2023 Spring Speakers
Mike Abraczinskas is currently the Director of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) and has worked for DAQ for 23 years & 8 months as of March 1, 2023. Mike worked in 7 different positions in DAQ prior to being named Director in March of 2017.
He graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Meteorology and a Minor in Environmental Science.; is certified as an Engineer-In-Training (EIT); and is a graduate of the North Carolina Public Managers Program.
Mike is a leader in the air quality management field and is active in national and regional organizations comprised of State and Local Air Quality Agencies.
In June 2021, Mike was selected to serve on a panel of experts for the Air & Waste Management Association’s (AWMA) Critical Review on the topic of PFAS.
In September 2022, Mike was elected as President of the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA) – a national, non-profit organization representing 48 state and local air pollution control agencies.
And, in 2023, Mike is serving as President of the Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association (CAPCA).
Mike likes to golf, fish, be outdoors.
On November 29, 2021, President Biden appointed Daniel Blackman to serve as the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Southeast Region (Region 4). In this role Daniel is leading EPA efforts to protect public health and the environment for the region spanning Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and six federally recognized tribes.
Daniel has dedicated his career to creating economic opportunities for marginalized communities throughout the South, specifically in building more resilient communities with equitable economic opportunity, greater access to education and a healthy environment for all, not just for a select few.
Daniel has spent over a decade advising policymakers at the state capitol, and advocating on behalf of Georgia ratepayers and small businesses in energy-related matters before Georgia’s Public Service Commission. He has served as chairman of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club and board member to the ACLU.
During the Obama Administration, Daniel worked closely within EPA Region 4 on issues including water infrastructure, clean air, and land/emergency management policies that impacted the southeast. He leaned heavily on his civil rights background to amplify the Region’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Policy and convened stakeholders with federal agencies to address a multitude of community concerns strategically and comprehensively.
His work in addressing groundwater contamination at nuclear plants and its impact on public health and safety has given him the opportunity to testify numerous times before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and his commitment to working throughout the Southeastern United States to push for legislation that addresses toxic ash left behind from burning coal has given him the opportunity to play a key role in the transitioning from coal to clean energy in the United States.
He is the son of immigrants from Barbados and is an alumnus of Clark Atlanta University. Daniel and his wife Jeanelle are the proud parents of four children, and the family resides in Forsyth County, Georgia.
Lilian Sotolongo Dorka
In September 2022, Lilian became the first ever Deputy Assistant Administrator (DAA) for External Civil Rights in EPA’s new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR). This new national office is charged with advancing environmental justice and civil rights. The creation of OEJECR delivers on this Administration’s commitment to elevate these critical issues to the highest levels of the government and solidifies the agency’s commitment to delivering justice and equity for all. The OEJECR reorganized and merged three existing programs at the Agency: the Office of Environmental Justice, External Civil Rights Compliance Office, and Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center. As the DAA for External Civil Rights, Lilian provides most immediate leadership to:
Improve and enhance the agency’s ability to infuse equity, civil rights, and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs.
Enforce federal civil rights laws that, together, prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin (including on the basis of limited-English proficiency); sex; disability; or age by applicants for and recipients of EPA federal financial assistance
Provide services and expertise in alternative dispute resolution, environmental conflict resolution, consensus-building, and collaborative problem solving.
Prior to this new position, Lilian served as the Director of EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office (ECRCO), within the Office of General Counsel, responsible for enforcing several federal civil rights laws which, together, prohibit discrimination on the basis of: race, color, or national origin (including on the basis of limited-English proficiency); sex; disability; and age by applicants for and recipients of financial assistance from EPA. Lilian joined EPA in December 2014 and served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). In this former capacity, she was also responsible EPA’s internal civil rights programs, including EEO, Affirmative Employment and Reasonable Accommodations.
Prior to coming to EPA, Lilian worked for the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for 27 years. There, she served in various legal and management capacities, most recently as the Senior Counsel to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for over 10 years, to advance enforcement of civil rights laws and ensure equal educational opportunities for all students.
Lilian has been working in the civil rights enforcement arena for 35 years and considers it her life’s work. She received her BA degree in political science/English literature from the University of Miami, Miami FL, and her JD from the Catholic University School of Law, Washington, DC. Lilian was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. with her family at the age of six.
Caroline Y. Freeman
Director, Air and Radiation Division
Since August 2020, Caroline Yvette Freeman has served as the ARD Division Director. Caroline joined the Region 4 office in 1991 in the Clean Air Act Enforcement Program. She has since held various other roles in Region 4, including as the Chief of the Restoration and Sustainability Branch in the Superfund Division, as the Acting Deputy Director in the Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, Acting Deputy Assistant Regional Administrator; Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to the Region 4 Administrator, Enforcement Branch Manager in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Division for RCRA, OPA, and PCB Programs, Air Enforcement Supervisor for Stationary Sources across the Southeast, Regional Asbestos National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Coordinator/Air Enforcement Compliance Engineer, Superfund Remedial Project Manager, and Regional Superfund Ombudsperson. Prior to her work at EPA, Caroline served as a Senior Design Engineer with Simons-Eastern Engineering Consultants, Inc., and as a Senior Project Engineer with International Paper Company. Caroline is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Ryan Gesser is a Senior Manager for Air Quality at Georgia-Pacific in Atlanta, where he practices meteorological and air quality modeling and monitoring, permitting, and compliance management. GP’s air permitting team works in 34 states and all 10 EPA regions to support more than 120 manufacturing operations that make pulp & paper, towel & tissue consumer products, corrugated packaging, industrial chemicals, gypsum, and engineered wood products such as plywood, lumber, and OSB. Ryan is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist with more than 25 years of professional experience and holds a bachelors degree in Applied Math from the University of Virginia, one masters degree in Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and a second masters degree in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech.
Taylor Hartsfield is currently serving as the Deputy Director for North Carolina's Division of Air Quality. She has been with DAQ since 2013 and previously worked in the Raleigh and Winston-Salem Regional Offices in the roles of Regional Supervisor, Compliance Supervisor, and Environmental Engineer. She has previous experience with writing permits, investigating complaints, and conducting compliance inspections. Taylor is a past recipient of DAQ's Employee of the Year Award and DEQ's Distinguished Employee Award. She is a North Carolina Certified Public Manager and a graduate of Clemson University with a B.S. in Biosystems Engineering. Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-707-8497.
Jon Hill is a Managing Consultant/Meteorologist at Trinity Consultants’ Raleigh, NC office, with over 23 years of experience in dispersion modeling application, theory, training and support. His main job responsibility is to lead and/or execute dispersion modeling analyses in support of PSD, State Construction Permitting, State Toxics Programs and other specialized modeling initiatives (e.g. BART, SO2 DRR). Jon has also taught numerous modeling training courses throughout the US, Canada, and United Kingdom, to attendees from industry, consulting, and various regulatory agencies.
Mr. Hughes currently oversees all of ETA's commercial visible emissions programs servicing onsite private programs. He is responsible for the company's private sector program growth and sustainability. Mr. Hughes also serves as a senior Lecturer and Field Instructor in the Visible Emissions Training and Certification Programs, along with providing senior level visible emissions consulting services and support.
-Regional Director at Trinity Consultants
-Focus on the Automotive, Wood-Products, and Rubber Tire industries
-Professional Engineer in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas
-Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan
Since 2019 Stephen has worked as a chemist in the US EPA's Office of Research and Development with a primary focus on developing sampling and analytical approaches for emerging contaminants of concern. He also works on developing non-targeted analysis methods using high-resolution mass spectrometry for analysis of air samples.
He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hendrix College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University.
Mr. Norris has over 30 years of practical experience with the application, design, fabrication, installation, operation and troubleshooting of a wide variety of combustion, incineration, air pollution control (APC) and waste heat recovery processes.
Prior to joining Ramboll 16 years ago, Mr. Norris spent 20 years manufacturing, installing and commissisoning a wide variey of combustion, incineration and air pollution control systems and processes.
He is Immediate Past Technical Chair of the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) International Thermal Treatment Technologies (IT3) and Hazardous Waste Combustors Conference.
Mr. Norris holds several US and one Canadian patent for innovative thermal technologies.
Dale Overcash, PE
Dale Overcash has 43 years of environmental experience principally dealing with air quality permitting and compliance issues. Mr. Overcash has 29 years of environmental consulting experience and prior to that worked 14 years as a permit writer and manager in the North Carolina Division of Environmental Management, Air Quality and Water Quality Sections.
Mr. Overcash is currently employed with Trinity Consultants as a Principal Consultant and Office Manager of the Raleigh Office. He serves as a senior technical lead for providing air quality permitting and compliance services to the industrial sector in NC and SC.
Mr. Overcash has served on the Board of Directors for Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association and was the CAPCA President in 2016. He currently serves on some CAPCA committees.
Mr. Overcash is also an active member of the Science and Technology Committee for the NCMA where he serves on the Steering Committee for the EEHS school and is currently the Dean of Air for the annual EEHS school.
Mr. Overcash is a 1980 graduate of NC State University with a BS in Biological and Agricultural Engineering and is a registered PE in North and South Carolina.
David Owen, President and Principal Senior Scientist at Environmental 360, is an environmental consultant with more than 20 years of environmental consulting experience with industrial and commercial clients. Mr. Owen specializes in industrial air and automated compliance and inspection programs. His primary responsibilities at Environmental 360 are team member support, project oversight on air compliance projects, and corporate administrative oversight. He is married to Stacey, and they have three children, Peyton, Andie, and Hayes, and a Pointing Labrador named Hatch.
Alan Risa is currently the Air, Land and Waste Team Lead for Souther Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) Midlands Aiken Environmental Affairs Office. He has been with SC DHEC for over 15 years, and has performed a variety of compliance inspections, complaint investigations, and sampling activities across multiple program areas during his career. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in Sports Management, and can be reached at email@example.com or 803-642-1637.
Mr. Samus is the Director of Technology Solutions and Technology National Service Line Program Manager for EA Engineering, Science and Technology, Inc. PBC.
He has over 20 years of experience guiding organizations through the implementation and use of a wide variety of technologies supporting environmental, safety and asset management efforts. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Chemistry from Washington College and a Master of Business Administration focused on Information Management Systems from Loyola College.
Mallory Sparks advises clients on environmental litigation and compliance. She has experience in federal and state courts, including with multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
· She has represented large companies in the manufacturing and distribution and wood products industries, including specialty chemical manufacturers and pulp and paper mills, as well as real estate developers and renewable energy companies.
· She advises clients in completing environmental audits and voluntary self-disclosures to regulatory agencies.
· Prior to joining Parker Poe, Mallory worked in the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Bureau of Air Quality. Mallory has also been a private environmental consultant and an environmental engineer with INVISTA and International Paper.
Ray is a 1991 graduate of NC A&T State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and has worked for the NC Division of Air Quality for nearly 31 years, most of which have been at the Winston Salem Regional Office (WSRO). He has served as an Air Quality Permitting Engineer, Compliance Engineer, the Compliance Supervisor at the WSRO, the Regional Air Quality Supervisor at the Raleigh Regional Office (RRO), and currently back at the WSRO as the Regional Air Quality Supervisor. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in NC and a Certified Public Manager (CPM).
Monica Taylor is a member of the SC DHEC Environmental Affairs Community Engagement team, serving as the Public Participation Coordinator for SC DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. In her role, she focuses on stakeholder engagement, outreach, and education to help ensure all communities of South Carolina are involved in the air-permitting decision-making process.
Rhonda Banks Thompson, P.E.
Rhonda Thompson has been with SC DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality for over 32 years. She has been the Chief of the Bureau of Air Quality since April 2016. Prior to becoming Bureau Chief, she served as Assistant Bureau Chief for 9 years.
At the regional and national level, Rhonda currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA), Board Member and past chair of the Southeastern States Air Resource Managers (SESARM), and Vice President of the Carolinas Air Pollution Control Association (CAPCA) Board of Directors. Rhonda was also recently appointed by Governor McMaster to represent DHEC on the Interagency Electric Vehicle (EV) Working Group.
Rhonda has a B.S. Degree in Engineering from the University of South Carolina, and she is a Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in South Carolina.
Matt Traister, PE is a Vice President at Ramboll and has been with the firm for more than 30 years. Matt is a chemical engineering graduate of Clarkson University, and specializes in the quantification, dispersion and control of industrial air emissions, and has written more than 40 technical papers and publications. He has spent the last five years working on several PFAS fate and transport studies, both domestically and internationally.
A couple of fun facts about Matt:
- He is a direct descendent of Noah Webster (who wrote the first dictionary) and will be the first to correct your grammatical mistakes.
- He has been the men's head lacrosse coach at an Ohio high school for the last 12 years, having coached both of his sons in the sport.
Pierce Werner, Moore & Van Allen
Pierce’s litigation experience includes representation of clients in both simple and complex matters before civil and administrative courts of law. Pierce has been involved in cases involving toxic torts, environmental contamination, citizen suits, and emerging contaminants.
Pierce has counseled industrial and manufacturing clients in matters of environmental health and safety and regulatory compliance involving a broad range of environmental statutory and regulatory schemes, including: the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, RCRA, CERLCA, TSCA, EPCRA, FIFRA, SC Mining Act, and the Federal Power Act. Pierce has also represented clients on many of these areas in the context of enforcement actions before various agencies, including: NCDEQ, SCDHEC, EPA, DOJ, and state and federal OSHA.
Jeff Wheeler is Managing Director of Air Techniques CEMS. With over 20 years of experience in the air quality industry, Jeff has established himself as an expert in the field of continuous emissions monitoring systems. He has facilitated the installation and/or operation of over a hundred monitoring systems in the southeast. Jeff has attended CAPCA for over 10 years.