Meet the Staff: Ray Burke, Utilities Justice ProjectPosted Feb 02, 2018
Ray Burke is a new staff attorney for the Utilities Justice Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
After college Ray spent two and a half years volunteering in El Salvador, where he learned of the important legacy of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 for being an outspoken advocate for the poor during El Salvador’s civil war.
“Archbishop Romero is often referred to as the ‘voice of the voiceless.’ When I think of my time in El Salvador, I think of his legacy, and this phrase, and how it inspired me to work for justice with individuals and communities that often don’t have a voice in society and our political process," Ray says. "When I returned from El Salvador, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to do something to further justice and equality, be a voice for the voiceless.”
Ray says he chose to pursue a career in civil legal aid because “unlike in a criminal case, you are not guaranteed a lawyer in a civil case, even if your housing or safety is at risk. The law should work for everyone, and legal aid works towards that goal. The way our civil justice system is set up, having access to a lawyer can in many cases determine whether someone has access to justice.”
In one of his first cases with NHLA, Ray was part of a team representing The Way Home on behalf of low-income utility customers as the gas and electric utilities prepared a new Statewide Energy Efficiency Plan. NHLA filed a petition to intervene before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC), on behalf of its client to ensure the low-income energy efficiency program was designed and implemented to work effectively and to serve as many low-income households as possible.
The Utilities Justice Project’s ultimate goal is to make energy more affordable for low-income communities in New Hampshire and, to the extent possible, help low-income communities access the benefits of renewable energy.
Low-income households often pay a larger share of their income on energy costs than do households with higher incomes, which means they have less money to spend on other basic needs. Access to affordable energy is important because low-income households with more affordable energy bills are less likely to face disconnections, evictions, foreclosure or tax deeding, and are less likely to have to rely on municipal welfare assistance.
NHLA is a state-wide non-profit law firm representing low-income and elderly New Hampshire residents who cannot afford a lawyer. NHLA maintains offices in Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth. For more information about New Hampshire Legal Assistance, please contact Communications Manager Sarah Palermo at 603-369-6650 or firstname.lastname@example.org