While the national administration works to thwart environmental justice efforts, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration is working to expand them. Last week, Cooper named the members of the new Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force.
The task force was established as part of the governor’s Executive Order 143, issued on June 3 to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on North Carolinian communities of color. Its first charge will be to review health disparities in those communities. The task force’s first meeting is anticipated in August.
The 35-member task force is multiracial and bipartisan, with appointees from across the state. Members include Secretary Michael Regan of the Department of Environmental Quality; the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP; and Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley (D-Wake), Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. Department of Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders will chair the task force.
“Inequities in North Carolina are not new, but COVID-19 is shining a bright light on disparities that have gone unchecked in our health care and economic institutions for communities of color,” said Gov. Cooper. “This task force is the right way to address these inequities as we recover from the pandemic so that as we come back from this, we improve access to affordable healthcare and quality economic opportunities.”
“Health inequities are the result of more than individual choice or random occurrence — they are the result of the historic and ongoing interplay of inequitable structures, policies, and norms that shape lives,” said Secretary Sanders. “I am deeply honored to carry Andrea Harris’ torch on this new task force, as we grapple with these complex and critical issues for North Carolina.”