Statement of Becca Forsyth - Elmira Poor People's Campaign & Mothers Out Front Southern Tier

October 23, 2018
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition BRSC Southern Tier Solar Works
United Presbyterian Church of Binghamton

NYSERDA Energy Efficiency Stakeholders Meeting

Statement of Becca Forsyth (Elmira Poor People’s Campaign & Mothers Out Front-Southern Tier)

Hi, everyone! My name is Becca Forsyth and I'm here representing Mothers Out Front Southern Tier and the Elmira Poor People’s Campaign. We are a small group that is a part of a National Call for Moral Revival. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King called on us to stand against what he called the triplets of evil- systemic racism, poverty and the war economy. Today, we revive this call and add to the list the evil that is ecological devastation and a distorted moral narrative.

We are shifting the narrative by shifting the narrator.

This is one reason I was interested in attending this meeting today. I feel that I have a perspective that is important to the policymakers to consider; a perspective of a vulnerable population that-for far too long-has been victimized and marginalized when it comes time to write the laws that govern us. Far too often, we fail to be heard over the cacophony that is big business.

In my neighborhood, we have a long history of negative interactions with state and utility energy programs. We constantly feel helpless and invisible when we stand in the shadows of the monster that is NYSEG [New York State Electric and Gas Corporation]. I can remember getting lost in the shut off cycles winter after winter. I accrued large bills and received threats of losing power-electric and gas. I struggled to find money for a Christmas tree much less presents after surviving the culmination of this cycle-which always seems to fall just a week before or a week after Christmas. When I call customer service to grovel to keep my lights on or the heat on-I tend to get a snappy comeback like “Well, we sent you a reminder notice!” This does nothing but to compound the weight of shame and guilt I already crumble underneath.

So, I struggle with these monumental bills while I am balancing so many other stressors. My husband is disabled. 8 years ago, he was stung by a mosquito that transmitted viral encephalitis. He now has a whole range of symptoms like migraines all day every day and a seizure disorder and takes 25 prescriptions a day. He is unable to enter the work field ever again. I have gone back to school to earn my Master’s in Social Work in an effort to improve the future, but for the next ten months (at least), I’ll have to choose between filling my husband's 25 prescriptions or heat...food or electricity? In one of the richest countries in the world, I call foul!!

So, let me say that we, the poor, do not tend to carry a positive perception of power companies. I don't believe that many of us understand the position or role of the state agencies but historically speaking, we tend to have distrust built up from a long list of broken promises we’ve had from various governmental agencies. We see national tragedies like Flint, MI-poisoned water-no resolution. The Poor People’s Hearings have given voice to stories of powerful energy companies like Duke Energy dumping coal ash into the water supply of poor black, brown, and white people-poisoning them. In Elmira, we live with toxic conditions under our high school. We have many reasons to be wary when we hear that a state agency wants to work with us to achieve energy efficiency and save us money on our NYSEG bill. We have been raised to believe that if something sounds too good to be true...it probably is.

I am luckier than many in our country. In New York, we do have programs like HEAP that give us some relief. We do understand that those in positions of power are dedicated to making things better. $700 million dollars in NYS has set aside to help low to moderate income families! That’s amazing!!

So, we call on you! We have reasons to be distrustful of big government- help to prove us wrong! I think these problems represent huge barriers that will need to be addressed if you honestly want these initiatives to be a success. We want you to pool your considerable resources to work for us-the poor and impacted people who live with the consequences of your policies. We ask that you reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We ask you to fight climate change. We demand our rights to energy stability and security to be honored. We want a commitment from the stakeholders represented here to side with the people and the planet-not with big business. Fight poverty and not the poor! Thank you!

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