Friday, May 14, 2010

Second Day of 2010 EJ Conference: Welcome Message

Melinda Downing
Message from the Department of Energy’s
Environmental Justice Program Manager

Welcome to "The State of Environmental Justice in America 2010 Conference". This is the fourth conference in this series that began in 2007. The Department of Energy (DOE) is pleased to be a sponsor of this conference series.

Environmental justice is actually a principal of American democracy that combines civil rights with environmental protection. It demands that those who have historically been excluded from environmental decision-making, traditionally minority, low-income and tribal communities, have the same access to environmental decision-makers, decision-making processes and the ability to make reasonable contributions to policy formulations as any other individual.

Environmental justice works best when communities are able to care for themselves and can determine their own environmental fate. A community that is environmentally aware and is an active participant in environmental decision-making is the best source for environmental protection. In those instances where a community lacks environmental knowledge or access to adequate technical assistance, the government may provide assistance to the community to acquire the knowledge and technical assistance to provide for its own environmental protection. In order to provide assistance to communities, DOE has developed and conducts a number of programs to help gain and sustain the necessary tools to achieve environmental justice for themselves.

It was at the State of Environmental Justice (EJ) in America Conference that DOE released our revised EJ Strategy, and announced our Five-Year Implementation Plan. The Plan is a series of activities that we will conduct in order to meet the goals set forth in the Strategy. At the end of 2009, we released the results of the first year of the Plan. The results show that we are well on the way to meeting all of the goals and demands of the Strategy. Environmental justice is a key component of our mission that we take seriously through the Department, and that fact is reflected in the implementation activities completed during the first year of the Plan.

As the Environmental Justice Program Manager for the Department of Energy, I am excited to have a number of my colleagues participating in the conference. I appreciate their presence and support. In addition to the Headquarters representatives, we have the Managers from our Oak Ridge Operations Office, Oak Ridge Tennessee and Portsmouth, Ohio presenting. They are committed to environmental justice, and I look forward to their presentations.

I hope you enjoy the conference and leave more enlightened about environmental justice than you were prior to attending the conference.

Melinda Downing
Environmental Justice Program Manager

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