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Pastor represents north St. Louis concerns at clean energy hearing

Provided by the Sierra Club
Rev. Rodrick Burton featured on a Sierra Club advertisement in support of the Clean Power Plan.

A St. Louis pastor heads to Chicago on this week to tell Environmental Protection Agency policymakers that a program under the Obama administration's clean energy plan should consider the needs of low-income communities. 

At the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis, many people in the congregation struggle to pay their utility bills, the Rev. Rodrick Burton said. Most live in the 27th Ward, which Burton described as an economically depressed area where many folks are on fixed incomes. 

Utility bill assistance programs and initiatives like Heat-Up St. Louis have helped the community. But Burton said those programs have limited resources and can't help everyone who needs help.

"I have to collaborate and find out who is doing utility assistance," he said, "and sometimes everyone who helps with that ... they just don't have any more money."

That's why Burton wants to speak to EPA officials on Wednesday, when the agency holds a public hearing on the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The program, which states can choose to participate in, is part of the Clean Power Plan and provides incentives to states that commit to early investments in renewable energy.

Burton said some government programs tend to over look low-income communities. He thinks renewable energy could help ease the costs of utility bills in his neighborhood. He'd like to see a program that gives low-income residents solar panels to install in their homes. 

"Often times when these great plans are put together, some communities are left out," he said. "I want to be a voice for those who wouldn't otherwise have a voice."

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.