Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bajo el Plan de Acción Climática del presidente Obama, un año de progreso en la EPA

Por Gina McCarthy
El cambio climático sobrecarga los riesgos a nuestra salud, a nuestra economía y a nuestra manera de vivir. De parte de nuestros hijos y generaciones futuras, tenemos una obligación moral de actuar. Por esa razón, en junio de 2013, el Presidente Obama desveló su Plan de Acción Climática para reducir la contaminación de carbono dañina que genera el cambio climático, construir una nación más resiliente para afrontar los impactos del cambio climático en la actualidad, y liderar al mundo en nuestra lucha climática global.
Como parte del plan del Presidente, él instó a la EPA a tomar acción. Y a lo largo del pasado año, respondimos a su llamado.
• En septiembre de 2013, propusimos estándares para limitar la contaminación de carbono proveniente de las nuevas centrales eléctricas que aún quedan por construir. Este pasado junio, propusimos normas de contaminación para las centrales eléctricas existentes al presentar un Plan de Energía Limpia. Ambas de nuestras propuestas fueron elaboradas a consecuencia de extensos esfuerzos de alcance público y consejos de los estados, las ciudades, la industria, y el público. Continuamos sosteniendo estas conversaciones cruciales sobre los estándares para las plantas existentes durante el periodo de comentarios de 120 días que concluye el 16 de octubre de 2014. Planeamos finalizar las normas para las plantas existentes en junio de 2015. El recortar la contaminación de carbono de las centrales eléctricas—y toda la contaminación que asociada que esta acarrea, significará miles de ataques de corazón menos, y decenas de miles menos de ataques de asma, especialmente para nuestros hijos.
• Sabemos que la contaminación de carbono no proviene solamente de las centrales eléctricas. Estamos basándonos en el progreso histórico alcanzado por los estándares de eficiencia de combustible al trabajar para hacer los camiones pesados de modelos subsiguientes al 2018 más eficientes también, fortaleciendo así la seguridad energética, fomentando la innovación y ahorrando dinero. La eficiencia de combustible significa que llenaremos el tanque con menos frecuencia, ahorraremos dinero en la gasolinera, mientras lograremos reducciones importantes en la contaminación de carbono. Una solución que beneficia a todos.
• La EPA no está haciendo las cosas por su cuenta. Hemos logrado tremendos avances en toda la administración bajo el liderazgo del Presidente. Hemos permitido una cantidad récord de proyectos de energía limpia en terrenos públicos, y hemos fortalecido las normas de eficiencia de enseres eléctricos que reducen la contaminación y recortan los costos para familias y negocios. De hecho, desde que el Presidente juramentó a su cargo, la energía eólica en este país se ha triplicado y la energía solar se ha multiplicado por diez.
• Al reconocer la necesidad para tener un enfoque “de todo incluido” para desarrollar la energía originada nacionalmente, en conjunto con la necesidad de tener pasos de sentido común para reducir la contaminación de carbono, el Presidente publicó una Estrategia para Reducir las Emisiones de Metano que delinea los pasos para medir y reducir las emisiones de este potente gas de efecto invernadero. En la EPA, hemos buscado la revisión de pares y del público y estamos revisando el insumo que hemos recibido hasta la fecha, con miras a identificar nuestros siguientes pasos este otoño. También anunciamos un plan de trabajo para el programa de consorcios denominado Natural Gas STAR GOLD (Programa de Gas Natural ESTRELLA DE ORO), que será lanzado oficialmente a finales del año. Básicamente, estamos añadiendo otro programa de reconocimiento a nuestro exitoso Programa de Gas Natural Estrella para alentar a compañías miembro a hacer todavía más para lograr mayores reducciones en la contaminación.
• El reducir la contaminación de gases de efecto invernadero es solo parte del panorama. Tenemos que desarrollar comunidades más resilientes para afrontar los impactos climáticos en la actualidad. Al mejorar los programas y las herramientas, como el calculador actualizado de aguas residuales de la EPA, ayudamos a los alcaldes y a los gobernadores a incorporar las consideraciones climáticas en la manera que construyen y dirigen sus ciudades a medida que bregan con los costos del alza en el nivel del mar, así como una mayor intensidad y frecuencia en el número de inundaciones, incendios y tormentas.
Al comprometernos a utilizar fuentes energéticas más limpias y a reducir el desperdicio de energía, estamos fomentando la inversión y liberando las fuerzas del mercado que crearán empleos en un sector energético moderno para el siglo XXI, mientras reduciremos la contaminación y los riesgos a la salud. Las ciudades y los estados liderarán el camino hacia la acción climática porque ellos saben que los beneficios económicos y medioambientales son demasiado grandes para dejar en la mesa. Por esa razón, las personas en Estados Unidos a nivel nacional apoyan abrumadoramente el tomar acción para limitar la contaminación de carbono y desarrollar y desplegar energía más limpia. Y una y otra vez, el Tribunal Supremo de EE.UU. ha reafirmado nuestra obligación bajo la Ley de Aire Limpio para proteger la salud pública mediante la acción climática de sentido común.
Hace un año, el Presidente Obama pronunció su discurso climático más importante a los estudiantes. Tenemos una obligación moral para asegurar que el mundo que le dejemos a generaciones futuras sea uno seguro, saludable y lleno de oportunidades. A pesar de que hemos tomado pasos importantes en la EPA, y en la administración durante el pasado año bajo el Plan de Acción Climática, tenemos mucho más por hacer. Por el bien de nuestras familias hoy y el futuro de nuestros hijos, tenemos que mantener el impulso actual hacia adelante.
Para ver el informe (en inglés) sobre el progreso realizado bajo el Plan de Acción Climática, visite: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/cap_progress_report_update_062514_final.pdf

Acerca de la autora: Gina McCarthy es la administradora de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés).

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 Takes Important Step in Assessing Chemical Risk

Earlier today, EPA made public a final risk assessment on a number of uses of the chemical, Trichloroethylene, or TCE, as it is more commonly known. The risk assessment indicated health risks from TCE to consumers using spray aerosol degreasers and spray fixatives used for artwork. It can pose harm to workers when TCE is used as a degreaser in small commercial shops and as a stain remover in dry cleaners. It has been more than 28 years since we last issued a final risk assessment for an existing chemical.

EPA conducted the TCE risk assessment as part of a broader effort to begin assessing chemicals and chemical uses that may pose a concern to human health and the environment under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA is this country’s 38-year old chemicals management legislation, which is badly in need of modernization

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Nature in New York City Blooms, Crawls and Creeps, Especially in the Eyes of a Child

By Marcia Anderson

Bee on a flower

Bee on a flower

To a young child, there’s no such thing as an ant, a bee or a ladybug. They’re all bugs and worth a closer look. Lift a small rock. Often worms, tiny beetles, salamanders, or other critters can be uncovered, to the shear amazement of a child. Colonies of ants found under stones are fascinating to watch as they go about their business marching in rows to and from their anthills.

Most ants found in the northeast are not a serious threat to human health. Ants and other insects are usually found where they can obtain food and water to take back to their nests. Ants provide an ecological cleansing and fertilization service of considerable importance. They aerate the soil outdoors and recycle dead animals and vegetable material, and kill many other pest insects including: fly larvae, fleas, caterpillars and termites.

In spring, wasps are important predators of caterpillars, while others are scavengers, helping to control pests and recycle organic material. They turn more aggressive in late summer and fall when their food preference turns to sweets.

Bugs may be small and easily taken for granted, but they are often a child’s first intimate encounter with a wild animal. How they are taught to deal with these small creatures sets the tone for their relationships with larger wildlife such as reptiles, birds and amphibians. Unfortunately, in their zeal to teach children to be wary of dangerous bugs, many adults do not discern between those which are dangerous and those which aren’t. By showing their disdain for all bugs and killing any that cross their paths, many adults inadvertently teach children that all are to be feared and destroyed at every opportunity.

Ants explore a blade of grass

Ants explore a blade of grass

A gentleness and reverence for all creatures should be taught at an early age. It’s important to remember that the younger child learns by modeling, rather than by verbal instruction. A child who’s shown how to put overturned stones back in place to leave insects undisturbed is more likely to take that much more care than a child who’s simply told to do so.

Here are a few safety tips to help young children observe the tiny creatures in the great outdoors:

  1.  Avoid areas with food left outdoors, such as picnic scraps, uncovered garbage containers or uncovered compost piles. Bees and wasps imprint on these food sources and keep returning to them.
  2. Avoid sweet smelling soaps, lotions, or shampoos on both your child and yourself and do not dress up in bright colors. You do not want stinging insects to think that you are a flower or other food source.
  3. In warm weather, use an insect repellent according to the label directions to protect from ticks and mosquitoes. Other alternatives are the mechanical repellent devices that clip onto pockets or belts and they give off repellents that deter mosquitoes or other insects.
  4. Upon returning home, always inspect your child and yourself for ticks or other hitchhikers.

Every park in New York City, large or small, will have some wildlife encounters but be prepared to go down to your child’s level to see them. Just grab a small jar for temporary collecting and a magnifying glass, then get on the subway or bus and explore New York City. Happy Summer!

To find out more about nature in New York City go to: http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/nature-preserves.

The Forever Wild Program is an initiative of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to protect and preserve the most ecologically valuable lands within the five boroughs. These parks encompass 51 Forever Wild Nature Preserves and include over 8,700 acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows. These open spaces are home to thousands of critters, including squirrels, frogs, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, fish, bald eagles, and countless plants.

 

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Tool Saves Millions of Dollars After Wildfire

By Marguerite Huber

Wildfire conflagration on forested hillsides

Wildfire seasons are getting longer and burning more acres. Photo by USDA Forest Service.

Fueled by drought, disease, and suburban sprawl, wildfire seasons are getting longer and burning more acres of land. Last August, the Elk Complex wildfire burned more than 130,000 acres east of Boise, Idaho. Nearly 75% of the burned area had high to moderate burn severity, threatening the ecosystem and the region’s water. Substantial fires have already flared up this summer around San Diego, California, and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Once a fire is about 80% contained, scientists and other experts from the Department of the Interior’s National Interagency Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team can go into the region and help develop emergency stabilization plans. They are aided by a resource—the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment (AGWA) tool—developed by researchers from EPA, the Agricultural Research Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and the University of Arizona.

Originally developed as a computer model for use managing and analyzing water quantity and quality, fire recovery teams are now tapping it to identify potential threats to people, wildlife, and the land from post-fire flooding and erosion.

Watershed managers use AGWA to identify and assess downstream impacts and risks from increased flooding and erosion resulting from fire-related changes to habitats and soils. The tool can also be used to target restoration efforts, such as where to apply mulch and seed with native plant stock, to reduce such downstream risks.

“AGWA is a good example of a science product developed between two leading federal research agencies with mutual interest,” said EPA research ecologist William Kepner. “The tool provides a practical application with immediate benefits.”

For the Elk Complex wildfire, the BAER team estimates it saved approximately $7,000,000 to $8,000,000 by using AGWA to target 2,000 acres for treatment instead of the initial 16,000 acres identified through more traditional methods.

“AGWA is able to help the team develop a stabilization plan where post-wildfire impacts pose immediate and significant threats to people and property,” Kepner adds.

Additionally, the emergency response team has successfully used the tool for post-fire watershed assessments following fires in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Idaho, and Washington. More than 8,000 users, spanning six continents, 163 countries, and 4,903 cities, have registered to use the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment tool .

The AGWA tool has been included as an ecosystem services analysis tool in the new EPA EnviroAtlas, and can be downloaded here. It provides an important resource for meeting the challenge of longer, more destructive wildfire seasons.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Working with Communities to Combat Climate Change: A Peace Corps Volunteer’s Story

By Courtney Columbus

Three times a day, my neighbor in the Dominican Republic (DR) balances pieces of locally found firewood on top of three stones in her backyard. She cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her family on this slow-cooking fire. Although her pots of fire-cooked rice and beans nourish her and her family, the smoke that spirals up from this fire and into her lungs poses serious health risks.

My neighbor’s cooking technique is common practice in the DR, and in other developing nations. However, this isn’t the only practice that is harmful to health and the environment. In my region, near the Haitian border, many families also make their own charcoal, which requires cutting down trees. This region is hot and arid, making it difficult for deforested areas to ever fully recover. Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in the DR often dedicate part of their service to finding ways to improve this situation.

To help address the environmental and health problems caused by cooking on firewood and charcoal, a group of dedicated doñas (this is a respectful reference to older women) and I decided to build improved cookstoves in my community. These stoves have an enclosed cooking chamber that burns firewood more efficiently than cooking out in the open. The fire inside the stove heats up two hot plates, so Dominican women can still cook their daily pots of rice and beans, but unlike an open fire, these stoves have chimneys that take smoke away from the cook. Also, the improved cookstoves reduce the use of charcoal by rural families, because the stoves work best when dry firewood is used. Less charcoal use means that more trees in my community can remain standing!

There are inconveniences being a PCV: a broken-down bus never shows up to take me to a meeting; a grant application gets delayed; I lose the finer meaning of a project partner’s speech in Spanish at a community meeting. But, on the opposite side are moments that make it all worth it. Those mornings when I stop by my neighbors’ wood-slat-and-rusty-tin-roof homes and see them contentedly boiling a pot of coffee on their improved cookstove gives me the motivation to keep working.

Although the 70 stoves that we built in my site are a microscopic drop in the bucket of global efforts to combat climate change, many PCVs throughout the DR have also been building stoves. Several PCVs in northern DR have built over 100 stoves each with their community members. We hope to see the project continue in the future. Improved cookstoves have changed the way that women in our sites cook, changed the air that they breathe, and changed the way they treat their environment.

About the author: Courtney Columbus is from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania has been serving as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in the Dominican Republic since 2012. A graduate of Allegheny College, she is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader.

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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Announcing EPA’s Climate Justice in Action Series

By Mustafa Santiago Ali

Untitled-2Climate change is real, its impacts are enormous, and we are already seeing these effects across the planet today. And while we are deeply engaged in a discourse about the extent of the disruptions and devastation that a changing and destabilized climate causes, we don’t talk nearly enough about how those burdens will be shared in our country.

Wreckage From Hurricane Katrina

Wreckage From Hurricane Katrina

You see, not all people bear an equal amount of the burden posed by climate change. The sad truth is the majority of the impacts will be felt in our more vulnerable communities, in neighborhoods filled with people who are already struggling to get by. In low income communities, these impacts have already been distressing, including heat-related illness and death; respiratory ailments; increases in the proliferation of infectious diseases; unaffordable rises in energy costs; loss of farm land, and crushing natural disasters.

It’s also under-appreciated that within these same communities, the seeds of positive action are being sown to adapt and be more resilient to climate change. Thousands of individuals and organizations in low income areas and communities of color are joining hands on the frontlines to counteract the effects of climate change. These actions are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making our cities and towns more resilient to its effects, and doing everything they can to offset these impending challenges.

And that’s why I am excited to start the conversation with EPA’s Climate Justice in Action Series. Climate justice is a movement that has been defined by its stakeholders – in the grassroots, in academia, in government – and so rather than EPA attempting to articulate what climate justice is, this blog series will allow you to help define and expand the boundaries of climate justice.

Click on the Map and Follow the Instructions to Share your Story!

 

We have also created an interactive Climate Justice in Action Map. You can use the map below to submit your story and provide further perspective. When you tell us about what you are doing, make sure to describe how your work is improving your communities right now. We need to make clear that when we talk about climate justice, we are not just talking about saving the planet for future generations, but also about creating good paying jobs, healthier and safer communities, and preventing future economic devastation by mitigating the effects of climate change.

Untitled-7Lastly, in order to truly turn the tide on climate change, we all need to work collaboratively. My hope is that through this climate justice campaign you just might think about things a little differently. You may read about projects from other stakeholders that make the light bulb go off for you. Hopefully you contribute your knowledge and share what you’ve learned so others can build from your experience.

We’ll do our part to share your stories. Throughout the summer we will be highlighting your submissions in various ways. At the conclusion of the campaign, we will compile and share all of the stories to keep the conversation going. So, please participate, join the conversation, and make this a meaningful dialogue about how we can work together to put climate justice in action. Your comments and contributions will give a fuller and richer understanding of climate justice than EPA could accomplish alone.

About the author: Mustafa Ali currently serves as the Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Environmental Justice at EPA.

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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Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, a Year of Progress at EPA

Climate change supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. On behalf of our kids and future generations—we have a moral obligation to act. That’s why in June, 2013, President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan to cut the harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change, build a more resilient nation to face climate impacts today, and lead the world in our global climate fight.

As part of the President’s plan—he called on EPA to act. And over this past year, we’ve been answering that call.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Reducing the Impact of Stormwater Challenges

Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Water

Stormwater pollution is a dilemma all across the country – even in beautiful mountain towns like Aspen, Colorado. Pollutants such as oils, fertilizer, and sediment from the steep mountains that tower over the town, can be carried via stormwater and snowmelt and deposited into waterways like the Roaring Fork River. This has a huge impact on the ecosystem.

Last month, I toured the Jennie Adair wetlands, a bio-engineered detention area designed to passively treat stormwater runoff in Aspen. I saw firsthand how the city is working to deal with its stormwater challenges. Before this project, stormwater did not drain to a water treatment facility. It used to flow directly into the Roaring Fork River and other water bodies within the city limits, having significant impacts on the water quality.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Consumer Product Companies Leading the Way to Greener Products

Getting a tour of Earth Friendly Products in Southern California.

Getting a tour of Earth Friendly Products in Southern California.

 

During some recent travel, I spent time with several consumer product companies and retailers who are stepping up as  safer product leaders and innovators, advancing industry beyond the safety “floor” set by the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

In Southern California, I met with Earth Friendly Products. All their products are manufactured in the U.S. and 90% have earned the Design for the Environment (DfE) label.

I also took part in the Safer Consumer Product Summit in California followed by a visit to the Consumer Specialty Product Association (CSPA) meeting in Chicago.Then, outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I met with BerkleyGreen (Berkley Packaging Company Inc.), a family- and woman-owned DfE partner with 29 DfE-labeled products.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Another Favorable Opinion from the Supreme Court

Today’s Supreme Court decision is a resounding win for EPA. At issue was how certain Clean Air Act permitting programs apply to carbon pollution. Justice Scalia, writing for seven of the nine justices, largely upheld EPA’s approach to requiring that carbon pollution be addressed in permits for large emitters, such as power plants and refineries. As Justice Scalia reportedly noted from the bench, “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.”

EPA’s inaugural suite of carbon pollution rules have now been fully vetted in federal court, and have emerged victorious, and largely unscathed. In fact, the most significant pieces of the Agency’s approach were not even granted Supreme Court review, having been found sound and upheld by the D.C. Circuit. EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare was upheld by the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to it. Similarly, the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s first set of rules limiting carbon pollution from cars and trucks (and simultaneously saving consumers money at the pump), and the Supreme Court denied cert on issues related to those rules.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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