rep. Troy Carter.
  • This event was sponsored by Shell.

What they're saying: "I think what's most important is that the ways in which we've done everything in the past has to shift. We have not done a great job of building a resilient, co-owned reliable energy infrastructure," Manning-Broome said.

Similarly, Carter said "we've got to do something different" when it comes to energy resilience and clean energy, by investing in both industry and community.

  • "It doesn't have to be this clashing of the titans, but it gets to be that way if people are not invited to the table. Naturally, what happens is there's a degree of mistrust," Carter said.

Community groups have voiced safety concerns about carbon sequestration projects in the area, and Ives said his institute is working to develop the industry "the right way."

  • "We can explain to the community what's going on, we can listen to their fears and address those. We also can ensure that as this industry develops, we do it in a very safe way, and we learn from past mistakes and make sure that those don't get repeated," Ives said.
  • Context: High levels of air pollution stemming from fossil fuel and industrial plants situated along a stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge often referred to as "Cancer Alley" have had negative health and environmental impacts on the community.

Improving diversity in the energy workforce is also a priority that McManus said they need to "move the needle dramatically and aggressively" on to improve equitable opportunity in the energy industry.

  • McManus noted that in south Louisiana, over 80% of positions across the highest paid, highest demand jobs in the energy sector are occupied by white men.

Content from sponsored segment below:

In a View From the Top conversation, Shell senior vice president of US chemicals and products Emma Lewis said she feels a shift in the company's role.

  • "I think our role in the community is changing. The first thing is around providing employment, and I think in the past … we haven't always had great representation of the communities around the fence line, and we're working really hard to change that," Lewis said.
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