Environmental Governance: A Key Stepping Stone on the Path to Peace and Stability

By Ethan Shenkman

Public participation. Information disclosure. Implementable and enforceable laws. Strong accountability mechanisms. In the United States, we sometimes take principles like these for granted. For those who practice environmental law here, we feel intuitively that they are necessary features of any effective legal system.  But in many countries around the world — grappling with fundamental issues of democracy and rule of law — these basic principles of “environmental governance” take on an even greater meaning and significance.

The legal community, both in the U.S. and abroad, increasingly recognizes a direct connection between environmental governance and the promotion of rule of law more generally.  And we see, based on firsthand experience, how sound environmental governance is essential to ensuring public health — and a healthy economy.

"Good environmental governance is critical not only to achieving a healthy environment, but to achieving a healthy economy." Ethan Shenkman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join diplomats from the State Department in Vienna, Austria for the Economic and Environmental Forum of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The OSCE includes more than 50 countries from North America to Europe to Central Asia. It has a comprehensive focus on security and its activities range from conflict resolution to energy security. The OSCE hosts several Economic and Environmental and Forum events each year because it recognizes the importance of effective environmental institutions, laws, and enforcement in promoting economic growth and ensuring peace and stability in the region. As the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, emphasized in his plenary statement, environmental governance is an area that “touches all of our lives.”

While discussing environmental governance with officials from throughout the OSCE region, including the newly independent states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I was impressed by the uniformly positive response and desire to engage on these issues. The forum recognized promoting strong environmental governance and sustainable development as central elements of OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security and stability. Other countries highlighted a number innovative pilot projects, ranging from the use of microfinance to green the economy, to harnessing the ideas generated by civic participation in promoting resource efficiency.

We look forward to following up on numerous opportunities to transform principles of environmental governance into progress on the ground.  Exciting possibilities ahead range from an important international initiative to help countries establish and implement laws to reduce the use of lead paint, particularly in homes where vulnerable children are exposed; to compiling legal framework models to reduce air pollution; to providing implementation assistance for countries seeking to modernize and improve their environmental laws.

EPA has useful wisdom to share on advancing environmental governance given our decades of experience in developing and implementing environmental regulations while the U.S. economy has expanded steadily over time. Supporting international cooperation to address environmental problems is essential to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. Pollution and other failures to protect valuable natural resources have concrete and direct impacts on people’s lives, and those problems do not respect borders. Because effective governance systems are fundamental to the success of environmental protections, helping build strong environmental institutions and legal structures is a top priority.

About the author: Ethan Shenkman is EPA’s Deputy General Counsel.

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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Good News for our Health at Home: Safety Sells

By Gina McCarthy

Last spring, EPA unveiled a new label to help consumers make informed choices about the products they use at home.

Today, hundreds of products with the Safer Choice label are on store shelves at major retailers in all 50 states. We’re starting with household cleaners and laundry detergents, and will soon expand the label to a wider range of other cleaners, car and yard-care products, and do-it-yourself items like coatings and adhesives.

The name says it all: the Safer Choice label can help you find cleaning products that are made with ingredients that are safer for you, your kids, your pets and the environment. EPA scientists use a strict set of health and safety standards when reviewing products to allow them into them Safer Choice program. So consumers can trust that any product with the Safer Choice label is backed by EPA science.

So far, feedback has been spectacular. Last summer, Consumer Reports released survey data showing that nearly half of American consumers would be willing to pay more for safer products.

But the great news is… they don’t have to.

A price comparison study found that Safer Choice products are cost-competitive – most often costing about the same as cleaners without the label, and sometimes – costing even less.

And in marketing studies, some manufacturers have found that the label isn’t just informative, it’s attractive to consumers – leading many companies to move the label front and center on their product packaging.

The point is – consumers want to make informed choices about the products they’re bringing into their homes, and around their kids and pets. And companies know that developing and selling safer products is good for business. When they demonstrate a commitment to the health of their customers and the planet, consumers respond.

Already, more than 500 manufacturers make products with the Safer Choice label – and new companies are seeking to join the program in force.

Here’s some more good news. Not only does the Safer Choice program put the power of choice into the hands of consumers, it actually incentivizes manufacturers to change the ingredients in their products – so they can meet the strict safety criteria the Safer Choice label demands.

That means more products made with ingredients that are safer on store shelves, and less harmful chemicals in households across America.

So keep your eye out for the Safer Choice label when you’re out shopping.

You can visit EPA’s interactive map to find Safer Choice products that can be used in your own community — at schools, stadiums, homes, and businesses near you.

And in case you missed it, my dog Emma joined me in debuting the new Safer Choice label last year. Check out the video below.
 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Deepening Story of How Climate Change Threatens Human Health

This is a joint blog from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, EPA, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Climate change poses risks to human health through many pathways, some more obvious than others. Rising greenhouse-gas concentrations, driven by human activities, result in increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, increases in the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. These climate-change impacts endanger our health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with the built and natural environments. As the climate continues to change, the climate-related risks to human health will continue to grow.

Today, building on the Third National Climate Assessment issued in May 2014, the Administration released a new report summarizing the growing understanding of how climate change is directly and indirectly affecting human health.  The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, finds that “every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change.” Drawing from decades of advances in the science of climate change and its influences on ecosystems and human society, the report strengthens our understanding of the significant threat that climate change poses to the health of all Americans and highlights factors that make some individuals and communities particularly vulnerable.

Among the new assessment’s specific findings is the projection that, under mid-range growth of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the combination of resulting summer temperatures in the United States and the known physiology of human sensitivity to heat would result in an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths per year by the end of the century. Extreme heat poses a particular risk for children, the elderly, disadvantaged and socially isolated groups, and even people taking some prescription drugs that may impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature. The increase in heat-related deaths in most regions is expected to outweigh any reduction in cold-related deaths from warmer winters.

Changes in the climate also affect air quality. Human-induced climate change has already made conditions more favorable for ground-level ozone pollution – the key component of smog – in some regions of the United States. Higher temperatures increase the rate at which ozone forms, and associated changes in meteorological conditions can lead to stagnation events where large pockets of still air allow pollution levels to accumulate over a region. These effects are especially concerning when combined over urban areas. Unless offset by additional emission reductions of ozone-forming pollutants, these climate-driven increases in ozone will cause increases in premature deaths, hospital visits, lost school days, and acute respiratory symptoms.

Rising temperatures and hotter, drier summers are projected to increase the frequency and severity of large wildfires, especially in the western United States. Wildfires emit fine particles and ozone-forming pollutants that in turn increase the risk of premature death and adverse chronic and acute cardiovascular and respiratory health symptoms. Firefighters, in particular, are exposed to significantly higher levels of combustion products from fires.

A changing climate is also affecting the seasonality and geographic ranges of vector-borne diseases – such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, which are transmitted, respectively, by  ticks and mosquitoes. Between 2001 and 2014, both the distribution and number of reported cases of Lyme disease increased in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. The assessment found that vector-borne pathogens of a number of kinds are likely to emerge or re-emerge due to the interactions of climatic factors with many non-climatic drivers, such as changing land-use patterns and human population density.

The assessment also highlights the disproportionate impacts of certain other climate-change-related health issues on certain communities. Indigenous people, for example, face decreasing access to traditional wild and cultivated foods, which have both health and cultural implications for these communities. And warming can exacerbate shellfish disease and make mercury more readily absorbed into fish tissue, posing a particular hazard to indigenous communities that consume above-average quantities of fish and shellfish.

The assessment highlights how climate change can exacerbate existing health risks, but also create health threats in new locations or new times. Some threats will occur over longer time periods, or at unprecedented times of the year. For example, increases in water temperature will alter the geographic range and seasonal window of growth for harmful bacteria and algae, exposing more people in more places. Changes in temperatures, precipitation, and extreme events such as flooding are also expected to increase risk of foodborne illnesses from pathogens like Salmonella and E Coli.

Impacts on people’s physical health can also affect their mental health. In addition, many people exposed to extreme weather events experience serious mental health consequences, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. The mental health impacts of hurricanes, floods, and drought can be expected to increase as more people experience the stress—and often trauma—of these disasters.

Reducing the health risks from climate change is a top priority for President Obama and will be a key benefit of implementing his Climate Action Plan. The information about those risks contained within this new assessment should be a strong additional impetus for decision-makers across the Nation to support all three elements of the Plan—reducing domestic emissions of the carbon pollution that is driving global climate change, investing in measures to increase preparedness and resilience against the changes in climate that occur, and working with other nations around the world to encourage and help them to do the same.

John Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Gina McCarthy is the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy is the U.S. Surgeon General.

Kathryn Sullivan is Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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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Taking Action on HFCs to Protect our Climate at Home and Abroad

By Gina McCarthy

This week, EPA took another important step in a series of recent actions to help reduce our country’s use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – a potent greenhouse gas. I signed a proposed rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program that will expand the list of climate-friendly HFC alternatives and phase out certain HFCs in favor of safer options that are already available. 

HFCs are predominantly used in air-conditioning and refrigeration and can be up to 10,000 times more damaging to our climate than carbon pollution. Left unchecked, growing HFC emissions would undo critical progress we’ve made to act on climate and protect the planet. 

That’s why cutting their use and emissions is a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The new proposed rule not only supports the President’s goals, it also recognizes the key role of innovative companies in bringing new HFC alternatives to the marketplace. 

This is an example of the important work we’re doing at home. But we’re also making tremendous progress with our international partners to fully address HFCs.

Just yesterday, in a joint announcement, President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping committed to working bilaterally and with other countries to achieve successful outcomes this year in related multilateral fora, including on an HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol.

And I’m pleased to announce that I’m planning to lead the United States delegation at the Montreal Protocol’s Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties (ExMOP) this July in Vienna. I had the honor of leading the United States delegation to the Montreal Protocol’s 27th Meeting of the Parties in Dubai last November. At that time, the world took a significant step by agreeing to work together on a 2016 Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of harmful HFCs and achieve substantial greenhouse gas reductions. 

Next week is the first preparatory session for the 2016 negotiations in Geneva. This will be the first opportunity since Dubai for countries to come together and make concrete progress on our 2016 phase down amendment. 

As we saw with the historic Paris Agreement, the world can unite in action when the health of our kids and shared home is at stake. The U.S. is ready to build on this spirit and follow through on our commitments to reduce HFCs at home and abroad.

We are making tremendous progress with our international partners. This July in Vienna, I look forward to making more progress on adopting an HFC amendment that will protect our climate for future generations.

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EPA Partners Leading the Way On Climate Action

By Janet McCabe

Climate change is one of the most critical challenges of our time. We are committed to partnering with industry, communities, and government at all levels to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and to prepare for the changes that are already underway.

Some important collaborations are our voluntary climate partnership programs. For decades, we have been partnering with the private sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote the use of cleaner energy sources, and improve energy efficiency efforts. These voluntary programs have achieved significant environmental benefits: in total, more than 19,000 organizations and millions of Americans have participated in our climate partnerships and, together in 2013 they prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use of more than 57 million homes.

Today, we launched a new voluntary program to reduce harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and 41 companies have stepped up as founding partners. Our Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program builds on the success of our Natural Gas STAR Program and encourages partner companies to make company-wide commitments to cut emissions from sources within their operations by implementing a suite of best management practices.

We expect program participation to grow over time and are actively working to expand the options for participation by finalizing an additional Emissions Intensity Commitment option through the ONE Future Coalition. The ONE Future coalition is a group of companies from across the natural gas industry focused on increasing the efficiency of the natural gas supply chain.

To understand the potential of this program, let’s look at the successes of the Natural Gas STAR Program. When Gas STAR began in 1993, it promoted six best management practices that companies could take to reduce methane emissions; that list has increased to over 50 mitigation best practices. In 2015, a total of 103 oil and gas companies from across the natural gas value chain were U.S. Natural Gas STAR Partners. Since the Natural Gas STAR program started, our partners have collectively achieved over 1.2 trillion cubic feet of methane emission reductions, equivalent to the emissions savings associated with the use of over 1.4 million barrels of oil or reducing over 606 million metric tons of C02 equivalent emissions.

Our other voluntary programs are making similar strides. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR has helped consumers save $362 billion on their utility bills while significantly reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Since the Green Power Partnership was introduced in 2001, more than 1,200 organizations have committed to using about 33 billion kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable green power each year. Through the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, more than 480 partners have installed nearly 6,800 megawatts of new combined heat and power since 2001. And in 2013 alone, our methane and fluorinated greenhouse gas program partners used our tools and resources to prevent emissions equal to the annual electricity use from more than 12 million homes in 2013.

Our country has been building momentum towards a cleaner energy economy for quite a while, and with the help of our voluntary programs, our partners have been helping to pave the way. To address the global challenge of climate change, we need to use all the tools in our toolbox, and voluntary programs are an important complement to regulatory action. Through the innovation and leadership of our partners, our voluntary climate partnership programs have proven to be an important lever for change.

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A New Chapter in the Fight against Radon Exposure

By Janet McCabe

Nearly five years ago, we launched an ambitious and far-reaching radon action plan with eight other federal agencies to help save lives and create heathier indoor environments in government-influenced buildings like housing, schools, and childcare facilities. Why? Each year an estimated 21,000 Americans die from radon-induced lung cancer, which is unacceptable. Radon exposure is preventable.

So far our shared efforts have reached an estimated 1.6 million homes, schools and childcare facilities and led to testing for and mitigation of high radon when necessary in nearly 200,000 of those units. And we’ve nearly completed all of our Federal Radon Action Plan (FRAP) commitments like the General Services Administration’s goal to test its 103 childcare facilities for radon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s goal to establish radon testing and mitigation requirements for participants in its multifamily housing mortgage insurance programs. You can view the progress we made by visiting our FRAP Scorecard.

While we have made significant progress — in 2013 and 2014 we saw the highest rates of radon mitigation and radon resistant new construction ever recorded in the United States — there’s still more work to do. Elevated radon is still a serious challenge in an estimated 1 out of 15 homes across the United States. The good news is that we have help. Led by the American Lung Association, twelve organizations representing government, nonprofit and industry sectors have crafted and launched an expanded game plan known as the National Radon Action Plan (NRAP).

NRAP builds on, leverages, and accelerates the momentum we created at the federal level. The new and improved strategy aims to incorporate radon testing, radon mitigation and radon-resistant construction into the systems that govern the purchase, financing, and construction and renovation of homes and other buildings. It will have a huge impact on improving public health and in cutting health care costs. Our near-term goal is to reduce the radon risk in a total of five million homes and save 3,200 lives annually by 2020. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate avoidable radon-induced lung cancer in the United States.

As we close the chapter on the Federal Radon Action Plan, I’m excited to see what we will accomplish through our National Radon Action Plan.

I also encourage you to test your home for radon. Affordable do-it-yourself radon test kits are available online, at many home improvement and hardware stores, or you can hire a qualified radon professional. For more information on how to test your home, visit http://www.epa.gov/radon. Test. Fix. Save a Life.

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Location is important, especially when it comes to household products

By Jim Jones

Where do you keep your cleaning supplies? If you’re like most of us, you probably said under the sink. What about other household products like insect repellents and flea or tick products? Where you store your household products might seem like a small detail. However, storing cleaning and other products incorrectly could be putting your kids at risk for an accidental poisoning.

Here are some interesting statistics from the American Association of Poison Control Centers:

  • Poisoning is our country’s leading cause of injury-related death.
  • 91% of poisonings occur at home.
  • Exposure to household cleaning products is the second leading cause of pediatric poisonings.

The good news is that most poisonings are preventable. Storing cleaning and other household products out of children’s reach, is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your kids from accidental poisonings.

One of the most common cleaning products kids are exposed to is bleach. In 2014, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 15,000 poisoning incidents involving only bleach for kids 12 and under. Making cleaning products inaccessible to kids by simply moving them to a higher shelf or installing safety latches on cabinets where cleaning products are stored could have prevented some of these incidents from occurring.

Here are a few more things you can do every day to prevent poisonings:

  • Read the label first. Follow the directions as they are written on the label before using a product.
  • Use child-resistant packaging correctly by tightly sealing the container after every use.
  • Never put cleaning or other household products in containers that could be mistaken for food or drinks.

When you think of environmental protection you probably don’t automatically associate it with poison prevention. However, an important part of our mission involves ensuring the safety of public health around the country. But we can’t do it alone – we need your help!

Check out more poison prevention tips at http://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/reduce-your-childs-chances-pesticide-poisoning.

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E-Manifest: Tapping into America’s Expertise to Build a National System

By Mathy Stanislaus

Last year, I wrote about the progress we’re making on creating an electronic system for tracking hazardous waste shipments. It’s the system that will modernize the nation’s cradle to grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states. The e-Manifest program is the vanguard of the Agency-wide e-Enterprise initiative to develop new tools to reduce the reporting burden on regulated entities and provide the Agency, states and the public with easier access to environmental data.

Today I’m pleased to announce another important step toward this goal, the selection of members for our E-Manifest Advisory Board. We chose experts with diverse backgrounds to help ensure that perspectives from manifest users across the country will be incorporated into the recommendations for improving effectiveness of the e-Manifest system.

We followed a robust process to select the Advisory Board members. First, we solicited nominations through a variety of outlets, including the Federal Register, various professional associations, our e-Manifest ListServ, and the Office of Small Business Programs. We received an enthusiastic response from candidates with expertise in information technology and from stakeholders in the sectors affected by the future e-Manifest system, including state governments, transportation, and hazardous waste management. From this excellent slate of nominations, we selected eight members who we believe reflect a wide array of valuable expertise, including:

  • Decades of experience managing hazardous waste at generator, transporter, and hazardous waste management facilities;
  • Vast systems development knowledge, including one contributer to the OnStar Automotive assistive technology; and
  • Hands-on, in-depth experience managing state hazardous waste programs in the states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington.

As required by the e-Manifest Act, the Advisory Board will be composed of nine members consisting of the EPA Administrator (or her designee), two members from the information technology sector, three members from state agencies and three members from the regulated community. We are excited to start working with the Advisory Board to gather their thoughts on several complex issues surrounding the development of the e-manifest system, including effectiveness and performance, user fees and processes, regulations and guidance, and outreach to our stakeholders. We will convene the Advisory Board periodically beginning in 2016, and we intend to deploy the e-Manifest system in the spring of 2018.

For those stakeholders who are not part of the Advisory Board, there are several ways you can provide your input and expertise to the e-Manifest system project. Our system development work is focused on ensuring that user requirements are met from day one of national system deployment. To accomplish this, we are conducting user-centered design and development and are utilizing agile software development methodologies. This approach embodies continuous improvement through pilots and testing, using iterative processes, and continued regular engagement with users and stakeholders throughout the process to provide on-going opportunities for input.

I encourage you to follow progress on the development of the e-Manifest system on our website. There, you may also subscribe to the e-Manifest ListServ to receive project updates in real time and information about opportunities to provide feedback. You may also submit your ideas and questions to eManifest@epa.gov. And finally, once we publish our proposed fee methodology this spring, I encourage you to submit comments on the proposed rule through regulations.gov.

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Promoting Resource Efficiency By Focusing On Supply Chains

By Mathy Stanislaus

I recently attended a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Yokohama, Japan on Promoting International Cooperation for Improving Global Resource Efficiency and on the Kobe 3Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle). In Yokohama, I described our current activities promoting Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), which analyzes the entire life cycle of products and services to identify the best ways to use materials while minimizing environmental impacts (e.g., use of energy, water and land). That means looking at use of resources from the point of materials extraction, through production, all the way to the end of a product’s life and beyond to reuse and recycling.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell'Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell’Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

By advancing systems-based approaches such as SMM, we can reduce often-overlooked sources of significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as those from the supply chain of the manufacturing sector. The Paris Climate Agreement, for example, set a global goal to limit global warming to less than 2o Celsius by reducing GHG emissions. More than 40 percent of these emissions are attributable to materials management, and the G7 Alliance offers an important new mechanism to help meet the goal.

We are working collaboratively with the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency (G7 members from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with representation from the European Union) and the private and public sector to foster a circular economy, one in which materials are used for as long as possible and materials and products are recovered at the end of their life. Our work is important because, as the G7 Alliance found last year, “for every one percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent . . . much of raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste with[in] one year. . . Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and concomitant environmental degradation translates to increased business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions.”

The U.S is hosting a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Washington, D.C. on March 22-23, 2016. At this forum participants from across the globe will explore how to use life-cycle concepts to advance resource efficiency and focus on significant upstream impacts in supply chains, specifically the auto sector. Why focus on the auto sector? That sector is an important part of our industrial and service economies and is significant to the gross domestic product of several G7 countries. It is also a global economic driver with supply chains reaching across the world. Additionally, automobile manufacturers and their suppliers are innovatively using life-cycle concepts to identify and address significant impacts and resource use.

Sessions will address a wide range of topics designed to benefit all participants – overcoming SMM barriers, the use of innovative materials and eco-design, information tools to foster life-cycle thinking, industry “hotspot” identification, supply chain transparency, incentives for change, and more. Participants will identify best practices that are transferrable to other sectors. Follow the conversation with the #G7CircularEconomy hashtag.

Building on the results of the workshop, we plan to host subsequent workshops to support the global transition to sustainable materials management. We know that there will be challenges ahead, but I am proud we are working with our fellow G7 countries in taking actions that will be beneficial to others for years to come.

Continue the discussion by following @EPAland’s conversation on #G7CircularEconomy.

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EPA Taking Steps to Cut Methane Emissions from Existing Oil and Gas Sources

By Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator

Today, as part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing commitment to act on climate, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to new actions to reduce methane pollution from the oil and natural gas sector, the world’s largest industrial source of methane. These actions build on the historic agreement that nearly 200 nations made in Paris last December to combat climate change and ensure a more stable environment for future generations.

Methane is upwards of 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet and is a key constituent of natural gas. By tackling methane emissions, we can unlock an amazing opportunity to spur U.S. action to protect our environment, but also unleash opportunities to think creatively and lead the world in developing a clean energy economy.

That’s why the Administration has been moving quickly and working hard to reduce emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. In 2012, we set emissions standards that cut pollution, including methane, emitted by fractured and re-fractured natural gas wells. This past summer, we proposed standards to directly address methane from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. Each of these steps moves the United States toward our goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

But as science advances and new data emerge, we need to make sure we’re continuing to address the biggest climate challenges in the best ways possible. Over the past year, EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, along with studies from groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and industry and researchers at Colorado State University, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Texas, Washington State University, and others have provided significant new data on methane emitted by existing operations in the oil and gas sector.

The new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood. So, it’s time to take a closer look at regulating existing sources of methane emissions.

And, today, President Obama committed to doing just that. EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources. We will start this work immediately to address methane from existing sources. We intend to work swiftly, and will involve stakeholders in meaningful ways, as we have been doing all along.

We will begin with a formal process to require companies operating existing oil and gas sources to provide information to assist in the development of comprehensive regulations to reduce methane emissions. An Information Collection Request (ICR) will allow us to gather information on existing sources of methane emissions, technologies to reduce those emissions and the costs of those technologies in the production, gathering, processing, and transmission and storage segments of the oil and gas sector.

This is a routine step to assist in the development process for regulations to reduce air pollution. It helps EPA identify the most significant sources of emissions, the kinds of technologies that work best to reduce them, and how those technologies can be applied effectively.

There are hundreds of thousands of existing oil and gas sources across our country; some emit small amounts of methane, while others emit a lot. The Information Collection Request will help EPA identify, among other things, which existing sources are big emitters and how they can be effectively controlled. EPA will begin preliminary outreach to states, industry, environmental groups, communities and other organizations in the coming weeks and will launch the formal information collection process in April. This engagement will give us the opportunity to hear feedback from the public on our plans.

Throughout the process we will continue to expand opportunities for industry to voluntarily step up now to cut emissions from existing sources through EPA’s Methane Challenge program. Voluntary action to reduce methane emissions will put leading companies ahead of the game in meeting future standards.

I am pleased and proud to fulfill President Obama’s commitment to reduce methane emissions and join our Canadian colleagues in the continued fight against climate change.

Additional information:

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