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Fall Symposium 2019 – Environmental Justice in the Water Sector


Introduction to Environmental Justice and Water

Ryke Longest, Clinical Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law

Ryke Longest currently serves as the Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and a Clinical Professor of Law at the Duke University School of Law. He supervises students practicing in the clinic and teaches the seminar portion of the clinic. Since coming to Duke, Longest has served as the founding Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, a joint project of Duke Law School and the Nicholas School of the Environment. The Environmental Law and Policy Clinic operates as a live client clinic out of offices in the Duke Law School building in Durham, N.C. Students work under direct supervision of Longest and Supervising Attorney Michelle Nowlin.

Panel 1: NGO, Foundation, and Private Perspective

Jamie Cole, NC Conservation Network 

Jamie joined the NC Conservation Network in August 2015. Jamie holds a Juris Doctor degree from NCCU School of Law (2012) and a BA in Political Science from Spelman College (2009). Before joining the NC Conservation Network, she worked for the North Carolina NAACP as the Public Policy and Legal Coordinator and while in school was a Fellow in Washington, DC in the office of Former U.S. Representative Mel Watt. In January 2014 she received the NC NAACP’s “Humanitarian of the Year” award. Jamie currently serves on the Planning Committee for the NC Environmental Justice Network and the Board of Directors of Forward Justice. 

Mary TchamkinaRaftelis

Ms. Tchamkina has a background in water policy analysis and resource conservation consulting and a graduate degree in Water Resources Management. Her expertise lies in stormwater finance and program planning, water affordability program planning and implementation, organizational assessment and capacity building, and public outreach and stakeholder engagement. 

Jalonne White-Newsome, Kresge Foundation

Dr. White-Newsome is senior program officer at The Kresge Foundation, responsible for the Environment Program’s grant portfolio on Climate Resilient & Equitable Water Systems (CREWS). Jalonne also leads the foundation’s work addressing the intersection of climate change and public health. 

Before joining Kresge in early 2016, Jalonne served as director of federal policy at West Harlem Environmental Action Inc. (WE ACT), where she was involved with leading national campaigns and a 42-member national coalition of environmental justice organizations. Her work helped ensure that the concerns of low-income communities of color were integrated into federal policy, particularly on clean air, climate change and health issues. She is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and continues to engage in research on climate, health and equity.  She was recently appointed to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Change and Society, and is serving as a lead author for the human health chapter for the 4th National Climate Assessment. 

Keynote Address: Affordability at the EPA

Andrew Sawyers, EPA Office of Wastewater Management 

Dr. Sawyers is the Director of the Office of Wastewater Management at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC. He oversees the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, the Clean Water Act’s mechanism for the permitting of municipal and industrial discharge into surface waters of the U.S. As the Director of OWM, Andrew is also responsible for multiple technical and financial assistance tools for the development and maintenance of the country’s wastewater infrastructure, including WIFIA, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and EPA’s Water Finance Center. He previously worked for the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration where he managed the state’s Clean Water and Drinking Water SRFs and the Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Andrew has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Geography and Environmental Engineering. 

Panel 2: Community Perspectives

Omega Wilson, West End Revitalization Association (WERA) 

Omega Wilson co-founded the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) in 1994 in Mebane, NC, seeking to support access to “basic public health amenities” (safe drinking water, sewer lines, housing, streets, sidewalks, and storm-water management) for people of color and marginalized communities.  WERA supports primarily African American and Native American heritage communities: West End, White Level, Kimrey Road / Hawfields in Alamance County, and Buckhorn, Perry Hill, and Cheeks Cross in Orange County. WERA has filed federal administrative complaints to challenge projects that pose threats to these historic African American and Native American communities. 

This year’s symposium will focus on Environmental Justice in the water sector, exploring issues of access, affordability, equity, and diversity in our nation’s water resource systems. The symposium’s speakers and panelists will include community members, advocates, policy makers, researchers, and members of the private sector, all working to combat environmental injustice. We seek to examine how water management and policy brings up issues of inequity across communities and how each of us can find a role in improving environmental justice.

Catherine Flowers, Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice 

She is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE) which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions. She also serves as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative serving the citizens of Lowndes County, one of the 10 poorest counties in Alabama’s Black Belt. Catherine has been able to bring significant resources to address its many environmental and social injustices. Specifically, her work at ACRE addresses the lack of sewage disposal infrastructure in Alabama’s rural Black Belt, the legacy of racism and neglect stretching back to the time of slavery. Catherine is also an internationally recognized advocate for the human right to water and sanitation and works to make the UN Sustainable Development Agenda accountable to front-line communities.

Ryan Emanuel, North Carolina State University 

Dr. Emanuel uses geospatial analytics to study ecohydrology in both natural and human-modified ecosystems and works on environmental issues that have disproportionate impacts on American Indian communities. He develops modeling approaches to understand plant water use in the northern Rocky Mountains, runoff generation in the southern Appalachian Mountains, salinization of coastal environments of North Carolina and climate change impacts on waters of cultural significance to the Lumbee Tribe.