National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program Focuses on Making a Difference in Communities

By Melinda Downing

As the Department of Energy’s Environmental Justice Program Manager, I am committed to making environmental justice a reality. That means ensuring that all stakeholders are informed about the issues affecting their communities and have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in environmental decision-making.

To help achieve this goal, we sponsor the 2012 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program (NEJC), which will take place in Washington DC, April 11-13, 2012. This year’s conference will focus specifically on youth outreach and how we can enhance communities through capacity building and technical assistance.

One speaker I am very excited about is Nancy Sutley, who has provided leadership across the federal government on environmental justice in her role as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Ms. Sutley will be the morning keynote speaker for the conference on Friday, April 13th. And, while, you may know her as the Congresswoman of the United States Virgin Islands, the Honorable Dr. Donna M. Christensen (D-VI) has been a big champion for the environment and a cheerleader for eliminating health disparities for years. She will be leading a panel discussion on Thursday April 12th.

For those of you who are most interested in sharing best practices or garnering a few, we also have selected Lisa Garcia, Senior Advisor to the Administrator at the EPA, and Daria Neal, Deputy Chief of the Federal Compliance Section for the U. S. Department of Justice, to lead interactive sessions over the three-day conference. Native Alaskan Jacqueline Shirley from the Zender Group and Vernice Miller-Travis of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities will also share their best environmental justice practices for community capacity building and collaboration. And, we have added an online environmental justice training module, which will not only provide useful information, but also allow participants to receive continuing education credit.

Registration is almost at capacity. With only a month to go, you should register today! For more information about conference and the list of speakers, visit

About the author: Melinda Downing joined Department of Energy’s Washington, DC headquarters office in 1978 and currently oversees the Department’s Environmental Justice Program. Working in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, a partnership was established with various communities around the country to provide them with training, resources and education to address their environmental concerns and issues and to give them a voice at the table to be a part of the decision-making process. The Department of Energy along with the Environmental Protection Agency is a member of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice which consists of 17 Federal agencies committed to the principals of Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.