Derry's Story

I have been with the Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (CfECE) as Vice President since the beginning of the organization.  This journey has taken me from auditing basements for weatherization to touring nuclear power plants in China.  The journey continues.  Now we are focusing on utilizing nuclear power plants as environmental justice tools.

I am a business analyst and I approach the environment from a business perspective.  I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I love to apply this academic credential to solving environmental problems.  That is how I came to accept nuclear power as a global warming mitigation tool.  Norris and I have always pursued practical solutions to environmental problems.  This same ethic is applied in the environmental justice area.  It is one thing to complain about disproportionate pollution impacts, but it is quite another to figure out practical solutions to this problem.

I bring my consulting and marketing background to CfECE.  I love to apply my financial management skills to environmental justice activism.  In fact, economic development that can lead to sustainable prosperity is a vitally important environmental issue.  I particularly like how nuclear power plants not only provide significant employment opportunities, but they also provide very large tax bases for local municipalities.  These great benefits are in addition to the clean air benefits.  Talk about a win-win situation.  

Norris was forced to keep CfECE small because of his struggle with asthma.  He also raised a son from the age of 2 (now 24) with the spectre of an asthma attack killing him at any time.  Of course, Norris, being who he is, managed to manage the asthma effectively and raise his son and run a dynamic, albeit small, environmental group.  I have been honored to share my experience as a senior management consultant for Ernst and Young and my experience as an account executive with Kidder Peabody & Company with our organization(s).  Both Norris and I have had to supplement our organization activities with full and part time employment.  

I mentioned auditing and weatherizing homes before.  Norris and I audited and weatherized hundreds of homes in Washington, DC.  Talk about taking my macroeconomic education to a microeconomic level.  I also participated in some of our creek walks, boat tours for inner city youth and river clean ups.  We even created a summer youth employment program in partnership with Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program.  We created an Environmental Internship Program (EIP) that placed high school and college students at various environmental organizations in Washington, DC.  

Norris' son accompanied us on trips

Norris' son accompanied us on trips

Of course, the most interesting activity I have been involved in is touring nuclear power plants.  We were the first environmental group to publicly and actively support nuclear power.  There was a period of about five years when we were the only environmentalist game in town when it came to testifying before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of the construction of new nuclear power plants.  We rode the wave of the nuclear renaissance that was cresting in the early 2000s.  This was during the Early Site Permit (ESP) and Combined Operating License (COL) periods when we thought that up to 100 new nuclear power plants would be built.  The NRC thought so too and was making plans to accommodate this increase in nuclear power plant construction.  It never happened.  Now the trend has reversed and nuclear power plants are struggling to compete in the marketplace due to low natural gas prices due to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

Overlooking Grand Gulf Control Room

Overlooking Grand Gulf Control Room

One of our most gratifying projects was trying to get a new nuclear unit (Grand Gulf) approved in Port Gibson, Mississippi.  This plant is in one of the poorest counties (Claiborne) in the USA.  Anti-nuclear activists were very active here in trying to use the environmental justice argument against the construction of the new unit.  However, we discovered that the local population, NAACP, mayor, city council and other local authorities all supported the plant.  It was a welcome relief for us and totally destroyed the so-called environmental justice argument of the anti-nuclear activists. 

With Zhang Xiaoping and Norris at Daya Bay nuclear facility in China

With Zhang Xiaoping and Norris at Daya Bay nuclear facility in China

One of our most exciting adventures was visiting China to tour nuclear power plants.  After discussions with physicists at China's leading university, Tsinghua University, we were invited to tour their groundbreaking Pebble Bed Modular Reactor.  We were thoroughly briefed by staff from the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology at Tsinghua University.  We had established a China Office that was led by Zhang Xiaoping and her translation skills were invaluable to us during our two week tour of China.  We toured the plants at Daya Bay near Hong Kong and the PBMR that is about 40 miles northwest of Beijing.  You can get the full description of our tour here.  It was one of the greatest adventures of my life and a very important educational experience.