The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:52:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Red, White & Blue? Make your holiday weekend Green! Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:52:15 +0000 Enjoy your 4th of July Weekend fireworks along with these family-friendly outdoor activities. Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this holiday weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA! 

Friday – July 3, 2015

Learn How to Forage in the Heart of the Urban Jungle – Central Park Edition!
Manhattan – Central Park
11:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m.

Learn how to forage in Central Park! In the Ramble, you can find large stands of field garlic with mild-flavored onion-like bulbs, plus the tender young leaves, which you use like chives. Wet lawn areas could feature spicy hairy bittercress and intensely flavored winter cress, while sunny, grassy spots with poor soil may produce shepherd’s purse, the most mild-flavored of the mustard greens.

Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Disco Party: Saturday Night Fever
Brooklyn – Prospect Park (Lefrak Center at Lakeside)
7:30 10 p.m.

Show off your disco moves at the Saturday Night Fever-themed roller disco party in the park!

Saturday – July 4, 2015

2015 Garden Street Farmers Market
Hoboken, NJ
9 a.m. 2 p.m.

The Hoboken Farmer’s Market serves three purposes. It helps small farmers in New Jersey sell their produce by giving them a venue they would otherwise not have. Local fresh fruits and vegetables are brought to the residents of Hoboken by the people that actually harvest them. And last but certainly not least the Hoboken Farmer’s Market has served as a gathering place for the community, where people exchange smiles, thoughts, and recipes.

Urban Farm Exploration Days 
Randall’s Island
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Come discover Randall’s Island Urban Farm – all are welcome at these free events! An urban farm expert will be on site to answer questions. You can discover a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meet the chickens, and learn about the rice paddies.

Pop-Up Audubon II: Fishing Fun 
Brooklyn – Prospect Park
Noon – 6 p.m.

Join the Prospect Park Alliance to explore aquatic and avian ecology in Prospect Park.

Sunday – July 5, 2015

Moderate Nature Exploration Hike
Staten Island – Wilde and Melvin Avenues in Schmul Park
11 a.m. 1 p.m.

Urban Park Ranger hiking guides will introduce you to the hidden gems of New York City and places often off-limits to the general public. On these hikes you can gain orienteering skills, explore our city’s rich history, or just take an hour to unplug from the world. Moderate hikes feature longer, faster paced hikes on rugged terrain. For all hiking programs wear comfortable shoes or boots, and pack water and a light snack.

Fun on the Farm
Brooklyn – Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park
2 5 p.m.

Visitors of all ages can come help Prospect Park Alliance staff take care of the potato plot, herb gardens, and berry patches by pulling weeds and helping to water. Bring a hat and a bottle of water and we will provide the tools and gloves.

Summer on the Hudson: Amplified Sundays Presents Banda Magda
Manhattan – Pier I (in Riverside Park South)
7 – 9 p.m.

Banda Magda plays vibrantly danceable live music accompanied by a spectacular sunset over the Hudson River!

Alley Pond Park Adventure Course
Queens – Alley Pond Park
1 – 3:30 pm

The Alley Pond Park Adventure Course offers free outdoor adventure that fosters trust, communication, and team building. The program is two-hour adventure which includes both low and high elements. The Adventure Course is open for individuals, small groups of friends, and family.

Forest Crew
Manhattan – Highbridge Park
1 – 3:30 pm

The Highbridge Forest Crew works to remove invasive plants from the park and to care for recently planted native trees.

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The Administration Takes a Big Step in Addressing Climate-Damaging HFCs Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:39:00 +0000 Crossposted from the White House Blog

By Brian Deese and Dan Utech

Today, the United States took decisive action on climate change by curbing the use of the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These factory-produced chemicals, which are primarily used in air conditioning and refrigeration, can pack up to 10,000 times the global warming punch of carbon dioxide. Absent ambitious action to limit their use, emissions of HFCs in the United States are expected to nearly triple by 2030.

That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized a rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that will prohibit the use of certain HFCs where safer and more climate-friendly alternatives are available. Simultaneously, the agency also listed as acceptable additional climate-friendly alternatives, expanding the options for businesses to use chemicals that are less harmful to the global climate.

EPA’s final rule will help us make a significant and meaningful cut in our greenhouse gas emissions—up to the equivalent of 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide of avoided emissions in 2025.

Leading businesses are already stepping up to replace HFCs with safer and more climate-friendly alternatives, and these measures from EPA will go hand-in-hand with these private-sector efforts. The United States is at the cutting edge not only when it comes to developing the next generation of safe and cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, but also in terms of incorporating these alternatives into American cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products.

Innovative American companies are leading the charge to ensure Americans will have climate-friendly insulation in our homes, HFC-free air-conditioners in our cars, and more sustainable supermarkets and corner stores. For example, last September, the White House hosted an event at which 22 private-sector companies and organizations stepped forward with commitments to reduce emissions from HFCs. Those commitments will reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025, equivalent to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions and the same as taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years.

The momentum we are making both through the final rule EPA announced today and also through these private-sector commitments advances global climate action. In April, the United States joined with Canada and Mexico to propose an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to tackle HFCs globally. Last month, G-7 Leaders committed to continue efforts to phase down HFCs and to negotiate a Montreal Protocol amendment this year, and the African Group, India, island countries, and the European Union all support an amendment. We have also made HFCs a key element of our bilateral climate discussions, and our bilateral announcements with China, India, and Brazil all recognize the need to advance progress on managing HFCs in the Montreal Protocol. Scientists predict that such strong international action would help shave off up to half a degree of warming by the end of the century, substantially furthering our goal to limit global temperature rise.

Today’s announcement takes a big step toward a more sustainable future and demonstrates to other countries that we are making serious efforts at home to complement the global solutions that we are advocating for internationally.

Here are some early examples of what companies and organizations have to say about EPA’s action today:

“We are delighted to see these final SNAP regulations. The action offers clarity to the industry and very positive, long term impact for the environment.”

– Steven Trulaske, Owner, True Manufacturing

“Honeywell applauds the EPA on their landmark action to restrict the use of high-global-warming HFCs, which are among the most potent greenhouse gases in use today. EPA’s action will accelerate the adoption of solutions with far less impact on the atmosphere while also spurring private sector innovation and creating jobs.”

– Ken Gayer, Vice President and General Manager of Honeywell’s Fluorine Products business, Honeywell

“AHAM applauds the EPA decision in its final SNAP rule to adjust certain compliance deadlines, which demonstrates the Administration’s flexibility and desire to work with the appliance industry to make the most impactful environmental gains. It also reflects the voluntary steps that home appliance manufacturers are taking to end the use of HFCs as foam-blowing agents. The home appliance industry is committed to delivering the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible products to American homes.”

– Joseph M. McGuire, President, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers

“Chemours continues to support the President’s Climate Action Plan and EPA’s commitment and action using existing EPA authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in applications that have readily available lower global warming potential options. We believe it is critical that we reduce high global warming potential emissions in a manner that ensures that we are still able to deliver the critical societal services that HFCs provide today.”

– Diego Boeri, Global Business Director, Chemours Fluorochemicals

“Ingersoll Rand applauds the U.S. efforts to prioritize a transition away from high global warming potential refrigerants and it further reinforces the significance of our climate commitment to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce the climate impact of our products and operations.”

– Paul Camuti, Chief Technology Officer, Ingersoll Rand

“We appreciate EPA’s partnership with manufacturers during this rulemaking process and EPA’s willingness to work with the Department of Energy to acknowledge the impacts of each other’s regulations and reduce burdens on U.S. companies.”

– David Szczupak, Executive Vice President, Global Product Organization, Whirlpool Corporation

Brian Deese is a senior advisor to the President. Dan Utech is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

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A “Bridge” to Clean Water Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:03:26 +0000 The Natural Bridge and surrounding land in Rockbridge County will be preserved as part of Virginia’s state park system with help from EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

The Natural Bridge and surrounding land in Rockbridge County will be preserved as part of Virginia’s state park system with help from EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

by Bob Chominski

How can a bridge clean water?  Don’t bridges span over the water?  Well, this is no average bridge we are talking about, but a “Natural Bridge” located in Rockbridge County, Virginia, north of Roanoke.

The Natural Bridge, a 215 foot limestone arch, and surrounding property was bought by Thomas Jefferson just before the American Revolution and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson purchased the property from King George III of England for 20 schillings. Today, that would be about $3.00!  Legend has it that a young George Washington surveyed the site for Lord Fairfax.

So how does this relate to clean water?  The Natural Bridge and the surrounding property are located in the James River Watershed, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.  The bridge and property were up for sale with the possibility of “developing” the property with homes.  Using EPA funding, a $9.1 million loan was made through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Water Revolving Loan fund.  It was part of a complex purchase by a newly formed conservation non-profit, the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc.  The conservation effort will prevent nutrient pollution that could be associated with land development from reaching the Bay.

The Natural Bridge and surrounding land will be preserved as part of Virginia’s state park system.  I recently visited the Natural Bridge and if you enjoy the outdoors and history, which I do, this place is spectacular!  I can see why the bridge has been included in several listings of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  If you’re in the Roanoke area, don’t miss out on experiencing this natural wonder, the history, and of course, the clean water.


About the author: Bob Chominski is the Deputy Associate Director of the Water Protection Division’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Away from work, he enjoys snow skiing and working around his house and yard.


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Water Wednesday: Why It’s More Than Lead Exposure Wed, 01 Jul 2015 19:49:59 +0000 By Chrislyn Johnson

On a cold winter day in early 2008, when I worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), it felt as if snow could fall any minute when my team pulled up to a family’s lot in southwestern Missouri. The sight I took in was depressing. Three dilapidated mobile homes stood on mostly hard-packed and bare soil, with very little vegetation. A pen of about 20 chickens, scrambling over one another, rustled from the far end of the property. In a bare wire cage, a lone rabbit tried to shield itself from the wind by huddling against the edge nearest a post. The occupied mobile homes were held together with makeshift repairs. Scrap cars, piles of recyclables, and two abandoned mobile homes sat toward the back of the lot. This is a common sight in rural Missouri and much of America.

Past and Present Lead Mining, EPA Lead Strategy Paper Maps, 2012. Map by Valerie Wilder, MDNR. (Click to access full-size map.)

Past and Present Lead Mining, EPA Lead Strategy Paper Maps, 2012. Map by Valerie Wilder, MDNR. (Click to access full-size map.)

I took in this bleak picture in a short time, as I worked to test the family’s water and soil for lead. This was part of a joint EPA-MDNR Superfund project team that tested for lead contamination in drinking water and soil. The area was chosen based on locations of historic mining areas in southwestern Missouri. Lead mining has a long history in Missouri, but lead exposure often occurs in areas without any mining.

We sampled the property by first screening the soil with a handheld XRF (X-ray fluorescence) meter. If the readings were above a certain threshold, a sample of the soil was bagged and labeled to be further evaluated under controlled laboratory conditions. Water samples were taken from drinking water faucets and placed in Nalgene containers, also labeled, and then placed on ice in coolers. The entire sampling event at the property took approximately one hour.

Lead is a soft, corrosion-resistant metal used for a host of products and applications from manufacturing glass and paint to joining metallic-like electrical components and pipes. People are often exposed to lead at home from deteriorating lead-based paint. Children are at a higher risk of exposure since they may play with or mouth objects such as windowsills, doors, and stair railings and banisters. If exposed, this can lead to lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning in children can cause many issues, including behavioral problems, developmental delays, hyperactivity, hearing loss, and organ damage. Adult symptoms can include persistent fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and loss of appetite to name a few. A simple blood test can determine if you are at risk. Without the right resources, people may suffer from many problems.

Because of privacy protections, I never found out if that Missouri family received aid in the form of soil removal or public drinking water access, but I often think of them when I reflect about why I do the kind of work I do. They were a family with limited resources and information to protect themselves and their children’s health. They were not unlike others in the area, in need of assistance and education about how to protect themselves from lead exposure and the vital difference that uncontaminated water can make in their lives.

On that winter’s day in 2008, our sampling team provided only one piece of the puzzle, but every contribution was important. We helped educate and improve the health of the residents and their environment by performing work with care and respect for those we were assisting.

Local governments and EPA provide many services to help minimize environmental threats and health problems. I’m relatively new at EPA and I look forward to coming to work every day. By working here, I get to help others live healthier and more enjoyable lives.

About the Author: Chrislyn Johnson is a Life Scientist with EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands, and Pesticides Division. She holds degrees in biology and photography from the University of Central Missouri. Chrislyn loves all things nature.

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Field Trip to Camden, NJ Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:12:41 +0000 By Carsen Mata

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

My walk to the office on Monday morning was quite different compared to most days. My stride longer, my pace faster, today I was going on a field trip! This wasn’t just any old field trip by the way, this was a two-hour trek from New York City down to Camden, New Jersey. The field trip crew that I accompanied consisted of a few seasoned EPA Region 2 staff members, our Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and Congressman Norcross of District One. The day’s itinerary had us hopping from one event to the next, guaranteeing an eventful day. First up – the Puchack Well Field site in Pennsauken, NJ. Upon arrival we were greeted by John Gorin, the remedial project manager for the site. John is the go-to guy for all things Puchack, especially when it comes to the ins and outs of the cleanup process.

The coolest part of the morning was seeing the site in full operation mode. This was surely the perfect time for a visit. Cranes and sifters were at work, soil from one area was being transported to another, and misters above the site gates were spraying the perimeter of the work zone. When everyone arrived John ran us through a brief overview of the work being done and the potential action items to come. After a short announcement and photo-op for the press we headed over to the next event at the Ray and Joan Kroc Salvation Army Center in Camden.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

It was here that we met the Director of Economic Development for Camden, Jim Harveson, who excitedly joined Judith and Congressman Norcross in announcing that the Camden Brownfields program was receiving nearly $1 million in EPA grants. This package of grants will go towards the cleanup efforts at sites in Camden like the Harrison Avenue landfill and the former warehouse, experimental lab, and toy assembly plant at East State Street.

The press event was held outdoors with the recently constructed ball fields and playground of the Salvation Army Center serving as a beautiful backdrop. All of the event’s speakers were wonderful but Congressman Norcross, a Camden native, stepped up to the podium to address the media with a sentimental message. He reminisced about what this space once looked like and what the development of sites like these meant to the people that live there. It is clear that these grants represent much more than funding for various development projects. They symbolize the perseverance of a community that has been burdened by decades of industrial pollution. After many trying years, this area and its residents are on their way to environmental and economic success, something every community deserves.

Jim Harveson concluded the event by inviting everyone that attended back in two years. By then, he hopes the site will feature a waterfront park as well as a field of solar panels to power the center. For now, they’re taking it one site at a time, making every grant dollar count.

To finish off our day we visited a portion of the Welsbach & General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Gloucester City, just fifteen minutes south of Camden. Although a great deal of the cleanup work has already been completed, this particular area has soil and building surfaces that are still contaminated by radioactive waste. It is also situated on one of the busiest port facilities in the region, making it uniquely complex for all parties involved in the cleanup. We were joined by Rick Robinson, the remedial project manager of the site and Leo Holt – president of Holt Logistics, the owner and operator of the port, for a short bus tour around the property.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

As soon as we witnessed cleanup and port activity occurring simultaneously, we understood the complexities of the site on a deeper level. Humongous containers filled with fruits and vegetables from all over the world were being transported by even bigger pieces of construction machinery. On the other side of the property EPA cleanup activities were being completed. I suddenly wondered, “all this activity AND an EPA cleanup? At the same time?” I’ve never felt so small in my life! Seeing the port in action and learning about the cleanup from such experienced staff solidified the fact that the EPA will stop at nothing to protect human health and the environment!

I think it’s safe to say this might be one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on.

About the Author: Carsen Mata is an intern for the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division.  She currently resides in Jersey City, NJ and is a graduate of Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.  She is entering her last semester of graduate school at Fairfield University and will be receiving her Master of Public Administration in December 2015.

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A Promise Fulfilled: Environmental Justice at work in Spartanburg, SC Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:35:55 +0000

I just got back from visiting Spartanburg, South Carolina, a city of 180,000 and a national leader on environmental justice issues. Back in 1997, the neighborhoods of Forest Park and Arkwright on the south side of the city were surrounded by two Superfund sites, six Brownfields, and an active chemical plant. In Spartanburg, the soil that children played in, and that their homes were built on, were contaminated with toxic chemicals. But local resident Harold Mitchell was determined to improve the quality of life for his family and community and set out to address the root of the problems.

Mitchell went door to door, letting folks know about the health concerns they faced, and founded ReGenesis, a community organization committed to environmental justice in Spartanburg. In 1997, ReGenesis was awarded an Environmental Justice small grant of $20,000 from EPA. Over time, the city, county, state, and federal government agencies got involved—and since then, Spartanburg has turned that grant into more than $270 million in investments in the community.

Today, community health centers, affordable housing and a state-of-the-art recreation center stand because of the collaborative efforts the Superfund and Brownfields programs, the community and a host of local partners. A solar generation facility is being planned where an old chemical plant once stood. New mixed-use housing has replaced old, unsafe stock. Community members have been trained in asbestos abatement—and they’ve found work not just in Spartanburg, but in Virginia, where they helped renovate the Pentagon, and in New Orleans, where they helped rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

I had the chance to meet Harold Mitchell—now a South Carolina state representative—and visited the former Superfund and Brownfield sites with Mayor Junie White, and other county officials.

After seeing these dramatic changes for myself, I heard from the community leaders who made it happen. We met inside the new community center—a major investment in the quality of life of Spartanburg residents. It was incredible to see what they’ve achieved by putting the community in charge of its own destiny.

Spartanburg is a shining beacon of what’s possible when folks impacted by community decisions have a seat at the table. As the Superfund program celebrates 35 years of revitalizing communities, I was thrilled to celebrate such an amazing success story because at the core of EPA’s mission is the belief that no matter who you are or where you come from, you have the right to clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to call home.

That said, we’ve still got work to do. Too often, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately burdened by pollution and health risks. Those same communities are vulnerable to the devastating floods, fires, storms and heat waves supercharged by climate change.

To make matters worse, the carbon pollution fueling climate change comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants that cause chronic disease and chase away local businesses and jobs. Power plants, our biggest source of carbon pollution, are often located in these areas, casting their shadow over communities already vulnerable to environmental health hazards.

That’s why EPA is doubling down on efforts to fulfill the promise of environmental justice. Spartanburg’s success helped us develop a collaborative problem-solving program for vulnerable communities, helping communities give a voice to those who’ve too often been left out of important planning decisions.

EPA recently released EJScreen, a tool that lets anyone see the pollution burden in their neighborhoods, and explore how various decisions could improve their quality of life. We’ve also awarded more than 1,400 EJ small grants to date, and we’ll continue to give local communities the training and expertise they need to address pollution challenges.

And this summer, we’re finalizing a Clean Power Plan to cut the carbon pollution fueling climate change from our nation’s power plants. Under our standards, our nation will avoid more than 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks in 2030—and will protect vulnerable communities from climate impacts.

Last week in Charleston, President Obama gave a eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a victim of this month’s tragedy at Emmanuel AME Church and a champion for Spartanburg’s revitalization, as well as renewable energy, in the South Carolina Senate. Speaking to Rev. Pinckney’s legacy, the President called on all Americans to fulfill the promise of a more equal, more just society.

By putting environmental justice at the heart of what we do, EPA is responding to that call.

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Shaping a More Sustainable and Socially Just Future Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:16:01 +0000 By Sue Briggum

Many U.S. companies take pride in being more “sustainable” by reducing environmental impacts and engaging constructively with the communities in which they operate and the customers they serve.  Corporate sustainability reporting is replete with examples of resource conservation efforts and sustained initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas footprints.  Non-governmental evaluative frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative and CDP provide powerful templates for demonstrating environmental progress.

With regard to the social justice pillar of sustainability, however, we are only beginning to understand the potential for progress.

Considered from this perspective, EPA’s Draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda outlines a framework for a fairer and more sustainable future.  EPA characterizes the sustainable elements of its plan in terms of opportunity to use a community-based approach to make “a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities.”  Moreover, the EJ 2020 draft framework highlights a number of practical approaches to shaping more sustainable and socially just environmental programs.

EJSCREEN provides the data to make discussions about overburdened and underserved communities concrete and factual.  With data from this tool, it becomes much easier to see whether public or private efforts to improve the environment, provide jobs, or fund new amenities align with social justice or thwart it by giving more to those who already have a great deal.  The tool is powerful because instead of relying on assumptions and impressions, it simply relays the facts in formats that are easy to see.  For example, with EJSCREEN it will be easy to see whether a new educational grant program is benefiting communities which, because of income or language barriers, need that supplement, or whether lead paint removal funding is going to communities least able to do the work on their own.

Tools like EJSCREEN also inform EPA’s efforts to align regulatory programs with environmental justice goals by incorporating considerations of environmental justice into permit issuance.  When environmental justice is part of the permitting discussion rather than a consideration after the fact, the “rules of the road” are clearer for all parties.  EPA’s emphasis on constructive engagement and collaboration throughout its draft EJ 2020 framework forecasts an intent to make permitting engagement constructive and focused on problem-solving.  It’s far easier to re-route traffic, refine a monitoring program, or address operational concerns in project design and permitting than to do so as a contentious afterthought.  EPA’s facilitation of this kind of collaborative engagement can save all parties time and grief because community perspectives are known, considered, and addressed.  The process itself builds familiarity and, in time, trust.

The most basic building block for environmental justice is its incorporation within environmental programs as crafted, not just as implemented by permit.  In recent rules, EPA has employed the power of tools like EJSCREEN to understand and address geographic distributional effects.  Through its Environmental Justice Research Roadmap, there will be opportunities to address the more difficult issue of how to understand and address inequities that are population-based rather than place-based – for example, how environmental and social factors can contribute to health disparities.

Regulations and permits are only as good as the assurance that they are followed.  EPA’s continuing commitment to focus enforcement efforts in overburdened communities has long been applauded by the business community.  It’s a key means to assure a level playing field and consistent community protection.

Finally, the strength of the 2020 Action Agenda is that it is a Framework — a consistent approach across EPA programs and authorities.  If EPA engages across the agency, with the partners it identifies and in the open and communicative manner it embraces, 2020 should be replete with success stories from all stakeholders’ perspectives.

About the author: Sue Briggum is Vice President of State and Federal Public Policy, Waste Management, and a former member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee providing advice to the EPA. Sue also co-chaired the NEJAC work group on EJ Screening, as well as served as a member of the Science Advisory Board’s (SAB) work group on EJ in Rulemaking.

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In Perspective: the Supreme Court’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule Decision Tue, 30 Jun 2015 14:34:05 +0000 The Supreme Court’s decision on EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) was disappointing to everyone working to protect public health by reducing emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  But as we take stock of what this decision means, there are some important factors that make me confident we are still on track to reduce this dangerous pollution and better protect America’s children, families and communities.

Most notably – the Administration remains committed to finalizing the Clean Power Plan this summer and yesterday’s ruling will have no bearing on the effort to reduce carbon pollution from the largest sources of emissions.

Second – this decision is very narrow.  It did not invalidate the rule, which remains in effect today.  In fact, the majority of power plants are already in compliance or well on their way to compliance.  The Court found that EPA should have considered costs at an earlier step in the rulemaking process than it did.  The court did not question EPA’s authority to control toxic air pollution from power plants provided it considers cost in that step.  It also did not question our conclusions on human health that supported the agency’s finding that regulation is needed.  And its narrow ruling does not disturb the remainder of the D.C. Circuit decision which unanimously upheld all other aspects of the MATS rule and rejected numerous challenges to the standards themselves.

Third – this decision does not affect other Clean Air Act programs that address other sources and types of air pollution. It hinged on a very specific section of the Act that applies exclusively to the regulation of air toxics from power plants.  This is important to understand because it means that rules and programs that reduce other types of pollutants under other sections of the Clean Air Act—like ozone and fine particles (smog and soot) can continue without interruption or delay.

The decision does not affect the Clean Power Plan, which EPA will be finalizing later this summer and which will chart the course for this country to reduce harmful carbon from its fleet of existing power plants.   That’s worth repeating: The Court’s conclusion that EPA must consider cost when determining whether it is “appropriate” to regulate toxic air emissions from utilities under section 112 of the Act will not impact the development of the Clean Power Plan under section 111.  Cost is among the factors the Agency has long explicitly considered in setting standards under section 111 of the Act.

Fourth – America’s power sector is getting cleaner year after year by investing in more modern technologies.   Since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. The Clean Power Plan will build on these current positive trends.  That means cleaner air in communities across the country, as well as a boost to our economy as we build the clean energy system of the future.

Finally – What’s next for MATS?   From the moment we learned of this decision, we were committed to ensuring that standards remain in place to protect the public from toxic emissions from coal and oil-fired electric utilities.  We will continue to work to make that happen.  There are questions that will need to be answered over the next several weeks and months as we review the decision and determine the appropriate next steps once that review is complete.  But as I’ve already noted, MATS is still in place and many plants have already installed controls and technologies to reduce their mercury emissions.

After nearly 45 years of implementing the Clean Air Act, there have been many more victories than defeats as we’ve worked together to clean the air and raise healthier children and families.  Despite the Supreme Court’s MATS decision, the agency remains confident that the progress we’ve made so far in improving air quality and protecting public health will continue.

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Conservation All Around Us: The Great Swamp Mon, 29 Jun 2015 16:30:35 +0000 By Tina Wei

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

On June 9th, I assisted David Kluesner, EPA Region 2 community affairs team leader, at an event with the Great Swamp Watershed Association  where he gave a presentation to the community members of Morristown, NJ about the significant steps the EPA is taking to clean up the lower Passaic River.

At the meeting, we heard attendees express strong support for activities to conserve the environment and protect human health. To learn about the community’s relationship with the environment and to see an example of successful, impactful conservation efforts, we visited the nearby Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge, established by Congress in 1960 and located in Morris County, NJ, is one of the 560 refuges in the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. We toured the wonderful Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center, featuring interactive environmental education activities, friendly rangers, and live bird-cams. The refuge’s 7,768 acres of habitat allow for wildlife viewing, photography, and hunting.

We learned that North America is divided into four key flyways for migrating birds. New York City is located in the highly trafficked Atlantic Flyway. This refuge, located only 26 miles away from Times Square, is of great importance, providing a crucial resting place for over 244 species of birds who can’t rest in NYC.

We also learned about this refuge’s unique history. Beginning in 1844, this area’s marshlands were drained and converted to agricultural fields. As these farms became unprofitable and disappeared, alternative uses for this land were proposed, including a 1959 proposal to turn this area into a major airport (what is now Newark Liberty International Airport). In response, community members raised more than one million dollars to buy almost 3,000 acres of the Great Swamp land, donating it to the Department of the Interior to be conserved and reverted back to swampland.

This history is interesting for thinking about key questions regarding conservation:

  • When, why, and how should we conserve the environment?
  • How can we understand our local histories in light of these questions?

Do you know about the local history of a National Wildlife Refuge? What do you think about conservation? Tell us in the comments section!

About the Author: Tina Wei is a summer intern in EPA’s Region 2 Public Affairs Division. She has loved this wonderful learning opportunity, and especially enjoys going on work-related fieldtrips. During the school year, she is an undergraduate student at Princeton University.

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This Week in EPA Science Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:10:23 +0000 By Kacey Fitzpatrick

research_recap_GI_soccerAre you watching the Women’s World Cup this weekend? There may be no commercial breaks but half time is fifteen minutes—the perfect amount of time to refill drinks, get a snack, and catch up on EPA science!

Below is what we are highlighting this week.

  • Research to Support Decontamination and Containment

This week EPA researchers, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, held a demonstration to provide responders with a “toolbox of options” for radiological decontamination and containment technologies.

Learn more about the demonstration in the blog Developing a “Toolbox” of Technology Options. 

  • Agency Researcher Developing Water Quality “App”

EPA researcher Blake Schaeffer was featured in a recent article in The Columbus Dispatch for his work developing an “App” that will tap satellite data to help people monitor local water quality and avoid harmful algal blooms in their favorite swimming spots or fishing holes.

Read the newspaper article App will show level of algae in water.

EPA Research Photo of the Week

Researchers spray a foam developed to remove radioactive cesium and other contaminants from the surface of a building during decontamination demonstrations in Columbus, Ohio.

Researchers spray a foam developed to remove radioactive cesium and other contaminants from the surface of a building during decontamination demonstrations in Columbus, Ohio.


If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor, writer, and soccer fan working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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