Bob Perciasepe

About Bob Perciasepe

Posts by Bob Perciasepe:

A Call to Public Service: Civil Rights and Environmental Justice

As a child growing up in the 1950s in upstate New York, my days were filled with school, baseball, and playing in the woods. In my early years, I was mostly unaware of the broader social issues of the time.

Coming of age in the ‘60s, all of that changed.

The 24-hour news cycle didn’t exist yet, and it took more effort to keep up with current events back then. But as a young teenager, I began to pay more attention—and in 1963 the world came crashing in. The March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, and President Kennedy’s assassination suddenly made me aware of a greater struggle beyond the world I knew.

As I started high school, I tried to understand how these events fit together—but I couldn’t comprehend why, in the United States of America, it was a struggle to pass a law to assure equal rights. But justice finally prevailed and the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

Like the civil rights movement, the environmental movement was made up of ordinary people who faced injustice and focused public attention to confront it. Unbearable smog in Los Angeles and a burning river in Ohio were a wake-up call to Americans that pollution threatens our health, and that we have a responsibility to fight it.

Our nation’s major environmental laws were passed in the early 1970s, but they too were a struggle, with many critics claiming they would kill the economy.

Now, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, hindsight helps us appreciate where these years of struggle have led. As I got older, I came to understand that any problem worth tackling is difficult in the moment—but that we should do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Civil rights and environmental protection were hard-won out of the same desire for a stronger, more equal America. Both have transformed our nation for the better. Today, the air in Los Angeles is breathable. Fish swim again in Ohio’s Cuyahoga River. And despite the naysayers, the U.S. has cut air pollution 70 percent since 1970, while GDP has tripled.

But there’s still more work to do.

We have less pollution than we did in decades past, but the benefits of our collective cleanup are still unequal. Poor and underserved communities are still unfairly impacted by pollution—leading to illness and missed days of school and work that disadvantaged families can’t afford. Whether it’s smog that causes asthma, toxic chemicals that foul our water, or carbon pollution that fuels climate change, our job is to right that wrong.

That’s where civil rights and environmental protection converge today, and it’s why EPA’s commitment to environmental justice is so important. This summer, our country took a huge step forward. Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic, currently, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source. Under President Obama’s direction, the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants 30 percent by 2030. At the same time, we’ll cut other dangerous pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.

During this 50th anniversary year of the Civil Rights Act, we must recommit to justice in all its forms, and for us at EPA, this means making sure everyone has equal access to the benefits of our work, regardless of who they are or where they come from. I know our team is up to the task.

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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Service to America

By Bob Perciasepe

The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—to safeguard the natural environment and protect human health—is one that I find easy to embrace. And as you might expect in a workplace like EPA, I’m not alone.

Everyday (and sometimes late into the evenings), I’m surrounded by colleagues who have devoted themselves to public service in pursuit of clean air, safe and sustainable water, vibrant ecosystems, and healthy communities.

And even in that atmosphere, there are still a handful of individuals who manage to inspire us all: true leaders who blaze career paths marked by sustained achievement and tireless advocacy on behalf of the American people.

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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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Along the Road to Sustainability

By Bob Perciasepe

Technology and open access to data and tools have ended the excruciating choice that generations of unsure car travelers have sometimes faced: forge ahead just a few more miles, or stop and ask for directions? Such stress has largely faded with the advent of dashboard-mounted, satellite-enabled navigation systems and readily available smartphone applications.

Getting to your desired destination is always easier when you have the right information at your disposal. That’s why today I’m excited to announce that EPA has released a tool to help environmental decision makers and local communities navigate toward a more sustainable future: EnviroAtlas.

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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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Champions of Change in a Changing Climate

I was honored to be part of the Champions of Change event “Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders” at the White House where I was able to speak to local leaders across the country who are helping get our kids outdoors. For me, personally, the event ignited my passion for engaging the next generation of leaders who embrace our country’s vast natural resources.  We must continue to remember that our resources are finite and our natural spaces are precious. And that we are morally obligated to ensure our children can enjoy the same clean spaces that we do today.

I was truly inspired by the 14 local leaders at this event. These people  have led Antarctic expeditions, offered wilderness treks in the American West, taught ocean stewardship on the East Coast and so much more…this group of awardees is incredible. More

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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Net Zero Strategies: Partnering to Promote Sustainability

Bob P RTP 1

Deputy Administrator Perciasepe tours the solar roof of EPA’s current Research Triangle Park building with U.S. Representative David Price, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack, Stan Meiburg, and EPA employees Pete Schubert, Greg Eades, and Liz Deloatch.

 

How can communities reduce their water, waste, and energy footprints? How can they promote sustainable strategies at the local level while simultaneously fostering economic growth and promoting citizen health and well-being? I was recently given the opportunity to consider these questions alongside EPA scientists and community leaders and while observing cutting edge sustainability work.

This week, EPA scientists and community leaders from across the country came together at the Feb. 25-26 workshop “Promoting Sustainability through Net Zero Strategies.”   More

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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Clearing the Air: EPA Secondhand Smoke Research Making a Difference

Today, no-smoking policies have become so widespread that we hardly think twice when we’re enjoying a meal at a restaurant in a smoke-free environment.

Millions of Americans benefit from these policies, which have significantly reduced exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in public spaces. A few recent studies show us that further reducing exposure can save the U.S. $10 billion annually in healthcare costs and wages lost to sick leave.

Secondhand smoke, passive smoking, side stream smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) all refer to the same thing: the smoke exhaled by a smoker or given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar.  Whatever you call it, thanks to EPA scientists we know that exposure to such smoke threatens our health—and is especially risky for those most vulnerable like older Americans and our kids.

Through their research, our scientists released a landmark health assessment in 1992, The Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders, that found that secondhand smoke leads to serious health complications, and even premature death. The assessment concluded that infants and young children were especially sensitive to secondhand smoke exposure, leading to more respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, harming lower lung function, and worsening symptoms of asthma.

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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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Braving the Weather to Promote Green Infrastructure in Philadelphia

CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe in snow storm in Philadelphia following STAR grant announcement

CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe in snow storm in Philadelphia following STAR grant announcement

 

Yesterday, I was up in Philadelphia joined by CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and Mayor Nutter to announce nearly $5 million in EPA grants made possible through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. These investments are going to five universities, and aim to fill gaps in research evaluating the costs and benefits of certain green infrastructure practices.

The projects to be invested in, led by Temple University, Villanova University, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania and University of New Hampshire, will explore the financial and social costs and benefits associated with green infrastructure as a stormwater and wet weather pollution management tool.

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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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Big Improvements in Little Rock

Little Rock philanthropist Anita Davis discusses her efforts to revitalize the downtown with senior officials and staff from EPA, HUD, DOT, and USDA. Photo courtesy of the city of Little Rock.

Little Rock philanthropist Anita Davis discusses her efforts to revitalize the downtown with senior officials and staff from EPA, HUD, DOT, and USDA. Photo courtesy of the city of Little Rock.

This Monday and Tuesday, I spent time with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and Department of Transportation (DOT) Acting Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Beth Osborne touring ongoing redevelopment efforts in Little Rock, Arkansas. Through the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities, each of our agencies has invested in Little Rock. Our tour gave us the chance to see how these investments are making a real difference.

In 2011, our Greening America’s Capitals program provided support to help the city envision improvements to the Main Street corridor downtown. With additional support from Clean Water Act funds, the city starting putting in place some of the green infrastructure improvement ideas born from that workshop.

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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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The Value of Citizen Science

Some time ago, observers and scientists noticing declining bird populations began to worry. One of those concerned was ornithologist Frank Chapman—an officer at the Audubon Society—who proposed something he thought would help: a new holiday tradition he called a “Christmas Bird Census.” That was in the year 1900.

For more than a hundred years, moms, dads, sons, and daughters have braved the elements and traveled to nearby conservation land or refuges and eagerly watched backyard feeders to participate in the Christmas Bird Count—and to contribute to conservation. To this day, the data collected by these citizen scientists inform researchers of the health of bird populations.

Citizen science isn’t a fresh idea. It’s tried and proven, and we’ve been at it for generations. But times have changed. Cell phones are equipped with high-resolution cameras. Low-cost sensors and GPS are readily available. And the internet sits at our fingertips in an increasingly interconnected world. These technologies have widened the boundaries and increased the value of citizen science in the 21st century.

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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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Jack Johnson Joins EPA in Celebrating America Recycles Day at #WeRecycle

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and musician Jack Johnson

EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and musician Jack Johnson

 

Some of you may not know this, but before focusing on music, award-winning artist Jack Johnson was a professional surfer. He credits his Hawaiian upbringing and connecting with nature as motivations for why he teaches kids about sustainability, whether he’s on tour or just at home.  And it’s why he’s joining me to commemorate America Recycles Day this year.

Through the work of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, Jack serves his community through supporting waste reduction, recycling, and other sustainable practices at local schools. He believes teaching kids the source of the products they use and the food they eat strengthens their connection with nature, improves their overall health, and teaches them to use energy more efficiently.

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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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.