Gulf Coast leaders attend historic White House forum on Environmental Justice

Originally published as an email to the Gulf Coast Fund's network of grantees, December 15th 2010.

I am currently en route via Amtrak to today's White House Summit on Environmental Justice - an historic, all-day gathering of federal cabinet secretaries and environmental leaders from across the United States (see details in Press Release below).

Due to the faith, creativity and tireless good work of so many amazing people and groups over the past decade and a half, coastal Mississippi's Turkey Creek watershed (drainage basin) and its culturally significant African-American communities have become - among other things - a nationally instructive case study in "environmental justice". As such, and thanks to so many, I have been invited to this important and unprecedented event in Washington.

The Turkey Creek watershed's selection earlier this year by federal HUD, EPA and USDOT officials as a first-round "Sustainable Communities" planning area was completely unimaginable ten or even five years ago. Like my invitation to represent our community at today's summit, however, it has resoundingly affirmed our community's unique vision, leadership and geographic importance to the future of balanced and equitable SmartGrowth, Recovery and Restoration in coastal Mississippi; for the larger Gulf region; and across previously-fragmented planning sectors that include housing, transportation, environment, public health and economic growth.

As we know in Turkey Creek and North Gulfport, citizen-led planning and community development is literally civic participation, advocacy, and justice "on the ground". We know that wherever citizens and vulnerable communities are not at the planning table, they are on the Menu. We learned this the hard way, losing so much along the way that it's been very hard in most instances to call our reversals of misfortune "victories". We are, however, much wiser and very deeply engaged in determining future land use, environmental quality, and so on.

Settled during the post-Civil War "Reconstruction Era" by newly freed Black men and women - and sustained for 14 subsequent decades by their descendants - it is no doubt that our resilient and instructive community's RECENT and ONGOING history are what have garnered my invitation to today's historic EJ Summit.

As always, thank you so much for your part in helping to create yet another pivotal opportunity for us. With your continued support for Turkey Creek's people, community assets and environmental health, I will be certain to make the most of today's event in the coming weeks and months.

Thanks again and God bless you.

Environmental Leaders, Cabinet Secretaries to Participate in First White House Environmental Justice Forum

Release date: 12/14/2010

Contact Information: Jalil Isa (Media Only),, 202-564-3226, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – On December 15, Obama administration officials will convene the first-ever White House Forum on Environmental Justice. Environmental leaders from across the country will attend the day-long forum featuring White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

This forum will focus on the Obama administration’s commitment to ensuring that overburdened and low-income communities have the opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of a clean environment. The event will bring together environmental justice and community leaders, cabinet members, and senior officials from federal, state, local and tribal governments for a discussion on creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all Americans.

Chair Sutley and Administrator Jackson also will host an online question-and-answer session to engage with the public on the subject of environmental justice. The White House forum and the question-and-answer session will be streamed live at

Information on the forum agenda is below.

WHO: Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality;
Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice;
Ken Salazar, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior;
Hilda Solis, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor;
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
Steven Chu, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
Janet Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WHAT: White House Forum on Environmental Justice

WHEN: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. (EST)

WHERE: South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20500

RSVP: Members of the media who do not have a White House hard pass should RSVP to with their full name, date of birth and social security number for clearance. You will not receive a confirmation e-mail of your clearance. We will contact you if we have any questions.


WHO: Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

WHAT: Live questions and answer session on Environmental Justice

WHEN: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 12:50 p.m. (EST)

WHERE: To watch the chat live go to
Questions will be taken from viewers at



10:00 a.m.
Opening Plenary Session featuring Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality and Lisa Jackson, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

10:20 a.m. Green Jobs, Clean Energy Session featuring opening remarks by Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor and Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

11:40 a.m. Legal Framework for Advancing Environmental Justice Session, featuring opening remarks by Eric Holder. U.S. Attorney General

1:50 p.m. Healthy Communities and Place-based Initiatives Session, featuring opening remarks by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

3:15 p.m. Climate Adaptation Session, featuring opening remarks by Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security

4:25 p.m. Closing Session, Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality