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Ohio State researchers awarded $1.1M from EPA for sustainable future in central Ohio

The group will meet with 15 marginalized communities to address their energy and transportation needs.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Researchers like Ohio State Associate Professor of Engineering Jeff Bielicki look into the effects of climate change on a regular basis.

“We have a number of challenges for society. One of which is we need to slow stop and reverse the flow of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to alleviate climate change,” he said. “Another is to do that in a way that addresses the historical inequities that… a number of populations both here in Columbus and throughout the country and the world, even, have faced.”

That is why he and other faculty from five colleges at The Ohio State University and other partners within the City of Columbus and Franklin County came together to get a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA awarded his research group $1.12 million to address energy transitions in underserved and marginalized communities.

With this money, Bielicki and his colleagues plan to meet with members of 15 central Ohio communities that have historically had lower life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates and lower birth rates to find out how they use energy and transportation.

“We’re seeking to understand how the people in these marginalized communities use mobility and how we can transition their usage… what they use to being more electrified so there’s less emissions and less adverse health outcomes from the exposure to these pollutants,” he said.

“The goal isn’t for some academic like me to say, ‘This is how it should be done.’ The goal is to say hey, ‘partner with us,’ so we can collectively work to transition how you use energy at home, how you get to where you need to go, to address historical adverse outcomes for you.”

He said the first step in that partnership would be holding focus groups, conducting interviews and surveys to see what people’s needs are and transitioning to a more electric-powered future.

“In five or ten years, an ideal situation would be that we’ve transitioned to a place where we don’t have these lower birth rates, we don’t have higher infant mortality we don’t have higher increased chance of asthma, we don’t have higher incarceration rates, we don’t have higher vacancy rates in these communities,” Bielicki said.

“Such that people are benefiting from the energy transition equally, as opposed to being left behind like they have been in the past.”

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