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EPA Hosts Mississippi Black Mayors Conference

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy delivers the keynote address to attendees of the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors.

On Thursday, February 5, 2015, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy delivered the keynote address to visiting mayors, elected officials, and other federal partner leaders at the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors (MCBM) held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Focusing on the theme “Building Sustainable Communities through Effective Federal, State and Local Partnerships”, McCarthy touched upon environmental success stories accomplished in Mississippi, budgetary challenges, and the benefits of multi-agency cooperative environment.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talks with HUD Regional Administrator Ed Jennings during an intermission of the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors Roundtable discussion.

“In 2013, EPA supported the Mississippi Environmental Justice Advocates Project, which works to reduce asthma rates from secondhand smoke,” said McCarthy.  “And through our Brownsfield program, EPA has awarded 25 grants in the last 5 years in Mississippi, including in places like Gulfport, Greenville, and Quinton, to clean up and revitalize unused sites –spurring economic growth and creating jobs.”

During the morning session (Prior to the keynote address), the Honorable Thelma Collins, Itta Bena, MS, Sedrick Smith, Charleston, MS, and Anthony Witherspoon, Magnolia, MS gave presentations on the many challenges their cities and constituents face at the local level. With a raise of hands, several of the Mayors in attendance acknowledged the constraints on their respective cities’ budget that limit staff support and in some cases mayoral compensation.

Throughout the day, municipality leaders and representatives from state and federal agencies including U.S. Depart of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), EPA, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Health and Human Services (HHS), US Department of Labor (DOL), Small Business Administration (SBA), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), U.S. Environmental Finance Center (EFC), and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MSDEQ) discussed partnership, grant and technical support opportunities.

Attendees of the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors gather for a photo with EPA Southeast Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney.

EPA Southeast Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney and Hattiesburg, MS Mayor Johnny Dupree brought the conference to a close by encouraging collaboration between the local governments and the cadre of agencies in an effort to develop solutions to the challenges affecting their communities.  

(L-R) Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response,  Ed Jennings, Jr., Southeast Regional Administrator U.S.  Housing and Urban Development, Heather McTeer Toney, and Mustafa Ali, Senior Advisor to the Administrator on Environmental Justice, stand with the Honorable James Clyburn after presenting the Congressman with the Environmental Justice Pioneer Award.

EPA, HUD Honor Congressman James Clyburn

EPA and HUD acknowledged the pioneering efforts of Congressman James Clyburn in championing environmental justice in South Carolina at a ceremony on the campus of Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The ceremony was the capstone event in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Environmental Justice Executive Order.  Activities leading up to the ceremony included a tour of the Awkright and Forest Park neighborhoods and a Project Update Forum.  EPA officials Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Heather McTeer Toney, Regional Administrator Southeast Region, and representatives from the business communities shared their involvement and experience with the ReGenesis Partnership with attendees.

The ReGenesis Environmental Justice Partnership was formed in 2000 to clean up contamination of hazardous waste sites, reduce cumulative pollution problems, and restore the vibrancy of the Awkright and Forest Park neighborhoods.

“Our mission for EPA is to protect human health and the environment, and that’s the people and communities of which we serve” said McTeer Toney. “The revitalization of this area was brought about by a collaborative effort of people coming together and making a decision that they must work to improve the quality of life in their community.”

The partnership has transformed the two neighborhoods over the last 15 years with the assistance of public and private sector entities.  Utilizing equitable development, over $250 million was leveraged for reinvestment and development opportunities benefiting the residents and businesses of the community.  Monies delivered to the area were used to establish the ReGenesis Community Health Care Center and fund the construction of the C.C. Woodson Community Center.

The ReGenesis Partnership honored Tim Fields, Senior Vice President of MDB, Inc., and Cynthia Peurifoy, EPA Region 4, for their respective roles in assisting the community.  Peurifoy received the inaugural South Carolina Community Grass Roots Advocacy for Environmental and Economic Justice Award.  The award will be given annually and bear the name of its inaugural recipient.

Mustafa Ali, Acting Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Environmental Justice, commended Congressman Clyburn for having played a significant leadership role in the field of environmental justice for over 20 years. “His pioneering work with members of the Congressional Black Caucus by convening the first Environmental Justice Braintrust in 1999 and The National Environmental Policy Commission (NEPC) have helped to enhance the understanding of the need to develop a comprehensive national environmental justice policy that fosters the protection of human health and the environment, and ensures environmental justice while promoting economic development,” said Ali. “His early efforts helped to lay the groundwork for successful community driven collaborative projects such as ReGenesis.”

Congressman Clyburn was presented with the Environmental Justice Pioneer Award for his leadership in bringing the plight of disenfranchised communities to the forefront of environmental decision-making. 

“When EJ and Civil Rights were not popular, Congressman Clyburn challenged the government to deliver its resources to the communities that needed them because of the history of disinvestment and decisions that led to these disproportionate impacts,” said Mathy Stanislaus.
Ed Jennings, Southeast Regional Administrator HUD, delivered the keynote address for the evening’s ceremony. 


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