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On Change

2009 January 15

Marcus Peacock is EPA’s Deputy Administrator.

My mother was born two weeks before Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. She has witnessed amazing changes in her life: the advent of air transportation, the proliferation of television, the near eradication of scourges like small pox and polio, men walking on the moon, the internet. Yet when I asked her how she felt about these changes, I did not get the response I expected. She shrugged. “Yes, things have improved a lot.” That was it.

Deep in middle age, I now understand that answer. The time scale our brains work with is easily swamped by the broader march of technology. After a dash of initial wonder, we just assimilate advances and move on. A few decades ago, every Christmas Day my family would crowd around a phone in our house and have hurried static-filled ‘long distance’ conversations with relatives in other lands. Two weeks ago one of my kids got a call from a friend. My daughter was walking in the woods. Her friend was sitting in a cafe in Florence, Italy. This does not amaze them. It no longer amazes me. In fact, I can’t really remember how we got to this place. It just happened.

Today the Administrator signed a proposed rule modifying how EPA determines the Air Quality Index for fine particle pollution. As proposals go, it is not terribly notable. And yet . . . this will be the first proposed rule issued by a federal agency that will allow the public to comment on the rule using a blog. The blog will be open from March 2 to March 11 which corresponds to public hearings on the proposal. Stay tuned to Greenversations for more information on how to participate. Mark it as a small step on the way to what I believe will be a dramatic change in the way the federal government crafts rules and regulations. A small step, but one that, with others, will accumulate to the point where the government will be able to produce better quality rules much more quickly than in the past.

We live in the Information Age. It is sweeping over us like advancing waves on a beach. Federal agencies can either seize the tools that are coming from this change or just let the tide pick us up and deposit us in a new place. EPA is choosing to seize the day. We are not doing this because we want to amaze people with whiz-bang Web 2.0 technology. We do this because when someone in the future is asked about the changes they have seen in the environment, they will just shrug their shoulders and say, “Yes, things have improved a lot.”

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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15 Responses leave one →
  1. John De Long permalink
    January 15, 2009

    Oh really? The press release says “Comments to the blog will not be considered official comments for the record.” That sounds like it’ll be the same-old blog chit-chat thing, except it’s about a regulation instead of someone’s navel.

    Perhaps the Obama people will have to make this, too, happen for real… like so much else that needs to happen in EPA for real.

  2. Joan permalink
    January 15, 2009

    Maybe blog chit-chat is the best way to find out what people are really thinking.

  3. Norm permalink
    January 15, 2009

    I think anytime a government agency is willing to take input from the public its a good thing. Making it accessible through blog comments is definately a step in the right direction in my opinion.


  4. Marcus permalink
    January 15, 2009

    John’s right, the comments will not be considered ‘official’ under the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 (APA). We’re trying this out in the sandbox before we do it in bricks and mortar. We don’t want to have the AQI rule shot down because of an experiment. We’re the first to try it out in a sandbox, but, still, it’s in a sandbox.

    Which is my point. Small steps like this accumulate. Some day, regardless of who is President, we’ll satisfy the APA in a way no one in 1946 could have imagined. John’s already on to the next step. Let’s keep pushing it forward.

  5. John DL permalink
    January 16, 2009

    Oh, I have no issue with blog chit-chat. I think federal blogging and public blog commenting is great. But Marcus clearly wrote “will allow the public to comment on the rule using a blog” and that is not what they are doing. According to the EPA press release, comments to the blog will not be considered official comments for the record. the blog may LINK to the place where official comments may be left. That’s fine, but that’s not commenting on the rule using a blog. Uh-uh.

  6. Al Purrinos permalink
    January 22, 2009


    It’s very exciting to live in this information technology era. Having studied a masters degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, I’m very eager to witness the adoption of technology to make our lives better.

    I look forward to participating on this proposed rule for modifying how EPA determines the Air Quality Index, and many more to come!

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Al Purrinos

  7. Voda permalink
    March 12, 2009

    Norm has write. Comments is a good thing even if “will not be considered official comments for the record.”

  8. riko permalink
    May 24, 2009

    I have been reading this blog for a while and wow some of these issues i have never thought about!! Thanks for that and keep blogging.

  9. Heinz permalink
    July 20, 2009

    Thank you for sharing this.

    “”I look forward to participating on this proposed rule for modifying how EPA determines the Air Quality Index, and many more to come!””


  10. Green News permalink
    August 3, 2009

    I look forward to hearing more greenversations on change in the fufure. I also agree that the future is based on the people and the public will figure this out, with some govt assistance.

    Green Energy News

  11. Jessica Smith permalink
    September 15, 2009

    “On Change” is an excellent post. It is very informative. Thank you so much.

    Jessica Smith

  12. Steve permalink
    October 5, 2009

    Nice post. Thank you so much for great information.

  13. Barry John permalink
    February 18, 2010

    I would just like to say that Greenversations is a great word!!! Genius whoever thought it up!!
    Facilities Management Jobs

  14. Ryan Thompson permalink
    March 29, 2010

    It is amazing how far we’ve moved in technology lately.

    I thing blogs are a good idea.. I just hope that all opinions are publicly viewable, and they aren’t moderated out of existence. :)

    ~ Ryan Thompson ~

  15. PWC Motor permalink
    March 23, 2011

    Nice article. Thanks for posting. I’ll wait for more blogs.

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