Less than 24 hours after newly inaugurated President Biden officially welcomed Shalanda H. Baker into his administration, the Northeastern law and racial justice professor was diving into key policy changes. “I’m already off to the races,” said Baker, who is now Biden’s deputy director for energy justice at the Department of Energy. “I really feel that a weight has been lifted and we can get to work on some of the most urgent crises of our time.”
One of Baker’s early priorities is to address the growing home energy bills overwhelming many families that are still jobless during the COVID-19 pandemic. American energy customers could owe a combined $40 billion by this March, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. Family debts could get as high as $2,000, which is why Baker believes access to clean energy and bill assistance are the keys to a just recovery.
“Right now we have a moratorium on energy shutoffs in place, but we haven’t had a broader economic correction and the costs keep mounting. I think we should be looking for relief in that respect,” she said.
Biden created Baker’s Department of Energy role to address two seemingly disparate administration priorities—ramping up the use of clean energy and eliminating racial injustice.