environmental information

The Importance of Education and Outreach

Every day at EPA we are focused on two things: protecting public health and improving the environment for all Americans. As part of that effort we have the responsibility to explain this work to every American and make clear why it is relevant to their lives and the lives of their families.

Like almost every government, business or non-profit organization these days, we use social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to stay connected and to inform people across the country about our work.

It lets us communicate directly with the public and to get their feedback. We also use these platforms to correct the record and clarify misinformation that is often injected in the discussion about important policies, rules and regulations.

One recent example has been around the development of our Clean Water Rule. The issue itself is a complicated one, admittedly. It involves science, complicated decisions from the Supreme Court, and very strong opinions on all sides. To ensure Americans had the facts directly from us about the proposed rule, the value of protecting streams and wetlands, and the need for clearly defined protections under the Clean Water Act, we used social media.

Our goal is to inform and educate. We encourage folks from all perspectives to participate so we can understand more, learn more and finalize a stronger rule. Every stakeholder — whether they supported or opposed the rule — were provided the same link to our Clean Water Rule webpage in education and outreach materials, emails, and presentations, and were told the deadline for submitting public comments and how to do so.

A public outreach effort to increase awareness and support of EPA’s proposed Clean Water Rule is well within the appropriate bounds of the agency’s mission to educate and engage Americans. As noted in a recent Comptroller General opinion, “agency officials have broad authority to educate the public on their policies and views, and this includes the authority to be persuasive in their materials.”

Because that is a fundamental step in developing smart, pragmatic regulations that allow us to protect public health and the environment while at the same time allowing the economy to continue to grow.

After releasing the proposed Clean Water Rule in March 2014, EPA conducted an unprecedented outreach effort that included holding more than 400 meetings across the country and visiting farms in nine states. The input helped us understand the genuine concerns and interests of a wide range of stakeholders and think through options to address them. As outlined in a recent blog by Administrator McCarthy, the key changes made to the proposed rule were actually driven in large part by outreach to agriculture, local government, states, and utilities.

About the author: Liz Purchia is the Deputy Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Public Affairs.

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

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

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

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

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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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2014 Green Power Leadership Awards

By Jared Blumenfeld

Today, I was in Sacramento, Calif., to present EPA’s Green Power Leadership Awards. By showing leadership in buying and using green power, as well as making it more widely available, today’s honorees are building a cleaner and brighter future while helping to strengthen the economy.

Since its inception in 2001, the Green Power Partnership has engaged with all types of organizations—Fortune 500 companies, cities, academic institutions, nonprofits and others—to encourage them to voluntarily use more green power. The partnership now has more than 1,300 partners using billions of kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually.

These organizations go the extra mile in growing the green power market. For example, the City of Las Vegas—awarded for generating green power on-site–recently installed 3.3 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels at its wastewater treatment facility. It’s the largest project of its type in the region. The installation saves Las Vegas approximately $600,000 per year and stabilizes the cost of power needed to run the facility. Cities in Oregon, Texas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Tennessee also got awards for their green power projects.

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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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A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

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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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Building Partnerships to Invest in Communities and Redevelopment

We recently announced our continued commitment to invest in communities to jump-start local economic redevelopment through the award of the brownfields assessment, revolving loan fund and cleanup (ARC) grants. Since the first pilot grants were issued in the 1990s, communities across the country have successfully utilized these EPA grant funds to address the reuse and redevelopment of idle, contaminated properties. These grant awards represent a new start, a chance to empower communities to return once blighted neighborhoods into opportunities to generate jobs and spur economic growth. Many projects, past and present, which received ARC grants promote a clean environment and redevelopment.

Partnerships between neighborhoods, local developers, and governments are essential for surrounding communities to acquire the resources needed to meet revitalization goals. EPA’s Brownfields Program strives to expand the ability of all communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses. By leveraging private resources, and the resources of other federal and state programs, communities can support site cleanup as part of the redevelopment process. EPA cannot meet every community site reuse need without the support of strong partnerships leveraging a range of resources. We want every community to have access to the resources they need to address brownfields and use them as catalysts to stimulate new economic activity and jobs, and serve as the foundation for an improved community quality of life.

Other projects these grants have affected include:

  • Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in South Dakota plans to clean-up the Old Swiftbird Day School and reuse the site as an eagle sanctuary. The tribe leveraged funding to oversee the project completion and leveraged $1.3 million from the Tribal Equitable Compensation Act;
  • Indianapolis’ first permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans opened on the site of a former iron foundry brownfield remediated by the City; and
  • The City of Waterloo, Iowa began a renewal initiative on many abandoned commercial and industrial properties with perceived contamination.
  • The crime-prone Greg Grant Park in Trenton, NJ was removed and replaced with award-winning housing for low income residents.
  • The investigation of the Sugar Hill site in Harlem, NY led to a remediation project that was completed in November 2012, creating a Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling that will open later this year.
  • Read all our brownfields success stories.

These are just some of many ARC grant success stories and I’m proud of the visible impacts these grants have had in communities across the country. Since the beginning of the EPA’s Brownfields program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments across the country have leveraged more than $21 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. This equates to an average of $17.79 leveraged per EPA brownfield dollar expended. These investments have resulted in approximately 93,000 jobs nationwide. To date, the brownfields program has assessed over 20,600 sites, and made over 30,000 acres ready for reuse.

I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments:

  • What additional actions do you think EPA could take to further encourage the leveraging of private resources for brownfields redevelopment?
  • What steps can EPA take to build more partnerships and align resources in order to advance brownfields projects?
  • What other community uses or needs should EPA consider in project implementation?

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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Restoring Our Monuments

monumnetsOn a recent morning run around the National Mall, I took my first swing by the newly-restored Washington Monument since it had closed after an August 2011 earthquake. From afar and up close, patches show where the tower has been revitalized, resuscitated and renewed. The goal was never to restore it to its original look and condition. Nothing can ever be truly “restored” in the pure sense; I’ve sometimes wondered why the word even exists. But that was never the goal. The goal was to restore its functionality.

When President Obama first proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2009 that was the goal, too. These magnificent natural monuments—shared by Canada, eight states, dozens of tribes and thousands of municipalities, and home to some 95 percent of the nation’s fresh surface water—had been crumbling ecologically. Decades of habitat loss, alien species invasions, phosphorus runoff that causes mats of harmful algae, and industrial pollution had caused extreme wear such that we needed to accelerate progress in restoring their functionality.

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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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EPA Takes Important Step in Assessing Chemical Risk

Earlier today, EPA made public a final risk assessment on a number of uses of the chemical, Trichloroethylene, or TCE, as it is more commonly known. The risk assessment indicated health risks from TCE to consumers using spray aerosol degreasers and spray fixatives used for artwork. It can pose harm to workers when TCE is used as a degreaser in small commercial shops and as a stain remover in dry cleaners. It has been more than 28 years since we last issued a final risk assessment for an existing chemical.

EPA conducted the TCE risk assessment as part of a broader effort to begin assessing chemicals and chemical uses that may pose a concern to human health and the environment under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA is this country’s 38-year old chemicals management legislation, which is badly in need of modernization

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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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Social Media Magic

As an environmental policy major at the University of Maryland, I knew I’d found the perfect internship at the Office of Web Communications.

Working here is showing me a whole new side to the sites and applications I spend so much of my time on. My normal day on social media includes some frankly pathetic attempts at humor on Twitter, some carefully selected photos on Instagram, and an overwhelming amount of posts with sub-par grammar on Tumblr. How EPA uses social media, however, is a whole different story.  Where my “hilarious” tweets fall flat amongst my small following of friends, EPA’s tweets convey important health and environmental information that reaches thousands and get shared constantly.

Take my first day at EPA for example, Monday, June 2, 2014, the day Administrator McCarthy announced the new Clean Power Plan. I’m not exaggerating when I say the internet EXPLODED.  There were tweets, Facebook shares, and comments upon comments of the public’s reactions all flooding in at top speed. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, but also very intrigued by social media on this scale.  The following week proved to be even more interesting as I got to work on some of EPA’s posts myself. Nothing was more gratifying than seeing a post I helped write on the official EPA Facebook page!

A selfie Maddie took at her desk at EPA.

After just one week here, I’m beginning to see a new picture form about the social media sites I thought I knew so well. I’ve come to realize that social media is not just for teenagers and their endless (beautiful) selfies, but it is a way for the whole world to keep connected to today’s important issues. As I got a chance to explore all the social media outlets the EPA has to offer (check them all out here), I realized that social media is not just about shares and retweets, but is more about participation. Having today’s most important news stories readily available invites a conversation that gets everyone involved. Whether it’s a comment on a Facebook post, a retweet on Twitter, or a video on YouTube, EPA has some great ways to encourage an important conversation with the world.  I am so excited to see and learn more about social media and EPA during my summer here!

About the author:  Maddie Dwyer studies environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland. She works as an intern for EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At the Intersection of Human Health and Environmental Protection

A community’s health, safety, and productiveness is dependent on the protection of its environment. This intersection, between environmental stewardship and community growth, is one of the most important aspects of the work we do every day at EPA. That’s why one of Administrator McCarthy’s key themes is making a visible difference in communities across the country. However, it’s not just cities and towns here in the U.S. that benefit from environmental protection. Worldwide, our homes are safer, our children are healthier, and our economies are stronger when we invest in environmental stewardship.

During my time at EPA, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the impact of environmental protection in communities worldwide. When I traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I saw firsthand the environmental challenges that communities were facing in Africa and other parts of the world. More

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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Along the Road to Sustainability

By Bob Perciasepe

Technology and open access to data and tools have ended the excruciating choice that generations of unsure car travelers have sometimes faced: forge ahead just a few more miles, or stop and ask for directions? Such stress has largely faded with the advent of dashboard-mounted, satellite-enabled navigation systems and readily available smartphone applications.

Getting to your desired destination is always easier when you have the right information at your disposal. That’s why today I’m excited to announce that EPA has released a tool to help environmental decision makers and local communities navigate toward a more sustainable future: EnviroAtlas.

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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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