Governor Creates Advisory Council on Environmental Justice

Oct 31, 2017


Flooding in Norfolk in 2009. The Hampton Roads, Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas are susceptible to increased flooding and rising waters because of climate change.
Credit Jason Hirschfeld / AP


In one of his final executive orders before leaving office, Governor Terry McAuliffe has convened a panel of experts to explore how low-income communities in Virginia bear the brunt of climate change.

The Environmental Justice Advisory Council will begin meeting in the next couple of months to discuss how the state can promote climate-friendly policies that help all Virginians.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the new advisory council in Richmond Tuesday, signing an executive order. The group’s work will focus on coming up with environmental policies that help low-income and minority communities.

“So many times it’s the low income communities that really bear the brunt of pollution,” McAuliffe said. “Why should they have a disproportionate amount of pollution issues that they have to deal with with their children?”

Dawone Robinson, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, spoke after the Governor.

“Environmental justice is not some made up theoretical concern. It’s real. Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria,” listed Robinson.

If a similarly major storm were to hit Virginia’s coastline it could impact 1.5 million people in Hampton Roads, said Robinson.

“Where the people who are most at risk, the people who are most vulnerable, who have the fewest resources, are disproportionately poor and black and brown,” he added.

Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources, helped pull together the group. She says the advisory council is expected to have 13 members, although they haven’t been announced yet.

“Members of academia, nonprofit organizations, community members, people who have a public health background, people who have a legal background,” Navarro said. “So we’ll have a wide variety, we will

also have the tribes represented.”  

There’s been a similar workgroup at the national level, through the EPA. The idea for the  Virginia specific council came out of a prior effort to find ways to reduce carbon pollution.

The University of Virginia will take the lead, facilitating the group's meetings and discussions. They’re hoping to come up with specific policy recommendations for the Governor, whomever that winds up being.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association