A New Leader for Environmental Justice at the EPA

Following President Obama’s second inauguration, most news coverage has now shifted to the latest round of cabinet appointments. Whether it be Senator John Kerry’s likely succession of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, or the more controversial nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense, various appointments have garnered significantly more attention than the recent departure of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Jackson’s exit has even been referred to as a “non-event in Washington D.C.” While less attention is being paid to the search for the EPA’s next administrator, assistant administrators at the EPA recently announced the filling of another important agency position: Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ).

Matthew Tejada, a Houston activist and Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston, has been chosen as the next Director of OEJ. Tejada previously worked at the Texas Public Interest Research Group and served in the Peace Corps. He has Doctorate and Masters degrees from the University of Oxford (UK), and attended the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate.

In a recent interview with Environmental Health News, Tejada hinted at the kind of Director he will be. His answers should leave EJ communities and activists excited and hopeful about his appointment. The new OEJ Director sees himself as “a very reasonable but effective advocate for environmental justice issues” and??feels like he has “the guts to speak truth” in a way that will make people listen. We certainly hope he is right, and we wish the new OEJ Director luck as he joins the EPA. Now we also wait for President Obama to nominate Tejada’s new boss – the next Administrator of the EPA.