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Peggy M. Shepard
Executive Director

Peggy Shepard has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health research to become one of the most highly respected environmental advocates in the country today. She has been a pioneer for advancing the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities to ensure that the entitlement of clean air, water and soil extends to all people and communities. A leader within New York City and the national Environmental Justice Movement, she is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT), based in West Harlem, which has a 24-year history of affecting environmental and environmental health policy and practice locally and nationally.


A resident of West Harlem, she has developed a grassroots organization of volunteers from the West Harlem community in 1988 into a professionally- staffed organizing and advocacy non-profit. She received the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment for “her courageous advocacy and determined leadership in combating environmental injustice in urban America.” For “two decades of leadership in environmental justice and urban sustainability,” she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science from Smith College at its May 2010 commencement. Her activism to build healthier communities by engaging residents in environmental and land-use decision making earned her the 2008 Jane Jacobs Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rockefeller Foundation, and she is the former chair of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) where currently she co-chairs its Research and Science Workgroup. She has been a pioneer in developing community-academic research partnerships to improve children’s environmental health. WE ACT has cooperative partnerships with physicians and scientists at leading medical institutions, law schools, labor unions and diverse environmental, public health and urban constituencies.


Ms. Shepard and WE ACT’s first victory for government accountability was achieved by mobilizing community support to retrofit the North River sewage treatment plant, and filing a lawsuit, WE ACT vs. NYC DEP, that resulted in a $55 million odor abatement plan and a $1.1 million environmental benefit fund. WE ACT’s translational research work has contributed to city, state and federal policy and legislation on diesel retrofits, air quality regulations, pesticides, toxins, climate change, and environmental justice. A co-investigator of the Columbia Children’s Environmental Health Center for the past 12 years, she has received the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Mailman School of Public Health.


A former journalist, she has worked in publishing and as a state housing official. She is a graduate of Howard University, Solebury and Newtown Friends schools. She was elected Democratic Assembly District Leader representing West Harlem in the late 80s, and has been a candidate for the New York City Council and State Assembly garnering the endorsements of The New York Times, Daily News, NY Newsday and labor unions.


Ms. Shepard, serves on numerous academic and governmental advisory boards, and has co-authored research articles in Environmental Health Perspectives and the American Journal of Public Health. She is a frequent keynote and panel speaker, and serves on non-profit boards including Environmental Defense Fund, Earth Day NY, NY League of Conservation Voters, NY Audubon, and the News Corporation Diversity Council. She is a member of the NYC Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board, and the NYC Waterfront Management Advisory Board.


She has served as a member of the National Children’s Study Advisory Committee to the National Institutes of Health, and the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council of the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Shepard has served on the Committee on Ethical Issues in Housing-Related Health Hazard Research Involving Children, Youth, and Families, a project of the National Research Council which published its report in 2006. In addition, she served as a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on America’s Climate Choices, a report to Congress published in 2011.


Watch Peggy's TedxHarlem talk here!


Publications include:



McDuff, Mallory,ed. Sacred Acts: How churches are working to protect Earth’s climate. 2012, New Society Publishers, Chapter 11, For the Health Of All: Faith Communities and Environmental Justice, Shepard P.


M. Paloma Pavel,ed. Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis, 2009, MIT Press, Chapter 4, The Roots of Environmental Justice, Shepard P., Charles Guzman ,K.


Completing the Circle: A Model for Effective Community Review of Environmental  Health Research. Beverly Xaviera Watkins, Peggy Morrow Shepard, D. Corbin-Mark. Am J Public Health 2009;99 S567-S577.


Climate Justice. Peggy M. Shepard, Cecil Corbin-Mark. Environmental Justice, Vol.2.No.2, Dec. 2009. Guest Editor of Special Issue on Climate Justice.


Promoting Environmental Health Policy Through Community Based Participatory Research: A Case Study from Harlem, New York, Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 2006, Vasquez V., Minkler M., Shepard P Vol.83, No.1 doi:10.1007/s11524-005-9010-9.


Ethical Considerations  for Research on Housing-Related Health Hazards Involving Children. Committee on Ethical Issues in Housing-Related Health Hazards Involving Children, Youth and Families, Bernard Lo and Mary Ellen O'Connell, Editors, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2005). Contributor, Shepard, P.


 The Challenge of Preventing Environmentally Related Disease in Young Children: Community-Based Research in New York City; Airborne Concentrations of PM (2.5) and Diesel Particles on Harlem Sidewalks: A Pilot Study; Urban Air Pollution and Health Inequities: A Workshop Report ,contributor; all articles which were published in Environmental Health Perspectives between 1999 and 2002.


Community Revitalization and Public Health: Issues, Roles and Relationships For Local Public Health Agencies, June 2002, The National Association of County and City Health Officials, Chapter V, Environmental Justice and Brownfields, Shepard,P.

Shepard PM, Northridge ME, Prakash S, Stover G (editors) Community, Research, and Environmental Justice. Environ Health  Perspect 110 (suppl 2) April 2002.


Shepard PM., Northridge ME. et. al. Preface: Advancing Environmental Justice through Community-Based Participatory Research, Environmental Health Perspectives 2002; Vol.110, Supp.2:139-140.


Northridge M., Shepard P., et. al. Commentary: Diesel Exhaust Exposure Among Adolescents in Harlem: A Community-Driven Study, American Journal of Public Health, 1999, 89: 998-1002


Northridge M., Shepard P., Comment:  Environmental Racism and Public Health, American Journal of Public Health 1997; 87: 730-731


Issues of Community Empowerment: Urban Environmental Justice," Fordham Urban Law Journal, 1994; 21: 739-755.

[L-R: August Wilson, Peggy Shepard, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Robert Butler, Laura Langer (who accepted for her husband, Robert Langer), and Julius Richmond]

Peggy M. Shepard

Peggy Shepard's 
Curriculum Vitae


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