More than a dozen Indiana groups say they’re being shut out of conversations surrounding a proposed Midwest clean hydrogen hub. They sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday, which received a grant application from the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2) to create the hub.
Chris Chyung is the executive director of Indiana Conservation Voters and a former state representative. He said environmental, racial justice, and faith leaders worry Hoosiers most affected by industrial pollution won’t be given priority for clean hydrogen jobs.
They’re also concerned companies producing hydrogen will use coal or natural gas — instead of clean energy like wind or solar.
“We’re worried about the continuation of decades of environmental harm and economic injustice that has plagued areas like north Lake County and areas of the state that have been left behind in the new economy and the energy transition,” Chyung said.
The DOE has said at least one regional hub should have a project that uses fossil fuels. MachH2 has previously stated that it intends to use the Midwest region’s nuclear and renewable power to produce hydrogen, but it’s not clear if that would exclude hydrogen produced with coal and natural gas.
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Chyung said concerned groups have been trying to reach multiple members of the alliance for months with little success. Recently, he said one member of the clean hydrogen alliance did reach out — the Indianapolis nonprofit Energy Systems Network.
Neil Banwart is managing director of Energy Systems Network and has a leadership role in the alliance. He said not reaching out to these groups was an oversight — their communication to MachH2 came at a busy time while the alliance was working to submit its application.
Banwart said he was not aware of all communications from concerned groups to MachH2’s more than 80 members.
He said the alliance wants to ensure that the majority of the benefits from the hydrogen hub would go to disadvantaged communities.
“Hydrogen is a cutting edge technology,” he said. “It will result in high quality, good paying jobs. And so we do value community input into decisions such as that.”
The hub proposals are confidential. In a statement, the DOE said once clean hydrogen projects are selected, any changes would only be discussed with grant recipients.
It’s not clear if the public has an opportunity to make recommendations for the proposals.