Regina Strong, EGLE's environmental justice public advocate, joined EGLE Director Liesl Clark and EGLE staff at a brown bag lunch recently to talk about her new role, created by Executive Order 2019-06 and to answer questions. She joins us for a Fast Five edition of MI Environment.
Your position marks the first time the State of Michigan has had an environmental justice public advocate. How do you see your role?
My role is new but the effort to include environmental justice is not. The past two administrations have had groups looking at environmental justice. EGLE's office will, however, for the first time look not only at how we address environmental justice, but also ensure that the public has an advocate.
What does the establishment of environmental justice office mean for the state?
The establishment of the Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate is an important step for all of Michigan. When the governor created this office through her executive order it was a sign that this is a priority.
What will be your first focus?
It starts with people getting to know us and us getting to know them. It's not just about taking complaints, but also about establishing relationships. We want to ensure that all Michiganders benefit equitably from our environmental protections.
How will you be sharing information?
Communicating is an important part of this role. The governor's executive order establishes an Interagency Environmental Justice Response Team, which will meet for the first time on July 12. The Response Team includes the directors of the departments of transportation, health and human services, civil rights, agriculture and rural development, natural resources, as well as the chair of the public service commission and president of the Michigan Strategic Fund. We will all play a role in finding ways to proactively reach out to communities throughout the state and address environmental justice and equity.
How much outreach will there be?
"Public" is in the title for a reason. It's about making that link, building relationships. We want to be authentic with the public.