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Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s Remarks to NEJAC

Hello friends and colleagues, I am excited
to speak with you all for the first time since being appointed Acting Administrator. Unfortunately, I am unable to join you in
person, but I would like to share my appreciation for the work you do and for your passion and
dedication to the mission of the Agency. This past fall, we celebrated the 25th anniversary
of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. This milestone serves as a testament to 25
years of dedication to the fair treatment and involvement of all people in environmental
issues – regardless of race, color, national origin, or income. That is the core of your mission. NEJAC plays a vital role in providing EPA
Administrators with advice, feedback, and recommendations for improving our efforts
to ensure environmental justice for all Americans. As you know, we recently moved the Office
of Environmental Justice into the Office of Policy. This will help bolster our environmental justice
work and better integrate it throughout all that we do here at EPA. One area we need to improve is risk communication. We must be able to clearly and accurately
communicate to the American public the environmental and public health risks that they face in
their daily lives, especially those in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. How well, or how poorly, we communicate risk
disproportionately impacts those on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. We have fallen short in the past, from our
response to the Gold King Mine in Colorado to Kanawha River in West Virginia to Flint,
Michigan. We owe it to the American public to improve
our risk communication, and we are focused on that. I know that the Office of Environmental Justice
is already working to incorporate risk communication into its work, including in the upcoming charge
to NEJAC through our Superfund Task Force effort. I hope this meeting will spark other ideas
for improving risk communication, and I look forward to the results of your work. Before I close, I want to recognize and celebrate
those NEJAC members who are retiring after years of service to this Agency and the American
public. Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei, Dr. Nicky Sheats, Dr.
Deidre Sanders and Mr. Paul Shoemaker. Thank you to the outgoing NEJAC members, and
thank you all for your hard work and efforts to protect the environment and public health
for all Americans. I hope you have a productive meeting, and
I look forward to your recommendations. Thank you.

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