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ENHS hosts “Building the Bridge to Environmental Equity: Lessons from Two Decades of Partnership” on February 15

February 6, 2017

The Arnold School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Health Sciences invites you to join them for an Environmental Justice Lecture on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. 

  “Building the Bridge to Environmental Equity: Lessons from Two Decades of Partnership”

5:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m.
Public Health Research Center
Auditorium #114

Opening remarks will be provided by Dr. G. Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School of Public Health and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, followed by three visiting speakers:

Keynote:

Mr. Charles Lee

Deputy Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice at The Environmental Protection Agency 

Rep. Harold Mitchell

South Carolina House Representative for District 31, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Founder of ReGenesis

Ms. Myra Reece

Director of  Environmental Affairs at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

 Refreshments will be served after the program 

Speaker Bios

Mr. Charles Lee 

Mr. Lee is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice.  He was the principal author of the landmark report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. He helped to spearhead the emergence of a national environmental justice movement and federal action including the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, Executive Order 12898, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. 

Charles Lee is currently the Senior Policy Advisor for Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In this capacity, he leads the development and implementation of EPA’s agency-wide environmental justice strategic plans, i.e., Plan EJ 2014 and now 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, as well as serving on Institute of Medicine Committee on Environmental Justice and 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, and lay a strong science foundation for integrating environmental justice into decision-making. 

Mr. Lee has been an early and ongoing supporter of the South Carolina Department of Health and Pollution Control’s efforts to promote community involvement, environmental justice and community revitalization as well as the remarkable achievements of the ReGenesis Environmental Justice partnership in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  He has authored numerous papers, reports, journals and articles on environmental justice over the past three decades. He is the recipient of many awards for his work, including the EJ Pioneer Award from the EPA Administrator on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 12898. 

Representative Harold Mitchell, Jr.

Representative Harold Mitchell, Jr. is a respected leader with a long record of achievements in affordable housing, environmental justice, community revitalization, and public policy.  His work in environmental justice organizing began in 1997 when he started a grassroots movement to clean up and fully remediate the two Superfund sites and four brownfield sites surrounding his family home.  As part of this effort, Rep. Mitchell founded ReGenesis in 1998 and served as the Executive Director of this non-profit organization until 2012.  During his tenure, ReGenesis leveraged over $250 million in revitalization, clean up, housing, job training, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and infrastructure.  In 2000, ReGenesis was designated the national model for the Inter-Agency Working Group on Environmental Justice. From 2000 to 2005, Rep. Mitchell served on the US EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, in Washington DC, where he served on the Executive Committee.  In 2002, Rep. Mitchell was selected to be a delegate to the UN Conference on Sustainability, which met in Johannesburg South Africa.

In 2004, he spearheaded the cleanup of the Arkwright Mill, a federally designated brownfield. For this project, ReGenesis was awarded an EPA grant with matching funds from Spartanburg County to complete the first DHEC voluntary cleanup agreement in the state.  That same year, ReGenesis facilitated a dispute resolution with Rhodia Chemical Company, using a process that became the American Chemistry Council industry model.

In 2005, as part of a Hope 6 Grant of $20 million, Rep. Mitchell established job training initiatives with the US Department of Labor for residents of public housing and residents of a local homeless shelter, many of whom were veterans.  These initiatives included two brick masonry classes, a residential construction trade class, as well as asbestos abatement classes.  Participants who successfully completed the masonry classes worked jobs and earned income laying the foundations for an equitable development project of over 500 housing units.  After becoming certified to perform asbestos abatement, many of the program participants got related jobs with a company performing upgrades to the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  Other participants in these programs were recruited to work in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup effort.

Currently, Rep. Mitchell serves as the Executive Director of the Upstate Housing Partnership, the only 501(c)(3) not-for-profit developer of quality affordable housing in the Upstate Region of South Carolina.  He has served in this capacity since 2013.

Rep. Mitchell has also served as the District 31 Representative in the SC House since 2005.  He introduced and passed many noteworthy initiatives.  He introduced and passed the first environmental justice law in South Carolina (2007), which used federal funding to replicate the ReGenesis model for environmental remediation with grassroots community involvement in four additional regions statewide.  In addition, Rep. Mitchell passed tax increment financing for affordable housing (2007), established the SC Local Housing Trust Fund (2007), added low income housing tax credits for affordable housing (2008), and established the SC Housing Commission, the first effort to address affordable housing statewide in South Carolina (2009).  Continuing his work affordable housing and environmental justice, Rep. Mitchell formed the Equitable Development Committee in the South Carolina House (2011), as well as solar farm legislation (2013).  Rep. Mitchell also introduced and passed legislation to address human trafficking (2010).

Rep. Mitchell has earned a reputation as a man of steadfast commitment to voting rights.  In 2011 he was the sole dissenting vote on the House Conference Committee on South Carolina’s Voter ID bill.  He continued his advocacy by sending written testimony to US Attorney General Eric Holder to dispute misleading documents sent by the Republican leadership falsely indicating unanimous support of that Voter ID law.

A respected advocate for racial justice, Rep. Mitchell was elected the Chairman of the SC Legislative Black Caucus for the 2012-14 cycle.  While Chairman, he led an effort to organize more than 100,000 citizens who would have been directly impacted by Medicaid expansion in under forty-five days.  This organizing effort was so successful that the Black Caucus received a commendation letter from the US Secretary for Health and Human Services.  He continues to fight for Medicaid expansion in South Carolina.

Representative Harold Mitchell, Jr. lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina with his wife Wanda and his three children David, Elizabeth, and Hannah.  He is an active member of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.  He has been recognized for his advocacy work with numerous honors and awards.

Ms. Myra Reece

Myra Reece serves as the director of Environmental Affairs, overseeing DHEC’s Office of Environmental Quality Control and Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. A member of the DHEC team for more than 30 years, Reece previously served as chief of the agency’s Bureau of Air Quality. Before serving as Air Quality bureau chief, Reece served as director of DHEC’s Environmental Quality Control District in Aiken.

Reece received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Clemson University and a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis on hazardous materials management from the University of South Carolina.  She is also a graduate of the Management Academy for Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a graduate of the Southern Center of Excellence in Environmental Health at Emory University and has obtained professional certification as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.  Reece is also serving on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, making her the sole state representative from the southeastern states.