Joel Beauvais

About Joel Beauvais

Posts by Joel Beauvais:

Working for Clean Water is a Dream Come True

By Joel Beauvais

I grew up in rural Connecticut in the Housatonic River watershed. My childhood revolved around water, whether it was swimming and fishing in the lakes and streams near my home or hiking in the forested foothills of the Berkshires. It’s a remarkably beautiful part of the country and its waters are a big part of that. But I also learned that problems can lurk beneath the surface, as we were taught early on not to eat the fish we caught because of legacy contamination.

My first job out of college was in Central America, where I worked for several years with indigenous communities to protect the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, the second largest tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere. I spent much of my time traveling by river, living a couple days travel by dugout canoe from the nearest road, electricity or running water. For the communities with whom I worked, water is everything – not just drinking water, but their primary mode of transportation, source of food, and the key to understanding their whole landscape. That experience really brought home to me how critical water is – and how vulnerable poorer communities can be to environmental degradation.

These days, I work in an office instead of the jungle, but I find myself returning to the water again and again. My family loves to canoe and we get out to hike trails by the water every chance we get. Like many families, we visit the ocean every summer – in our case, the Maine coast. When I look at our family photos, it seems every other one is on the water – those experiences are a touchstone for us, as for so many others across the country and the world.

While I’ve worked most of my career on energy and climate issues, my real passion is environmental conservation. Water, to me, is at the heart of that. It’s central to our health, our communities, and our economy.

So I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to lead EPA’s Office of Water. I have immense respect for the office and those who work here, as well as for our regional water offices and all of our partners across state and local government and the private sector. I’m really looking forward to listening to, learning from, and partnering with all of you.

During the past two years leading EPA’s Office of Policy, I’ve had the opportunity to play a key role in finalizing some of our key water rules, including the Clean Water Rule to better protect our nation’s streams and wetlands, the Steam Electric rule that keeps 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollutants out of waterways each year, and the Cooling Water Intake rule that protects fish and shellfish in rivers.

I’ve also played a leadership role on the Agency’s efforts to help communities grow sustainably and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which has given me a lot of exposure to the Office of Water’s work on green infrastructure, stormwater management and sustainable water infrastructure.

As we look to the year ahead, this is an exciting time for the Office of Water and there’s no question that there’s a tremendous amount to get done. We must continue to help communities build resilience to climate change, finance improvements to infrastructure, provide safe drinking water, and reduce pollution in waterways where people fish and swim. EPA’s continued support for the work of our state, local, and tribal partners and for innovation and technology in the water sector will be critical.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you on all these fronts.

Joel Beauvais serves as the acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at EPA. Prior to his appointment in the Office of Water, Joel served as Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy, the agency’s primary arm for cross-cutting regulatory policy and economics. He also served as Associate Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he oversaw a broad portfolio of domestic and international air quality and climate policy issues, and as Special Counsel to the Office of the Administrator in EPA’s Office of General Counsel. He previously served as counsel to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, worked in private practice, and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

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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EPA Takes Next Steps to Protect Drinking Water from Harmful Algal Blooms

2015 brought a summer of green water, with many areas of the nation seeing a record year for the growth of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in rivers and lakes – including a 700-mile long bloom on the Ohio River and the largest bloom ever in Lake Erie. These HABs contain toxins that pose serious risks to our health and drinking water quality. EPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to contamination by algal toxins. In 2014, the City of Toledo had to curtail drinking water use for three days as a result in Lake Erie, which supplies the city’s drinking water.

Last spring EPA issued health advisory values that states and utilities can use to protect Americans from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water. We also provided recommendations to water system operators on how to monitor and treat drinking water for algal toxins and notify the public if drinking water exceeds protective levels. Additionally, we are working with NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey to develop an early warning indicator system and mobile app powered by satellite data to detect algal blooms.

Today, we’re releasing a comprehensive strategic plan outlining ongoing actions to address algal toxins in drinking water. Solving the challenge of algal toxins in drinking water will require action at all levels of government and approaches that are collaborative, innovative, and persistent. EPA will work closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the public to provide scientific and technical leadership on a number of fronts, including health effects studies. We will work on treatment techniques and monitoring technologies, develop innovative mapping tools to help protect drinking water sources, provide technical support to states and public water systems, issue health advisories, and support activities to protect drinking water sources.

In the next year alone, EPA intends to:

  • Develop and propose recreational water quality criteria for two types of algal toxins (microcystins and cylindrospermopsin), which will help protect people who paddle, swim, and spend time by the water.
  • Collaborate on workshops to address HABs’ impacts on drinking water and activities to protect drinking water sources.
  • Evaluate whether to include certain cyanotoxins in the fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which will require the collection of drinking water to better understand whether these toxins are present in drinking water systems.
  • Assist utilities in managing the risks from cyanotoxins to drinking water.
  • Publish monitoring data for cyanobacteria and microcystins in the National Aquatic Resource Survey National Lakes Assessment.
  • Accelerate development and use of technologies that can recover nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure and generate value-added products by partnering with the dairy and swine industries on the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
  • Improve EPA’s Drinking Water Mapping Application for Protecting Source Waters.
  • Co-lead an interagency working group to develop a Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy to address marine and freshwater HABs and hypoxia.
  • Provide funding for critical projects that reduce nutrient pollution that fuels HABs in the Great Lakes.

Algal toxins are a growing problem in the United States
Naturally occurring blue-green algae in surface water can form HABs. Some species of HABs produce toxic compounds, called algal toxins or cyanotoxins, which can pose health risks to humans and animals. These blooms and their toxins are more than a nuisance – they also have the ability to cause fish kills and contaminate drinking water supplies. Their presence can disrupt recreational activities and harm the liver, kidney, and nervous system.

HABs are a national problem that is growing in frequency and duration across the country. Excess nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) pollution is a leading factor contributing to HAB formation in water bodies. These excess nutrients can originate from urban, agricultural, and industrial sources as well as from atmospheric deposition. Additionally, increased temperatures and changes in frequency and intensity of rainfall associated with climate change can also favor bloom formation. Three significant HAB events plagued parts of the nation the summer of 2015, including:

  • A massive toxic bloom in marine waters that hit the west coast extending from central California to Alaska with some of the highest bloom-related toxin levels ever reported,
  • The largest biomass of algae ever recorded on Lake Erie,
  • A river algal bloom in the Ohio River spanning over 700 miles from Wheeling, WV to Louisville, KY.

The cost of these events is significant and impacts our ability to work, our health, and our environment.  In 2015 alone, we had numerous closures of fisheries and beaches as well as increased costs for treating drinking water for the millions of people that rely on Lake Erie and the Ohio River for their drinking water. The good news is that no drinking water systems stopped service to customers due to algal toxin contamination this year. Unfortunately, this was not the case in 2014, when another large HAB on Lake Erie impacted Toledo, Ohio’s finished drinking water. The elevated levels of a cyanotoxin called microcystin in the city’s drinking water led to a state of emergency in OH, preventing approximately half a million people access to safe public drinking water for over two days.

This wasn’t the first drinking water system to be impacted by cyanotoxins, but this event in Toledo highlighted the need to strategically address HABs in drinking water across the country.

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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EPA Releases Roadmap for Agency to Prepare for a Changing Climate

Two years ago this week, Super Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, causing approximately $65 billion dollars in damages, as well as loss of life and immeasurable suffering for the people of that region. In many ways, that storm was a wakeup call on the need to better prepare for extreme weather and a changing climate.

Today, we know the climate is changing at a rapid rate, and the risk for extreme weather events is increasing. And that’s why the Climate Change Adaptation Plans we’re releasing today are so important. EPA’s overall plan, prepared in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order 13653 (“Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”), provides a roadmap for how we’ll work with communities to anticipate and prepare for a changing climate.

Given our critical responsibilities for protecting human health and the environment, we recognize the need for smart, strategic and effective responses to new threats and challenges. This plan delivers just that. It reflects serious thinking about how the work we do can be disrupted by a changing climate and ways that we can begin to reduce those potential risks. And it reflects our commitment to support communities all across the country that are already grappling with questions of resilience to current and future climate changes.

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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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Green Infrastructure Helping to Transform Neighborhoods in Cleveland and Across the Nation

By Alisha Goldstein

By Alisha Goldstein

Every community wants clean water. And most communities would like more green space that allows residents to enjoy the outdoors and makes neighborhoods more attractive. Green infrastructure – a natural approach to managing rainwater with trees, rain gardens, porous pavements, and other elements – can help meet both these goals. It protects water quality while also beautifying streets, parking lots, and plazas, which attracts residents, visitors, and businesses.

This week, we are releasing a new report, Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure, that can help communities develop a vision and a plan for green infrastructure that can transform their neighborhoods and bring multiple benefits. It can be useful to local governments, water utilities, sewer districts, nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and others interested in innovative approaches to managing stormwater to reduce flooding and bring other environmental, public health, social, and economic benefits.

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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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Greening America’s Capitals: Protecting Water, Boosting Resiliency, Strengthening Economies

Protecting water quality from polluted runoff is just one of the challenges many towns and cities face. Since 2010, our Greening America’s Capitals Program has helped 18 state capitals and the District of Columbia create sustainable community designs that incorporate green infrastructure. These projects can help clean the air and water, increase resilience, stimulate economic development and assist economically distressed neighborhoods, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places to live and work.

Today, we announced five new recipients of this technical assistance: Austin, TX; Carson City, NV; Columbus, OH; Pierre, SD; and Richmond, VA. Along with benefiting these communities, the projects are intended to serve as models for other communities that are trying to grow in sustainable ways.

A 2008 EPA study put the national cost of water infrastructure for managing combined sewer overflows and stormwater at more than $105 billion. As communities make choices about infrastructure investments in the face of growth and shifting climate patterns, green infrastructure offers a beneficial and cost-effective alternative. Green infrastructure can complement gray infrastructure by reducing and treating stormwater at its source while delivering a variety of environmental, social, and economic benefits.

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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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Smart Growth Approaches for Flood-Resilient Communities

Smart Growth Program LogoLast month marked the first year anniversary of the President’s Climate Action Plan. As part of that plan, EPA has been working to prepare the United States for the many impacts of climate change, including flooding. Many communities across the country are recognizing the need to prepare for more frequent and more powerful storms; others are already dealing with storm damage and looking for ways to recover that deliver the best long-term results.

Smart growth approaches to development can help communities become more resilient to flooding by protecting vulnerable undeveloped lands, siting development in safer locations, and designing development so it is less likely to be damaged in a flood. Recognizing this, the state of Vermont came to EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance in 2012 following Tropical Storm Irene, which damaged many communities across the state. Together, we helped several state agencies and communities in the Mad River Valley of Vermont assess how they could incorporate smart growth principles into their policies, development regulations, and hazard mitigation plans to make them less vulnerable to extreme floods. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities recently released a report and a handy checklist that communities seeking to prepare for or recover from a major flood can use to assess whether their codes, policies, and regulations can help them withstand floods.

The report and checklist cover a wide range of activities. Not all of these activities will be appropriate for each community. I encourage community leaders to consider them all, and then choose the activities that work best for their local conditions and circumstances.

Here are some general steps communities can take to improve their flood resilience:

  • Update and integrate community or comprehensive land use plans with hazard mitigation plans to ensure they are coordinated and that they prioritize planning for new growth in safer areas.
  • Audit policies, regulations, and budgets to ensure consistency with flood-resilience goals outlined in community plans and hazard mitigation plans.
  • Amend existing policies, regulations, and budgets or create new ones to help achieve the flood-resilience goals outlined in plans.

Here are some specific local land use policy options communities can consider:

  • Conserve land and discourage development in particularly vulnerable areas along river corridors, such as flood plains and wetlands.
  • Where development already exists in flood-prone areas, take steps to protect people, buildings, and facilities from flooding risks.
  • Plan for and encourage new development in areas that are less vulnerable to future floods.
  • Manage stormwater using watershed-wide stormwater management and green infrastructure approaches to slow, spread, and infiltrate floodwater.

State agencies can also partner to support recovery and flood-resilience planning. Specific actions states can take to improve their flood recovery and resilience efforts include:

  • Auditing all state programs to determine how well they help communities achieve flood-resilience goals.
  • Developing a comprehensive recovery plan before the next flood happens.
  • Developing a personnel plan that delineates who will assist with post-disaster recovery.

The checklist and report come on the heels of President Obama’s announcement on June 14 of a new National Disaster Resilience Competition, which will provide nearly $1 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds to help communities that have experienced natural disasters rebuild and prepare for future disasters. The Notice of Funding Availability for the competition will be posted on www.hud.gov.

The Office of Sustainable Communities will host a webinar on smart growth approaches for flood-resilient communities with FEMA and the state of Vermont on Wednesday, August 13, from 1:00-2:30 EDT. Find details at http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/webinars/index.html.

Joel Beauvais is the Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy.

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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State Capitals Go Green

A Greening America’s Capitals design option for a market in Indianapolis

 

Our Greening America’s Capitals program is making a visible difference in communities—literally changing the landscape of our nation’s state capitals. Since 2010, EPA has helped 14 state capitals and the District of Columbia create community designs that help clean the air and water, stimulate economic development, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places. This week, we announced three more capital cities that will be receiving assistance: Lansing, Michigan; Olympia, Washington; and Madison, Wisconsin.

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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.