Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Right Trousers

About the author:  Jenny Robbins is on the EPAStat Quarterly Report team, which produces the report with partners across EPA to evaluate and improve performance.

“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
– George Bernard Shaw

As George points out, fresh and frequent data is a must for any successful endeavor, including pants. At EPA we want to make sure our pants fit. To this end, EPA uses a quarterly report (the EPAStat Quarterly Report (EQR) to be exact) to see how we’re progressing on selected performance measures – both environmental and internal management benchmarks. We just released the latest installment. This fourth quarter report is particularly exciting (go with us here) as it gives us a chance to review our progress over the course of the entire year and compare that to how we’ve done in years past. Where have we had the greatest successes? Where have we fallen behind and why? Most exciting of all, how can we take advantage of existing opportunities for improvement?

So, how did we fare in FY 2008? Overall, EPA had a successful year with notable achievements in enforcement and compliance, air pollution reductions, and water quality protection, and for the most part, EPA had several improvements over FY 2007 performance. Our work is by no means done but, in the spirit of continuous improvement, we’re feeling up to the challenges that FY 2009 will bring.

One of the year’s more sizable achievements is the whopping 3.9 billion pounds of pollution expected to be reduced, treated or eliminated as a result of concluded enforcement actions and audit agreements in FY 2008, significantly exceeding the year’s 890 million pound target. Billions of pounds of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, pathogens, and storm water pollutants will be impacted.

In terms of the nation’s air quality, EPA also made great progress in reducing diesel emissions. One of the ways EPA addresses the significant amount of pollution still being emitted from old diesel engines is by awarding grants for diesel emission reduction projects and retrofitting or replacing old engines. In FY 2008, the number of diesel projects funded with EPA grants nearly tripled from last year thanks to efforts by EPA Regions to establish clean diesel coalitions with the states. These projects are resulting in considerable reductions in air pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrous oxide, and hydrocarbons.

Of course, a number of challenges remain for FY 2009. An area in which the Agency hopes to improve is the timeliness of key regulatory actions. EPA is continuing to work on getting those regulatory actions furthest behind schedule back on track so that the public and the environment can benefit from them sooner.

This year also brought EPA more causes to celebrate. In early December, EPA was awarded the Presidents Quality Award (PQA) for the second year in a row – a first in the history of the award! The award recognizes a number of management innovations we’ve made over the past year including the launch of EPAStat.

We aim to continue our work as a performance leader in the federal govermment. Here’s to EPA’s continued success and improvement in FY 2009!

The EPAStat Quarterly Report Team

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Environmentalist Role Models

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

On a brisk fall morning, I attended an event at my youngest daughter’s Montessori school. The Harvest Parade is a yearly event in which all the children at the school participate in a ceremony dressed in costumes representing countries or historic figures. The parade serves as an opportunity not only to teach the children about different cultures and individuals who have contributed to mankind, but to hone their skills in research and public speaking.

It was heartwarming to see these children walk to the stage and talk about presidents, kings, queens, scientists, artists, and athletes. The older children had to deliver 3- 5-minute long speeches about these historic figures and explain why they found them inspirational. What struck me this year was that fact that several children had selected famous environmentalists as the historical figures they wanted to portray: the founder of the modern environmentalist movement Rachel Carlson, the founder of The Wilderness Society Aldo Leopold, the leader of the soil conservation movement Hugh Hammond Bennett, and even President Theodore Roosevelt for his conservation efforts, to name a few.  I was proud to see these children identify these environmentalists as their role models.

There are many unsung heroes here at EPA and in our communities who make environmental protection part of their daily lives. They are role models for us all. We should encourage our children at home and in the community to conserve water, recycle, and protect our environment.

I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to Montessori education. The philosophy of Maria Montessori gives free rein to the child’s innate imagination. It also instills in students at an early age underlying values such as respect for oneself, all humanity, and the environment. I think the world would be a better place if we shared those views.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ambientalistas que nos inspiran

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

En una fresca mañana otoñal, asistí a una actividad de mi hija menor en su escuela Montessori. El Desfile de la Cosecha es un evento anual en el cual participan todos los estudiantes representando diversos países o figuras históricas. Este desfile brinda una oportunidad para enseñar no tan sólo a los niños acerca de diferentes culturas e individuos que han contribuido a la humanidad sino también para que mejoren sus destrezas en realizar investigaciones y hablar ante el público.

Era enternecedor ver a estos niños subir a la tribuna y personificando a presidentes, reyes, reinas, científicos, artistas y atletas. Los niños mayores tenían que pronunciar discursos de tres a cinco minutos sobre personajes históricos y explicar el por qué estas personas les inspiraban. Lo que me sorprendió fue el hecho de que varios niños habían seleccionado a famosos ambientalistas como las figuras históricas que ellos querían proyectar: la fundadora del movimiento ambientalista moderno Rachel Carlson, el fundador de la Sociedad de la Vida Silvestre Aldo Leopold, el líder del movimiento de la conservación de los terrenos Hugh Hammond Bennett, y hasta el presidente Teodoro Roosevelt por sus esfuerzos de conservación. Realmente me enorgulleció el hecho de que ellos identificaran a estos conocidos ambientalistas como personas ejemplares a las que había que emular.

Hay muchos héroes desconocidos aquí en la EPA y en nuestras comunidades que se dedican diariamente a la protección ambiental en su vida cotidiana. Ellos son modelos ejemplares para todos nosotros. Debemos alentar a nuestros hijos en la casa y en la comunidad a conservar agua, a reciclar y a proteger nuestro medio ambiente.

Creo que esa fue una de los factores que más me atrajo de la enseñanza Montessori. La filosofía de María Montessori brinda rienda suelta a la imaginación innata del niño. También inculca en los estudiantes a temprana edad los valores de respeto a sí mismo, a la humanidad y al medio ambiente.  Creo que el mundo sería un lugar mejor si todos compartiéramos esa visión.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Green Investing: Venture Capital for the Environment

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: Mary Wigginton is an Environmental Protection Specialist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She recently attended an all-day public meeting of the EPA-Venture Capital Community Summit.

image of Mary Wigginton

Meetings are a staple of work life in a large organization, especially government, but they are not my idea of a productive day. A few weeks ago, I broke from my routine of what I consider “real” work and attended an all-day public meeting of senior managers from EPA and members of the “venture capital community.” After the usual opening pleasantries, Hank Habicht, a former EPA Deputy Administrator turned venture capitalist, said something about “a convergence of factors that I haven’t seen in 25 years,…global environmental issues, … unprecedented financial capital even in this economy,…EPA expertise.” The possibility that a “convergence” was happening got my attention. I completely tuned in.

I learned about “the valley of death,” a melodramatic phrase for what happens to technologies that never make it past the design stage. The “valley of death” is when the seed money runs out and nothing is left for scaling up production, distribution, or marketing. This is the stage where, if the developer is fortunate, the venture capitalist steps in.

According to the National Venture Capital Association, venture capital is a long-term—usually ten to 15 years—investment in an innovative company. Several well-known companies got off the ground with venture capital: Microsoft, Apple, Google, FedEx. In the world of finance, venture capital is approximately 0.02% of total invested dollars, but contributes a significant share of jobs and revenue to the economy. In 2006, it accounted for 10.4 million jobs, $2.3 trillion of U.S. revenue, and 18% of the gross domestic product.

Today, technologies for energy efficiency, pollution control and pollution prevention (“clean tech” to venture capitalists) are seen as the next great opportunities for investment. Venture capitalists want to invest in clean tech, and this is where EPA research and development come in. By tapping into EPA’s science and technology expertise, venture capitalists can gain a better understanding of market forces over the next ten to 15 years and snatch the next great environmental technology ideas from the “valley of death.”

As meetings go, this one turned out to be a good investment of my time. I suspect that we all will be hearing more about EPA and venture capital.

Check back next Wednesday for a follow-up post on this topic, and to find out more and keep tabs on how this “convergence” progresses visit: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/venturecapital/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reducing the Federal Carbon Footprint

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

Recently, we launched a new program to help federal facilities reduce their carbon footprint called the Federal Green Challenge. It helps federal facilities meeting their Executive Order requirements to green up their operations by focusing on Energy, Transportation, Waste and Water. When given a framework to act, it is amazing how much the federal community wants to make an environmental difference. Facilities across Region 10, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, have committed to reduce their carbon emissions by over 9 million pounds in 2009 alone. In addition, the program will be helping federal facilities during the year by hosting 12 webinars on topics including the four target areas – energy, transportation, waste and water and several others including green meetings, sustainability, and implementing you EMS. It is wonderful seeing the government begin to lead by example.

Even though the program is only open to federal facilities, all the information is public and hopefully, other organizations will use the information to measure their progress. On the website there are tips for making changes, tools for measuring your results, and examples of how others have done it. Let me know if the information is useful and what else would be useful.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: How many errands have you ever combined into one trip?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Driving efficiently saves fuel and helps reduce air pollution and traffic congestion.  One tip for driving efficiently is to combine or chain trips so you complete many errands in one outing.

How many errands have you ever combined into one trip?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: ¿Cuántas diligencias ha combinado en un solo viaje?

Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

El conducir eficientemente ahorra combustible y ayuda a reducir la contaminación atmosférica y congestión del tránsito. Un consejo para conducir de manera eficiente es el combinar viajes sucesivamente para completar muchas diligencias de una sola vez.

¿Cuántas diligencias ha combinado en un solo viaje?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA Works with Oil & Natural Gas Producing States

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

I recently attended a meeting that serves as an example of how EPA collaborates with state agencies, including those agencies with functions not contained within the traditional state environmental agencies. In December 2002, then EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman and then Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee entered into a Memorandum of Understanding between EPA and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). The MOU was subsequently revised and renewed twice and currently runs to May 2009.

image of Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission

The IOGCC was congressionally chartered in 1935 as an organization of the governors of the oil and natural gas producing states with the mission to promote conservation and efficient recovery of the nation’s oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. The states are represented by officials from energy and minerals agencies, public utility commissions, oil & gas conservation commissions and natural resources departments. Examples of the participating agencies include: North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, and the Railroad Commission of Texas.

The MOU created a Task Force made up of seven states (currently Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arkansas, Kansas, Alaska, and Montana) and six EPA units (Regions 6, 8, & 10, Office of Water, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, and Office of Congressional and Inter-agency Relations) and meets a couple of times a year. The Task Force works to better understand the differing missions of the parties; conduct in-depth explanations of positions, regulations and policies; seek opportunities for greater cooperation, and generally to improve the working relationship between EPA and the state oil & gas regulatory agencies.

As a participant in most of the Task Force meetings held over the last 5 years, I can say that having regular, face-to-face meetings has improved the dialogue between the agencies in both substance as well as demeanor.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Cómo educar a los niños sobre el reciclaje

Cómo educar a los niños sobre el reciclaje

Acerca del autor: Vicky Salazar comenzó a trabajar en EPA en 1995. Labora en nuestra oficina en Seattle en asuntos relacionados con la reducción de desechos, conservación de recursos y civismo ambiental.

El reciclaje es difícil. Yo misma me pregunto a veces qué debo reciclar. Por lo tanto cuando hablo con los niños acerca del reciclaje, ¿a dónde debo comenzar? Bueno, tuve que enseñar a unos niños de edad pre-escolar acerca del Día del Reciclaje en Estados Unidos y esto fue lo que aprendí.

He aquí unas reglas sencillas:

  • Latas, papel, cajas, potes y botellas van en el recipiente de reciclaje.
  • Si está sucio, lávelo y descártelo.
  • No recicle las tapas de los potes y envases, esas van en la basura.
  • No eche alimentos en el recipiente de reciclaje—aún si están unidos a otra cosa.
  • Si está roto, échelo a la basura.
  • Si puede volverse a utilizar, úselo nuevamente o dónelo a alguien que lo pueda utilizar.

Póngalo en práctica – Hay que practicar realmente. No fue hasta que los niños lo hicieron varias veces que pudieron recordar qué había que poner en cada lugar.

Habrán errores—Aprovéchelos como una oportunidad para enseñar.

Relacione el reciclaje con la importancia de proteger la Tierra y los animales. Los niños verdaderamente quieren ayudar.

Póngalo a prueba con sus hijos. Es divertido, informativo, y me recordó cómo reciclar. ¿Cómo funcionó para usted?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Teaching Kids About Recycling

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

Recycling is hard. Sometimes I don’t even know what to recycle so when it comes time to talk kids about recycling, where do I start?? Well, I had to teach recycling to a bunch of preschoolers on America Recycles Day, here is what I learned.

Make the rules simple –

  • Cans, paper, boxes, jars, and bottles go in the recycle bin.
  • If it is dirty, clean it or throw it away
  • No Lids, they go in the trash.
  • No food in the recycle bin – even if it is attached to something else.
  • If it is broken – in the trash
  • If it can be used again, use it again or donate it to someone who can.

Practice – When we actually practiced, the kids couldn’t remember what went where until they had tried it a few times.

Expect mistakes – use them as a teaching opportunity.

Relate it to protecting the earth and the animals. The kids really wanted to help out.

Try it out with your kids. It was fun, informative and reminded me what to recycle. How did it work?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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