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Accelerating resiliency planning in communities across the Commonwealth

Take the Resiliency Challenge to Move Your Community toward an Equitable, Healthy, and Economically Strong Future

by Ellen Szymanski

We are delighted to hold our Day 2 Plenary Session on “Equity as a Guiding Force in Resiliency”, with our distinguished speakers:

Matthew Tejada, Director, Office of Environmental Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Curtis Brown, State Coordinator, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)

Kendyl Crawford, Co-Director, Interfaith Power and Light

Moderator: Renee Hoyos, Director of Environmental Justice, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Given the climate emergency we are facing, there is a need for bold action to build resilience in marginalized communities across our country.  These communities are the most vulnerable to effects of climate change.   Local, state, and federal governments are taking sweeping steps to address environmental inequities and strengthen these communities.

In his first week in office, President Biden enacted numerous executive orders to address the climate emergency facing our country.  Fundamental to these actions was a promise to address environmental justice in the Justice40 initiative.  The initiative is a whole of government approach with a goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities and track performance toward that goal.  In late July, the federal government issued interim guidance on Justice40.  Among federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency has a critical role to play. 

At the state level, Virginia is taking an active approach to addressing environmental justice (EJ).  In 2020, Virginia passed the Environmental Justice Act which created an Interagency EJ Working Group to evaluate state agencies and make recommendations to improve engagement with marginalized communities.  The working group’s report calls out the need for a full environmental justice baseline assessment of the state and recommended hiring 34 more full-time EJ employees across state agencies.  Some of the key agencies in this effort include the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. 

Virginia DEQ is addressing environmental justice in several ways.  In 2019, DEQ conducted a study to address equity in its strategic planning and program implementation.  In April of 2021, they announced the opening of a new Environmental Justice Office.  VDEM is also working on concrete improvements in environmental justice.  It is building capacity among emergency management offices, diversifying the emergency managers, and trying to “connect the dots” to make sure we are getting the resources to communities that need it the most. In December 2020 VDEM received the Governor’s Honor Award for the agency’s commitment to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in response to the COVID emergency. In July, 2021, Curtis Brown, State Coordinator, VDEM, testified in Congress highlighting what is needed to promote equity across emergency services:

…long term sustainability commitment, resources, and a willingness to support innovation to solve complex and deeply rooted inequities in programs and policies.

Curtis Brown, State Coordinator, VDEM

Working at the Grassroots Level

At the grassroots level, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light is one of the organizations leading the charge on state-level environmental justice by collaborating with people of faith to grow healthy communities and advance climate justice through education, advocacy, and worship. They recently hosted a community town hall with faith leaders and community organizers in order to discuss the environmental justice aspects of President Biden’s call to Build Back Better: Climate, Justice, Jobs, and Care priority agenda. Read more about their event here.

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Today we will be joined by Caetano de Campos Lopes from The Community Climate Collaborative at the final session of our Spring Resiliency Academy. Caetano will provide information about the C3 Virginia Transit Tool, that supports community-led initiatives to advocate for better transit planning and will illustrate this approach as it is being carried out in the Charlottesville, Va area. Learn more and register: https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy
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Angela Conroy from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will be joining us tomorrow (June 9th) at the 4th (and final!) session of our Spring Resiliency Academy. Angela will update the audience on how the $93 million in funds from the Volkswagen Settlement Agreement has been allocated through the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund for EV charging network projects, electric buses for schools, the port electrification project, and the Clean Air Communities Program, and what funding is still available for grants to localities. Learn more and register at https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy.
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Join us June 9th for our final Spring Resiliency Academy. This Thursday, Susan Howard from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) will discuss transportation programs and funding created through this Federal legislation. Learn more and register at https://resilientvirginia.org/resources/events/resiliency-academy.
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Calendar

Due to COVID-19, please check listings for cancellations.
  • A Framework for Evaluating GHG Emissions Information for Decision Making
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    This interactive workshop will include discussions about needs, challenges, and opportunities related to meeting the needs of stakeholders; developing independent, transparent, and comparable greenhouse gas information; understanding and addressing biases in data, models, and…

  • Southeast Climate Monthly Webinar
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    2022 Hurricane Outlook, Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA Climate Prediction Center

    Register here.

  • Federal Energy Funding 101
    Date: June 28, 2022
    Location:

    Join Clean Energy Business Network on an interactive virtual platform to learn about federal programs to support energy entrepreneurs and communities.

    Learn more and register More details...

  • RNPN Ideation Hour: Extreme Heat Resilience
    Date: June 29, 2022
    Location:

    Join The Resilient Nation Partnership Network (RNPN), the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and the City of Phoenix for a discussion about the impacts of extreme heat across the country. We encourage you…

Latest News & Resources

Resilient Virginia News: April 2022

Resilient Virginia News – April 2022: Partnering with Universities for Greater Resilience; Curtis Brown Joins Resilient Virginia’s Board of Directors; Charlottesville’s Climate Action Plan; Richmond’s Climate Equity Plan; UVA ERI Climate Restoration Initiative; Solar Fund for Appalachia Awards First Grant; Global Assessment Risk on Disaster Risk Reduction; IPCC Finalizes Third Part of the Sixth Assessment Report; TetraTech Wins Six Climate Change and Environmental Industry Awards; Environmental Racism: A Tool for Exploring the Enduring Legacy of Redlining on Urban Environments; Virginia Coastal Resilience Web Explorer; Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Funding in Virginia 2022; more.

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