For decades environmentalists have warned that climate disasters are looming, but they are already here. Storms exacerbated by climate change knocked out electricity to a large portion of Central Ohio this week. Then came a brutal heat wave, which followed the normal pattern of climatic calamity. What we're seeing in Ohio is out of the ordinary, but it's quickly becoming the norm. We are all paying the price because our state and, for a long time, the Federal government have refused to recognize climate change as a health danger.

Unfortunately, minority and low-income communities carry the burden of climate change and disaster. While AEP was shutting off customers in the middle of a heatwave, the company was still collecting tens of thousands of dollars each day to bailout the Ohio Valley Electrical Corporations (OVEC) coal plants, two uneconomic plants whose pollution is driving the climate disruption that is making heat waves like this more dangerous and more frequent. Over the past few days, 200,000 AEP customers in Central Ohio were subject to targeted blackouts without warning. While neighborhoods all over the metro area were affected, Black and brown and low income communities suffered the greatest impacts.

According to Sustainable Columbus’s website, a 2021 EPA report concluded that Black and African American individuals are 40-59% more likely than non-Black and non-African American individuals to currently live in high-impact heat mortality areas. The site also notes that Columbus has the fastest-growing urban heat island effect of major U.S. cities. The old, sick, and shut-ins, as well as young newborns in Columbus' Black and brown communities are subjected to extreme heat and humidity without any conceivable relief in their homes. Food has gone bad, the lights have gone out, and restlessness and desperation to find some sort of escape from this climate crisis are setting in.

These communities are in a horrible situation, especially considering that an AEP spokesperson has stated that AEP will likely not honor filed claims over issues such as spoiled foods, according to NBC4. They're not facing the disaster voluntarily; they're facing it because a utility decision-maker failed to prioritize the health and safety of its most vulnerable customers.

The Ohio Sierra Club finds it shocking that the Black and brown communities without electricity, as well as all of Central Ohio's bordering towns without electricity, are still paying a premium price for a service they don't have. People have been suffering for days as a result of the HB 6 scandal and the willful neglect of AEP's officials, with no hope of restitution.

We are requesting that AEP restore power, compensate households that have lost perishable food due to the lack of electricity, reimburse hotel, restaurant, and car rental receipts for people displaced by the power outage, and pay medical bills for people who experienced medical issues from heat exposure due to the blackouts.

Every Sierra Club member and supporter in Ohio should contact PUCO officials to conduct a full, rigorous, and informed review of all OVEC costs. The Sierra Club provides the following links to resources, thanks to local organizers.

Included in these links are resources such as cooling centers, and food to those experiencing this environmental disaster:

● Food Programs ○ Columbus Recreation and Parks Summer Food ProgramFranklin County Job & Family Services Food Assistance Replacement Benefits

○ Free Meal Site Locator Hotline
■ Call (English): 866-3-HUNGRY ■ Call (Spanish): 877-8-HAMBRE ■ Text: 914-342-7744

● Cooling Centers ○ City of Hilliard Senior Center ○ The Trinity Baptist Church ○ Columbus Museum of Art ○ Center of Science and Industry (COSI) ○ Wexner Center for the Arts

● Free Fans ○ Franklin Co. Residents (over 60): Call (614) 525-6200