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Serena Owen Elsmere, Kentucky

Help Empower America

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My name is Serena Owen. I am a Mother, Community Advocate, and a Youth Ministry Worker. I live in Northern Kentucky and ran for local office, because I’m trying to improve the quality of life of others. Healthy communities and a healthier democracy are very important to me!

I grew up in the West End of Louisville where coal plants and chemical plants emit pollution into the air. Like many other low-income and people of color communities, residents in my neighborhood have many negative health impacts due to a heavy burden of toxic air pollution. My son, who’s about to graduate from college was born in Louisville and developed Asthma at an early age! The smell was so disgusting that as a teenager I remember being too embarrassed to invite friends into the West End to visit with me and daily, I couldn’t wait to get out of the West End, to get Fresh Air so I could BREATHE! Can you imagine having to leave your home, your community, just to BREATHE?!

Voices in my former community in the West End of Louisville and my current community in Elsmere, KY are not often heard or valued, but our lives matter! Everyone deserves a Good Quality of Life and everyone should be able to Breathe Clean Air! In cases were Power Plants are strategically planted in low income minority communities and emit harmful toxins and pollution into the air, this is considered Environmental Racism. We as Power Builders can and must do something to help our brothers and sisters!

That’s one reason I joined Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grassroots social justice organization with 10,000 members, to organize for change and build New Power. KFTC has a powerful vision that guides in the way we do our work and the issues we work on. “We are working for a day when Kentuckians—and ALL people—enjoy a better quality of life.” And we are guided by the vision of the “voices of ordinary people being heard and respected in our democracy.” (www.kftc.org)

While we know there are root causes to our issues we work on, we also know that there are root solutions. We know we must build a political process in which every voice is heard, that is inclusive, transparent, and creative.

This past August the US EPA released the final version of the Clean Power Plan to protect us and especially our children and future generations from the harmful effects of global climate disruption. The Plan lays out targets, unique to each state’s situation, for reducing carbon pollution from power plants over the next 15 years. Kentucky’s target is a 41% reduction by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan creates an opportunity for us and other states to build a strong economy that is good for all people, while addressing the risks of climate change. We can put clean energy solutions to work – creating good new jobs, ensuring affordable energy, and improving the health and quality of life of all Kentuckians.

But it won’t be easy to transform the ways we generate and use energy in Kentucky. Our economic, energy and political systems have long been shaped by fossil fuels, especially coal. That’s why KFTC has launched the Empower Kentucky project. Empower Kentucky is KFTC’s campaign to engage people from all walks of life in conversations about their ideas and vision for a bright energy future. This year we are organizing public forums, listening sessions, house-parties, workshops and scores of interviews to listen and learn. Then together we will write our own model state plan. The Empower Kentucky plan will lay out ways to make our communities more livable, strengthen our economy, and support a just transition for workers and communities while meeting or exceeding the EPA’s targets for pollution reduction.

The Empower Kentucky project is part of a long term organizing strategy to build the political will necessary for a clean energy transition, one that is good for all people and communities.

Kentucky could – and we believe should – comply with the Clean Power Plan by investing in home-grown solutions and a just transition for communities and workers by significantly expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy – especially in communities most affected by pollution and economic distress.

This moment we’re in right now presents us the opportunity to build Healthier Communities and a Healthier Democracy by voting, lobbying to our local officials and legislators in Frankfort to support the Clean Power Plan, being inclusive by seeking, sharing stories, and creating space so everyone’s voice is heard.

It’s up to us to ensure that Americans understand the choices we face and have every opportunity to shape solutions that can benefit our lives, health and economic well-being.

Your voice is your power. Share your story and learn how you can be a Power Builder. Help Empower America and help improve the quality of life of All! Thank you.