Too many communities breathe dirty air. Nicky Sheats writes policy to help neighborhoods breathe easier.
Too many communities breathe dirty air.
Nicky Sheats writes policy to help neighborhoods breathe easier.
Nicky Sheats has done his homework. After getting his degree from Harvard Law, Sheats went back to get a PhD in biogeochemistry, also at Harvard, and did a quick post-doc at Columbia. (Did we mention he went to Princeton for undergrad?) When his studies brought him to an environmental justice conference, Sheats saw a cause that united all his interests.
Over his career, Sheats has leaned on academic research to write policy initiatives for cleaner air in communities of color, which typically suffer from higher rates of air pollution. Recently, Sheats helped develop a municipal ordinance in Newark, New Jersey, that calls for stricter regulation of pollution caused by development projects. After six long years of campaigning, Newark passed the ordinance in July 2016.
[pullquote share=”true” hashtag=”Grist50″]“While we’re fighting climate change, how do we make sure we’re addressing equity?” [/pullquote]
Another win: When, in 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan, a set of rules that require electric power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Sheats saw huge gaps in policy and regulation that could potentially hurt low-income communities and communities of color. He gave lectures and wrote to policymakers, advocating for mandatory reductions of air pollution around these communities — not just for greenhouse gases, but also for “co-pollutants,” other toxins commonly released from power plants.
The EPA ended up adapting some of Sheats’ policies, albeit without including any concrete mechanisms to achieve that goal. “We think that if you don’t use climate change policy to reduce inequalities,” Sheats says, “you’ll miss a big opportunity to help environmental justice communities that may not come around again.”
The world feels pretty broken right now. That’s why we need Fixers — bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck. For our annual list of emerging green leaders, Grist brings you 50 innovators with fresh, forward-thinking solutions to some of humanity's biggest challenges. Credits
Photo of Nicky Sheats: Michael Dantzler
- Andrew Simon, Amelia Urry
- Mignon Khargie, Amelia Bates
- Nathan Letsinger
- Project Manager
- Matt Grisafi
- Social Media
- Cody Permenter
- Video Producer
- Daniel Penner
- Executive Editor
- Scott Dodd
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Meet All The Fixers
This Brooklynite retrofits cities.
This politician fights for polluted communities.
Grist Member pick
This clothing expert revives dead threads.
This CEO provides clean energy for any budget.
This innovator is stitching together a clothing movement.
Van Jones' pick
This entrepreneur is diversifying cleantech.
This climate organizer works on the front lines in Miami.
Leilani Münter's pick
This sustainability director drives change in Orlando.
This urban farmer grows in tight spaces.
This politician reps bipartisan climate action.
Tom Colicchio's pick
This farmer uses AI for efficiency.
Al Gore's pick
This civil rights activist takes on the South's sewage problem.
This housing advocate is rebuilding Buffalo.
This comedian spotlights indigenous rights.
This farmer champions efficiency.
This startup founder built a Fitbit for the planet.
This policy wonk shows state leadership on solar.
This lawyer stands with indigenous activists.
Grist Member pick
This developer built an app for food waste.
This young farmer is saving soil.
L.A. Youth Groups
These teens sued for environmental justice.
This farmer gives vets a chance to grow.
This entrepreneur helps the solar industry compete.
This advocate connects green Latinos.
This scientist brings social justice to her field.
This teenager gives the youngest generation a voice.
This organizer fights for safer waste disposal.
This founder empowers people to choose renewables.
This councilwoman keeps Boise booming.
This airline exec is greening travel.
This food advocate coaches up chefs.
This Bronx community organizer is spreading the wealth.
This weather forecaster shames deniers.
This chef takes a kitchen sink approach to food waste.
This civil servant cooks up smart food policy.
This architect designs better neighborhoods.
Avital Shavit and Rubina Ghazarian
These transportation gurus coax Angelenos onto bikes.
This lawyer connects justice and the environment.
Trisha Shrum and Jill Kubit
These mothers bring the future into the present.
This physicist is shaping energy policy.
This scientist connects investors to new food tech.
This CEO plants community solar gardens.
This professional trains people for solar jobs.
Cameron Russell's pick
Camila Thorndike and Page Atcheson
These activists want carbon polluters to pay.
This organizer is uniting millennials.
This New Yorker champions affordable housing.
This entrepreneur is making a better burger.
Sean A. Watkins
This storyteller puts people first.
This young climate activist is demanding more.
This strategist trains clean energy leaders.