BREAKING: PSC Grants Request to Refund $100M to Customers

BREAKING: PSC Grants Request to Refund $100M to Customers

BREAKING: PSC Grants Request to Refund $100M to Customers

On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, Gasp and 12 other organizations, led by Daniel Tait at Energy Alabama, petitioned the Alabama Public Service Commission to provide some relief to Alabamians struggling with ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19. We sent a letter urging the Commissioners to refund customers for the more than $100 million that we have overpaid to Alabama Power for fuel costs through May of this year.

“After COVID-19, many states around the country took action to refund customers for overpaid fuel costs,” Tait said in an email to AL.com. “Some customers may be months behind on their utility bills and the least we can do is to return their own money. We’re hopeful that the Alabama PSC will stand on the side of the people.”

The PSC initially balked at the idea, telling al.com that they could not take such action. But that was never the case, and the Commissioners apparently reconsidered. Today, they voted to do just what we asked. PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh released a statement to the blog Yellowhammer News immediately in which she estimates that the standard bill credit to be around $25.

“Returning $100 million to customers of Alabama Power is the right thing to do at just the right time,” she told the blog. “The coronavirus pandemic has had such a significant impact on Alabama families and small businesses. Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery.”

We couldn’t agree more, Commissioner. This decision will help a lot of Alabamians. We’re elated that you took the advice of Gasp and our partner groups.

 

Read the July 15 letter below:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Submitted via e-mail

Alabama Public Service Commission
Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh
Commissioner Jeremy H. Oden, Place 1
Commissioner Chris “Chip” Beeker, Place 2
100 North Union Street
P.O. Box 304260
Montgomery, AL 36130

On behalf of the members of the undersigned organizations, we urge you to take immediate action to refund customers for the amount they have overpaid Alabama Power for fuel, according to information filed in Docket 18148. As of May 2020, customers have overpaid Alabama Power for fuel by $112 million.1

Considering the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), customers need relief now more than ever. The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) has a duty to all Alabamians to act immediately.

The PSC did not take official action to cease disconnections and late fees, despite requests from community organizations throughout the state. Georgia Power, the sister company of Alabama Power, is set to begin disconnections today, July 15 however, neither the Alabama PSC nor Alabama Power have communicated its plans to the public.

Thousands of Alabamians are at risk of disconnection and many are likely months behind on their utility bill payments. Data from North Carolina shows just under 800,000 residential customers and 60,000 non-residential customers eligible for disconnection and owing $253 million in payments.2

The PSC is able to provide some financial relief and Alabamians deserve decisive action from its elected leaders.

In Florida, the Public Service Commission ordered the state’s regulated utilities to refund fuel savings back to customers. Tampa Electric refunded customers $130 million3, Florida Power & Light issued customers a one-time bill credit of just over $204, and Duke Energy provided customers a one-time ~20% reduction in their monthly bill5.

We urge the Alabama Public Service Commission to issue an order to refund customers the $112 million in excess fuel costs they have paid Alabama Power. We further ask for an update from the Commission on its plans for utility disconnection and late fee policies through the end of the year.

As we stated in March of this year, the Alabama Public Service Commission has an opportunity to provide that reliability and stability to the people of Alabama during the one of the greatest public health and economic crises of our lifetime.

We still remain hopeful that you will yet rise to the challenge.

Regards,

Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Pastor, Saint Junia United Methodist Church
Carla Crowder, Executive Director, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
Rev. Carolyn Foster, Tri-Chair, Alabama Poor People’s Campaign
Michael Hansen, Executive Director, Gasp
Robyn Hyden, Executive Director, Alabama Arise
Cindy Lowry, Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance
Rev. Michael Malcom, Executive Director, Alabama Interfaith Power and Light
Cara McClure and Eric Hall, Co-Founders, Black Lives Matter Birmingham
Charles Scribner, Executive Director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper
Stephen Stetson, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club
Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer, Energy Alabama
Jessica Vosburgh, Executive & Legal Director, Adelante Alabama Worker Center


1 See: https://www.pscpublicaccess.alabama.gov/pscpublicaccess/PSC/PSCDocumentDetailsPage.aspx?DocumentId=0a56a562-f1e0-4303-b5b1-7f42e398e9db&Class=Filing
2 See: https://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/ViewFile.aspx?Id=24043568-beb8-47e7-bf32-723aed9ca95f
3 See: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/325342-teco-plans-to-pass-130m-in-fuel-savings-to-customers-to-help-offsetcoronavirus-losses
4 See: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2020/03/30/fpl-bills-may-cut-may-doe-coronavirus-economics/5086973002/
5 https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/duke-energy-florida-lowering-may-bill-21-percent/67-f6658a1e-5a91-4a97-b654-f47363ca3147

COVID-19 and Environmental Justice:  A Call to Action

COVID-19 and Environmental Justice: A Call to Action

COVID-19 and Environmental Justice: A Call to Action

Community-Based, Environmental and Civil Rights Activists Across Country Issue Statement and Unified Demands

Racial Inequalities Laid Bare by COVID-19 Pandemic and Response Require Effective Action to Address Race Discrimination and Segregation

New York, NY — A broad alliance of environmental justice groups, activists, allies, and partners from across the country, today released a call to action highlighting that disparities experienced by people of color during the COVID-19 crisis reflect environmental racism and a long history of discrimination and segregation. The statement shows how the confluence of crises in the US has exposed the sacrifice zones to which we relegate communities of color, immigrants, indigenous people and other marginalized groups, and includes specific steps the country must take to begin to rectify the legacy of harm from racist policies and institutions. As the country confronts systemic racial inequality, the alliance is speaking out during this unprecedented time to affirm the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, condemn the epidemic of police killings of people of color, and call for an end to the disproportionate death of people of color resulting from environmental racism.

The call to action can be found here.

“How many times have we heard those advocating for environmental justice and equal protection demand a ‘paradigm shift’ over the past forty years? How many times have we heard these same communities and advocates ask U.S. EPA and other agencies to investigate the cumulative effects of multiple sources of pollution bombarding the places where they live, work, attend school, worship and play? We’ve said over and over that we ‘could not breathe,’ and too many were dying from proximity and exposure to nearby sources of pollution. For the most part our cries and demands for reduction of pollution went unheeded,” said Vernice Miller- Travis, Executive Vice President for Environment and Sustainability, Metropolitan Group, a longtime member of the alliance and one of the statement’s authors. “Today, the syndemic of environmental and racial injustice, and the novel coronavirus have brought into dramatic relief that exposure to fine particle air pollutants is making these same communities the epicenter of illness and disproportionate rates of death from COVID-19. Maybe now, when so many in these communities are dying needlessly, we can finally get them the help they so desperately need and deserve.”

Signed by over 60 groups and individuals who have worked for years on issues of environmental justice, civil rights, and the environment at local, state and national levels, the call to action highlights how the legacy of systemic discrimination contributes to the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color. It calls for eight steps forward to dismantle the structures that perpetuate inequality. These include equal protection under the law to address inequalities in housing and environmental exposures, an end to discriminatory segregation, access to clean water, and stronger enforcement of environmental laws, among others.

The call to action was drafted by the Title VI Alliance, which works to ensure that environmental and land use policies are at the forefront of progress toward justice as the nation confronts a legacy of racial discrimination and grapples with reforms ranging from policing to health care. The Title VI Alliance was formed more than a decade ago as a space to regularly convene local, state, and national advocates and activists across the country to exchange advice, strategize, and draft state and national legislation to advance equal protection under the law. Many activists, individuals, and other groups across the country signed onto the statement in solidarity.

Vincent Martin, a Detroit, Michigan resident and long-time environmental activist, said, “Black communities in Detroit have been hit hardest by COVID, and I’ve lost a number of family members. It’s not surprising because we have been subject to years of unhealthy air and pollution. It’s time for action. We can’t wait another day.”

Marianne Engelman Lado, Director, Environmental Justice Clinic, Vermont Law School, said, “For too long the country has tolerated or even promoted policies that concentrate sources of pollution – everything from refineries to sewage plants, industrial hog facilities to incinerators – in communities of color and low-income communities, and the consequences are more deadly now than ever. We have to change course, recognize that industrial polluters should be held accountable under civil rights laws, and send the message that it is no longer acceptable that whether you get sick and die prematurely is related to race in this country.”

McGregor Smyth, Executive Director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), said, “We are proud to work with such committed community partners across the country at this pivotal moment to shed light on the deep inequality and bias the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have brought to the forefront. Together, we advance solutions that put the lives and welfare of communities of color, indigenous people, immigrants, and frontline workers first. For over forty years NYLPI has fought in community-led campaigns against the systemic problems of environmental racism, xenophobia, disparities in health access, and discrimination against people with disabilities. While our communities have won victories along the way, deeply rooted systemic barriers to equality remain. Our hope is that this moment of recognition of the structural nature of racial discrimination in our society makes us stronger and brings us closer to true equality, progress, and justice.”

Dr. Gayle Dine Chacon, Former Surgeon General of the Navajo Nation, said, “Native people have shown our resilience for centuries. Just as we have used resilient strategies to address the lack of clean water, access to health care, educational inequality, the digital divide, and abandoned uranium piles poisoning our land, we must use resilient strategies to address COVID-19. Until the United States government upholds its treaty obligations to Native people, where we ceded our lands for the right to housing, healthcare, and education, we will rely on our courage, wisdom and resilience to survive this latest threat, just as we have survived all the previous threats to our existence.”

Rosie Bongiovanni, Executive Director of GreenRoots Chelsea, said, “COVID-19 has brought to bear what many of us have been voicing for years: structural racial and classism have saddled brown and Black communities with a disproportionate share of the health and environmental disparities. We’ve seen that our community of Chelsea has gotten sick and is dying in unprecedented numbers. There is no question that this is due in part to decades of racial and environmental injustice. GreenRoots is committed to fight against anti-Blackness, racial, cultural and ethnical biases and discrimination.”

Maya Golden-Krasner, Deputy Director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “COVID-19 has laid bare the pervasiveness of racism in our society— from public health and environmental injustice to unequal education, housing, and workplace conditions. Now is the time for a fundamental restructuring of our economy to stop sacrificing people and start investing in our communities, especially communities of color.”

J. Michael Chavarria, Governor, Santa Clara Pueblo, Chairman of All Pueblo Council of Governors, said, “The All Pueblo Council of Governors continues to advocate for the federal government, our Trustees, to address our urgent needs during this National Health Emergency. The federal government has treaty obligations to protect the health and safety of Pueblo people – obligations that have never been fulfilled, leading to the heavy impact of COVID-19 in some of our Pueblo Nations. Our relationship with the federal government is not based on race but rather based upon our status as political sovereign governments engaged in a government to government relationship, established in the US Constitution, supreme court decisions, treaties, statutes and federal Indian law.”

Amy Laura Cahn, Senior Attorney, Interim Director – Healthy Communities & Environmental Justice, Conservation Law Foundation, said, ““The data is clear: COVID-19 is attacking Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities at astronomical rates. For generations, our legal system has withheld resources and legal protections from these communities while shielding whiter, wealthier areas from environmental harm. Now is the time to create new systems that prioritize the rights, health, and self-determination of those who have been denied these freedoms since before this country’s inception.”

About the Title VI Alliance:
The Title VI Alliance brings together local, regional, and national organizations and activists, many of whom have been working together for more than a decade within and in support of the environmental justice movement. Members have filed civil rights complaints and have substantial experience with the failure at all levels of government to implement and enforce a meaningful civil rights enforcement program that would address deep and scarring racial inequalities in the location of polluting sources, exposure to toxic substances, and environmental enforcement. Many of the participants, including members of environmental justice, civil rights, and environmental groups, have sought enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 across administrations, raising concerns about the utter failure of the government – including but not limited to the EPA – to enforce the law.

Signatories to the statement include:
Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Amigos Bravos
Azul
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Environmental Health
Children’s Environmental Health Network
Clean Water Action
Conservation Law Foundation
Conservation Voters New Mexico
Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
Earthjustice
Environmental Justice Clinic, Vermont Law School
The Forbes Funds
Great Basin Resource Watch
Gasp
GreenRoots
Multi-Cultural Alliance for a Safe Environment
National Black Environmental Justice Network
Natural Resources Defense Council
New Mexico Environmental Law Center
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
PODER
Rio Grande Indivisible
River Source
Save the South Fork Salmon
Sierra Club
The Sierra Fund
Toxic Free NC
Veterans for Peace
Golden Rule Project
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West End Revitalization Association
Western Watershed Project
Yale Center on Climate Change and Health, Yale School of Public Health
Mustafa Santiago Ali
Marc Brenman
Rob Brenner
Robert Bullard
Debbie Chizewer
Michael Churchill
Jennifer Clarke
Thomas De Press
Christopher Brady Eaves
Steven Fischbach
Ebony Griffin
Richard Grow
Earl Hatley
Adrienne Hollis
Polly Hoppin
Helen Kang
Marva King
Gregg Macey
Vincent Martin
Dayna Bowen
Matthew Vernice
Miller-Travis
Marisa Perales
Cynthia B. Peurifoy
Michelle Roos
Wyatt G. Sassman
Gerald Torres
Carlton Waterhouse
Ronald H. White
Sacoby Wilson
Katherine Wolf
Beverly L. Wright
Tseming Yang

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Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

Meet Yahn Olson, Summer Legal Intern

What is your major at Samford and why did you choose it? I majored in History at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle and went to Samford for law school. I have always wanted to be an attorney.

What do you hope to do after you graduate? Once I graduate I plan on going to Officer Candidate School and joining the Navy as a JAG.

What is your dream job? US Navy JAG.

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp?  I hope to learn everything I can about working in a legal environment, and learn how to put things I’ve studied in school into practice.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you? I think environmental issues in general affect everybody greatly, but are easily overlooked because the effects of pollution are not always visible. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person (fishing, backpacking, snowboarding) and want to help out in a field that I have a passion for. I’d like generations after me to be able to experience the outdoors in the way I did.

What is your favorite food?  I’ll eat just about anything but seafood and Mexican food top the list. I also love pizza. 

What are your hobbies?  I like to do almost anything outdoors, especially on the water. I played lacrosse growing up and in college, so I still like to toss the ball around from time to time as well.

Who or what are your influences?  My biggest influence in life is my dad. He grew up in rural Idaho and went on to be a Navy officer for over 20 years. 

What are some other fun facts about yourself?  I worked at a beach resort on Pensacola Beach before law school and was a jet ski tour guide for awhile. I also have a Great Pyrenees mix named Aspen that weighs about 35lbs and is only 4 months old.

Public Service Commission Approves Alabama Power’s $1+ Billion Gas Expansion

Public Service Commission Approves Alabama Power’s $1+ Billion Gas Expansion

Public Service Commission Approves Alabama Power’s $1+ Billion Gas Expansion

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Today the Alabama Public Service Commission voted to approve the single largest capacity increase ever proposed by Alabama Power. The Commission approved the projects, which will cost customers over $1.1 billion, despite significant flaws in the utility’s proposal.

Following the PSC staff’s recommendations filed last Friday to approve the majority of projects that Alabama Power is seeking to build, buy or contract, Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Commissioners Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker unanimously voted to adopt the staff recommendations in their entirety.

The only resource in the petition the Commission failed to approve is the proposal for solar plus battery storage—by far the most economic option according to Alabama Power’s own analysis.  Instead, the Commissioners signed off on the staff’s recommendation to evaluate the solar and battery proposals in another existing docket.

“Unbelievably, the Public Service Commission did not approve the most cost-effective and most environmentally beneficial options proposed by Alabama Power,” said Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Alabama. “In spite of the fact that more and more of its customers and businesses are demanding renewable energy options, this is yet another example of the Commission holding Alabama back from a clean energy future and the jobs that go along with it.”

The Commission’s decision follows a significant decline in overall electricity demand due to the global pandemic and resulting economic recession.

“This is the wrong decision by the Commission, and it is the wrong time to approve this excessive and costly natural gas expansion,” said Michael Hansen, Executive Director of Gasp. “The Commission is giving the greenlight for Alabama Power and its shareholders to put the financial risks of this massive investment on customers, many of whom have lost employment as a result of the current public health and economic crisis. This approval will exacerbate those hardships for Alabamians in the form of higher bills for decades to come.”

“Alabama Power has substantially overstated its need for these gas plants given the glaring problems with its analysis—its projected need is even less reliable now due to the pandemic and its economic impacts,” said SELC staff attorney Christina Andreen Tidwell. “It’s disappointing that the Commission did not require updated information from Alabama Power in order to fully assess these impacts on the utility’s request.”

According to the Administrative Law Judge, the Commission is expected to issue a final order on the petition at an undetermined date.

Background:

In early March the Alabama Public Service Commission heard testimony from 15 witnesses concerning Alabama Power’s request to increase its total power-producing capabilities by almost 20%, despite previous assertions it wouldn’t need new generation sources until 2035.

On behalf of Energy Alabama and Gasp, the Southern Environmental Law Center intervened in the docket to advocate for responsible, cost-effective investments, to the extent there was any need for additional capacity on Alabama Power’s system.

Energy Alabama and Gasp’s experts exposed significant flaws in the planning and forecasting methods Alabama Power used to justify its need. In written and oral testimony, the experts pointed to the utility’s long-standing efforts to build rate base and revenue requirements through excessive, unnecessary, and expensive new generation, all of which will increase costs for customers for decades.

The groups also made the case that Alabama Power’s plan lacks significant detail about the cheapest, least cost resources, such as solar and energy efficiency.  Alabama Power’s own analysis shows that solar plus battery storage are the least cost resources in its proposal and provide more value to customers.

The Commission granted an extension for post-hearing briefs in the form of proposed orders to be filed on May 1. The proposed order filed on behalf of Energy Alabama and Gasp details their position based on the record developed during the hearing.

The groups, along with Sierra Club, also filed a motion for permission to file supplemental briefing regarding how the Covid-19 pandemic may impact the need for and timing of the resources proposed in Alabama Power’s petition.

These issues were not addressed during the March hearings, which was limited to cross-examination of written testimony filed long before the pandemic took hold. Nevertheless, Alabama Power included discussion of Covid-19 in its proposed order, claiming that the pandemic does not affect its claimed capacity needs.

The Administrative Law Judge allowed limited supplemental briefing to be filed last Thursday. Energy Alabama and Gasp filed a brief arguing that the Commission should not rush forward with a decision without fully assessing the pandemic’s impacts and resulting economic fallout on the utility’s petition.

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Gasp is a nonprofit health advocacy organization based in Birmingham, Ala. Our mission is to advance healthy air and environmental justice in the greater-Birmingham area through education, advocacy, and collaboration. We strive to reduce exposure to air pollution, educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality, and encourage community leaders to serve as role models by advocating for clean air and clean energy. Gaspgroup.org

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern

Meet Sidni Smith, Gasp Legal Intern

 

Sidni E. Smith

What is your major and why did you choose it?

I am a dual-degree JD/MPH student at Cumberland School of Law and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I pursued this pathway to learn how the legal world works so that I can effectively implement policies that positively impact people’s health and our environment. I see law as a great tool to advance public health initiatives!

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

Go on vacation! Between present-day quarantine and the 90-day Bar exam preparation that awaits post-graduation, I want to spend two weeks out of the country (maybe in Australia) to relax, rest, and reset myself. To answer the real question, I have no idea and I am fine with that. I am a planner at heart funny enough, but I find myself allowing everything to fall into place these days. 

What is your dream job?

I wouldn’t call it a job. Whatever I do will be ministry for whoever I am supposed to reach. I want a platform that allows me to share the love of Jesus and speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I want to ensure that vulnerable populations obtain justice, especially as it concerns public health and environmental issues. Ministry, social justice and policy work, and advocacy pretty much sums up what I envision!

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp?

I enjoy non-profit work! Seeing how another organization effectuates change in the community provides me with tons of insight and inspiration. I want to learn how to help my community from this angle, so as an intern I am able to obtain a different perspective on how to connect with communities and serve them well. Most importantly, I want to see how law and public health work together at the non-profit level while I gain essential research, writing, service, and advocacy skills in the process.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?

There is something about knowing that the very communities affected by toxic air and polluted environments are my very own. As an African American female in Birmingham, I understand adversity on several levels. I am totally empathetic to individuals who feel like systems do not consider them and society makes them targets. Everyone deserves access to clean air to ensure a more quality, healthier life. While I am heavily grieved by what communities like North Birmingham are facing, I am also grieved that it only represents a snapshot of what many communities around the world experience. Our leaders, community members, and each of us individually… WE must do better and be better about caring for one another! Gasp’s mission to reduce air pollution is one of the many ways to help, serve, and protect our communities and the people in them.

What is your favorite food?

Starch! Meals that incorporate potatoes, rice, and pastas are always a go-to.

What are your hobbies?

Fitness, hiking, fishing, sleeping, cooking, organizing, volunteering, writing poetry, and shopping (yes, even online shopping)!

Who or what are your influences?

My faith in God and my family. Knowing that God has a calling on my life and also having a loving and supportive family are reminders enough to keep going, to love hard, to be grateful, to serve, and to be a blessing to others at all times!

What are some other fun facts about yourself?

  • I am five feet tall.
  • I love heavy lifting and weight training.
  • I enjoy fishing. 
  • I love candles and scents that smell really good.
  • I do not watch much TV, but when I finally do, I end up binge-watching shows for way too long. Haha!

Black Lives Matter: A Statement from Gasp

Black Lives Matter: A Statement from Gasp

Black Lives Matter: A Statement from Gasp

In the United States of America, we are taught from a very early age that “all men are created equal.” We are told that this is the core of what it means to be an American. It’s not until years later that many of us learn that our Founders (many of whom owned slaves) never intended to include black people in the “all” that they wrote about in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or any of our other founding documents. And that is still the case today. 

Some of us never learn these lessons, while others do but pretend otherwise for the sake of their own comfort. But the harsh reality is that this nation has never lived up to the ideals for which it purports to stand. And until it does, we cannot rest. We must be proactively anti-racist in all walks of life. Anti-racism is not a belief system, but rather a deliberate practice. And it begins by telling the truth.

Black Americans are grieving after the callous murder of a handcuffed, submissive George Floyd at the hands of four police officers on the streets of Minneapolis. Councilor Andrea Jenkins, the first black, trans woman elected to public office in the United States, described Floyd’s murder as “a symbol for a knee on the neck of Black America.” She says that she will work to take that knee off the necks of her community. This is a call to action for all of us, though. It is not the responsibility of oppressed people to end oppression. Everyone must play a role. And in particular, white people, who have so much privilege in this society, must step up and help.

We must tell the truth, and the truth for the majority of black, indigenous, and people of color in this nation is what the poet and activist Langston Hughes said: “America has never been America to me.” What we are seeing in cities across our nation right now is an expression of deep pain and sorrow. 

We must tell the truth, and the truth is that it is not just the Founding Fathers who did not include people of color in their vision for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In Alabama, the President of the Constitutional Convention of 1901, John B. Knox, said it plainly: “If we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law — not by force or fraud.” That racist document still governs our state’s laws to this day.

We must tell the truth, and the truth is that our systems are not failing; they are broken by design, having never been intended to protect, care for, and uplift poor people and people of color. At every level of government in this nation — federal, state, county, and municipal — black, indigenous, and people of color have never had the same natural right to freedom, safety and equal justice under the law. Not truly. Not even today. 

We must tell the truth, and the truth is that for decades upon decades, this nation has upheld itself around the globe as a beacon of liberty and justice for all. Yet we have time and again failed to atone for our original sin. This moment calls us to hold a mirror up to our own faces and see the ugly truth staring back at us: America is exceptional all right. We are exceptionally hypocritical. We are exceptionally violent, racist, and cruel. We are exceptionally short-sighted.

George Floyd’s dying words, as he called out for his mother, were “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd should be alive today. That’s the truth. 

We, the staff and board of Gasp, stand in unequivocal solidarity with those who are demanding swift and clear justice for George Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and for the countless other victims of hate and violence in this nation. 

We, the staff and board of Gasp, echo the call that Black Lives Matter, and in so doing we affirm our support for policies that will make that sentiment meaningfully true not just in word but in deed. To that end, we have heard the calls for “unity” in recent days. And we agree that unity is necessary. We must be united against white supremacy, racism, police brutality, and all systems of oppression. 

This moment calls for action. We need to perform emergency surgery to cut out the cancer of racism that is destroying our body. We join other activists in calling for systemic policy change to stop the racist and inhumane killings of people of color in our communities, and especially of black people at the hands of law enforcement officers.

We must tell the truth, and the truth is we must do more than talk. We must act as if lives depend on it — because they do.

Signed,

Michael Hansen
Executive Director

Kirsten Bryant
Deputy Director

Haley Lewis
Staff Attorney
Nina Morgan
Community Organizer
Charline Whyte
President
Dr. Shauntice Allen
Richard Rice
Vice-President
Nelson Brooke
The Rev. Mark Johnston
Treasurer
Dr. Bertha Hidalgo
William Blackerby
Secretary
Karen Shepard