Jim Jones

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Greening the Federal Purchasing Machine – Leading By Example

By Jim Jones

Did you know that the Federal government is the single largest consumer in the world, spending close to $500 billion each year on a wide variety of products and services?

And did you know that in March the President issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to meet a goal of buying 100% environmentally preferable products and services? This can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint. It can also spur consumers and the private sector to use and demand safer and greener products.

Of course the big challenge for federal agencies is how to sort through the hundreds of products with private labels that claim to be safe or environmentally friendly.

Now it just got easier for federal agencies.

First, the Executive Order directs feds to buy products identified by EPA’s Safer Choice, EnergyStar, WaterSense, SNAP, and SmartWay programs, USDA’s BioPreferred, and DOE’s FEMP programs to meet their needs.

Second, we are evaluating current private eco-labels to help federal buyers sort through which ones are the most credible and environmentally-preferable. We are using our draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance to do this pilot. We’re focusing on standards and ecolabels for 1) furniture; 2) flooring; and 3) paints and coatings. The results will help us with evaluations of other product categories in the future. For more information on our pilot, see http://www.resolv.org/site-guidelines/.

And third, in the meantime, we’ve released interim recommendations of standards and ecolabels to help federal buyers green their purchases. These include standards and ecolabels for construction, adhesives, flooring, insulation, paint, wood, custodial products, electronics, grounds/landscaping materials, office supplies, operations, fleets, shipping and a whole host of other products and services. These sustainability standards and eco-labels have been researched and verified by GSA and DOE, and feds can use them to ensure their purchases perform well and are readily available in the market. So if you need paper towels, there are recycled content requirements, as well as a recommended private label for paper products. We plan to regularly update these recommendations as we implement our Guidelines for non-governmental ecolabels and standards.

All of these efforts will help reduce our environmental footprint, support manufacturers that produce environmentally preferable products, and stimulate supply of greener products and services across the globe. By purchasing environmentally preferable products and services, federal agencies are leading by example, and protecting our health and the environment — for generations to come.

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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Join the Fight against Childhood Lead Poisoning

By Jim Jones

Why is it so hard to prevent childhood lead poisoning? Lead paint was banned over 30 years ago, but lead poisoning continues to plague communities across the country. One thing that makes this problem so hard to solve is that millions of homes built before the lead paint ban in 1978 still contain lead paint. In fact, lead from paint, particularly lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.

Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes, which not only can change a person, but can significantly impact a community. Every individual exposed to lead could mean one less child going to college or one more violent crime next door.

Here at EPA we work hard every day to spread awareness about the dangers of lead, provide advice on preventing lead poisoning and enforce our Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which requires the use of lead-safe work practices during renovations in older homes. But we can’t do it alone.

The solution lies in everyone playing a role. We need state and local governments to ensure that communities with the greatest risk for lead poisoning become a priority for action. We also need help from community organizations and concerned citizens. Organizations need to help families find lead-safe housing. Teachers need to help educate our families. Individuals need to be aware in order to protect themselves and their families.

Wondering what you can do to prevent lead from ever affecting your kids, your grandchildren, or your best friend?

  • Get your home tested. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. Find a certified inspector or risk assessor to get your home checked for lead hazards.
  • Get your child tested. Find out if your child has elevated levels of lead in his or her blood. You can test your child for lead poisoning by asking your pediatrician to do a simple blood test.
  • Help spread the word about Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, happening now! Join our Twitter Townhall on October 28, 2015 at 2 pm EST by following @EPAlive and using the hashtag #LeadChat2015. We’ll be answering questions and providing tips on how to protect your family from lead poisoning.

The good news in this story is lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Everyone is responsible for preventing lead poisoning; we need all hands on deck!

Learn more about lead and get tips to protect your family.

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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What’s an ounce of prevention worth?

By Jim Jones

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s easier to prevent something bad from happening than to fix it after it’s already happened. For me this means stopping pollution before it starts, which is the core concept behind pollution prevention (P2) or sustainability.

Here’s a couple of real world examples of how costly it can be to clean up pollution after it’s already happened:

  • Effective P2 practices could have avoided hundreds of millions of dollars of PCB cleanup costs. PCBs are a hazardous chemical that can cause cancer and were banned in 1979. Cleanup of Hudson River PCB contamination alone has cost more than $500 million.
  • If we can take effective action to slow down the rate of climate change, we can save not billions but trillions of dollars over the coming decades.

From these examples I know that an ounce of prevention is worth millions of dollars in clean-up activities and countless environmental hazards. What many people may not know is that sustainable practices started out as P2. In 1990, the Pollution Prevention Act tasked EPA with establishing a grant program to teach state and local governments and businesses about the benefits of P2. Over time, businesses, colleges, and even sports teams have realized that with P2 they can achieve their corporate objectives and help save the environment, all while improving their bottom lines. From clean energy initiatives, like the Clean Power Plan, to programs that promote the user of safer chemicals, like Safer Choice, sustainability is now part of the fabric of institutions around the world.

This week is P2 Week, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act. During this week, and every week, I encourage you to find things you can do in your daily life to stop pollution before it starts. Whether it’s riding your bike instead of driving or reducing the amount of garbage you generate, you’ll be making choices that are better for you, your family and the environment. What’s an ounce of prevention worth to you?

Learn more about P2 Week and how you can prevent pollution.

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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American Innovators are Cracking the Code to Solve Environmental Problems

Two weeks ago, I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which is across the street from my office here at EPA. Its new American Enterprise exhibition in the museum’s recently opened Innovators wing is packed with breakthroughs of the last few centuries. From the light bulb to medical and farm devices to personal computers you’re struck by how creativity and ingenuity played a role in our country’s history and progress.

The same is proving to be true for environmental progress. American innovation is playing a pivotal role in helping us solve environmental issues such as climate change, limited water resources, waste and chemical safety, turning these problems into business opportunities and spurring investment.

Today we’re announcing the winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, another opportunity to celebrate the power of American innovation and entrepreneurs that bring these technologies to the marketplace.

Take a look at the 2015 innovative winning technologies and pictures from the award ceremony!

Developing Safer Floors, Wood Furniture and Foam Insulation. Hybrid Coating Technologies/Nanotech Industries (Daly City, California) developed a safer polyurethane that isn’t made with isocyanates, which causes skin and breathing problems and workplace asthma. Isocyanates have always been used in making polyurethane, most often a flexible plastic material used in many consumer products, and last year the U.S. produced 5.5 billion pounds of it. So, this is clearly a breakthrough technology. The technology is also reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and manufacturing costs and making the end products safer for people and the environment.

Producing Safer Additives for Car Lubricants and Gasoline. SOLTEX (Synthetic Oils and Lubricants of Texas, Houston, Texas) has developed a technology that, if widely used, could eliminate millions of gallons of wastewater per year and reduce the use of a hazardous chemical by 50 percent. The technology has the potential to improve the production of other products such as caulks, adhesives, and personal care products.

Using Waste Gas to Create Products.
LanzaTech (Skokie, Illinois) is using waste gas from steel plants to create fuels and chemicals while reducing the carbon footprint. A facility captures and converts the gas, which would otherwise be emitted into the air, into a substance with commercial value. Two facilities already use the technology to produce 100,000 gallons per year of ethanol. This technology is an excellent example of creating valuable fuel from waste.

Creating Fuel from Algae
Algenol (Fort Myers, Florida) developed a blue-green algae that can be used to create valuable fuel. The technology combines sunlight with waste carbon dioxide from air or industrial emitters to create fuel while dramatically reducing costs, water usage, and carbon footprint. The ethanol and green crude produced are substitutes for petroleum-derived fuels and chemicals.

Using Consumer and Municipal Trash to Make Products. Renmatix (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) developed a cost-effective process using high temperature and high pressure water to break down woody biomass, plant material, and even some municipal waste into sugars to make plant-based chemicals and fuels. Production can be set up with whatever plant-based material is available. The production also can be set up anywhere, which makes the technology easy to replicate regionally and globally. The technology could significantly reduce dependence on petroleum-based chemicals and fuels.

Using Plants to Make Plastics, Chemicals and Fuels. Professor Eugene Chen of Colorado State University developed a process that uses plant-based materials in the production of renewable chemicals and liquid fuels. This new technology is waste-free and metal-free. It offers significant potential for the production of renewable chemicals, fuels, and bioplastics that can be used in a wide range of safer industrial and consumer products.

I am confident that these types of innovative technologies will be showcased in future exhibits highlighting American innovation. The winners have great scientific expertise and keen business sense. Their innovative technologies have the potential to be “game changers” to solve important environmental problems and show that we can innovate towards a sustainable economy.

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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Integrating Environmental Justice Into Our Work

We work to achieve our mission to protect public health and the environment in a myriad of ways by providing for grants to states, incentive programs, and technical assistance – but we also issue rules. And, because we’re committed to environmental justice, we want to ensure that our regulations serve all people, including those who are often the most impacted by environmental harm and public health concerns.

We’ve been integrating environmental justice into our rules for years. Today, we’re advancing our efforts by releasing our final Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of a Regulatory Action. Building on our July 2010 interim guidance, this is an essential resource that gives our rulemaking teams the tools, guidance and specific strategies they need to consider environmental justice. This final guidance helps us expand the scope and impact we have in American communities.


The guidance will also continue the commitment we’ve had to environmental justice since President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 directing federal agencies to address disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations. Over the past year, our rulemaking teams have been hard at work engaging communities, learning about the environmental impacts that affect them, and developing rules with these considerations in mind. Here are a few examples:

  • Earlier this year, we released our final Definition of Solid Waste Rule, which addresses the disproportionate impacts on minority and low-income populations from when hazardous materials are mismanaged and sent to recycling. We conducted a rigorous environmental justice analysis that examined the location of recycling facilities and their proximity and potential impact to adjacent residents. This process led to a final rule that encourages safe and legitimate recycling, and that gives communities a voice prior to recycling operations beginning.
  • In June of 2014, we proposed an updated rule to achieve further controls on toxic air emissions from petroleum refineries. In addition to evaluating the lessons learned from enforcement settlements, and data analysis from an extensive data collection effort, we conducted robust community engagement. This included community conference calls, webinars, trainings and public hearings to learn from those affected, and help them understand how the proposed rule could help. The proposed rule includes requirements that will benefit these communities, including emission controls for storage tanks, flares and coking units; higher combustion efficiency for flaring operations; and monitoring of air concentrations at the fenceline of refinery facilities.
  • In March of 2014, we published a proposed rule to revise the current Worker Protection Standard, designed to protect the nation’s two million farmworkers and their families from exposure to pesticides. It will afford farm workers similar health protections to those already enjoyed by workers in other jobs. In developing the proposed and final rules, we sought extensive input from the farmworker community. The final rule expected this fall will help protect farm workers and their families through better training, increased access to information, improved safety precautions, and modernized compliance standards.

These are just three examples – see more by reading our memo to EPA staff announcing the final guidance. We take seriously our obligation to lead on environmental justice, and to set an example for others. Administrator McCarthy has set the tone, and this final guidance supports her leadership. It’s another way we’re doing our part to fulfill the spirit of Executive Order 12898, and to protect our environment and every American’s fundamental right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and live on clean land.

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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Farmers Shift Towards Virtually Non-Toxic Alternatives for Pest Control

When you’ve had mosquitos in your yard, you might have lit a citronella candle, or you might have used some garlic oil to reduce the number of aphids in your garden. At some point we’ve all done something to reduce the number of pests in our environment. When their populations get out of control they can spread and cause disease, and destroy farmers’ crops.

There’s a whole range of what we call biological pesticides, or “biopesticides,” that are made of naturally occurring substances derived from animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and minerals – like citronella, garlic oil and acetic acid. The great news about biopesticides is that they are virtually non-toxic to people and the environment. They usually target specific pests, reducing risks to beneficial insects, birds and mammals. Even better, they’re becoming more common – and that means that safer alternatives to control pests are becoming more widely available.

Biopesticides have long been used in organic farming, but their use in conventional farming is growing now as well. We created a new division focused on raising the profile of biopesticides and helping them to get licensed. Our Biopesticides Division has registered more than 430 biological active ingredients and, in partnership with the USDA, awarded over 70 grants across the country to research biopesticides for specialty and minor crops. Our more efficient registration process for biopesticides helps keep up with demand. We’re helping agriculture to shift towards biopesticides, and minimizing risks to people and the environment.

The use of biopesticides in U.S. agriculture has more than quadrupled lately, going from 900,000 pounds of active ingredient applied in 2000 to 4.1 million pounds in 2012, the most recent year for which we have data. Nearly 18 million acres are being treated with biopesticides, producing crops that are better for people’s health and the planet. Many farmers use them as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs so they can rely less on higher-risk pesticides and effectively produce higher crop yields and quality with lower impact on the environment.

I’m thrilled to see a significant and steady increase in the registration of new biopesticide products as well as demand from farmers, growers, retailers and consumers. We have long been committed to encouraging the development and use of low-risk biopesticides as alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides, and our commitment and efforts will continue over time.

For more about our efforts with pesticides, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/.

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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Want Kids to Do Better in School? This Environmental Approach Can Help

Schools are busy places, with bustling schoolyards, kitchens full of lunchboxes and trays, and kids and adults who constantly come and go. These busy environments can sometimes have pest problems that need to be addressed – like flies, spiders, yellow jackets, roaches and ants, for example.

As a parent, I know how important it is to me that my kids and their classmates have a healthy environment to learn, thrive and grow. Unhealthy school environments – including poor air quality — can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration and performance. Pest exposure can also trigger asthma, which can cause kids to miss class and a chance to learn.


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 Across the Globe to Tackle Risks from Lead in Paint

It’s striking to me that children in developing countries still face serious health threats because lead continues to be legally used in paints in places where children live and play. Paints with concentrations as high as 10,000 ppm can be sold and used in homes and schools because there are no legal limits on lead. In addition, children may also be exposed to risks from lead in the air, soil and water in these countries. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

That’s why last month in New Delhi, India, we stood with our partners in the Global Alliance to End Lead Paint to work toward establishing legal limits on lead in decorative paint in other countries. We presented elements of U.S. legislation and coordinated technical expertise from the U.S. and countries around the world.

group picture of conference attendees

At home in the U.S., we already have in place federal and state regulatory standards that have helped minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in gas, air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and the workplace. Our health and environment has significantly improved with these restrictions and blood lead levels have declined. The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years dropped from 15 µg/dL in 1976-1980 to 1.2 µg/dL in 2009-2010.

However, our work is not done. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2009-2012 show an estimated 535,000 children (or 2.1 percent of children) in the U.S. have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter, levels known to put children’s academic and later life success at risk. Also, CDC’s blood lead surveillance data, collected from state and local health departments, continues to identify a disproportionate share of children with elevated blood comes from low income and minority communities. Finally, it is estimated that 37 million homes still contain lead-based paint.

Because there is no known safe blood lead level for children, EPA and other federal partners continue to work together to control or eliminate lead hazards before children are exposed. While we have made significant progress to reduce children’s exposure to lead, there is still more work to do.

Find out more about reducing risk from lead.

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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American Innovators Step in Again – This Time to Tackle Pesticide Spray Drift and Protect People and the Environment

When I am out in the field in rural farm communities it’s obvious to me that when pesticides drift it creates problems for everyone. Drift happens when pesticide application sprays and dusts move through the air and land where they’re not intended to be. Both farmers and neighbors want them landing on the crop rather than on nearby properties, streams, and wildlife.

American innovators are stepping in to solve the problem. For several years, EPA has worked with innovators from government to industry to academia to facilitate a viable approach to pesticide drift. These innovators are turning the drift problem into a business opportunity, spurring innovation.

We are now launching the Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program, which has the potential to reduce up to 90 percent of pesticide drift. The voluntary program encourages the manufacture, marketing and use of safer spray technologies and equipment (like low drift nozzles, spray shields and certain drift-reduction oils or other liquids that can be added to the pesticide spray tank), scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift.


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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Who Are This Year’s Innovators Tackling Climate Change and Promoting Energy Efficiency?

The 2014 winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards have done it again. These scientists are helping to crack the code and solve some of the most challenging problems facing our modern society. They are turning climate risk and other problems into a business opportunity, spurring innovation and investment. They are reducing waste – energy, chemicals and water waste – while cutting manufacturing costs, and sparking investments.
Take a look at some of this year’s promising innovations:

New Bus Fuel Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases by 82%. Making and burning this new fuel could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Amyris (in California) has engineered a yeast to make a renewable fuel replacement for petroleum diesel. Since carbon pollution increases our costs in health care and other impacts, this technology could save tens of thousands of dollars each year.

New LED Lighting Material Could Save you 36% on Energy Bills. If QD Vision, Inc’s (in Massachusetts) technology were used in just 10% of flat-screen TVs, we could save 600 million kilowatt-hours worldwide every year – enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes for one year! Even better, producing these materials avoids the need for about 40,000 gallons of solvents per year. This technology brings massive energy savings and is good for the planet, with reduced carbon emissions, heavy metals emissions, and less use of toxic chemicals.

New Safer Firefighting foam. This new foam doesn’t contain persistent toxic chemicals that can accumulate in our blood and that of animals. The Solberg Company (in Wisconsin) used surfactants and sugars that can fight fires more effectively than before. One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies will use it to fight fuel fires and spills. The product works better and is safer – a win-win for industry and for protecting our health and the environment.

Making Pills While Reducing Chemicals and Waste. The manufacturing process for pills can create toxic waste. Professor Shannon S. Stahl at the University of Wisconsin has discovered a way to safely use oxygen instead of hazardous chemicals in a step commonly used while making medicine. If brought to market, these methods could have a big impact on the industry, reducing chemicals, reducing waste, and saving companies time and money.

Making Soaps, Laundry Detergents, Food Products, and Fuels While Reducing Energy and Water Use, Waste, and Impacts on Forests. These everyday products can now be produced with much less energy, water, and waste, thus saving money. Solazyme, Inc. (in California) has developed novel oils from sugar and engineered algae in a way that significantly reduces the environmental effects that typically occur in producing and processing some oils. Also, the company’s palm-oil equivalent can help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gases that can occur from cultivation of palm oil.

As you can see, the Presidential Green Chemistry Award winners are solving real-world problems through scientific innovations. These prestigious awards are challenging American researchers and innovators to use their talent to improve our health, environment, and the economy.

During the 19 years of EPA’s Green Chemistry program, we have received more than 1,500 nominations and presented awards to 98 technologies. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2014 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2014 winners. The 2014 awards event will be held in conjunction with an industry partners’ roundtable.

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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