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White House, EPA leaders to join Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist for state's first environmental justice conference May 18-20


May 7, 2021

Event to focus on rebuilding trust, reimagining justice and removing barriers

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan will address a new federal focus on environmental justice and the connection to state efforts during the inaugural Michigan Environmental Justice Conference, set for May 18-20.

The three-day virtual conference will feature environmental justice experts, advocates, and business leaders, as well as government officials. It is free to attend, but registration is required.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and EPA Administrator Regan will jointly launch the conference at the opening plenary.  Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist will serve as the second-day keynote speaker focusing on the intersection of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities work and environmental justice in Michigan. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Mallory will serve as the keynote speaker at the closing plenary. Mallory leads the Biden administration's White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.

Local and national environmental justice advocates will also take part in the conference, including: Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the father of environmental justice, and U.S. EPA Senior Environmental Justice Advisor Charles Lee. Members of the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (MAC EJ) will also take part.   

According to Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), this conference will play an important role in our work toward addressing environmental justice challenges.

"This conference is the latest step in our coordinated efforts led by the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate to move Michigan toward achieving environmental justice," Clark said. "The governor prioritized environmental justice when she first took office in 2019. This hard work continues across state departments and in collaboration with our environmental justice advisory council and the Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team. I encourage those who want to play a role in ensuring that everyone has equitable access to join us for this three-day event."

The conference's theme is "Rebuilding Trust, Reimagining Justice and Removing Barriers." It is hosted by the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate, the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, the Michigan Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team and EGLE.

Nearly 1,000 people already have signed up to attend the event, designed to examine long-standing challenges facing environmental justice communities while addressing systemic inequities.

"Intentional dialogue will help us move forward in the quest for transformative change, meaningful engagement and the development of intersectional solutions as we work to address environmental injustices and ensure that no community in this state is adversely affected by our environmental laws and regulations," said Regina Strong, Environmental Justice Public Advocate. "I am excited to see the interest in working across all levels of government and hand-in-hand with community to advance environmental justice. This conference offers a unique opportunity for us to examine ways to take action as we work to rebuild trust, reimagine justice and remove barriers."

The Michigan Environmental Justice Conference will feature sessions on a wide range of topics including federal and state priorities, climate and equity, tribal perspectives, the future of infrastructure, and a community town hall.

For those interested in attending, register for the conference, and find an event agenda.

The event is open to the public, including environmental justice advocates, community members, government representatives, academia, change agents and the business sector.

The Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate was created by Gov. Whitmer's Executive Order 2019-06 to serve as an external and internal advocate and catalyst for ensuring environmental justice throughout the state. The Office operates as a Type I agency within EGLE, with a direct line to the governor's office to elevate concerns and coordinate across state government. The Office also works to address and resolve environmental justice concerns and complaints and advance environmental justice and equity in Michigan.

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