- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Media Contact for Environmental Justice Leader María Belén Power to Join Healey-Driscoll Administration in New Leadership Position
Danielle Burney, Deputy Communications Director
BOSTON — Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rebecca L. Tepper today announced a newly created position to elevate environmental justice as a part of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s agenda. María Belén Power of GreenRoots will join the administration as the Undersecretary of Environmental Justice & Equity.
“Our climate agenda promises to deliver good-paying jobs, healthier communities, and more affordable energy prices – but we must make the transition equitably,” said Governor Maura Healey. “Communities that have been left behind and overburdened will have a seat at the table in our administration, and that starts with strong leaders like María Belén Power guiding us forward.”
“When we talk about the climate crisis, we’re talking about people,” added Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Rising asthma rates, contaminated soil, declining tree cover, polluted water – for far too long, Black and brown communities in Massachusetts have had to shoulder those burdens disproportionately. We have an opportunity to do things differently, and that starts with the people in power.”
“I’ve worked with María Belén for many years, and I know just how impactful she will be in the Healey-Driscoll Administration,” said Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Tepper. “Environmental justice must be more than a concept – we are going to bring in its foremost advocates and those most deeply impacted by our climate crisis and environmental pollution and empower them to create the change we need.”
“We are in a pivotal moment for the clean energy transition, and we can’t continue to leave Black, brown, and immigrant communities behind,” said Belén Power. “After years of on-the-ground organizing in some of the most overburdened regions of our state, I know I won’t be leaving them behind. I’m bringing those lessons and people with me to this newly created role to transform how our state approaches energy, the environment, and public health.”
As the Undersecretary of Environmental Justice & Equity, Power will oversee the training of EEA agency staff and focus on establishing environmental justice principles in the work of the secretariat, which oversees state energy policy, public lands, and environmental policy. She also will work with external stakeholders on community outreach and engagement to ensure that historically marginalized communities are represented as the Healey-Driscoll Administration advances its energy and environmental agenda. She starts her new role on March 6.
“Maria Belen Power is the real deal,” said Maria Lopez Nuñez, who serves with Power on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and is the Deputy Director, Organizing and Advocacy at Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey. “She will lead the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s environmental justice work with a genuine commitment to the communities most profoundly impacted by pollution, contamination, and fossil fuel infrastructure. I’m looking forward to seeing her in action in this new role.”
“As we look ahead to our clean energy future, we can’t leave behind the people devastated by fossil fuels,” added Angela Mahecha, the Environmental Justice Movement Fellowship Director at the Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School. “I know Maria Belen will not only remember the pain and loss suffered by environmental justice communities — she’ll put their needs at the forefront of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s climate agenda. This is an exciting hire.”
“I commend Governor Healey for not only creating this new role, but for appointing one of Massachusetts’ top climate justice leaders,” said Shalanda Baker, the Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy. “Now is the moment for stated to lead the clean energy transition, and do it with an equity lens. I’m thrilled for María Belén Power, Massachusetts, and frontline communities in the Commonwealth. This role will be key to delivering on the President’s historic Justice40 Initiative.”
Power grew up in Nicaragua in the aftermath of the revolution. She currently serves as Assistant Executive Director of GreenRoots, a community-based organization dedicated to improving and enhancing the urban environment and public health in Chelsea. The city has some of the worst air pollution in the state, predisposing residents to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and respiratory ailments, including some of the highest rates of COVID-19 of any Massachusetts community. Power oversees GreenRoots’ environmental justice campaigns and supports the work of the organizing team. She was appointed by President Biden to serve on the newly established White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She holds an undergraduate degree in sociology from Augsburg University, a Master of Public Policy from Tufts University, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Leadership from the Institute for Nonprofit Practice.