Environmental Management

Embracing Change in Life and at Work

By Marc Vincent

As a Washington, D.C. area native, I always find the beginning of spring in this area very exciting. During a recent walk with my dog around the cherry blossom-lined Tidal Basin, I thought about how spring reminds me of change. In the past year, I have seen a lot of change in my life, as I recently graduated from a master’s program in environmental policy and joined EPA. One of my first projects at EPA was also focused on change.

I currently serve as the project lead for the National Program Manager (NPM) Guidance process. Similar to the cherry blossoms, the NPM Guidances are showcased each spring. These documents communicate how EPA will work with states and tribes to implement its environmental programs in water; air and radiation; solid waste; chemical safety and pollution prevention; and enforcement. The Guidances also provide more technical direction for our state and tribal partners to help establish work plans and strategies. Overall, these Guidances are great for those looking to learn more about different environmental areas such as climate change and find out what the Agency plans to do in FY 2014 to address these types of environmental concerns.

Over the past year, I worked closely with my colleagues from across the Agency to develop a new streamlined, consistent, and concise format for the Guidances to increase their effectiveness as tools for our states and tribes. Given the current fiscal constraints, we knew that we needed to work more efficiently and effectively with our partners to achieve the Agency’s mission – the main reason I joined EPA! To play a part in this change effort has been very fulfilling. Not only did we reduce the number of pages in the Guidances (thus saving trees), but we believe we also made them easier for states and tribes to access, review and use. They are also great for a casual read to enhance your knowledge of environmental issues!

Now, it’s time for you to tell me what you think about the draft FY 2014 NPM Guidances, which are available for comment through May 9, 2013 at http://www2.epa.gov/planandbudget/fy2014. I look forward to hearing from you, and I also highly recommend that you check out the cherry blossoms if you can!

About the author: Marc Vincent has been working in EPA’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer since 2011. He serves as the project lead for the NPM Guidance process. Marc enjoys spending time with his dog and cooking new types of food with his friends and family.

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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Science Wednesday: Picking a Winner

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Mike Gill

I almost said no when I was asked to be a judge at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). What a mistake that would have been!

I work in EPA’s Region 9 office in San Francisco. I was joined at ISEF by colleagues Ned Black, also from San Francisco, and Melissa Anley-Mills from Washington, DC.

Our goal was to find the project that best promoted environmental restoration, preservation and sustainability to receive the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award. We had the opportunity to review many worthy projects and hopefully encourage the kids to pursue a lifetime of scientific curiosity and even study environmental science and engineering. And what talent they have!

It was tough knowing that out of all the brilliant kids, we could only pick one winner. 299 out of the total 1500 projects fell under our categories of interest, which included environmental management and environmental sciences. From these, we narrowed it down to 59 posters to review on Day 1 (sans kids) and then 10 “semi-finalists,” who we interviewed on Day 2.

Two things that met the goal of sustainability for us were using “re-purposed” materials (leftovers), and when it was clear that the students considered the complete life cycle of their project. It was important that projects try to avoid any unintended consequences. In addition, the simpler a project was, the more elegant it tended to be—such as a device built using a discarded laundry basket and duct tape to harness wind power in the developing world.

The winner? We selected Param Jaggi from Plano, Texas for his project Algae-Mobile 3: Bioactive Energy and Carbon Dioxide Filtration in the Exhaust of a Car. His work may one day improve air quality by reducing contaminants from automobile exhaust and improve the health of anyone impacted by automobiles. We also selected two impressive runners up: a project from Ireland that used beach strangling lettuce seaweed as heating fuel briquettes, and a project that harnessed wave, wind and solar power to create electricity.

This 2011 Intel ISEF was a great experience and certainly restored any lost faith I had on today’s kids and their ability to excel at science, technology, engineering and math. And I’m proud that EPA is playing a part in recognizing them!

About the Author: Mike Gill works in the EPA Region 9 office as a liaison between the staff working on Superfund hazardous waste cleanups and researchers in our EPA labs nationwide.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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My Farewell

Official portrait of EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus PeacockMarcus Peacock is EPA’s Deputy Administrator. This speech was written a year ago to be delivered next week. It didn’t need to be changed one whit.

A teacher once asked her third grade class if any of the students had heard of Julius Caesar. “Yes,” said one girl in the back of the classroom. “What do you know about him?” the teacher asked. “Well, I know he lived a long time ago and he was really important.” “Anything else?” the teacher prodded. “Yeah, he gave really long speeches . . . and they killed him.”

(pause)

I don’t intend to talk for long.

For over three years I’ve been in charge of making EPA run better. I think it’s the best job I’ll ever have. It’s tough to say ‘good-bye.’

It’s been an exciting 42 months. First we set up a system for governing at the ‘corporate’ level by creating quarterly management reports and meetings. Building off this I believe we have become the best-managed Agency in the Cabinet. Look at what we did in 2008 alone. We were:

  • the second Agency to achieve, and keep, the highest possible score on the President’s Management Agenda
  • the only Agency to create a new organization, the Program Analysis Division, whose full-time job is to look for ways to improve operations and outcomes.
  • one of a few agencies to systematically capture, disseminate, and validate best practices;
  • the first Agency to internally broadcast, live, regular senior management progress meetings;
  • the only Agency I know of to have our senior career managers regularly meet to make decisions regarding improving our operations and management systems;
  • and the first federal Agency to win the President’s Quality Award for overall management back-to-back.

Part of this success is due to the fact we used measures to manage rather than just using them to report. Since 2005 we’ve reduced the number of measures by 20 percent making those that remain more vital. In 2008:

  • EPA, for the first time, corralled all our performance measures into one central repository;
  • all EPA offices were able to access all our measures electronically and some offices were able to create tailored electronic dashboards; and
  • managers were not slaves to measures but constantly asked the key question, “What are the outcomes we are really trying to achieve?”

We accomplished these things because hundreds of people at this Agency understand that when EPA works better, public health and the environment improve faster. Management initiatives are gobbledygook unless they lead to cleaner air, water, and/or land. It’s that simple.

I’ll miss working on EPA’s operations and on EPA’s mission. But most of all, I’ll miss working with people who get up every morning, look themselves in the mirror and ask, “How can I improve what we do today?”

Thanks and farewell.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.