executive vice president
"If you wanna fly, you got to give up the things that weigh you down." - Toni Morrison
For more than 30 years, Vernice has been a pioneering thought leader and leading proponent of environmental justice and equitable and sustainable development. She has focused on the nexus between civil rights and environmental enforcement.
Vernice has extensive experience working with communities that have undergone economic disinvestment and environmental degradation to facilitate and implement community revitalization and sustainable redevelopment initiatives and projects. Her recent projects have focused on sustainable community planning and design; environmental law; regulation and policy; sustainable land-use planning, brownfields revitalization and equitable redevelopment; hazardous waste site remediation; toxic air emissions reduction; green space design and development; healthy indoor and outdoor school environments; and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion within the environmental sector.
She has a deep understanding and commitment to community-based planning and revitalization and community capacity building. Vernice is also an expert in cross-cultural conflict resolution and environmental conflict mediation. Her recent work includes supporting clients such as the Georgetown Climate Center, Chesapeake Bay Funders Network and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters, Chesapeake Bay and Near-ports Capacity Building programs, as well as drafting national guidance to facilitate partnership building among state and federal agencies and local organizations. She was recently awarded the Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award from the Sierra Club, which recognizes individuals who have done outstanding work in the area of environmental justice.
Vernice served as the principal research assistant for the landmark United Church of Christ report, “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States,” and as a member of the drafting committee that wrote the “Principles of Environmental Justice.” She was an advisor to the Clinton White House and witnessed the Oval Office signing ceremony for Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. In 2003 she served on the U.S. EPA All Appropriate Inquiry Federal Advisory Committee that wrote the authorizing language for the federal Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Redevelopment Act. She is also a principal co-author of the report “Now is the Time: Environmental Injustice in the U.S.” and recommendations for eliminating disparities published by the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in June, 2010. Vernice was reappointed to the U.S. EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) by Administrator Lisa Jackson in 2009, where she served on the Work Group on Integrating Environmental Justice into Permitting and also co-chaired NEJAC’s Work Group on School Air Toxics Monitoring. She served as vice-chair and acting chair of the Maryland State Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, where she led an effort to encourage state and local governments to consider the environmental and public health dimensions of local land-use and zoning decisions.
Vernice is the co-founder of WeACT for Environmental Justice and serves on its board, as well as on the boards of Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund, Land Loss Prevention Project, Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund, Patuxent Riverkeeper, and on the Advisory Boards of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Green Leadership Trust, Imani Energy and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.