Mike Ellerbrock, Virginia Tech professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was recently appointed to the Virginia Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

The council, convened by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, will provide advice and recommendations on ways to address environmental justice in executive decision-making.

“This Environmental Justice Advisory Council will work to ensure that every Virginian has a voice in protecting the quality of our air and water,” said McAuliffe in a press release issued by the governor’s office. “This council will provide critical advice on how to protect our natural resources and address environmental pollution in a way that is both inclusive and action-oriented.”

Ellerbrock is a long-time advocate of environmental justice – studying, researching, teaching, and advising on the topic since the early 1990s.

“Many business decisions are made and regulations put in place without considering the effects they have, or could have, on marginalized communities when those communities don’t have a voice,” said Ellerbrock. “Environmental justice seeks to level the playing field on environmental policy and regulation for all income levels, all ethnicities – all parties involved.”

Ellerbrock was appointed to the council on the recommendation of Molly Ward, Virginia secretary of natural resources, and academic partners at the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, which will help facilitate the council’s meetings. He will represent Virginia Tech as a representative of Virginia’s Blue Ridge region.

“I am honored to receive this appointment,” said Ellerbrock. “My hope is that through this work, we will substantively impact the lives of many Virginia residents.”

A lauded professor among students and faculty for his dynamic teaching and concern for all peoples, Ellerbrock has incorporated environmental justice themes into his undergraduate classes as well as his Extension programs. He has published articles addressing environmental justice issues in academic journals, including the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning. He also serves on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, where he adds a unique perspective as the council’s only economist.

“We can’t assume that all businesses are bad,” said Ellerbrock. “As an economist, I incorporate costs into the discussion in an informative way – and a positive way a lot of the time.”

The state council consists of 15 members who represent Virginia’s six regions, an elected official, and a tribal representative. Members include educators and lawyers as well as nonprofit and energy company representatives, making the council a diverse cross-section of Virginia interests and industries.

The council is scheduled to meet twice yearly and is expected to provide an annual report on specific recommendations regarding proposed legislation, regulations, policies, and research activities.

- Written by Jillian Broadwell

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