Posts by Gina McCarthy:

Serving our Environment, Serving food

Administrator Gina McCarthy prepares food at Miriam's Kitchen By Gina McCarthy

Today, in communities across the country, Americans are joining together to honor the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a day of national service and volunteering.

At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we know that serving people and serving our environment go hand in hand – especially when it comes to the food we eat.

Some 48 million Americans, including 15 million kids, are struggling with hunger right now. At the same time, nearly a third of all the food we produce here in the United States goes to waste – ending up in landfills where it can harm our environment.

About 95 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. And once it makes its way to a landfill, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. We can do better.

Businesses and communities across America are taking innovative steps to address the food waste challenge – and they’re saving money, helping the environment, and feeding hungry people in the process. As pillars of their communities, faith groups are also playing a leading role in taking action to reduce food waste, serving vulnerable people, and being good stewards of the environment at the same time.

At EPA, we want to empower communities to do even more. That’s why today we’re launching the Food Steward’s Pledge – a commitment specifically designed for faith-based groups and leaders. By signing the pledge, food stewards publicly commit to helping reduce food waste in their communities and will receive an EPA toolkit that includes specific tips, methods, and strategies to make a real difference.

The toolkit include steps that people can take right in their own homes, like: shop your refrigerator Administrator Gina McCarthy prepares food in Miriam's Kitchenfirst, before purchasing more – to save money and make the most of foods you already have; plan your menu before you go to the grocery store – to avoid overbuying; and freeze excess fruits and vegetables – to help extend the life of your produce. You can check out the pledge and more tips here.

Today, to honor Dr. King, our national day of service, and EPA’s commitment to cutting food waste, I was proud to visit Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, DC, where extraordinary work is being done to make the most of nutritious food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The soup kitchen, which is housed in the basement of Western Presbyterian Church, “gleans” healthy foods that would have been tossed in the trash and uses them to build nutritious meals for DC’s hungry population. Gleaned foods can be anything from extra boxes of produce that a grocery store ordered by mistake, to unsold items left at the end of a sales day at a local farmers’ market, to autumn gourds that were used as seasonal decorations, but are still perfectly healthy to eat.

Miriam’s Kitchen is an essential resource for the DC community, serving two meals a day every weekday, all year round. And as I saw firsthand this morning, the meals served are healthy, creative, and delicious.
Top chefs from leading area restaurants now work at the Kitchen full time, where they craft inventive, nutritious meals using gleaned foods. With the right preparation and planning, these meals can be as delicious as a selection off a 5-star menu.

Today’s meal? Roasted pumpkin and apple salad. The source? 700 lbs of leftover decorative gourds donated by local DC residents. Check out the recipe at the bottom of this post to try it at home.

Miriam’s Kitchen is an example of the power of communities working together to make a difference. Local businesses and grocery stores provide a steady stream of resources to be gleaned, the faith community provides leadership and organization to keep the Kitchen running, and local residents step up by donating food and volunteering their time.

On our national day of service, and every day, I encourage all Americans to think about ways to make the most out of your food – it’s a service to your environment and to hungry people in your community.

*****

Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Salad

Serves 2 as an entree, 6 as a side

1 sugar pumpkin, recovered from grocery store

1 T olive oil

2 apples, purchased as seconds from farmer’s market

4 stalks celery, left over from another recipe, tops reserved

1 head romaine, wilted leaves composted

4 oz crumbled blue cheese, from leftover samples at store or market

2 lemons, recovered from grocery store

2 T fresh sage, gleaned from community garden

1 t salt

1/2 t ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Peel, seed, and cut pumpkin into 1″cubes; reserve seeds for roasting, compost peels
  • Toss pumpkin in 1 T olive oil, place on lined baking sheet
  • Roast for 15-18 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown
  • Let cool to room temperature
  • Seed apple and cut into 1/4″ slices; compost seeds and core
  • Slice celery into 1/4″ slices
  • Cut romaine into 1/2″ slices
  • Combine all vegetables and blue cheese crumbles into large mixing bowl
  • In separate bowl, add lemon juice, sage, salt, pepper, and chopped, reserved celery tops; whisk together
  • Whisking constantly, drizzle olive oil into the bowl
  • Toss vegetables in dressing
  • Enjoy immediately

 

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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In 2016, We’re Hitting the Ground Running

By Gina McCarthy

Heading into 2016, EPA is building on a monumental year for climate action—and we’re not slowing down in the year ahead. Last August, President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan, EPA’s historic rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest driver of climate change. Then in Paris last month, nearly 200 countries came together for the first time ever to announce a universal agreement to act on climate.

So we’re hitting the ground running. Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledge to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius at most, and pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Science tells us these levels will help prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, including more frequent and extreme droughts, storms, fires, and floods, as well as catastrophic sea level rise. This agreement applies to all countries, sets meaningful accountability and reporting requirements, and brings countries back to the table every five years to grow their commitments as markets change and technologies improve. It also provides financing mechanisms so developing economies can move forward using clean energy.

This year, we’ll build on these successes to ensure lasting climate action that protects Americans’ health, economic opportunity, and national security. EPA staff will provide their technical leadership to ensure consistent, transparent greenhouse gas reporting and inventory requirements under the Paris Agreement. Our domestic expertise in air quality monitoring and greenhouse gas inventories will help countries make sure they’re meeting their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Similarly, we’ll use our expertise to identify and evaluate substitutes in the U.S. to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another potent climate pollutant. This work domestically will help us lead global efforts to finalize a requirement in 2016 for countries to reduce production and use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

We will finalize a proposal to improve fuel economy and cut carbon pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, which could avoid a billion metric tons of carbon pollution and save 75 billion gallons of fuel by 2027. We’ll also finalize rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations—which could avoid up to 400,000 metric tons of a climate pollutant 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide by 2025. Meanwhile, we’re doubling the distance our cars go on a gallon of gas by 2025.

In 2016, EPA will defend and implement the Clean Power Plan by working closely with states and stakeholders to help them create strong plans to reduce their carbon pollution. We wrote this plan with unprecedented stakeholder input, including hundreds of meetings across the country and 4.3 million public comments. The result is a rule that’s ambitious but achievable, and falls squarely within the four corners of the Clean Air Act, a statute we have been successfully implementing for 45 years. We’re confident the Clean Power Plan will stand the test of time—the Supreme Court has ruled three times that EPA has not only the authority but the obligation to limit harmful carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Just as importantly, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan are helping mobilize private capital all over the world toward low-carbon investments. The U.S. has sent a clear signal that a low-carbon future is inevitable, and that the market will reward those who develop low-carbon technologies and make their assets resistant to climate impacts. That’s why 154 of the largest U.S. companies, representing 11 million jobs and more than seven trillion dollars in market capitalization, have signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Companies like Walmart, AT&T, Facebook, and Coca-Cola recognize that climate impacts threaten their operations, while investing in a low-carbon future is an unprecedented business opportunity.

Americans know climate action is critical—they’re seeing its impacts with their own eyes. Hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and storms are growing more frequent and extreme. Streets in cities like Miami now flood on sunny days due to sea level rise. Climate change is a moral issue, a health issue, and a jobs issue—and that’s why the strong majority of Americans want the federal government to do something about it, and support the strong outcome in Paris.

We’ve got a lot more work to do, and we’re not slowing down. Over the past year, we’ve seen remarkable climate achievements that once seemed impossible—and that’s thanks to President Obama’s leadership. His climate legacy is already impressive, but we will build on it in 2016 by continuing to protect health and opportunity for all Americans. At EPA, we’ve got our sleeves rolled up.

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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Global Climate Action at COP-21

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

This week, I’m proud to be in Paris, where the United States and countries around the world are working toward an ambitious global climate agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties, also known as COP-21.

Since day one in office, President Obama has recognized that climate change is not just an environmental concern. It’s an urgent matter of public health, our economy, and our security.

And we were reminded by Pope Francis earlier this year that acting on climate isn’t just the smart thing to do, it’s our moral responsibility—for the sake of the world’s poor and vulnerable, and on behalf of our kids and grandkids.

That’s why the work going on here Paris—where hundreds of the world’s nations are coming together and collaborating on a path forward—is so important. The global community has never before been so close to consensus on this issue. A historic agreement is at our fingertips.

Today at the State Department’s U.S. Center at COP-21, I spoke about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) role in this international effort, and how EPA is delivering on President Obama’s climate agenda.

Over the past 7 years, The U.S. has taken a series of ambitious actions to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change, and demonstrate that the U.S. is fulfilling our responsibility to act. All told, the steps we’ve taken under President Obama’s leadership will help the United States reach our national goal of cutting carbon pollution 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Whether it’s the Department of Agriculture’s “Climate Smart Agriculture” initiative to cut carbon pollution by over 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2025, or the several dozen utility-scale renewable energy projects that the Department of Interior has permitted on public lands, or NASA’s cutting-edge scientific efforts to monitor Earth-system changes. The list goes on and on.

A centerpiece of U.S. efforts is EPA’s Clean Power Plan, our historic rule to cut carbon pollution from the power sector, the largest source in the U.S. economy. Our plan puts the United States on track to slash carbon pollution 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And the cuts to smog and soot that come along with these reductions will lead to major health benefits for kids and families.

And EPA is taking a host of additional steps to push our progress even further. We’re doubling the distance our nation’s cars go on a gallon of gas by 2025. We’ve taken four separate actions to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. We’re acting on climate-damaging Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), domestically, internationally, and through voluntary programs with industry. We set standards for medium-and heavy-duty vehicles and are now going even further with a proposal that will reduce 1 billion tons of emissions.

I’m confident these actions will stand the test of time. Why? Because EPA has a 45-year legacy of finding lasting solutions to difficult environmental problems. In that time, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent while our nation’s economy has tripled.
In the U.S., we’re already seeing clean-energy innovations being rewarded. Today, the U.S. uses 3 times more wind power, and 20 times more solar than when President Obama first took office. Jobs in the solar industry are growing faster than in any other sector of our economy—good-paying jobs that grow opportunity in the communities that need it most. Our actions under President Obama’s leadership build on that trajectory.

And we’ve seen time and again the American people are ready to act on climate now. We heard from millions of people on our initial proposal for the Clean Power Plan. We heard from states, utility companies, environmental organizations, and communities across our country. What we heard is that people want to stop talking and start doing. In poll after poll, a majority of Americans say they want climate action. That’s how we know our actions will endure.

But we also know that no country can solve this challenge alone.

That’s why I’m so encouraged by the ambitious commitments we’re seeing from nations around the world. Heading into the COP-21, 180 countries, representing more than 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions already submitted national plans to reduce their emissions. That’s big.

Here in Paris, our collective efforts are finally aligning. Now is our time.

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, it’s time to come together and do what’s necessary to protect our common home.

Stay up-to-date on U.S. Center events here, and follow my trip on Twitter @GinaEPA.

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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45 Years of Fulfilling our Mission

By Gina McCarthy

Just two weeks after the EPA was established in 1970, our first-ever Administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, issued a statement calling the birth of our agency the start of America’s “reclaiming the purity of its air, its water, and its living environment.”

Just last week, 45 years later – nearly to the day – President Obama honored Ruckelshaus with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his tireless work to get our agency up and running, protect public health, and combat global challenges like climate change.

In bestowing the award, President Obama said, “Bill set a powerful precedent that protecting our environment is something we must come together and do as a country.”

Each day, when I come to work and walk the halls at EPA, I feel proud that our agency is continuing to build on Bill’s legacy.

Later this week, I will join the US delegation to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, where our agency will play a central role in negotiations that could mark a historic turning point to protect our planet for generations to come. I’m confident that the US can get the job done.

Ruckelshaus’ well-deserved honor is a reminder of the amazing progress we’ve made as an agency in just four and a half decades. We have evolved into a world-class model of environmental protection under the law.

We’ve come so far together. Fifty years ago, we pumped toxic leaded-gas into our cars; people smoked on airplanes; and residents of cities like Los Angeles could barely see each other across the street.

Today, EPA’s work has changed all of that – and more. We’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent; we’ve phased out leaded-gasoline; we’ve removed the acid from rain, we’ve helped clear the air of second-hand smoke; and we’ve cleaned up beaches and waterways, all while our economy has tripled.

Throughout it all, EPA has embodied the concept of participatory government. We’ve engaged states, communities, industry partners, and the public. We’ve listened to the needs of people on the ground, and we’ve worked transparently, hand in hand with citizens and families to protect their health, their communities, and their ability to earn a decent living. That’s something to be proud of.

At every step of the way, we’ve followed the science and the law to tackle immensely difficult challenges. And that work is continuing every day.

I thank and congratulate everyone who has played a part in building EPA’s legacy.

Here’s to working together to fulfill our mission for another 45 years!

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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Celebrating Two Legendary Environmental Champions

By Gina McCarthy

Today, President Obama named this year’s recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. I am thrilled and proud that two environmental champions—William Ruckelshaus and Billy Frank, Jr.—are among the seventeen honorees.

William Ruckelshaus

William Ruckelshaus

William Ruckelshaus was the first Administrator of the EPA, appointed by President Nixon when the agency was created in 1970. He compiled an astonishing list of accomplishments in three short years: banning the dangerous pesticide DDT; setting the first air quality standards to protect public health under the fledgling Clean Air Act; establishing standards for cleaner cars and lead-free gasoline; building an environmental law-enforcement program with teeth; creating clean-water-permit requirements for cities and industries; and building a foundation for so many of the environmental protections we now take for granted.

During the 1960s, smog in many cities had become deadly and rivers were so polluted they caught on fire. Ruckelshaus helped set the nation on a new path to protect and preserve our environment, and in turn, our health. And he established a set of core values that still drive this agency today: respecting the law, following the science, and operating openly and transparently.

In 1973, he was tapped to serve as Acting FBI Director, and soon after as Deputy Attorney General—a position which spanned the Watergate crisis and from which he resigned as a matter of integrity and principle. In 1983, Ruckelshaus returned to EPA for a second stint in which he launched our Superfund program—initiating clean-up of thousands of contaminated sites across America. He also started work on Chesapeake Bay protections, and set the agency on a course to address the challenge of acid rain.

Ruckelshaus is remembered at EPA for his integrity and his commitment to protecting public health and the environment. Today, he continues to advance his legacy of collaborative problem solving on tough environmental issues at the University of Washington and Washington State University.

Billy Frank Jr. - Photo: Washington LSS

Billy Frank Jr. – Photo: Washington LSS

Similarly, Billy Frank, Jr., a Nisqually tribal member, was a tireless advocate for environmental stewardship and Indian treaty rights, which we continue to work on today. Frank’s work on tribal management of salmon resources helped paved the way for the 1974 “Boldt decision.” This was a hugely important legal precedent requiring the federal government to honor tribal treaty rights.

During the tribal Fish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, when activists from dozens of Northwest tribes demanded that the treaties their ancestors signed with white settlers be honored, Frank led “fish-ins,” modeled after the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. His magnetic personality and tireless advocacy over more than five decades made him a revered figure both domestically and abroad.

Frank chaired the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for more than 30 years, supporting natural resource management among the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington. Upon his death in 2014, the Nisqually tribe stated, “Billy dedicated his life to protecting our traditional way of life and our salmon for more than 60 years.” Washington governor Jay Inslee wrote, “Billy was a champion of tribal rights of the salmon, and the environment. He did that even when it meant putting himself in physical danger or facing jail.”

Frank was the recipient of many awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award for Humanitarian Achievement. Frank left an Indian Country strengthened by greater sovereignty and a nation fortified by his example of service to one’s community, his humility, and his dedication to the principles of human rights and environmental sustainability.

I am proud that one of our nation’s most extraordinary public servants and one of its most extraordinary environmental advocates are receiving this high honor. Americans today are healthier, the environment is safer, and tribal treaty rights are intact thanks to the tireless efforts of these two leaders. Please join me in congratulating Bill Ruckelshaus and the family of Billy Frank, Jr.

 

 

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Women Businesses-Owners Lead the Way with Safer Products

By Gina McCarthy

Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Administrator Jim Jones with women owners of businesses that manufacture Safer Choice products.

Elisa Cuan immigrated to the United States from Peru at the age of 16. After battling allergies for many years, she set out to learn more about the science behind air quality and allergens. She vowed to help prevent others from suffering the way she had.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne Auer, a registered nurse, saw first-hand that cleaning measures are essential to protecting medical staff and patients. She wanted to make sure that the products being used to keep people healthy weren’t also causing damage.

Today, both women are CEOs. And they both run companies that carry products with EPA’s Safer Choice label.

Last Friday, I sat down with Elisa from JOSELI LLC, Mary Anne from Wexford Labs, Inc. and other women CEOs and senior managers from Earth Friendly Products, Grignard Company LLC, Case Medical, Sun Products, Jelmar, LLC, Osprey Biotechnics, and State Industrial Products.

All of these companies voluntarily participate in EPA’s Safer Choice Program. And all of them are run by women. In fact, women-owned and women-run businesses were incredibly well represented at this year’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards, which recognizes achievements in the design, manufacture, and promotion of Safer Choice products into the marketplace.

During Friday’s discussion, I heard from many of this year’s awardees about opportunities for innovation, barriers to progress, and ways that women-owned businesses can play a leading role in the shift toward safer products.

Safer Choice is about empowering parents and families to choose household products that use safer ingredients. Whether its kitchen & bath cleaners, carpet cleaners, or laundry detergents – when consumers see the Safer Choice label, they can feel good about the products being used around their kids, grandkids, and pets.

That’s because Safer Choice products are backed by rigorous EPA science. Our experts use a stringent set of health and environmental safety standards to review products for the program. So when consumers see the label, they know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.

After meeting Mary Anne and Elisa and other women leaders on Friday, it was crystal clear that these women aren’t just health-conscious, they’re also business-savvy.

They know that safer products aren’t just healthier for people, and better for the environment, they’re also profitable. They recognize that using safer chemicals creates competition. It promotes consumer choice. It brings newer, better products to market that people want to buy.

Innovation in safer products presents an incredible business opportunity, and the CEOs I met with on Friday are seizing it. They are some of the best and brightest minds in product innovation – and they also happen to be fearless females.

At Wexford Labs, Mary Anne leads the development of disinfectants and antimicrobials that can keep people healthy and safe at the same time. Two of Wexford Labs products are Safer Choice certified.

At Joseli LLC, Elisa helped develop and introduce a dust-control product to the global marketplace that is Safer-Choice certified. All of the green technology solutions developed by her company are 100% biodegradable.

Elisa and Mary Anne are just two examples of a trend toward the use of products that are health- and Earth-friendly. Today, more than 2,000 products qualify to carry the Safer Choice label. And the list is growing.

Coincidence or not, many of those leading the way are women.

I’ve been in the business of protecting public health and the environment for more than three decades. Today, many more women have visible leadership roles in this arena – whether it’s in government, academia, or the private sector. But we have a long way to go.

Friday’s conversation left me more optimistic than ever. And I can’t wait to see what comes next.


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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Working Together to Implement the Clean Power Plan

By Gina McCarthy

This summer, EPA issued our historic Clean Power Plan, one of the largest steps America has ever taken to combat climate change and protect future generations. The Plan puts the U.S. on track to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants – our nation’s biggest single contributor to climate change.

Because greenhouse gas pollution threatens public health and welfare, EPA is using its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate sources of these pollutants, including in the power sector. Along with the many other actions we’re taking under President Obama’s leadership, the Clean Power Plan will translate to major health benefits and cost savings for American families.

The Clean Power Plan is grounded firmly in science and the law. Science clearly shows that carbon dioxide fuels a changing climate, which in turn poses threats to our health and to the environment that sustains us all. The Plan is fully consistent with the Clean Air Act, and relies on the same time-tested state-federal partnership that, since 1970, has reduced harmful air pollution by 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has tripled.

What makes the Plan so effective is that it reflects the voices of those who are closest to the issues on the ground. Extensive input from states, industry representatives, energy regulators, health and environmental groups, and individual members of the public helped us get to a plan that we know works for everyone.  In fact, we considered over 4.3 million comments received in response to our initial proposal.

And we listened.

It was feedback from utilities that made sure our plan mirrors how electricity moves around the grid, so that we could open up opportunities. It was input from states that made sure we set fair and consistent standards across the country. And it was comments from many folks that told us that we needed to extend the timeframe for mandatory cuts by two years, until 2022. States and utilities told us they needed more time, and we listened.

As a result of this unprecedented amount of outreach, the Plan is fair, flexible, affordable, and designed to reflect the fast-growing trend toward cleaner American energy.

With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability, and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix.

But our engagement hasn’t stopped with the signing of the rule. Since issuing the Clean Power Plan in August, we’ve reached out to all 50 states, making sure every state has multiple opportunities to hear from us and to ask questions.

We’ve also held dozens in-person meetings and calls with states, tribes, communities, industry representatives, and elected officials, and we’ve held or participated in a number of widely-attended conferences about the Plan.

Staff at each of EPA’s 10 regional offices and our headquarters have responded to hundreds of questions about the final rule, and questions continue to come in through meetings, our website, and other venues.

We’ve seen firsthand that when diverse voices are brought to the table, environmental protection works. For nearly 45 years, our interactions and engagement with states and stakeholders has resulted in tremendous progress to cut down air pollution and protect Americans’ health – including tangible benefits for communities, families, and kids.

We are committed to helping everyone better understand the Clean Power Plan and have been impressed – but certainly not surprised – by the remarkable level of constructive engagement across the board. Conversations are happening across the country. And we’re encouraged to see that many states are beginning their own planning processes because that means they’re preparing to take action.

We have every interest in helping states succeed, and every confidence that the Clean Power Plan provides states the options, time and flexibility to develop plans that meet their unique needs and goals.

We look forward to continuing our work with states, the energy sector, and many other groups to follow the science, implement the law, and build a healthy future for our kids and grandkids – together.

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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Collaborating with the Private-Sector to Reduce HFCs

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Yesterday, I met with dozens of private-sector leaders who are committed to reducing the use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and are working at the leading edge of innovations to get the job done.

HFCs are a potent greenhouse gases often found in air conditioning, insulation, and refrigerants. They can be hundreds to thousands of times more damaging to our climate system than carbon dioxide. That’s why curbing their use and emissions is a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

And it was the subject of a vibrant roundtable discussion at the White House yesterday, where I and colleagues from across the Administration had a chance to hear from business leaders who are stepping to the plate and committing to reduce HFCs.

Administrator Gina McCarthy looks a vending machine that emits less HFCs than conventional models at a technology showcase.

There is tremendous leadership and innovation in American business, all up and down the value chain—from deploying new, safer chemicals all the way to the freezer in your local grocery store.

In 2014, more than 20 business leaders shared their plans to reduce HFC use and emissions. Today, we heard from many of these and other businesses – large and small – about the progress they’ve made and new, ambitious steps they’re taking. The discussion was inspiring to say the least.

Lapolla, a small spray-foam-insulation company, announced that it has completed a transition of all foam operations to climate-friendly alternatives ahead of schedule. And the large American retailer Target announced that a class of new stand-alone coolers in its stores will be HFC-free and it will expand the use of carbon dioxide refrigeration systems to replace HFCs in new stores.

Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz talk to presenters at a technology showcase.

These and so many other private-sector commitments that launched today go hand-in-hand with the regulatory steps we’re taking here at EPA.

Over the past year, we’ve completed four separate actions under our Significant New Alternatives Policy—or “SNAP”—program that both expand the list of safer alternatives and prohibit HFCs from certain uses where safer alternatives are available.

We estimate that this will avoid up to 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025, equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from the annual energy use of more than 5.8 million homes.

And just yesterday I signed a proposed rule that will reduce HFC emissions by streamlining and applying the same refrigerant management provisions to both ozone-depleting substances and HFCs. I also announced that under our SNAP program we will continue to both expand and look back at our list of alternatives. We plan to propose additional changes that will ‘right size’ the SNAP list during the first half of 2016.

At EPA, we’ve taken significant domestic actions to change our mix of refrigerants here at home, and are working to amend the international Montreal Protocol agreement to first freeze, and later phase-down HFCs globally.

To cap off a great day of climate action against HFCs, I joined Secretary Moniz at the Department of Energy yesterday afternoon to tour a display of private-sector products that use safer alternatives to high global warming potential HFCs.

We saw Ingersoll Rand’s new air conditioning equipment, a prototype medical freezer from Thermo Fisher Scientific, and a host of other innovative products that promise to help smooth America’s transition away from high-global-warming-potential HFCs while improving energy efficiency at the same time.

For the United States, today was a great day of climate action to cut back on HFCs. Next month, I look forward to welcoming an international agreement that will do the same globally.

 

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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Unleashing Innovation for a Clean Energy Economy

By Gina McCarthy

One of America’s greatest assets is the ingenuity of its people. President Obama has been driving that theme home since the beginning of his Administration. At EPA, we’ve seen time and again that by unleashing homegrown American innovation, we can bring about big wins for both the environment and the economy.

Just look at renewable energy – today the U.S. generates three times as much wind power, and 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system in the U.S. has dropped by half. At the same time, the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy.

Photo of windmills with a blue sky.

And look at the auto industry – we’ve set historic fuel efficiency standards that promise to send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade—a move that will reduce pollution and save families money at the pump at the same time. Today, every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles. And since 2009, the American auto industry added more than 250,000 jobs.

These are wins all around. That’s why states, communities, and leading private sector companies are investing in clean energy innovation. Because it’s is good for the environment and it’s good for business. There are countless state-based projects already underway to reduce energy waste, boost efficiencies, and vastly increase the amount of energy solar panels can produce from the sun.

We’re already seeing tremendous progress across the country – including the development of smart, low-cost technologies that help households save on their energy bills. On this front, the state of Illinois is moving ahead at full speed.

Photograph of Administrator Gina McCarthy speaking at a podium.

Just last week, I was proud to join officials from the City of Chicago, utility companies, citizen groups, and two energy-technology companies – Nest and Ecobee – as they announced a major new initiative to get one million “smart” thermostats into northern Illinois homes by the year 2020.

The innovative partnership offers rebates that will nearly halve the cost of thermostats that allow residents to control the temperature of their homes via mobile device. And the technology is “smart” because it adapts to user behaviors over time. The new program is bringing together utilities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, private companies, and the state commerce chamber – all working together toward an ambitious energy efficiency goal.

The one-million smart thermostats effort is a prime example of the power of innovation and partnerships in solving tough problems. Because when we bring diverse skills, perspectives, and expertise to the table, we get creative solutions. The Illinois program will bring efficiencies that move the needle against climate change and it will help consumers’ savings on their energy bills at the same time. That’s a win-win.

And it’s precisely the kind innovative thinking that states across the country are using to help meet the requirements laid out in EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which launched this past summer.

The Plan puts the U.S. on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And when we cut carbon pollution, we also cut harmful smog- and soot-forming pollutants that come along with it.

We’ll start seeing health benefits in the near term, and by 2030, we’ll avoid thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school and work days.  In that same year, the average American family will see $85 a year in savings on their utility bills. That’s another win-win.

The bottom line is— America knows how to innovate, and solutions are already here. Technology and innovation are turning what used to be daunting challenges into real, profitable opportunities. The kinds of innovative thinking we’re seeing in Illinois and elsewhere are our best shot at seizing them.

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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Celebrating Sammie Winner Jacob Moss

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

I’m thrilled to announce that our EPA colleague Jacob Moss is the winner of one of this year’s prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the “Sammie” award. Sammies are awarded each year by the Partnership for Public Service to a small number of federal employees with impressive accomplishments. They’re a big deal, and while EPA has had fantastic nominees in the recent past, Jacob is EPA’s first winner in several years.

Jacob truly exemplifies the spirit of this Environment and Science Medal for his work spearheading a global initiative that seeks to eliminate the threat of toxic smoke from indoor cookstoves, one of the deadliest threats facing billions of people across the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to smoke from cooking fires is the developing world’s fourth worst health risk, responsible for an estimated 4.3 million premature deaths every year.

In 2010, Jacob was a driving force behind the development of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a partnership led by the United Nations Foundation with 10 U.S. federal agencies and more than 1,300 partners across the globe. He has since coordinated U.S. government efforts under the Alliance, leading the development of an initial 5-year, $50 million commitment which has since grown to over $114 million. Under Jacob’s leadership, the United States announced last November additional anticipated support that could bring this investment up to $325 million by 2020.

In total, the partners in the Alliance have committed to investments of more than $500 million (beyond the U.S. investments) to meet a goal of improving 500 million lives in 100 million households by 2020. By reaching this 2020 goal, the Alliance estimates that this work will save 640,000 lives, create 2.1 million jobs, and offset 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2-equivalent. The Alliance’s partners are on target to meet this 2020 goal, and they have already reached 28 million homes with cleaner and more efficient cooking solutions.

Jacob’s first introduction to the environmental challenges associated with cookstoves came when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa in the late 1980s. He began his work on cookstoves at EPA in 2002 when he helped launch an international partnership to address this pollution. By 2007, through EPA’s Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, EPA efforts were helping hundreds of thousands of people. In 2010 the Global Alliance was formed.

Jacob’s work is an example of many years of dedication, resourcefulness, and tenacity that we can all be inspired by and proud of. The work being honored by this Sammie Medal not only serves this country, but countries and people around the world. This is work that saves lives. Congratulations on your achievement, Jacob, and from all of us at EPA, thank you for all you do.

ABOUT JACOB

Jacob grew up in Houston, Texas, went to college at Ithaca in New York state and then joined the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa.  Jacob started at EPA as a Senior Policy Analyst in 1999.  He lives in Washington, D.C. and likes to spend time with his daughter, play tennis, and travel. Jacob has additional experience with GE Capital Corporation, Clean Water Action, the Peace Corps, and IBM.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Cornell University and a Master of Public Policy degree from Princeton University.

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.