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Maryland Department of the Environment

Maryland Department of the Environment Appoints First Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice

Aneca Y. Atkinson to oversee efforts to address environmental disparities and reduce pollution in overburdened communities; Appointment underscores commitment to environmental justice as a top priority

BALTIMORE (Jan. 17, 2024) – Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain today announced the appointment of Aneca Y. Atkinson as the agency’s first Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice.

“Assistant Secretary Atkinson will lead the way as we reach out to communities that have disproportionately experienced pollution and put into place policies that ensure no one is left behind,” Secretary McIlwain said. “She knows how the system works and how we can focus critical resources and action toward communities that have historically been overlooked.”

Assistant Secretary Atkinson comes to the department from National Audubon Society Mid-Atlantic, where she served as director of the organization’s Delaware River Watershed Program. Prior to that, Assistant Secretary Atkinson served in several roles with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“I can’t wait to get started on this path to making Maryland a cleaner, greener place to live for everyone,” Atkinson said. “The key to environmental justice is communication. We are listening to those who have been ignored in the past and taking action to give everyone the same access to a healthy environment.”

Assistant Secretary Atkinson led Audubon’s work to incorporate science-driven policy, advocacy, conservation, and public engagement work to increase funding for on-the-ground improvements to the watershed – with a focus on communities that have historically been excluded from greenspaces and other environmental amenities and protections.

In Pennsylvania, she managed erosion and sedimentation control and stormwater management programs. She also served as director of the Office of Program Integration, and, from 2018 to 2022, deputy secretary overseeing the Office of Water Programs. She played a critical role in developing and implementing the strategy and vision for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.

At the Maryland Department of the Environment, Assistant Secretary Atkinson will provide expert guidance for Secretary McIlwain and other senior officials to advance environmental justice as one of the secretary’s top priorities. The department previously added an environmental justice coordinator and a liaison responsible for helping communities obtain funding and stay informed.

Other recent environmental accomplishments by the Maryland Department of the Environment include:

  • Conducting environmental justice listening sessions in overburdened and underserved communities, including Curtis Bay, Cheverly, Langley Park, Eagle Harbor and others.
  • Working with Attorney General Anthony Brown to obtain one of the largest environmental crime penalties in state history against a Curtis Bay medical waste incinerator.
  • Collaborating with the Curtis Bay community on a scientific study documenting coal dust emitting from a coal terminal.

Assistant Secretary Atkinson earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Smith College and a master’s degree in water resources and environmental engineering from Villanova University.

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