Agenda: SEJ's 31st Annual Conference

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#SEJ2022 AGENDA

Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Friday, April 1, 2022
Saturday, April 2, 2022
Sunday, April 3, 2022
Sunday-Tuesday, April 3-5, 2022 (post-conference tour)

All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, took place at the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria, 2222 West Loop South, Houston, TX 77027, unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

 

Registration

7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials. If you didn't sign up for the Thursday tours, Saturday evening party or Sunday breakfast at the Houston Arboretum, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.

 

All-Day Journalist Workshops

 

Workshop 1. Covering Biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)
Location: Champions III

Indigenous peoples across the globe account for about five percent of the world’s population, but conserve about 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Join Tristan Ahtone of Grist, Indigenous journalists, and legal experts to learn best practices for covering Indigenous communities, territory and struggles to protect ecosystems. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is limited; preregistration required.

Workshop Agenda:

8:00 a.m. Breakfast served

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. Welcome, introductions, etc.

8:45 – 10:15 a.m. Supporting Indigenous hires: You can’t cover biodiversity and Indigenous communities without a solid understanding of potential pitfalls and problems. From story conception to getting in the field, this panel will discuss audience, harmful stereotypes and best practices for covering Indigenous communities with a particular eye to hiring and supporting Indigenous reporters in your newsroom.

Moderator: Tristan Ahtone, Editor-at-Large, Grist

Speakers:
Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Editor, Indian Country Today
Anna Smith, Ted Scripps Fellow, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado Boulder
Christine Trudeau, COVID-19 Project Managing Editor, Indigenous Investigative Collective

10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Break

10:30 – Noon. From British Columbia to North Dakota to Honduras, Indigenous people are leading efforts to protect natural habitats and halt environmentally destructive energy mega-projects — and are being met with sophisticated, sometimes violent, attempts to assure they don’t succeed. The Intercept’s Alleen Brown will talk about investigative approaches to covering land and water defense movements across North America, with a focus on the tactics private security and police have used to assure pipelines, mines and dams get built on Indigenous territory.

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Legal lunch: There’s a complicated, historic legal relationship between Indigenous nations, states and the federal government. From wildlife management to recognition and protection of the rights of nature, biodiversity and land and water integrity are often enmeshed in complex legal statutes.

Moderator: Tristan Ahtone, Editor-at-Large, Grist

Speakers:
Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Editor, Indian Country Today
June Lorenzo, Attorney and Consultant, Indigenous World Association
Anna Smith, Ted Scripps Fellow, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado Boulder

1:30 – 1:45 p.m. Break

1:45 – 3:00 p.m. International focus: Free, prior and informed consent forms the building block of nearly every decision with environmental impacts in Indigenous communities, from the storage of hazardous waste to the development of mineral, water and resource exploitation. June Lorenzo, a representative of the International Indian Treaty Council, will talk about the role of international law and the covenants reporters should be keeping in mind when reporting on critical habitats and other environmentally-sensitive areas in Indigenous communities in North America and abroad.

 

Workshop 2. Covering Oceans and Coasts

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)
Location: Champions V

Join The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate’s Mark Schleifstein, journalist and author Lise Olsen and Houston Chronicle environment writer Emily Foxhall, along with experts from NOAA, Rice University's SSPEED Center (Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster) and more for a deep dive into covering ocean health, climate change impacts and coastal resilience. We’ll address carbon sequestration in the ocean, sea level rise and natural protection, threats to fisheries and the latest on hurricane threats. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is limited; preregistration required. Coverage.

Workshop Agenda:

8:00 a.m. Breakfast served

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. Welcome, introductions, etc.

8:45 – 10:15 a.m. Covering carbon and oceans: Experts explain efforts to develop carbon sequestration in the Gulf of Mexico, such as ExxonMobil’s $100 billion proposal; other ocean-based carbon dioxide removal efforts; the challenges of regulating carbon emission reductions, including rebuilding transmission and storage infrastructure, regulating carbon at LNGs, etc.

Moderator: John Schwartz, Professor of Practice in Journalism, UT Austin School of Journalism and Media, and Associate Director, Global Sustainability Leadership Institute, The University of Texas at Austin

Speakers:
Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, International Programs, U.S. Geological Survey
Charles Sutcliffe, Chief Resilience Officer, Office of the Governor of Louisiana

10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Beverage break

10:30 a.m. – Noon. Fisheries: What are the real threats facing fisheries today in the Gulf of Mexico and other oceans? Everything from overfishing to plastics pollution to threats to the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s protections, to ocean acidification caused by climate change.

Moderator: Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

Speakers:
Anja Brandon, U.S. Plastics Policy Analyst, Ocean Conservancy
Sepp Haukebo, Senior Manager, Oceans Program, Environmental Defense Fund
G.P. Schmahl, Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Lunch with NOAA: How has NOAA changed under new leadership? What are the Biden Administration's plans to protect oceans and coasts? How does climate change complicate this? Bring your own questions to this lunch discussion with former Chief Scientist and now NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad.

Moderator: Lise Olsen, Senior Reporter and Editor, Environment and Investigations, Texas Observer

Speaker: Richard Spinrad, Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Surge and flooding: Covering storm surge and rainfall flooding, including how to tackle big projects like the Ike Dike or Louisiana’s extensive levee systems, the role of natural alternatives to hard structures, the rapid changes underway in modeling both shoreline and interior flooding risk in the short and long term.

Moderator: Emily Foxhall, Environment Reporter, Houston Chronicle

Speakers:
Philip Bedient, Chair and Herman Brown Professor of Civil Engineering and Director, SSPEED Center, Rice University
Kelly Burks-Copes, Chief, Program Support Branch, Mega Project Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud, Executive Director, Bayou City Waterkeeper
Brian Lezina, Administrator for Planning and Research, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana
Natalie Snider, Associate Vice President, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, Environmental Defense Fund

 

Workshop 3. Tracking Toxics Data Training Workshop

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)
Location: Champions I (virtual speaker)

Join us for a day of hands-on database training, including presentations from Tableau, USA Facts, Grist and the U.S. EPA. You'll learn how to use data for quick turnaround investigations and longer stories. We will use historic examples of environmental disasters (like chemical accidents) and practice using relevant state and federal datasets. You'll learn how to track specific toxic releases from specific facilities, how to analyze data (using basic Excel functions and/or Tableau) and report on possible impacts to local communities. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is limited; preregistration required. Registrants must bring their own laptops.

Moderator: Lisa Song, Reporter, ProPublica

Speakers:
Matt Dempsey, Managing Editor, USAFacts
Sandra Gaona, Team Lead/Associate Branch Chief, Data Analysis and Dissemination Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Owen Mattison, Public Affairs Specialist, Tableau
Lylla Younes, Data Journalist, ProPublica

Resources:

Workshop Agenda:

8:00 a.m. Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. Welcome, introductions, etc.

8:45 – 10:15 a.m. Matt Dempsey will walk through a “playbook” of what to do when something explodes in your town. He’ll go over which databases to use, including OSHA facility data, EPA’s ECHO database, Tier II (chemical safety data) and the Houston Chronicle’s RMP site, which tells you if the facility has a risk management plan on file. He’ll go over how to write rolling FOIA requests to the EPA, and how to get info from 911 calls, fire marshals, etc. He will use concrete examples from his prior stories.

10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Beverage break

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. TRI presentation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Sandra Gaona), to be done virtually. Present TRI as a tool (alongside state databases and other federal databases) that reporters can refer to, particularly in “breaking news” situations. Demonstrate how TRI can be used to research a facility’s history of environmental performance. Coverage.

Topics to cover include:

  • How to quickly and easily access basic toxic chemical management data on a desktop or mobile device
  • Where to access historical facility information and reporting forms on TRI-covered chemicals
  • Understanding TRI reporting form sections and data elements for toxic chemical waste management activities during routine operations or non-production related events
  • How to find a facility’s reported pollution prevention information and compare it to other facilities in the same sector
  • Exploration and visualization of TRI facility trend data (especially air and water release data) for recent years
  • Supplemental data to enhance analytics (e.g., demographic information, risk-screening scores, etc.)
  • Discuss key factors to consider when analyzing TRI data and how to properly use the data and related information
  • Resources to help with accessing and further understanding TRI data and the TRI Program

11:30 a.m. – Noon. Q&A on any of the morning’s presentation. There will be a Q&A at the end of each session too, but in case there’s not enough time, we'll have this extra half hour for free discussion.

Noon – 1:00 p.m. Lunch (overlaps halfway with the next presentation)

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Lylla Younes will go over how to use other tools and their caveats and limitations, including the Coast Guard’s spill data, EPA’s RSEI microdata, ProPublica’s Toxmaps air pollution/map search tool and TCEQ’s emission event data.

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Owen Mattison will present how to use Tableau. They will have demos to show – probably chemical safety data. You'll learn how to make scatterplots, bar charts and maps. The focus will be on the free version of Tableau, which has fewer fancy features, but is open and available to all without a costly subscription. This session will be a combination of show-and-tell, with some hands-on training to learn the Tableau interface.

 

SEJ Information Table

2:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours and check out the Networking Table topics. Find information about SEJ, our award winners and current contest (April 5 late deadline), membership and other services.

 

Meet-n-Greet: Networking in the New Normal

3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Kick off the first SEJ conference since 2019 by catching up with old friends and making new ones. Workshoppers, continue the conversation by hanging out with your fellow workshop attendees at topical tables. Whether you're an SEJ newbie or a veteran conference-goer, grab a drink and meet up with your conference buddy at the Buddy Meet-up Point (if you signed up in advance). Fellows, get some snacks and get to know your fellow fellows at the Fellows Program tables. Everyone, get ready to dust off your rusty social skills and network in the "new normal".

 

Opening Reception and Dinner at the Royal Sonesta

5:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

Welcome to Houston, and welcome to Harris County, the most ethnically diverse in the country. Meet up with old friends or mingle with new ones, then settle down for dinner and an evening of presentations to give us a sense of place and set the stage for the rest of the week’s agenda. Scientists, environmental justice leaders, youth activists and others will give us a big-picture look at the environmental challenges facing the city and region, and the unique solutions some are trying. Coverage.

Emcees:
Naveena Sadasivam, Senior Staff Writer, Grist and #SEJ2022 Co-Chair
Perla Trevizo, Investigative Reporter, ProPublica/Texas Tribune Investigative Unit and #SEJ2022 Co-Chair

Welcome to Houston: Reginald DesRoches, Provost, Rice University

Speakers:
Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University and Director, Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice
Daniel Cohan, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University
Bianca De La Cruz, Tejas Student Intern | Green Ambassador, Furr High School
Marco Garcia, Student, University of Houston
Congressman Raúl Grijalva, D-AZ, Chair, House Natural Resources Committee (via video)
Christian Menefee, Harris County Attorney
Vianca Ramirez, Student | Green Ambassador, Furr High School

 

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Registration

5:30 – 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials. If you didn’t sign up for the Thursday tours, Saturday evening party or Sunday breakfast at the Houston Arboretum, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.

 

SEJ Information Table

2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours and check out the Networking Table topics. Find information about SEJ, our award winners and current contest (April 5 late deadline), membership and other services.

 

All-Day Tours

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. Departure times vary (see below), but all Thursday tours will depart from the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria's front entrance and will return to the hotel around 5:00 p.m. For those looking for some exercise, tours 2, 3 and 4 are your best options. Other tours involve moderate exercise. Tours 1 and 5 are best suited for those with limited mobility.

 

1. Sustainable Fishing, Coral Health and Marine Life in the Gulf of Mexico

6:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

Join us for a trip to Galveston, where we will set out for a half-day of fishing. Between casting our lines, we will discuss how fishery management works in the Gulf of Mexico. We'll use as a case study how challenges with the ever-popular red snapper have been addressed. Back on shore, we'll eat local seafood and learn about the national marine sanctuary protecting coral here. Experts will fill us in on why these coral are so important globally and how oil and gas interests were balanced in trying to keep them safe. We’ll cap the day with a walk on the beach, where advocates will tell us how they're working to protect turtles and birds. Total drive time: 2.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Emily Foxhall, Environment Reporter, Houston Chronicle
Katie Watkins, Environmental Reporter, Houston Public Media

Speakers:
Richard Gibbons, Gulf Coastal Program Manager, American Bird Conservancy
Buddy Guindon, Fisherman and Co-Owner, Katie's Seafood Market (Galveston)
Sepp Haukebo, Senior Manager, Global Fisheries Initiatives, Environmental Defense Fund
Scott Hickman, Captain and Owner, Circle H Outfitters and Charters and Advisory Council Chair, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Mandy Karnauskas, Research Fishery Biologist and Ecosystem Science Lead, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
George Schmahl, Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf Program Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network
Bob Stokes, President, Galveston Bay Foundation
Kristen Vale, Texas Coastal Program Coordinator, American Bird Conservancy
Greg Whittaker, Animal Husbandry Manager, Moody Gardens

 

2. Boomtown, Flood Town: Climate Solutions for the Nation’s Oil and Gas Capital

6:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

The fast-growing Houston metropolitan area, which is home to 7 million people and the largest petrochemical complex in the country, has in recent decades been repeatedly pummeled by climate change-related weather disasters. From Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the region has been hit with some of the worst urban flooding events in American history. Scientists also say it is a sitting duck for a monster hurricane that could kill thousands of people and inflict irreparable environmental harm. A variety of solutions have been floated to guard against these events, from nature-based ecological restoration to a multi-billion-dollar public works project that is awaiting congressional approval. On this water-front tour, you’ll hear from the scientists, advocates and government officials who are working on these complex issues, tour the Houston Ship Channel by boat and enjoy a seafood lunch at a restaurant that donates its used oyster shells for marine habitat restoration. Total drive time: 3.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Kiah Collier, Investigative Reporter, ProPublica/Texas Tribune
Halle Parker, Reporter, New Orleans Public Radio

Speakers:
Jim Blackburn, Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Co-Director, Severe Storm Prevention, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center, Rice University
Sam Brody, Director of Center for Texas Beaches and Shores; Regents Professor; and George P. Mitchell '40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts, Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Kelly Burks-Copes, Chief, Program Support Branch, Mega Project Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District
Rich Byrnes, Chief Port Infrastructure Officer, Port of Houston Authority
Trae Camble, Director of Environmental Affairs, Port of Houston Authority
Charlotte Cisneros, Community Programs Manager, Galveston Bay Foundation
Devyani Kar, Senior Manager and Scientist, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, Environmental Defense Fund
James Kaihatu, Professor and Division Head, Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M University
Haille Leija, Habitat Restoration Manager, Galveston Bay Foundation
William Sweet, Oceanographer, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

3. Birds, Conservation, Diversity and Inclusion

7:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

View spring bird migration with the Houston Audubon Society at its High Island sanctuaries to observe spring migration of songbirds. We’ll hear about the importance of the Texas Coast for migrating shorebirds from the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. We’ll get a birds-eye view from a boardwalk in the tree canopy and learn why there’s a high geological formation so close to the coast. Houston Audubon, under the directorship of a Black woman, will describe how it reaches out to the area’s diverse population. Total drive time: 3.5 hours. Coverage.

Tour Leaders:
Sergio Chapa, Energy/Business Reporter, Bloomberg
Cheryl Hogue, Senior Correspondent, Chemical & Engineering News

Speakers:
Pete Deichmann, Land Director, Houston Audubon
Helen Drummond, Executive Director, Houston Audubon
Martin Hagne, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

 

4. Wildfire, Prescribed Burns and Indigenous Traditions

7:30 a.m. departure,($60 fee, lunch included)

For millennia, Indigenous communities have used prescribed burns to manage forests and create openings for wildlife and berries to thrive. Today many of these traditions still exist across the country but are often stifled by government regulations, complicating already convoluted forest and wildfire management and leaving communities vulnerable to more intense wildfire. In Texas, we’ll visit Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary — a nature preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that is a hotbed for biodiversity and sanctuary for the iconic longleaf pine. Texas Forest Preserves Manager Shawn Benedict will lead a hay ride to show the ecological benefits of prescribed fire, how TNC, which is second only to the federal government in the amount of land it burns, has put fire back on the ground in the sanctuary and how it partners with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe fire team, which uses “cultural burns” to manage forests. After lunch we’ll head to Big Thicket National Preserve, where we’ll learn how the National Park Service has also reintroduced fire to the forests there to improve the health of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Total drive time: 4 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Michael Kodas, Senior Editor, Inside Climate News; Photojournalist, Educator & Author of "Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame" and "High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed"
Debra Krol, Indigenous Affairs Reporter – Climate, Culture & Commerce, The Arizona Republic

Speakers:
Shawn Benedict, East Texas Forest Preserves Manager, The Nature Conservancy
Andrew Bennett, Biologist, Big Thicket National Preserve, National Park Service
Brad Bryant, Fuels Specialist, Big Thicket National Preserve, National Park Service
Gessie Bullock, Member, Alabama-Coushatta Tribe
Megan Urban, Chief of Interpretation and Education, Big Thicket National Preserve, National Park Service
Anne Zuparko, Director of Marketing and Communications, The Nature Conservancy

 

5. The Future of Clean Energy

8:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

Electricity plays a key role in a low carbon future. This tour highlights energy efficiency building technology and the role renewables can play to help disenfranchised communities. First, we’ll tour energy research hub, the Houston Advanced Research Center. We’ll also tour the certified, net-zero energy building (one of less than 50 certified zero energy office buildings in the US and the first in Texas). After lunch, we’ll visit the site of the future Sunnyside Solar Farm, located in the historic Sunnyside neighborhood. Once built, the solar array will be the largest urban solar farm in the country. We will finish the day at Memorial Park, 100 acres in Houston which has undergone a series of conservation efforts in recent years, including new tunnels with a land bridge on top to allow people and animals to cross from the north side of the park to the south. Total drive time: 2.5 hours. Coverage.

This tour is generously underwritten by Anaergia. Donors have no right of review of tour content, speakers or itinerary.

Tour Leaders:
Mitchell Ferman, Energy and Economy Reporter, Texas Tribune
Nushin Huq, Independent Journalist

Speakers:
Marina Badoian-Kriticos, Director | Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs, Houston Advanced Research Center
Ryan Bare, Research Scientist | Watershed Ecology, Houston Advanced Research Center
Gavin Dillingham, Vice President | Research, Houston Advanced Research Center
Carlos Gamarra, Senior Research Scientist | Clean Energy Technology, Houston Advanced Research Center
Stephanie Glenn, Vice President | Research, Water, Houston Advanced Research Center
John Hall, President and Chief Executive Officer, Houston Advanced Research Center
Efrem Jernigan, President, South Union Community Development Corporation and Sunnyside Community Member
Dori Wolfe, Founder and Owner, Wolfe Energy LLC

Resources:

 

6. Flood Protection, Dam Safety and Cumulative Trauma

8:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

When the reservoirs behind Addicks and Barker dams swelled during Hurricane Harvey, the federal government chose to flood some neighborhoods in order to save others downstream. With future storms posing similar risks, you’ll get to tour the dams and hear from the Harris County Flood Control District about the challenges floods pose and how best to localize these stories. You’ll hear from marginalized minorities in Houston’s Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens about the inequities they’ve faced in the recovery process. We’ll also travel to Meyerland, a community victimized by flood after flood. Total drive time: 2.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Zach Despart, Politics Reporter, The Texas Tribune
Sarah Rafique, Investigative Producer, ABC13 Houston

Speakers:
Alan Black, Director of Operations, Harris County Flood Control District
Elaine Britt, President, Board of Directors, Meyerland Community Improvement Association
Keith Downey, President, Kashmere Gardens Super Neighborhood Council
Scott Elmer, Engineering Division Manager, Harris County Flood Control District
Kathy Flanagan Payton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Houston

 

7. From the Fenceline to the Frontline: The Battle Against Environmental Racism in Houston’s Ship Channel

9:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

Attendees will tour the Houston Ship Channel, a highly industrialized area of refineries and chemical plants that sit adjacent to predominantly Latino neighborhoods, to better understand the environmental problems faced by fenceline communities. We'll begin with a boat tour to understand the plants and applicable air pollution regulations. Then we'll walk through one of the neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by air pollution, accompanied by a community advocate, environmental epidemiologist and county pollution regulators. The tour will end with a panel discussion about environmental racism during a community luncheon. Total drive time: 2 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Erin Douglas, Environment Reporter, Texas Tribune
Syan Rhodes, KPRC 2 TV, Houston

Speakers:
Leticia Ablaza, Government Relations and Community Outreach Director, Air Alliance Houston
Latrice Babin, Executive Director, Harris County Pollution Control Services Department
Rich Byrnes, Chief Port Infrastructure Officer, Port of Houston Authority
Trae Camble, Director of Environmental Affairs, Port of Houston Authority
Christian Menefee, Harris County Attorney
Luke Metzger, Executive Director, Environment Texas
Bridgette Murray, Founder, Achieving Community Tasks Successfully
Juan Parras, Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Grace Tee Lewis, Senior Health Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
Morton Wakeland, EPCRA 313 Enforcement and TRI Program Coordinator, Region 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 

8. Superfunds: Climate Threats and Corporate Stonewalling

9:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

We’ll tour the San Jacinto Waste Pits and the French Limited Superfund Sites, both along the San Jacinto River, and hear from attorneys and activists who have been pushing for a clean-up of the waste pits, which have dumped dioxin into Galveston Bay and continued to leak during recent hurricanes. Despite Houston's urban industry, the San Jacinto River still has historic towns where residents used to enjoy fishing and boating and who struggle to co-exist with Superfund threats. We’ll stop in a historic Freedman's town, have lunch at a BBQ place and tour two or three Superfund sites to spotlight one of several areas in the U.S. where multiple superfund sites are clustered in heavily populated low-lying areas. Often these sites were not properly capped or cleaned up especially in light of changes in flood plain maps, stronger hurricanes and sea level rise. Total drive time: 1.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Lise Olsen, Senior Reporter and Editor, Environment and Investigations, Texas Observer
Dianna Wray, Freelance Journalist

Speakers:
Rodrigo Cantú, Environmental Justice Attorney, Lone Star Legal Aid
Caroline Crow, Staff Attorney, Lone Star Legal Aid
Jackie Medcalf, Executive Director, Texas Health and Environment Alliance
Rock Owens, Assistant District Attorney, Harris County (retired)
 

 

9. Highway? No Way! Why Cities Are Moving Away From Highways

10:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

In every major city, building highways has required demolishing bustling, densely packed and walkable avenues, and paving over them to make room for dozens of lanes of high-speed traffic. Tight-knit communities — almost always primarily people of color — were broken up as families were scattered all over the city. Houston is ground zero for a growing fight in Texas to rethink the way that we move people around cities. This tour will explore the proposed route of the I-45 expansion, how the federal government is rethinking the history of civil rights violations in highway expansions, the impact that highway design and transportation policy have had on communities of color in Houston — and how a new way forward is possible. Total drive time: 3 hours. Coverage.

Electric bus transportation provided by Navistar.

Tour Leaders:
Amal Ahmed, Freelance Journalist
Megan Kimble, Freelance Journalist

Speakers:
James Caldwell, Reverend and Founder/Director, Coalition of Community Organizations
Matt Casale, Director, Environment Campaigns, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Tanya Debose, Executive Director, Independence Heights Redevelopment Council
Michael Duckworth, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, True Anomaly Brewing Company
Bill Fulton, Director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University
Harrison Humphreys, Transportation Program Manager, Air Alliance Houston
Kendra London, Our Afrikan Family

 

Bookstore

5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Discovery Ballroom Foyer

Brazos Bookstore is on site to sell SEJ member-attendees' and speakers' books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference. Stop by for book signings from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m.

 

Independent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibitor Sneak Peek

5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Discovery Ballroom

A popular SEJ tradition, this is the conference’s best networking opportunity. After spending the day in the field, meet with hosts of multiple receptions. They’ll have experts on hand as well as displays, materials and, of course, great food and drink. Mingle with our exhibitors and build your source list.

Receptions:

 

 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Registration

7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials. If you didn’t sign up for the Saturday evening party or Sunday breakfast at the Houston Arboretum, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.

 

SEJ Information Table

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours. Find information about SEJ, our award winners and current contest (April 5 late deadline), membership and other services.

 

Exhibits

7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Don’t miss the wealth of information offered by the 2022 exhibitors. Learn about environmental issues and innovations, see some great displays and add to your source list.

 

Breakfast

7:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Grab continental breakfast and some coffee and peruse the exhibits, join a Networking Breakfast Table discussion in the Legends Ballroom, or make your way to one of the breakfast breakout sessions.

 

Networking Breakfast Tables

7:30 – 8:45 a.m.
Location: Discovery Center

Join a networking breakfast table on various topics, or make one of your own! Grab continental breakfast and some coffee on your way.

 

Bookstore

10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Brazos Bookstore is on site to sell SEJ member-attendees’ and speakers’ books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference.

 

Breakfast Breakouts

7:30 – 8:45 a.m.

Diversify Environmental Journalism Education, Diversify Environmental Coverage

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

One route to diversifying the ranks of environmental reporters and the topics they cover — including environmental (in)justice, Indigenous issues and access to public lands — is diversifying students in environmental journalism programs. This panel will examine strategies for recruiting more students from underrepresented and marginalized groups and tips to bolster their chances of success through mentoring, internships and other methods. We also will discuss how to better incorporate such topics into the environmental journalism curriculum.

Moderator: Eric Freedman, Professor of Journalism and Knight Chair; Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism; and Director, Capital News Service, Michigan State University

Speakers:
Susan Goldberg, Vice Dean | Professor of Practice, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications | Professor of Practice, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University and immediate past Editor in Chief, National Geographic
Rico Moore, Freelance Journalist, SEJ Board Member and Co-Chair, SEJ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee
Bernardo Motta, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Director of Communities of Hope, Roger Williams University

Religion & Environment for Breakfast

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

Join co-directors and fellows from the Religion & Environment Story Project for an informal conversation on anything and everything religion-and-environment-related. Grab breakfast outside the main ballroom and bring it to the session.

Moderator: Meera Subramanian, Journalist, Author and Co-Director, Religion & Environment Story Project

 

Opening Plenary: New Frontiers in the Final Frontier — Reporting on Oceans in 2022

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

From regulating our weather to absorbing our carbon emissions, oceans play a central role in the global climate story, but often go unrecognized in the telling of this story. This panel will look at different ways oceans and coasts fit into the climate discussion this year, including the environmental justice story unfolding on coastlines near petrochemical refineries, the push this year for a global agreement on oceans and the role oceans can play in reducing carbon emissions. Coverage.

This event was live streamed. Watch it here.

Moderator: Justin Worland, Senior Correspondent, TIME

Speakers:
Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University and Director, Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice
Manuel Carmona Yebra, Counsellor for Environment and Oceans, Delegation of the European Union to the United States
Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, and Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and Political Science Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law, Department of Political Science, and Associate, Public Health Program, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Texas Tech University
Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

 

Beverage Break and Exhibits

10:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

 

Concurrent Sessions 1

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Bolster Your Digital Safety: An Anti-Hacking, Anti-Doxing Workshop

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

Writers and journalists are increasingly expected to have an online presence and engage on social media, which puts them at risk of abuse — especially if they identify as women, LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC. From impersonation and hacking to doxing (the publishing of private info), abusive trolls join forces to intimidate, discredit and silence. But there are concrete steps you can take to protect yourself. With your devices in hand, join PEN America and Freedom of the Press Foundation for an interactive workshop where we’ll teach you how to audit your social media accounts, tighten your privacy settings and track your personal information online so you can maintain the public profile you need to do your job.

Moderator: Viktorya Vilk, Program Director, Digital Safety and Free Expression, PEN America

Speaker: Harlo Holmes, Chief Information Security Officer and Director of Digital Security, Freedom of the Press Foundation

Following the Money: The Profiteers Behind Environmental Damage

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

Accountability for environmental abuses begins with identifying who profits from them. In this panel, investigative journalists from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network will talk about their strategies for following the money to show who is benefiting from environmental harms. Panelists will share lessons from the Pandora Papers about how opaque financial structures help companies and executives profit from environmental degradation, discuss how they investigated corrupt patronage schemes used to facilitate resource extraction, and describe how they exposed the link between the US auto industry and deforestation. Coverage.

Moderator: Mark Schapiro, Investigative Journalist, Author and Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley

Speakers:
Scilla Alecci, Investigative Reporter and Video Journalist, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Manuela Andreoni, Rainforest Investigations Fellow, Pulitzer Center/The New York Times
Sasha Chavkin, Investigative Journalist, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Dual Crises: Reporting on the Intersections of COVID-19 and Climate Change

Location: Champions I

Two global crises, both severely impacting communities across the globe. Reporting on climate change or COVID-19 alone is a challenge — how do you talk about both in a relevant, accessible and understandable way? In this panel, we’d like to highlight some of the current intersections between public health and climate change, including the role of environmental justice, the potential origins of the next pandemic, how the response to COVID-19 could inform climate action and more. We’ll also discuss what story ideas journalists could be investigating, how to stay up-to-date on the latest science and tips to combat the rampant mis- and disinformation inherent to both topics. Coverage.

Moderator: Hannah Bernstein, Program Associate, Earth Journalism Network

Speakers:
Elizabeth Gribkoff, Reporter, Environmental Health News
Maximea Vigilant, Technical Operations Manager, Mosquito and Vector Control Division, Harris County Public Health
Annie Xu, Undergraduate Researcher – Earth, Environment and and Planetary Sciences, Rice University

From Oil & Gas to Clean & Fair: Restoring the Gulf of Mexico During the Climate Transition

Location: Champions II

As the Gulf of Mexico begins its shift from "America's Sacrifice Zone" — a center of oil and gas production and pollution — our panelists will look at the work required in the coming transition. This includes coastal restoration from Florida to Texas, slowing sea level rise by restoring marshlands, environmental justice with a focus on climate resiliency in at-risk communities of color that have been most impacted by petrochemical pollution and flooding, and plans to employ energy sector workers in capping and remediating abandoned rigs and pipelines and in the new offshore wind energy sector. Coverage.

Moderator: David Helvarg, Executive Director, Blue Frontier Campaign

Speakers:
Hilton Kelley, Founder and Director, Community In-Power and Development Association
Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Healthy Gulf
Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

How to Tell True Stories About Lead

Location: Champions III

Lead is malleable, durable, abundant and easy to extract from the earth. It’s flexible enough for lead pipes to bend through the underground landscape of tree roots and cellars, but sturdy enough to last for decades. Mixed with paint, lead makes colors shine and stick. In gasoline, it makes engines run smoothly and more efficiently. Indeed, if lead weren’t poisonous to humans, even to the point of death, it might really be, as one old General Motors executive once put it, ‘a gift from God.’ But just as the old alchemists felt lead could be spun into gold, countless people in the years since found infinite uses of lead, leaving its toxic traces in our pipes, plumbing fixtures, paint, soil, even our fishing gear and cosmetics. How do we, as journalists, report on this? How do we balance the technical and policy nuances of lead in our environment with the historical and structural truths that it reveals? How do we bring humanity and readability to these stories without slipping into simplistic shorthands or over-familiar tropes? How do we follow up on lead stories over time, and how do we navigate the complexities of data that is and isn’t available? Coverage.

Moderator: Anna Clark, Reporter, Midwest, ProPublica and Author, “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy”

Speakers:
Nalleli Hidalgo, Community Outreach and Education Liaison, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Francis Koster, President, The Pollution Detectives
Luke Metzger, Executive Director, Environment Texas
Jeremy Orr, Director of Litigation and Advocacy Partnerships, Earthjustice

Drilling Down: Using Databases To Find Stories on Oil, Gas and Mining

Location: Champions V

From national investigations to local accountability reporting, readily available datasets hold the information necessary to inform your next story on the oil, gas and mining industries. This panel of journalists and researchers will walk you through their go-to data sources, including federal oil leasing, state-level oversight of coal companies and nonprofit dashboards tracking infrastructure permitting. Then, they’ll discuss how to localize these data-driven stories for your coverage area. Coverage.

Resources: Panel handout

Moderator: Mark Olalde, Reporter, ProPublica

Speakers:
Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Policy Director, Center for Western Priorities
Alexandra Shaykevich, Research Manager, Environmental Integrity Project
Janet Wilson, Senior Environment Reporter, The Desert Sun/USA Today

Covering Indian Country for Non-Natives

Location: Legends Ballroom

Non-Indigenous reporters often seek to cover Indian Country or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) with an intention of being fair and accurate. However, the result is often extractive, insensitive or even riddled with racist tropes. How does one cover Indian Country? How are relationships with Indigenous communities cultivated? What are the skills needed to cover Indian Country accurately and respectfully? What do newsroom colleagues and editors need to know? This panel will explore covering Indian Country from the perspectives of Indigenous sources, reporters and newsrooms. Coverage.

Moderator: Valerie Vande Panne, Managing Editor, Native News Online

Speakers:
Sierra Clark, Kitchi Wikweedong Odawa from Grand Traverse Band of Odawa & Ojibwe, Indigenous Affairs Reporter, Traverse City Record-Eagle
Francine Compton, Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, President, Native American Journalists Association and Assignment Producer, CBC News Indigenous
Sandy White Hawk, Sicangu Lakota, President, Board of Directors, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

Believers Look Up: Covering Religious Communities’ Response to the Climate Crisis, From Eco-Grief to Solutions

Location: Champions VII

As the public increasingly experiences direct impacts of the climate crisis, journalists need to cover every aspect of the beat, from international negotiations to energy breakthroughs. But often the psychological import of recognizing and confronting the climate crisis demands a different kind of coverage. What might religious organizations, long skilled in helping humans handle grief, answer existential questions and take action in their local communities, offer for these times? And how can environmental journalists of all stripes better cover the often-sidelined religious angle of their beat and discover missing stories in the process? Coverage.

Moderator: Meera Subramanian, Journalist, Author and Co-Director, Religion & Environment Story Project

Speakers:
Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, and Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and Political Science Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law, Department of Political Science, and Associate, Public Health Program, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Texas Tech University
Bee Moorhead, Executive Director, Texas Impact and Texas Impact Foundation

 

Luncheon Plenary: The Energy Transition and Environmental Justice

12:15 – 2:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

Scientists have shown that using clean electricity to power as much of the economy as possible — from cars and trucks to kitchen stoves — may be the cheapest, easiest way to fight climate change. But doing that equitably, while keeping the lights on, is another story. Will the push to "electrify everything" currently underway in California and other states raise energy costs and force low-income families to spend money they don't have on new vehicles and appliances? And what happens when fires, floods and heat waves made worse by climate change inevitably cause chaos on the electric grid? Coverage.

This event was live streamed. Watch it here.

Welcome: David Leebron, President, Rice University

Moderator: Sammy Roth, Energy Reporter, Los Angeles Times

Speakers:
Alex Breckel, Director, Clean Energy Infrastructure Deployment, Clean Air Task Force
Jamal Lewis, Director, Policy Partnerships and Equitable Electrification, Rewiring America and former Director, Energy and Climate Initiative, Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Pedro Pizarro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Edison International
Joshua Rhodes, Research Associate, Energy Institute | Webber Energy Group, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Concurrent Sessions 2

2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

Beyond Doom and Gloom: Bringing Solutions to Your Climate Reporting

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

Every year, communities continue to be hit harder by climate change and the environmental injustices it perpetuates. While news media continue to focus on the doom and gloom, centering the stories of the victims, audiences want more. This workshop will equip journalists to tell the whole climate story, emphasizing efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, community adaptations, and how to be resilient in the face of climate change. The workshop will consist of four parts: 1. How and why to use Solutions Journalism; 2. Finding solutions-focused stories; 3. Pitching solutions-focused stories; and 4. Framing climate stories around solutions. Coverage.

Moderator: Cheryl Dahle, Climate Initiative Manager, Solutions Journalism Network

Speakers:
Steven Bedard, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, bioGraphic
Mekdela Maskal, Engagement Editor, Covering Climate Now
Paola Rosa-Aquino, Freelance Science Journalist and Steering Committee Member, The Uproot Project

Preparing for the Future of Environmental Journalism

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

What are the emerging skills and habits of mind that will be increasingly useful to environmental journalists in the next five years — and how can we develop them? Whether you're teaching environmental journalism, or seeking to continue your own professional development, this session will provide practical and philosophical guidance for the challenges ahead. We'll hear about what kind of training is being developed at arguably the most prominent journalism education nonprofits in the country; what kind of skills and attitudes are sought by hiring editors at one of the most influential and technology-rich environmental news outlets in the world; and what kind of insights environmental journalists can gain from colleagues in adjacent fields.

Moderator: Emilia Askari, Lecturer II, University of Michigan

Speakers:
Barbara Allen, Director of College Programming, The Poynter Institute
Dan Fagin, Professor and Director, Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program, New York University
Susan Goldberg, Vice Dean | Professor of Practice, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications | Professor of Practice, College of Global Futures, Arizona State University and immediate past Editor in Chief, National Geographic
Christine Trudeau, COVID-19 Project Managing Editor, Indigenous Investigative Collective

Ocean Plastic

Location: Champions II

The scourge of plastic in the ocean has had its iconic moments, from images of seabird bellies full of bottle caps to sea turtles impaled by a straw. It’s also been called a red herring, a way to distract from the ocean’s other — and perhaps more pressing — ails. Where’s the ocean plastic story going next? This panel will try to get to the “seed” of the question with results from Nurdle Patrol along the Gulf Coast, the region responsible for more plastic production than any other place in the US. It will also look at new policy and business practices aimed at limiting plastic pollution well before it hits the waves. Coverage.

Moderator: Juli Berwald, Ocean Scientist, Science Writer and Author

Speakers:
Joshua Baca, Vice President, Plastics Division, American Chemistry Council
Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Luke Metzger, Executive Director, Environment Texas
Jace Tunnell, Director, Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, University of Texas Marine Science Institute

Covering the Next Five Years of Water and Infrastructure Change in Texas and Beyond

Location: Champions III

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country's water infrastructure a C-. In Texas, the grade is near failing. This panel will cover how everything from climate change to urbanization are impacting water infrastructure, and how an increase in federal funding could finally address some of the most pressing issues — and where journalists can look for stories about the challenges ahead.

Moderator: Amal Ahmed, Freelance Journalist

Speakers:
Amanda Fuller, Director, Texas Coast and Water Program, National Wildlife Federation
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud, Executive Director, Bayou City Waterkeeper
John Tracy, Director, Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas A&M University
Tegan Wendland, Editorial Director, Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk

Energy Equity and the Grid

Location: Champions V

What are the renewable-energy access challenges low-income communities face and what are some possible solutions? Panelists will walk through a “day in the life” of a family earning less than $75K annually. With solar and wind power hitting record-low costs to beat out fossil fuel prices, storage options growing and climate-related power outages becoming more common, we explore solutions, such as resilient local “micro-grids.” How could access to clean renewable energy, at an affordable rate, improve low-income residents’ quality of life and economic stability, spare the climate and help protect residents from sweltering after a hurricane or freezing after a nor’easter?

Moderator: Nushin Huq, Freelance Reporter

Speakers:
Gavin Dillingham, Vice President of Research, Houston Advanced Research Center
Catherine Flowers, Co-Founder, Energy Well Texas
Dana Harmon, Executive Advisor, Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute

Landfills at a Crossroads

Location: Champions VI

The dominant destination for America's trash is at an inflection point, facing a number of risks, pressures and opportunities. Long-running discussions about environmental justice around disposal sites are gaining renewed national attention. Landfills are also the third-highest human-related source of methane emissions in the United States, prompting more scrutiny from policymakers and growing interest from ESG-focused investors about solutions. Also on the horizon are concerns about PFAS, a notorious family of chemicals contaminating waste sites nationwide and facing a major crackdown at the state and federal level. Join us for a discussion about what's next for landfills in Houston, the birthplace of the modern U.S. waste industry, with experts and beat reporters. Coverage.

Moderator: Cole Rosengren, Lead Editor, Waste Dive

Speakers:
Christopher Ball, Vice President, Environmental Health & Safety, WM
E.A Crunden, Chemicals and Waste Reporter, POLITICO's E&E News
Efrem Jernigan, President, South Union Community Development Corporation

Mapping Environmental Injustice: From Stolen Land to Cancer Hot Spots and Toxic Prisons

Location: Champions VII

Over the past two years several newsrooms have used location data and mapping software to tell groundbreaking stories of environmental injustice. To go with the stories, teams of reporters, researchers and developers have published maps and databases that can be re-purposed by other journalists as well as organizers, policymakers and academics. We’ll introduce three mapping projects, discussing what it took to make the projects successful and explaining how reporters can use each to find their own stories. Featured projects include High Country News’ Land Grab Universities, about how the United States funded land-grant universities with expropriated Indigenous land; ProPublica’s Sacrifice Zones, which used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data to identify toxic hot spots around the U.S.; and The Intercept’s Climate and Punishment, which mapped more than 6,500 U.S. detention facilities against indicators of the climate crisis. Coverage.

Moderator: Alleen Brown, Reporter, The Intercept

Speakers:
Tristan Ahtone, Editor-at-Large, Grist
Lylla Younes, Reporter and News Applications Developer, ProPublica

Project links:

 

U.S. EPA Press Conference and Q&A Session

3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

The Biden Administration and Regan EPA are focusing money and energy on environmental justice issues and toxic release monitoring like never before. With our host city plagued with industry-related explosions, a cancer cluster and some of the highest levels of cancer-causing air stemming from industrial pollution, we'll hear from EPA leaders on how they're addressing these issues on multiple fronts. Get your questions ready! Following a brief pre-recorded video from EPA Administrator Michael Regan and moderator-led discussion with the panelists, we'll take questions from the audience. Coverage.

This event was live streamed. Watch it here.

Moderator: Darryl Fears, Staff Writer, The Washington Post

Speakers:
Rosemary Enobakhare, Associate Administrator for Public Engagement, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Earthea Nance, Regional Administrator, South Central Region (Region 6), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Carlton Waterhouse, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 

Networking Happy Hour

5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

Grab a cold beverage (hard or soft) and ask EPA PIOs your hot questions, or meet SEJ volunteers and help shape the future of SEJ. Options include:

  • Meet the U.S. EPA public information officers from HQ and several regions:
    HQ: Nick Conger, Press Secretary; Tim Carroll, Deputy Press Secretary; and Alethea Harney, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Public Affairs
    Region 3/Mid-Atlantic: Traci Benjamin, Jeff Landis and Eric Pollard
    Region 5/Great Lakes: Taylor Gillespie
    Region 7/Midwest: Shannan Beisser
  • #SEJ2023 in Boise: What should be on the agenda?
  • SEJ Future Sites: Where should we go next?
  • SEJournal: What are your ideas for stories and columns?
  • SEJ board and committees: How to get involved in leading SEJ
  • Fund for Environmental Journalism: How should we support the future of environmental journalism?
  • More to be added!

Beverage break sponsored by Earthjustice. Cash bar.

 

Beat Dinners

Sign up online for Beat Dinners hosted by a variety of organizations, or arrange your own Beat Dinner using the Whova app. Or just take the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues.

1. Modernizing Our Nation’s Oil and Gas Leasing System to Benefit Wildlife, Our Public Lands, Hunting and Angling, and American Taxpayers

Please join us for this beat dinner, which will focus on the negative impacts of the decades-old federal oil and gas program and what the Interior Department and Congress can do to fix it. Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation, and Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director at Center for Western Priorities, will lead the discussion, as a part of their work with the Coalition for Oil and Gas Reform.

This dinner is sponsored by the Coalition for Oil and Gas Reform.

2. Redefining Neutrality and Objectivity in Reporting

Join Floodlight Editor-in-Chief, Emily Holden, for a casual dinner discussion on how we report on climate and other complex environmental issues. With social media misinformation, and corporate and government interests having outsize influence, what’s our role? This session will preview Emily’s conference panel on objectivity and fairness in reporting the following day.

This dinner is sponsored by The Wilderness Society.

  • Moxies, #250 - 5000 Westheimer Road, Houston (walkable from the hotel with vegan and gluten-free options)
  • 7:00 p.m.
  • This dinner is limited to 15 journalists. This dinner is full.

3. On the Climate Change Frontlines: Innovative Storytelling from The Atlantic and the Pulitzer Center

Please join us for a discussion on compelling approaches journalists are taking to telling climate stories. Ellen Cushing, projects editor at The Atlantic, will talk about the Atlantic Planet, billed as “your guide to life on a warming planet,” and some longform articles it has published. Steve Sapienza, initiative editor at the Pulitzer Center, will describe Connected Coastlines, a nationwide climate reporting initiative that emphasizes collaborations among local media outlets, and offer tips on applying for a grant. Both projects are supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education.

This dinner is sponsored by HHMI Department of Science Education.

  • The Original Ninfa’s Uptown, 1700 Post Oak Blvd, Houston
  • 7:30 p.m.
  • This dinner is limited to 38 journalists. Please email whitet@hhmi.org to RSVP (if you would like to request a vegetarian option, please let us know when you RSVP).

4. The Western Water Crisis and Solutions for More Climate-Resilient Watersheds

Facing historic drought, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the 2 largest reservoirs in the United States, hover at their lowest levels (34% and 25% full, respectively) since they originally filled; most of the Western United States is in exceptional or extreme drought; and devastating wildfires are occurring more frequently and throughout every season of the year. Please join us for this beat dinner, which will focus on how climate change is affecting our watersheds in the west in dramatic ways, with a particular focus on the Colorado River basin. Discussion will include solutions to meet these ongoing challenges, as well as opportunities presented in the bipartisan infrastructure package which includes funding for climate resilient solutions.

This dinner is sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation.

Moderator: Ted Kowalski, Colorado River Initiative Lead and Senior Program Officer, Walton Family Foundation

Speakers:
Season Martin, Chief Executive Officer of Virga Labs, will delve into 10 climate resilient strategies, and how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) can be used to make the western watersheds more resilient.
Vanessa Puig-Williams, Director of the Texas Water Program for Environmental Defense Fund, will talk about the importance of groundwater management in order to protect healthy streams and rivers, and innovative tools that are changing water management for the better.
Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist, Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources - Water Management Branch, will talk about the water challenges facing tribal communities (invited).

5. Our National Parks: Past, Present and Future, With the National Parks Conservation Association

Please join ProPublica journalist Mark Olalde and the National Parks Conservation Association’s communications experts Kati Schmidt, Kyle Groetzinger and Liam Kelly for a conversation of the past, present and ongoing efforts to strengthen our national parks and the many communities that rely on them. America’s first national park, Yellowstone, was created 150 years ago, providing a new sort of conservation status for lands with far-reaching ties to more than 20 Native Tribes. Since the establishment of Yellowstone, Presidential administrations and Congresses have worked to protect — and, at times, derail protections for — important ecological wonders and cultural touchstones across the country as parks.

We’ll peel back the layers that continue to surround protection for some of our most beloved parks including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, as well as the modern ecological and political challenges facing the national park system. And while “national parks” may conjure up images of wide open, wild spaces, nearly 2/3 of our 423 national parks are historic and cultural sites. We’ll share recent victories to continue to diversify our park system, such as the designation at Japanese American incarceration site Amache in Colorado, and opportunities to protect history at The Blackwell School in Texas, among others. And with no shortage of national park and public lands-related issues, the dinner will include room for side-dish conversations, overcrowding in our national parks, funding shortfalls and victories, top wildlife issues, defending clean air and water and more.

This dinner is sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association.

 

Uproot Dinner Meetup

7:00 p.m.
Location: Adair Kitchen, 5161 San Felipe Suite 390, Houston

The Uproot Project is a network for environmental journalists of color that launched in 2021. It seeks to bring diverse voices to the forefront of environmental reporting and is dedicated to advancing the careers of journalists of color who’ve been historically underrepresented in this field. If you’re an Uproot member, this is your chance to meet other members in person and socialize. Priority will be given for current Uproot members.

Dinner Leaders:
Maddie Burakoff, Digital Journalist, Spectrum News 1 and Steering Committee Member, The Uproot Project
Justin Worland, Senior Correspondent, TIME

 

SEJ Open Screen

8:00 – 11:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

Join us for a visual journalism show-and-tell! This is a low-key hangout for anyone who wants to gather around a warm projector and talk shop. We'll have snacks and the hotel bar is close by. Reporters are invited to come with any photos, videos, animations or dataviz they've been working on to share with the group. We'll pull names from a hat and take turns to show our stuff and talk process, wins, challenges and whatever else comes up. Please limit film clips and presentations to five minutes; journalistic content only, please. We'll take walk-ins, but sign up here if you know you want to come so we can get your media ready for showtime.

Moderators:
Kevin Beaty, Photographer and Reporter, Denverite and Colorado Public Radio
Sam Eaton, National Correspondent, Newsy

 

 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Registration

7:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Pick up your badge and conference materials. If you didn’t sign up for the Saturday evening party or Sunday breakfast at the Houston Arboretum, there might still be room. Check with registration and sign up there.

 

SEJ Information Table

8:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sign up here for Saturday mini-tours. Find information about SEJ, our award winners and current contest (April 5 late deadline), membership and other services.

 

Exhibits

7:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Don’t miss the wealth of information offered by the 2022 exhibitors. Learn about environmental issues and innovations, see some great displays and add to your source list.

 

Breakfast

7:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Grab continental breakfast and some coffee and peruse the exhibits, join a Networking Breakfast Table discussion in the Legends Ballroom, or make your way to one of the breakfast breakout sessions.

 

Networking Breakfast Tables

7:30 – 8:45 a.m.
Location: Discovery Center

Join a networking breakfast table on various topics, or make one of your own!

 

Bookstore

7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Brazos Bookstore is on site to sell SEJ member-attendees’ and speakers’ books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference.

 

Breakfast Breakouts

7:30 – 8:45 a.m.

Pitch Slam and FEJ Proposal Coaching: U.S. Public Lands

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism will award grants up to $5,000 in 2022 for story projects covering U.S. public lands. Share your ideas with past FEJ judges and get feedback and tips to strengthen your proposal for the FEJ Spring competition.

Moderator: Meaghan Parker, Executive Director, Society of Environmental Journalists

Speakers:
Sadie Babits, Professor of Practice, Sustainability Director at ASU's Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; President, Society of Environmental Journalists Board of Directors
Michael Kodas, Senior Editor, Inside Climate News; Photojournalist, Educator & Author of “Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame” and “High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed”
Rico Moore, Freelance Journalist, SEJ Board Member and Co-Chair, SEJ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Note: This session will not be recorded. Attendance doesn't guarantee proposal acceptance. Story grants made possible by The Wilderness Society and other foundation and individual donors to FEJ.

Speed Mentoring Breakfast

Location: Summit Room

Ask them anything: Veteran SEJers from a mix of genres and backgrounds are here to share advice and tips with newcomers to the beat. Questions about any aspect of environmental journalism are fair game, and participants will also get an introduction to SEJ’s year-long Mentoring Program partnerships. Each attendee will have the chance to meet individually with three mentors, one in each of three consecutive rounds of one-on-one discussion. This has been a popular session at past conferences, and it requires advance signup (don't delay; space is limited).

Moderator: Jane Braxton Little, Independent Journalist

Uproot Breakfast Meetup

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

The Uproot Project is a network for environmental journalists of color that launched in 2021. It seeks to bring diverse voices to the forefront of environmental reporting and is dedicated to advancing the careers of journalists of color who’ve been historically underrepresented in this field. If you’re an Uproot member, this is your chance to meet other members in person and socialize. Grab a continental breakfast near the main ballroom and join us for conversation in the Founders III & IV ballroom.

Moderators:
Maddie Burakoff, Digital Journalist, Spectrum News 1 and Steering Committee Member, The Uproot Project
Lucia Priselac, Director, The Uproot Project

 

Concurrent Sessions 3

9:00 – 10:15 a.m.

Show Me the Money: How To Keep Environmental Journalism Alive

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

The traditional, advertising-based business model is in ruins, but news organizations across the country are finding ways to survive and even thrive. While there is no singular model for sustaining great reporting, one thing is certain: Philanthropy will continue to play an essential role. Three master fundraisers discuss emerging models for philanthropic support, opportunities for for- and nonprofit newsrooms, and how to convince donors to support independent journalism — a craft that is, by definition, beyond funders’ control.

Moderator: Greg Hanscom, Executive Director and Publisher, High Country News

Speakers:
Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder and Executive Editor, Southerly
Alyssa Pinkerton, Director of Philanthropy, High Country News
Terry Quinn, Chief Development Officer, The Texas Tribune

Environmental Engagement Reporting

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

As audiences increasingly cope with the realities of the climate crisis there is opportunity for more community engagement work while journalists continue to cover stories. Who’s currently doing that work? How can engagement reporting be better utilized in environmental journalism? In this roundtable, leading journalists will discuss how they've accomplished environmental engagement projects in their newsrooms and how that work can better be supported. Coverage.

Moderator: DaLyah Jones, Freelance Journalist and Community Engagement Consultant

Speaker:
Carly Berlin, New Orleans Metro Reporter, WWNO
Yvette Cabrera, Senior Staff Writer, Environmental Justice, Grist
Mekdela Maskal, Engagement Editor, Covering Climate Now

Extreme Weather: How To Report on a World That’s Warmer, Colder, Wetter, Drier and Weirder

Location: Champions I

Climate change is scrambling weather and making everything more extreme. The warming is fueling atmospheric changes that affect everyone and everything, from flooding and hurricanes to wildfires and ice storms. It’s a recipe for disasters that needs sharp and nimble science-backed reporting. This panel focuses on the science of climate change and extreme weather, attribution knowledge of climate and weather-related disasters, and some best practices for effective journalism before, during and after extreme weather events. Coverage.

Moderator: Joe Wertz, Climate and Environment Editor, Colorado Public Radio News

Speakers:
Mose Buchele, Energy and Environment Reporter, KUT/ NPR Austin
James Doss-Gollin, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University
Shannon Osaka, Climate Policy and Solutions Reporter, Grist

Diving Deeper: Untold Stories of Ocean Science

Location: Champions II

There’s a treasure trove of stories hiding within the deep blue, and we will dive into the murky currents to find them. We will descend into the underwater caves, aka subterranean estuaries, so poorly studied that we still don’t know what creatures live there and what they do. We will learn that hurricanes destroy not only what’s above the water, but also what’s below, such as the estuarine ecosystems housing fish and other species that people depend on for food. And we will sniff out human sewage pollution that’s smothering the ocean, fueling algae blooms and hampering coastal restoration efforts worldwide. Come with us on an undersea expedition fishing for ocean science stories. Coverage.

Moderator: Lina Zeldovich, Freelance Journalist, Writer, Editor & Book Author

Speakers:
Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez, Marine Biologist, Marine Biospeleology Lab, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Chris Clapp, Marine Habitat Restoration Scientist and Executive Director, Ocean Sewage Alliance
Hui Liu, Associate Professor, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston

At the Junction of Clean Water and Human Rights

Location: Champions III

Nearly every community has well-meaning activists. But few have groups like Toledo's Junction Coalition, a grassroots community organization that helped lead efforts to address Toledo's 2014 algae-driven water crisis. Then there's Houston, home to numerous community activist groups and efforts. On this session we'll hear from a lawyer who won a major court decision that will lead to fewer sewage overflows in low-income areas and from a pastor who founded a community coalition that fights to keep people of limited means empowered through education, as well as a national expert on environmental justice and equity issues. Coverage.

Moderator: Tom Henry, Environmental-Energy Writer, The (Toledo) Blade

Speakers:
James Caldwell, Reverend and Founder/Director, Coalition of Community Organizations
Mustafa Santiago Ali, President and Founder, Revitalization Strategies and former Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Kristen Schlemmer, Legal Director and Waterkeeper, Bayou City Waterkeeper
Alicia Smith, Director, The Junction Coalition

When the Truth Is Not Neutral: The Myth of Absolute Objectivity in Reporting

Location: Champions V

In this session, we will dive in with veteran journalists about how they are recognizing the severity of the climate crisis and being appropriately adversarial with the corporations and other powerful influences causing it ⁠— while still being fair. Coverage.

Please prepare for this chat by:

  1. Reading Sammy Roth's recent piece, "Getting Personal About Climate Change Made Me a Better Reporter: Journalists Need To Start Demanding Solutions and Stop Worrying About Bad-Faith Critics"
  2. Listening to Floodlight reporter Mario Alejandro Ariza’s 8-minute personal essay on living in a city under siege from climate change for "This American Life"

Moderator: Emily Holden, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Floodlight News

Speakers:
Sammy Roth, Energy Reporter, Los Angeles Times
Sara Shipley Hiles, Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism and Executive Director, Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk
Justin Worland, Senior Correspondent, TIME

Reporting From the Front Lines of Climate and Energy

Location: Champions VI

Frontline communities live with the worst and earliest impacts of fossil fuels extraction, military contamination and the climate crisis. They are also often at the crossroads of environmental racism and socioeconomic hardship. To report effectively in and about frontline communities, you need to navigate these complex issues, to approach vulnerable sources with sensitivity and often to grapple with a tangle of environmental regulations and multiple fields of scientific research. How do you put this together into a hard-hitting story that reveals the truth about frontline communities and how their struggles are connected to our energy choices and climate policies? Coverage.

Moderator: Madeline Ostrander, Freelance Journalist and Author

Speakers:
Antonia Juhasz, Energy and Climate Author, Investigative Journalist and Adjunct Lecturer, Tulane University
Halle Parker, Coastal Desk Reporter, WWNO New Orleans
Juan Parras, Executive Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Rachel Ramirez, Climate Writer, CNN

 

Virtual Journalists' Guide to Energy & Environment in Latin America, 2022

Location: Legends Ballroom

Building on the successful formula for SEJ's popular annual Journalists' Guide to the year ahead in energy and environment news, this virtual panel of prominent environmental journalists working in Latin America will provide a roundup of some key anticipated stories from across Latin America. In recognition of our many shared interests — cultural, economic and of course environmental — we invite our colleagues throughout the US, Latin America and the world to join this session virtually. The conversation will take place on Google Meet, so participants can take advantage of the free caption-translation feature. Presenters will speak in either English, Spanish or Portuguese. We'll hear from a Brazilian geo-journalist who founded an organization that analyzes data from nine countries across Amazonia; from an Indigenous journalist/news entrepreneur reporting from southern Mexico on how Indigenous lands are used by energy companies; and from a Colombian journalist investigating violence against people practicing free speech. We'll also talk about SEJ's relationship with Latin American journalists, both in the US and elsewhere. People visiting this session would leave with a new perspective on emerging environmental stories in Latin America — and with an expanded professional network. Coverage.

Resources:

Moderator: Emilia Askari, Lecturer II, University of Michigan

Speakers:
Andrés Bermúdez Liévano, Journalist, Latin American Center for Investigative Journalism
Gustavo Faleiros, Environment Investigations Editor, Pulitzer Center's Rainforest Investigations Network and Founder, InfoAmazonia
Diana Manzo, Freelance Journalist
Talli Nauman, Director, Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness

 

Beverage Break and Exhibits

10:15 – 10:45 a.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom Foyer

Sponsored by First Solar.

 

Concurrent Sessions 4

10:45 a.m. – Noon

Collaborations: From Surviving to Thriving

Location: Founders Ballroom I & II

Journalism collaborations started out of necessity and something resembling desperation, but they've morphed into the new powerhouse of journalism. In recent years, collaborations have become a not-so-secret weapon, enabling us to do more together than we ever could have alone. Collaborations covering environmental issues — especially climate change and natural resources — are among the most popular. This session will examine several examples of environmental journalism collaborations and offer tips for ensuring successful outcomes.

Moderator: Sara Shipley Hiles, Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism and Executive Director, Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk

Speakers:
Lyndsey Gilpin, Founder and Executive Editor, Southerly
Emily Holden, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Floodlight News
Kezia Setyawan, Coastal Reporter, WWNO/WRKF New Orleans Public Radio
John Upton, Partnership Journalism Editor, Climate Central

Clearing Up the Fishbowl: EPA Press Access Roundtable

Location: Founders Ballroom III & IV

Shortly after taking office last year, EPA Administrator Michael Regan pledged to operate the agency as transparently as a “fishbowl,” and EPA public affairs leaders have committed to improving relationships with reporters. SEJ surveyed members last spring and the results showed signs of progress, though PIOs' gatekeeper role in handling interview requests remains an issue. Join EPA Press Secretary Nick Conger and some regional EPA PIOs for a discussion on press access and how it can continue to be improved. Bring your tough questions and personal anecdotes into the mix. Coverage.

Moderator: Tim Wheeler, Chair, SEJ Freedom of Information Task Force

Speakers:
Nick Conger, Press Secretary, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Lindsay Hamilton, Associate Administrator, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Reporting on Carbon Capture and Other Controversial Climate Solutions

Location: Champions I

Climate reporting has largely moved past convincing people that climate change exists, and on to the messy politics and science of trying to stabilize the climate. Journalists must be able to navigate reporting on solutions like carbon capture, carbon removal and hydrogen, which are simultaneously being pushed by the fossil fuel industry, described as “necessary” by prestigious scientists like those on the IPCC and written off as “false” by many environmental advocates. On this panel, the moderator will start with a brief introduction to these solutions, and then panelists will discuss how they have approached them in their own work. Coverage.

Moderator: Emily Pontecorvo, Reporter, Grist

Speakers:
Alejandro de la Garza, Reporter, TIME Magazine
Sammy Roth, Energy Reporter, Los Angeles Times
Sara Sneath, Investigative Climate Reporter, Floodlight News

Inside the Fight To Tackle Flood Risks

Location: Champions II

Four years after the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, state and local governments are taking action, putting a growing emphasis on resilience and adaptation in anticipation of more frequent and severe climate change-fueled disasters. From appointing resilience officers to developing watershed-scaled plans and investing in mitigation tactics such as Harris County's program to buy out at-risk properties and the use of nature-based solutions, leaders at all levels of government are working to adapt. The Pew Charitable Trusts will release its new report describing how increased federal funding and planning assistance can support states and local communities in using buyouts of at-risk properties as a mitigation strategy. Coverage.

Moderator: Gloria Gonzalez, Deputy Energy Editor, POLITICO

Speakers:
Sam Brody, Director of Center for Texas Beaches and Shores; Regents Professor; and George P. Mitchell ’40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts, Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Mathew Sanders, Senior Manager, Flood-Prepared Communities, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Ryan Slattery, Senior Advisor | Recovery Office, Office of Mayor Sylvester Turner, City of Houston

The Oil Industry’s Big Bet on Plastic and LNG, and the Frontline Communities Organizing to Stop Them

Location: Champions III

A global battle is emerging to halt the fossil fuel industry's move into processing and marketing two other products extracted from fossil fuels: plastic and liquified natural gas. The first impacted are largely environmental justice communities at the sites of production and export; then on the other end, as plastics and other byproducts contaminate the waste stream. Our panel will consider these developments, their impacts on the industry, and local, national and global efforts, including the new Global Plastics Treaty, to hold the contaminating companies accountable. Coverage.

Moderator: Mark Schapiro, Investigative Journalist, Author and Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley

Speakers:
Rebekah Hinojosa, Senior Gulf Coast Campaign Representative, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, Sierra Club
Antonia Juhasz, Energy and Climate Author, Investigative Journalist and Adjunct Lecturer, Tulane University
Hilton Kelley, Founder and Director, Community In-Power and Development Association
Jane Patton, Campaign Manager: Plastics & Petrochemicals, Center for International Environmental Law

Environmental Exposures, Health and the Media

Location: Champions V

This panel will feature two scientists and a medical student, each of whom will discuss key developments in environmental health and the need for more in-depth journalism on this subject. Topics to be discussed include how the U.S. regulatory system fails to protect Americans from endocrine-disrupting chemicals before they enter the market; the latest evidence on the health effects of fracking; and how more physicians have begun advocating for patients whose health has been impacted by climate change. Coverage.

Moderator: Jim Morris, Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, Public Health Watch

Speakers:
Elena Craft, Senior Director, Climate and Health, Environmental Defense Fund (Texas office)
Andrea Gore, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Texas at Austin
Cole Martin, Third-Year MD-MPH Candidate, Dell Medical School, University of Texas at Austin

Transportation in Environmental Coverage

Location: Champions VI

Transportation has taken an increasingly large role in environmental coverage, as has environmental impacts for transportation reporters. From electric cars to high-speed rail to sustainable aviation fuel to heavy duty trucks to the post-2035 world, our panel looks at trends in transportation stories, especially in light of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the prospects for more spending on climate and transportation-related projects. We will also look at electric vehicle charging, fuel economy standards, postal delivery trucks, the legacy of the nation’s highway building and sprawl, as well as the future of transit and Amtrak in a post-pandemic world. There’s also drone deliveries, flying taxis, hyperloops, smarter airplane navigation and even self-driving cars' and trucks' impact on perhaps ending congestion and reducing emissions. Coverage.

Moderator: David Shepardson, Correspondent, Reuters

Speakers:
Matt Casale, Director, Environment Campaigns, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Shannon Osaka, Climate Policy and Solutions Reporter, Grist
Arianna Skibell, Climate and Transportation Reporter, POLITICO

 

Lunch and Plenary Session: Solutions Journalism and Environmental Justice

Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Location: Legends Ballroom

Environmental reporting in communities of color often lacks depth and nuance. Stereotypes of who cares about the environment abound. Narratives about environmental injustice present frontline communities as victims, devoid of agency. These stories often omit communities’ efforts to organize and find solutions. From framing a story to the ethics of maintaining relationships with BIPOC communities, panelists will discuss the common pitfalls of reporting in communities of color, the role of evidence-based solutions journalism in environmental justice reporting and how reporters can provide smart and informative coverage for underrepresented communities. Coverage.

This event was live streamed. Watch it here.

Moderator: Yvette Cabrera, Senior Staff Writer, Environmental Justice, Grist

Speakers:
Heather McTeer Toney, Vice President, Community Engagement, Environmental Defense Fund
Dharna Noor, Digital Producer and Reporter, Boston Globe
Bryan "Lucas" Parras, Healthy Communities Organizer, Sierra Club
Mustafa Santiago Ali, President and Founder, Revitalization Strategies and former Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 

Mini-Tour Excursions

Mini-Tour 1: Noon – 5:30 p.m.
Mini-Tours 2-7: 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Departure: All tours (except tour 1; see below for special logistics) will depart from the Royal Sonesta Hotel at 2:30 p.m. following the lunch plenary. Meet up with your tour leaders at your bus before 2:30 p.m. All tours will return to the hotel about 5:30 p.m. and then stage for departure to the dinner party at Rice University.

Sign up on-site at the SEJ Information Table near Registration for the Saturday afternoon mini-tour of your choice.

1. Attwater’s and Lesser Prairie Chicken Mini-Tour — on the Lek (Noon Departure!)

Special logistics: Grab a lunch bag at 11:45 a.m. from the plenary lunch tables and board your bus outside the front entrance of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. This tour requires 3 hours total drive time and includes lunch and some video programming on the bus.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken is scheduled to be listed as Endangered this year, while Attwater’s has teetered on the brink of extinction for decades. First we’ll visit the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, where wildlife biologist Mike Morrow has devoted more than 30 years protecting a lek that now consists of only about 25 birds. Then we’ll return to Houston to learn about prairie chicken procreation programs and recovery efforts at the Houston Zoo. Total drive time: 3 hours.

Tour Leader: Mike Smith, Environmental Reporter, Coastal Point

Speakers:
Stephanie Manes, Senior Scientist, Grasslands Conservation Services, The Nature Conservancy
Mike Morrow, Wildlife Biologist, Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wayne Walker, Owner, 7 Oaks Ranch/Common Ground Capital

2. Pavement vs. Preservation: A Paddling Adventure

Join us for a leisurely kayak paddle around Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve, where we'll discuss the push-and-pull between flood control and conservation interests in Houston. There's a long history here of varying perspectives on how flood waters should be handled and how the natural landscape should be preserved to help. We'll enjoy the peace of the lake as we contemplate both sides and how they've come together.

Tour Leaders:
Emily Foxhall, Environment Reporter, Houston Chronicle
Rachel Ramirez, Climate Writer, CNN Climate Team

Speakers:
Grant Moss, Program Manager, Bayou Preservation Association
Monte Parks, Trails as Parks Director, Harris County Precinct 3
Jim Robertson, Chairman, Cypress Creek Greenway Project, Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition

3. Biking the Bayous in a Time of Climate Change

This mini-tour will take you off Houston’s busy streets down to the reconstructed banks of Buffalo Bayou. The two-hour, seven-mile ride will be about flood control, air and water quality, ecology, equity and connectivity, as we bike the popular trails of one of the city’s best parks — one found increasingly underwater since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Tour Leader: Chuck Quirmbach, Reporter, WUWM-Milwaukee

Speakers:
Melissa Beeler, Transportation Advocate, Air Alliance Houston, and former Planner, City of Houston
Mary DeBauche, Development and Communication Manager, Houston BCycle
Kristen Schlemmer, Legal Director and Waterkeeper, Bayou City Waterkeeper
Allyn West, Writer and Editor, Environmental Defense Fund, and alternative transportation advocate

4. Hike Historic Memorial Park

Get outdoors, stretch your legs and take in a whiff of Texas history with one of two walking tours at Memorial Park, Houston's largest park and also one of its oldest. Take your choice from the following:

Tour A: This tour is focused on exploring native grasslands, wetlands and a suite of ecological efforts being undertaken to give the park a rebirth. Once a dynamic mixture of landscapes, conservancy staffers are working hard to bring it back from the ecological imbalance it had in recent years.

Tour B: This tour is focused on Camp Logan, a World War I military training facility that was deeded to Houston in 1924 on the condition that the land be used in perpetuity "for park purposes only" after that.

Once both of the above are completed, everyone will meet up for a 30-minute tour of the Memorial Park's $70 million, earth-berm Land Bridge and Prairie Project scheduled to be completed this fall. Its purpose is to reunite the park's north and south sides. Shuttles will be provided to keep the tour on schedule.

Tour Leaders:
Tom Henry, Environmental-Energy Writer, The (Toledo) Blade
Randy Loftis, Lecturer and North Texas Daily Advisor, University of North Texas

Speakers:
Holli Clements, Senior Director of Engagement, Memorial Park Conservancy
Suzanne Formanek, Senior Manager of Park Operations, Memorial Park Conservancy
Jaime González, Program Director, Houston Healthy Cities, The Nature Conservancy
Courtney Hall, Manager of Conservation Operations, Memorial Park Conservancy

5. Explore Buffalo Bayou by Pontoon Boat

Join Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s (BBP) pontoon boat, the Spirit of the Bayou, to see a completely different perspective of Houston. Escape from the city and enjoy the cool breeze and view the flora and fauna along Houston’s historic waterway. During your tour, you will learn about projects spearheaded by BBP, including the award-winning Buffalo Bayou Park, newly constructed trails along the waterway, a comprehensive clean-up and maintenance program and visionary plans for new parks and green space east of downtown. Here’s a video of the Bio-Vac boat in action. Coverage.

Tour Leader: Jane Braxton Little, Independent Journalist

Speakers:
Karen Farber, Vice President of External Affairs, Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Captain David “Bayou Dave” Rivers, Field Operations Foreman, Buffalo Bayou Partnership

6. Amazing Urban Biodiversity on Rice Campus

Rice University's 300-acre campus is home to a rich variety of plants and wildlife. Designated as an arboretum, it is home to 88 distinct species of plants, with more than 4,600 individual trees. Rice's faculty and students use the campus as a living laboratory and have documented more than 255 species of birds and 700 species of insects. A new species of parasitic wasp was recently described based on a sample collected by a graduate student outside the campus pub — and was named after the pub. Efforts are underway to restore part of the campus to a native prairie ecosystem. Rice's holistic garden is teaching students how to grow edible plants while providing food to the local community.

Tour Leader:
Dan Fagin, Professor and Director, Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program, New York University

Speakers:
Cassidy Johnson, Faculty Lecturer, BioSciences, Rice University
Dawn Roth-Ehlinger, Lead Arborist, Facilities Engineering and Planning, Rice University
Scott Solomon, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of BioSciences, Rice University

7. Sustainable Buildings and Green Design

This tour will start with a visit to the Rice Holistic Gardens where we’ll learn about urban gardening practices at Rice. From there, we’ll learn about some of the green building practices in action around the Rice campus and how these tie into larger urban sustainability efforts. Finally, we’ll meet and see presentations from leading Gulf Coast artists/activists who have been participating in an Arts Incubator program hosted by the Diluvial Houston Initiative at Rice.

Tour Leader: Weston Twardowski, Program Manager, Diluvial Houston Initiative, Center for Environmental Studies and Humanities Research Center, Rice University

Speakers:
Jade Hagan, Garden Manager, Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden, Rice University
Richard Johnson, Executive Director for Sustainability, Rice University
Artist Performers TBA

SEJ Dinner Party on Rice Campus

6:00 – 10:00 p.m. ($40 fee includes dinner and music and dancing with an awesome band)

Following return from the mini-tours, buses will stage outside the Royal Sonesta Hotel for departure to Rice University beginning at 5:30 p.m. and continuing until 6:30 p.m. Buses will then loop between the Rice campus drop-off (right outside the Anderson-Clarke Building on Loop Road) and the hotel until 10:00 p.m. when the last buses load to return to the hotel.

Under majestic live oaks, we’ll mix and mingle with Rice University faculty and students in an outdoor dinner extravaganza. Food stations, lawn games and cocktail bars will spread us out as leading Gulf Coast environmental artists and activists offer performances of their work. With the Hustlers we'll Second Line over to visit James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace for a sunset light show before dancing in the dark with the Gary-Michael Dahl Band to wrap up the party. Preregistration required.

 

 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Bookstore

8:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Location: Houston Arboretum

Brazos Bookstore is on site to sell SEJ member-attendees’ and speakers’ books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference. Stop by for book signings from 10:00 – 10:45 a.m.

 

Breakfast and Books at the Houston Arboretum

8:00 a.m. – Noon ($25 fee includes breakfast and airport shuttle, with arrival at airport no later than 1:00 p.m.)

Join us for a full breakfast under the trees at the Houston Arboretum, a walkable oasis and urban birders' paradise, followed by our Sunday morning authors program. Preregistration required.

Buses will depart from the Royal Sonesta's front entrance at 7:45 a.m. There will be three buses, marked Bush, Hobby and hotel. Be sure to load your luggage in the correct bus.

8:00 a.m. Breakfast

Emcee: Joseph Campana, William Shakespeare Professor of English and Director, Center for Environmental Studies, Department of English, Rice University

8:45 – 10:00 a.m. Environmental History: Legacy and Craft

Our Sunday program opens in conversation with Douglas Brinkley, one of the nation’s foremost historians of the American environment and its champions, from journalists to activists and presidents. Out this fall in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Professor Brinkley’s latest book, "Silent Spring Revolution," explores the legacies of Rachel Carson, JFK and LBJ in the “great environmental awakening.” How did daily journalism help shape that awakening? Is such a turning point possible in our time? And what is the obligation of journalists to history, including the history of land, water and wildlife — and the many human voices left out of traditional primary sources? Join us in conversation with Brinkley on the joys and duties of reporting environmental history.

Moderator: Gloria Gonzalez, Deputy Energy Editor, POLITICO

Speaker: Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History, Rice University; CNN Presidential Historian; and Author/Editor of more than 20 books, including the environmental histories "Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America," "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America" and the upcoming "Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, and the Great Environmental Awakening" (November 2022, HarperCollins)

10:00 – 10:45 a.m. Tour and Book Signing Break

Take a break to stroll around the Arboretum, get your books signed by the authors or grab a cup of coffee and chat with colleagues.

10:45 a.m. – Noon. Stories From the Fields: Environmental Storytelling

Humans are creatures of story, which is why practices of environmental storytelling drawn from a range of disciplines have become so important in recent years. Information alone isn't enough, especially when it comes to environmental dilemmas. What strategies do experts in various fields use to connect with people about phenomena that are vast, complex or remote? Or so close, intimate and pervasive as to be difficult to articulate? In this session join Rice University authors and experts as they discuss their strategies for telling stories about environmental justice in storm-stricken Houston, mothering after Hurricane Harvey, biodiversity amidst the insect apocalypse and climate gridlock.

Moderator: Lisa Spiro, Assistant University Librarian for Digital Scholarship and Organizational Development, and Coordinator, Fondren Library's Green Team, Rice University

Speakers:

Daniel Cohan, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University and Author, "Confronting Climate Gridlock: How Diplomacy, Technology, and Policy Can Unlock a Clean Energy Future" (Yale University Press, March 29, 2022)
Lacy Johnson, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Rice University and Author, "The Reckonings" (Scribner, 2018)
Rachel Kimbro, Dean, School of Social Sciences, Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology, Rice University and Author, "In Too Deep: Class and Mothering in a Flooded Community" (University of California Press, 2021)
Scott Solomon, Associate Teaching Professor, Department of BioSciences, Rice University and Author, "Future Humans: Inside the Science of Our Continuing Evolution" (Yale University Press, 2017)

Noon: Conference ends and shuttles take attendees back to the Royal Sonesta Hotel or to Bush Intercontinental Airport or Hobby Airport, with airport arrival no later than 1:00 p.m.

 

 

Sunday – Tuesday, April 3 - 5, 2022

Post-Conference Tour: Journey to the South Texas Coast

The Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR), in conjunction with the Society of Environmental Journalists, will conduct the 2022 SEJ Post-Conference Tour on the South Texas Coast from April 3-5. We’ll spend two-plus days in and around Corpus Christi, exploring such topics as:

  • Gulf ecology in a changing climate
  • Gulf fisheries, the food supply and sustainability
  • The local – and global – impact of the petrochemical industry’s shift toward plastic production
  • The economic and environmental justice implications of a new wave of Gulf Coast industrial expansion
  • The Texas coast’s critical role in bird (and sea turtle) migration (Note: Tour dates will coincide with these annual phenomena.)

The tour bus will depart from the SEJ Sunday morning program at the Houston Arboretum around noon on Sunday, April 3, and return to the Royal Sonesta the evening of Tuesday, April 5. Lodging will be provided to participants unable to depart for home on April 5.

  • The post-conference tour will follow the same strict COVID-19 protocols as the main conference.
  • Up to 15 participants will be selected on an application basis, with expenses paid during the tour, and will represent diversity in geography, outlet, race, gender, experience and journalistic medium. Priority will be given to journalists of color.
  • Participants must be members of SEJ, and have attended the #SEJ2022 conference.
  • DETAILS AND APPLICATION. Deadline is Feb. 25.

(Program funded by SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism)

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