As some of you know, I will be going on a six month detail in the EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9) environmental justice office. I am excited about the new career opportunity. My passion in environmental justice and social justice has grown in the past 8 years during my work on the Palos Verdes Shelf (PV Shelf) superfund project. Naturally, my passion has led me to this new opportunity.
In 2002, when I first became the project manager for the PV Shelf project, we were grappling with a real risk exposure and public health problem facing our communities. After my first meeting with the project stakeholders, James Alamillo with Heal the Bay approached me and told me this is an environmental justice (EJ) project. He asked me “what is this administration’s plan to protect the EJ community?” I didn’t have an answer for him.
When I got back to my office, I started reading up on environmental justice and took a fundamentals of EJ training offered at EPA. As an immigrant who came to this country at the age of 18 and someone who is always interested in the history of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., I got it immediately. The EJ communities are not faceless people to me; instead, they are people like me. This enlightenment put a new resolution in my commitment to my work.
Many of you know this project has been so innovative in linking scientific risk reduction measures with community outreach work. This project is built on the solid foundation of “meaningful involvement” and “equal and fair treatment” of all people. We were the first EPA Superfund project that introduced the strategic planning tool with a neutral facilitator and have been consistently using this tool to guide our program implementation over the past six years. We were the first and only Superfund project that has brought environmental justice training to the community, local and state agency partners. We’ve made decisions together. We worked to get our local and state governmental agencies involved in this mission of protecting people who are the most vulnerable, most in need of our help and are often voiceless. This project is not just a Superfund site or a job to me, I found my calling in this work.
James Alamillo and I talked again recently. He asked me how I felt about leaving this project, “Sharon’s baby” in his words. I think of this change as a short break. I am taking the knowledge and experience of what I have learned from all of you and applying it to a broader program. I encourage you to continue sharing with your constituencies this incredible project that we have built collectively. I will keep in touch and update you on my new job. See you in 2011.
Tags: EPA, Sharon Lin
Posted in EPA Messages