Bryant names new MDEQ director

Gary Rikard

Gary Rikard

Special to the MBJ

Gov. Phil Bryant has named Gary Rikard to succeed Trudy Fisher as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Fisher, who has served as executive director since 2007, has announced her intentions to return to the private sector at the end of the summer.

“Trudy has worked tirelessly in her capacity as executive director, and I thank her for her service,” said Bryant in a news release. “Under her guidance, Mississippi has responded to significant environmental disasters, and she has ensured environmental protection while leading the agency to achieve speed and efficiency in its permitting process — something that sets Mississippi apart among economic competitors.”

Rikard, a partner with Butler Snow, has practiced environmental law since 1996, serving as senior attorney at MDEQ from 1996-1998. Prior to earning his law degree, he worked as an environmental engineer at MDEQ, specializing in permitting and water quality compliance issues. He served more than 22 years in the Mississippi National Guard, retiring with the rank of Major. During his service with the National Guard, he served as assistant staff judge advocate, acting as the primary legal officer for environmental matters.

“I am very pleased to appoint Gary to lead the Department of Environmental Quality,” Bryant said. “He has the legal and technical expertise to ensure that Mississippi’s environmental conservation and economic growth priorities are achieved in concert with one another. He has worked for the agency previously in both a legal and in an engineering capacity, and his experience has prepared him well to take on this leadership position.”

Rikard’s specialized legal experience includes negotiating complex permitting and enforcement issues before the United States Environmental Protection Agency and representing MDEQ before the Mississippi Supreme Court. He is experienced in a wide array of state and federal environmental standards including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Mississippi Air and Water Pollution Control Law and the Mississippi Solid Waste Act.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Christian Brothers University, has completed graduate studies in environmental engineering at the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, and holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He is admitted to the Mississippi Bar and the Tennessee Bar.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I am humbled by Gov. Bryant’s choice and by his faith in me,” Rikard said. “I look forward to the challenge and to leading an agency that is tasked with such an important mission.”

Fisher stepping down as MDEQ executive director

Trudy Fisher

Trudy Fisher

Special to the MBBJ

Trudy Fisher, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), announced today that she is leaving the agency this year.

“I informed Gov. Bryant earlier today that I planned on stepping down from my position sometime late this summer,” Fisher said in a news release. “I feel good about where things are at MDEQ and feel the time is right to make a transition.

“These years have been a labor of love for me, a calling of sorts.  MDEQ is part of my family and always will be.  This has not been an easy decision for me, despite believing this is the right time.  I will miss my everyday interactions with the more than 400 men and women who suit up every day in service to their neighbors.  There is a special energy that drives an ‘agency of action’ and a special heart in every person who chooses the path of service to others.  It has been my privilege to be their leader, and I will always be watching out for them,” said  Fisher.

“I want to thank Trudy Fisher for her more than seven years of service as the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,” said Governor Phil Bryant.  “During her time with MDEQ her hard work has been critical to the state after disasters like Hurricane Katrina and leading the recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  I wish her well in all her future endeavors.  We’ll work with her during this transitional stage regarding her replacement.”

Fisher plans to remain fully engaged at MDEQ until the Bryant names a successor and assist with the transition before seeking other employment opportunities outside of state government.

Greenwood, McComb, Natchez, Oxford gain MDEQ grants

recycleSpecial to the MBJ

Four community projects in the state have been awarded Regional Recycling Cooperative Grants by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The more than $1 million in grants will be used to fund regional cooperative recycling projects in Greenwood, McComb, Natchez and Oxford.

Each of the grant recipients, along with their partner communities, will use the grant funding to develop or enhance recycling systems in their
region to help achieve the state waste reduction and recycling goal of 25 percent.

“We are excited to launch this new grant program and to work with these cities and their partners to expand recycling services and recycling access in the state,” said Trudy Fisher, MDEQ executive director. “Increasing the access to recycling to more Mississippians means that more materials can be diverted from landfills and put back into manufacturing uses where the materials can be used over and over again.
“The continued use of recycled materials in manufacturing has multiple benefits such as conserving raw material resources, reducing our reliance on imports from other countries, conserving energy, reducing pollution, reducing our reliance on landfills, and gaining the economic benefit of using materials multiple times rather than simply disposing of the materials.”

Greenwood, in partnership with Leflore County and the cities of Itta Bena, Sidon, and Indianola, will receive a grant award in the amount of $399,700 to increase and expand recycling efforts in the region. The current recycling system consists of drop-off recycling locations within the city and throughout the county.  Funds will be used to provide curbside recycling in parts of Greenwood with plans to expand the service throughout the city.  Additionally, new drop-off locations will be developed in each of the partner communities.  Grant funds will also be used to acquire curbside recycling bins, drop-off recycling containers for partner communities, and vehicles and equipment to facilitate the expansion of the collection and processing of additional recyclable materials.

McComb, in partnership with Pike County and the cities of Osyka, Magnolia, and Summit, will receive a grant award in the amount of $123,916 to expand current recycling efforts in Pike County. The project involves establishing recycling drop-off stations in all of the partner communities and recycling drop-off containers for the public placed in centrally accessible locations.  In addition, a public education and outreach program will be developed to inform residents and area schools of the benefits of recycling and the importance of their participation in the program.

Natchez, along with Brookhaven and Wilkinson County, will use the grant award of $317,162 to enhance the current curbside recycling programs in the City of Natchez and the City of Brookhaven.  Additional recycling collection points will be established for the general public in Wilkinson County and at strategic locations at local college campuses, the regional airport, the port commission, the convention center, and other high visibility locations in Natchez.  Recycling collection containers placed at these locations will provide greater public access to recycling in public venues and maximize material collection.  A public education and outreach campaign will be developed to promote these expanded recycling efforts by the partner communities and to help the public understand the benefits of recycling and the importance of their participation.

Oxford, in partnership with Batesville, Panola County, Lafayette County, the University of Mississippi and Calhoun City, receives a grant award of $227,160 to enhance the curbside recycling system in the City of Oxford and to expand recycling access in each partner community.  The project includes adding recycling collection stations on the Ole Miss campus, the development of a recycling education and outreach campaign, recycling drop-off containers for partner communities, curbside recycling bins for the City of Oxford, and new equipment to transport recycling containers to the Oxford materials recovery facility.

These grant awards are the final step of the Funding Opportunity Announcement released by MDEQ last year to assist communities in achieving the state waste reduction and recycling goal of 25 percent.   MDEQ expects to make additional Regional Recycling Cooperative Grants to local governments in the future and will provide a second Funding Opportunity Announcement as these funds become available.

MDEQ offers new way to give ideas on post-oil spill restoration

There is new, convenient way to chime in thoughts and ideas on how to revitalize the Gulf Coast in the after math of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has created a web site — www.restore.ms — where the public can submit ideas.

MDEQ executive director Trudi Fisher says MDEQ has already received a number of project proposals from municipalities and the coastal counties. She says this expands the opportunity to hear new ideas from individuals, groups, nonprofits and even new projects from local governments, and she expects to see a wide variety of ideas through the public submissions.