Fordham Law

Fordham Law Greets New EPA Administrator at Climate Justice Conference

January 30, 2009

Fordham Law’s Stein Center co-sponsored a groundbreaking national conference on climate change and environmental justice, which featured a keynote address by Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency recently appointed by President Barack Obama. The conference, Advancing Climate Justice, was organized by WE ACT, a prominent national environmental justice organization. It included presentations by Fordham Law professors Sheila Foster and Paolo Galizzi. Foster is a co-director of the Stein Center and has had a longstanding relationship with WE ACT.

In her first public appearance as EPA administrator, Jackson told a standing-room-only crowd that the EPA would work to regain their trust.

“I understand that trust—especially for the EPA these days—is hard earned,” Jackson said. “I hope that when we’re done, we won’t be operating simply from a position of trust, but one of respect.”

Jackson, former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, assured conference attendees that President Obama shares their sense of purpose and that his positions will cast him as an environmental president.

“As long as he’s committed to the idea that you do not have to choose between environmental protection and the economy, we have a leg up on past administrations,” she said. “We have an answer for people who want to scare us into backing off strong environmental protections.”

Fordham Law’s associate dean for academic affairs, Sheila Foster, moderated a panel on “The Politics of Climate Change: Innovative Legal Climate Justice Advocacy,” which examined the traditional tools of environmental advocacy and assessed opportunities for the advancement of climate justice in government agencies and the legal arena. Professor Paolo Galizzi, director of the Leitner Center’s Sustainable Development Legal Initiative, presented “The Politics of Climate Change: Filling the Void and Crafting Climate Policies and Initiatives at the Local, State, and International Levels.”

The conference also drew New York Congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel challenged community organizations to use their collective power to push for change from the bottom up.

“The most important thing is for us to provide resources to grassroots organizations,” he said.

Rangel said that organizations such as WE ACT have the power to go into low-income areas and convince residents that environmental concerns should matter to them. That, in turn, creates a wellspring of support that federal lawmakers can use to fight for the environment.

Contact: Carrie Johnson