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Protecting Our Planet: Powering Change with Jerome Foster II, Michael S. Regan & Leah Thomas

Experts discuss addressing environmental justice and how inequality is contributing to a public health crisis on Thursday, Oct. 28 (Video: The Washington Post)

A recent Environmental Protection Agency study warned that people of color are more likely to live in areas hit by flooding, extreme heat and the greatest impacts from climate change. Communities of color and working-class Americans who live in areas with fossil fuel plants also disproportionately suffer from the resultant air and water pollution. Administrator Michael S. Regan joins Washington Post Live to discuss the path forward to transitioning to clean energy and how inequality is contributing to a public health crisis, and young climate activists join to talk about the intersectional environmental movement.

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“The President is sending the same signal he’s sent since day one which is ‘Climate Change is a threat… not just to the United States but to the world… All of our agencies are there to demonstrate how America will and can lead.” – Michael Regan (Video: Washington Post Live)
“Climate change is indiscriminate, and we know all across the globe that the most vulnerable populations stand to bear the brunt of climate change impacts… E.J. [environmental justice] is part of the DNA of EPA. And we’re really serious about that.” – Michael Regan (Video: Washington Post Live)
“There are so many Black and Brown communities that are just living in increased air pollution… There needs to be bold action at the federal level because again these studies have been there for so long, and there also needs to be increased communication to let people know in these neighborhoods that this is happening and this is something that can change with proper policy protocols.” – Leah Thomas (Video: Washington Post Live)
“Really what needs to happen is for them to say, ‘Hey, we have a timeline. Before the next midterms, we don’t know if we’ll still have a progressive majority. We need to use this power that we’ve organized… and really put that petal to the metal.’” – Jerome Foster II (Video: Washington Post Live)
“I want to lead with a little bit of compassion here because I know that there are a lot of people that are making a living in the oil industry. But I think to transition away from oil, there needs to be significant policy that’s bringing renewable energy and also bringing job creation especially to the people that will be losing their jobs as we transition away from oil and gas.” – Leah Thomas (Video: Washington Post Live)

Jerome Foster II

Jerome Foster II is an environmental activist and voting rights advocate. He is the youngest White House Advisor in United States history, serving on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Based in New York City but raised in Washington DC, he served as an intern for the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis and served as Board Member for the Washington DC State Board of Education throughout his high school years. He is the Executive Director of OneMillionOfUs, an organization working to educate and mobilize young people to become civically active and vote.

Michael S. Regan

Provided by the U.S. EPA.

Michael S. Regan was sworn in as the 16th Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency on March 11, 2021, becoming the first Black man and second person of color to lead the U.S. EPA.

Administrator Regan is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he developed a passion for the environment while hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and exploring the vast lands, waters, and inner Coastal Plain of North Carolina.

As the son of two public servants - his mother, a nurse for nearly 30 years, and his father, a retired Colonel with the North Carolina National Guard, Vietnam veteran, and former agricultural extension agent - Michael Regan went on to follow in his parents' footsteps and pursue a life of public service.

Prior to his nomination as EPA Administrator, Michael Regan served as the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

As Secretary, he spearheaded the development and implementation of North Carolina's seminal plan to address climate change and transition the state to a clean energy economy. Under his leadership, he secured the largest coal ash clean-up in United States history. He led complex negotiations regarding the clean-up of the Cape Fear River, which had been contaminated for years by the toxic chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS). In addition, he established North Carolina's first-of-its-kind Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory board to better align social inequities, environmental protection, and community empowerment.

Previously, Administrator Regan served as Associate Vice President of U.S. Climate and Energy, and as Southeast Regional Director of the Environmental Defense Fund where he convened energy companies, business leaders, environmental and industry groups, and elected officials across the country to achieve pragmatic solutions to the climate crisis.

He began his career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eventually becoming a national program manager responsible for designing strategic solutions with industry and corporate stakeholders to reduce air pollution, improve energy efficiency and address climate change.

Throughout his career, he has been guided by a belief in forming consensus, fostering an open dialogue rooted in respect for science and the law, and an understanding that environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand.

Administrator Regan is a graduate of the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, making him the first EPA Administrator to have graduated from a Historically Black College and University. He earned a master's degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University.

He and his wife Melvina are proud parents to their son, Matthew.

Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is a celebrated environmentalist based in Santa Barbara, CA. Coining the term ‘eco-communicator’ to describe her style of environmental activism, Leah uses her passion for writing and creativity to explore and advocate for the critical yet often overlooked relationship between social justice and environmentalism. With this intersection in mind, Leah founded and launched Intersectional Environmentalist in 2020, a resource hub and platform that aims to advocate for environmental justice, provide educational resources surrounding intersectional environmentalism, and promote inclusivity and accessibility within environmental education and movements.

Leah, who is also the founder of eco-lifestyle blog @greengirlleah, uses her multiple years of eco-focused educational and work experience to inform her ever-expanding list of projects, as well as her audience of more than 350k followers. A graduate of Chapman University with a B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy and a cluster in Comparative World Religions, Leah has interned twice with the National Park Service and has worked at leading green companies, including eco-friendly soap company Ecos and most recently, Patagonia. A fundamental optimist and opportunity-maker, Leah used her time after being furloughed during the pandemic to create Intersectional Environmentalist.

Leah’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Highsnobiety, and she has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, W Magazine, Domino, GOOP, and numerous podcasts.

Content from Earthjustice

The following content is produced and paid for by a Washington Post Live event sponsor. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in the production of this content.

(Video: Washington Post Live)

Abigail Dillen

Abigail Dillen is the president of Earthjustice, a national legal nonprofit which represents more than six hundred clients free of charge, harnessing the power of law to force climate solutions while protecting healthy communities and ecosystems.

Moderated by Jeanne Meserve

Jeanne Meserve is a homeland security expert and analyst, moderator, and award-winning journalist. She is currently a Security Expert for Canada’s CTV News and co-host of the SpyTalk podcast. While a correspondent and anchor at CNN and ABC Jeanne earned her profession’s highest honors, including two Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award. She also contributed to two CNN Peabody Awards.

Jeanne is a member of the Homeland Security Experts Group and the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, and serves on the board of the non-profit Space Foundation.

She moderates discussions on topics ranging from technology and security, to medicine and the environment. Her clients include AtlanticLIVE, Washington Post Live, the Munich Security Conference, the Halifax International Security Forum, and the global conferences of the International Women’s Forum.

At CNN Meserve created the homeland security beat, covering intelligence, law enforcement, cyber, aviation, border and port security. She anchored worldwide coverage of the Yitzhak Rabin assassination and the death of Princess Diana, and was the first to report on the devastating flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She was a key member of the CNN political team during the 1996 and 2000 elections. While at ABC News she covered the State Department and reported from the Middle East, Asia and Europe.