November 2021 Webinar: Environmental Justice in the Federal Government: Roots and Opportunities with Charles Lee

Oct 27, 2021 | Events, PROTECT Webinar Series

On Friday, November 12th from 1:00pm to 2:00pm EST, PROTECT hosted its November 2021 webinar. This webinar featured Charles Lee, a Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Lee spoke about some of the emerging federal strategies to push environmental justice forward, and the history that informs today’s environmental justice strategies.

This webinar was held on Zoom. A recording will be made available soon.

Read on to learn more about this webinar and about Lee’s background and experience.

Abstract: Charles Lee will discuss key components of the emerging federal strategies to advance environmental justice and consider disproportionate and cumulative impacts in decision-making, including but not limited to the implementation of President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 (Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad) and Executive Order 13985 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government).  Among these is the Justice40 initiative, which posits a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of selected federal resources flowing to overburdened and disadvantaged communities.  The talk will also focus on the implementation of EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s call to make environmental justice and equity a central part of EPA’s mission, including making environmental justice and civil rights a priority for EPA’s proposed strategic plan.  The talk will provide a background on the issues and events which inform current environmental justice practice as well as the opportunities to advance it to a new level.

Biography: Charles Lee is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice and helped to give birth to the environmental justice movement in the United States some forty years ago.  He was the principal author of the landmark 1987 report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, organized the historic 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, and helped to spearhead the emergence of federal environmental justice policy, including Executive Order 12898, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. 

Mr. Lee is currently the Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He led the development and implementation of EPA’s agency-wide environmental justice strategic plans, e.g., Plan EJ 2014 and EJ 2020.  He has served in multiple capacities, ranging from creating the United Church of Christ’s environmental justice program to directing EPA’s environmental justice office. He was a charter member of the NEJAC, where he chaired its Waste and Facility Siting committee, and served on the National Academy of Science/Institute of Medicine Committee on Environmental Justice as well as numerous other panels.  In these capacities, he led efforts to incorporate environmental justice into EPA’s rulemaking process, develop models for collaborative problem-solving, transform brownfields redevelopment into a community revitalization paradigm, advance approaches to address cumulative risks and impacts, lay a strong science foundation for integrating environmental justice into decision-making, and advancing environmental justice at the state level. 

Mr. Lee has authored numerous papers, reports, journals, and articles on environmental justice over the past four decades, most recently on “Confronting Disproportionate Impacts and Systemic Racism in Environmental Policy” (Environmental Law Reporter, vol. 51, no. 3, March 2021). He has taught or presented at numerous schools and conferences, including the seminal academic conference on “Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards” at the University of Michigan. He is the recipient of many awards for his work, including the American Public Health Association’s first Damu Smith Environmental Achievement Award. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy presented to him the EJ Pioneer Award on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 12898. In February 2017, the 122nd Session of the South Carolina House of Representatives passed Resolution H*3732 to honor his lifetime of accomplishments in environmental justice and contributions to bettering the lives of communities in that state.