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A New Strategy for a Changing Arctic

By Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator

Day after day, the Arctic Region is getting warmer, and the environment is changing in clear and measurable ways. Scientists have observed declining sea ice during the summer, thinning Arctic sea ice throughout the year, and a decrease in land ice that supports vital infrastructure. These changes are already attracting additional shipping in and through the Arctic and greater interest in the region’s energy and mineral resources.

Today the White House announced the United States’ new National Strategy for the Arctic Region. In the past four years, we have become increasingly aware of the mounting challenges we face in this region and the responsibility our country has as an Arctic nation. If we want to ensure a secure and sustainable Arctic, the federal government and our partners across the region must align our efforts. The Strategy highlights the importance of continued federal cooperation with the State of Alaska and Alaska Natives, which is particularly important for emergency preparedness and response. It also endorses new and innovative partnerships to address emerging challenges.

EPA already works with its Arctic neighbors to address climate and traditional pollutants, including our recent efforts to address black carbon. We’ve seen how working with international partners – including through the Arctic Council — allows us to combine our resources and knowledge so we can better protect American communities from emissions of mercury and other harmful toxins, as well as from the effects of climate pollutants. As part of the new Arctic Strategy, EPA will continue to monitor and take action as necessary to reduce emissions that impact the region.

Working closely with Alaska Natives is another key component of the Arctic Strategy. Not only are local residents essential sources of information when it comes to the region and its challenges, but they are also important stewards of the Arctic environment.

It’s not only about enhancing our partnerships; science has a major role to play in this effort, too. Since I became deputy administrator of EPA back in 2009, one of my most important goals has been ensuring that EPA makes decisions firmly rooted in the best available science. This principle is a cornerstone of the Arctic Strategy we are unveiling. Given the extreme conditions and vulnerabilities that this region has always presented, improving our scientific understanding of the region will allow the U.S. to design and implement better policies for a rapidly changing Arctic.

We don’t have all of the solutions just yet, but the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region provides a framework to address the region’s challenges as they evolve. The strategy we have developed supports EPA’s ongoing work in the Arctic and helps to prioritize our efforts going forward. I am proud of EPA’s role in developing this important framework, and I look forward to working with our many partners to implement it in the time ahead.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is acting administrator of the U.S. EPA.

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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Recognizing EPA’s Extraordinary Team of Public Servants

By Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator

This week is Public Service Recognition week, and as acting administrator at EPA, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary public servants I work alongside every day. Public service is a high calling. I know how keenly aware my colleagues are of the service they provide every day to our country. They are answering the call to duty and heeding the words of President Kennedy, “Ask what you can do for your country.”

Thanks to the hard work of the men and women who serve at EPA, the Agency has helped cut pollution and improve health benefits at a record level, while delivering more assistance and making more investments to help businesses and state and local governments meet health standards. In the 43 years since the EPA opened its doors, the American population has grown by more than 50 percent. During the same time frame, we have cut harmful air pollution by more than half. And as our country’s air, water and land have become cleaner, we have also seen our national gross domestic product (GDP) grow more than 200 percent since 1970.

We’ve developed and supported the most efficient and effective environmental enforcement programs in our history. We’ve advanced our science and our approaches to testing chemicals – and met challenges like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by helping to keep those regions clean and the people there safe and healthy. We’ve expanded our partnerships with local communities and tribal nations, and consequently, we’ve been able to target our resources more effectively to address the most pressing environmental problems they face. And we’ve doubled down on our own commitment to sustainability by dramatically cutting the Agency’s overall energy use, reducing our water use, and slashing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80 percent. That’s the equivalent of taking 21,700 cars off the road or planting more than 2.7 million trees.

EPA employees have also found innovative and unprecedented ways to address the complex environmental challenges – and tight budgets – Americans face today. For example, in 2011, EPA announced a new water technology innovation cluster in Cincinnati, a public/private partnership to develop and commercialize technologies to solve water quality challenges, encourage sustainable economic development and create jobs. Last year EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance announced the public release of an online mapping tool called NEPAssist to help make federal agencies conduct environmental reviews and project planning more efficiently and more effectively. And just recently EPA launched the Green Button on our Home Energy Yardstick. Now American homeowners can measure – and improve – their home’s energy efficiency using this free online energy-assessment tool.

This is exciting work, and you don’t have to take my word for it: Last week the Partnership for Public Service ranked EPA as third in innovation among large federal agencies, according to a survey they conducted of federal employees. In the many ways they contribute to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment, my colleagues are remarkable public servants. I’m proud to work with them, and this week, to celebrate them.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is Acting Administrator of the U.S. EPA.

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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Rachel Carson and Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

Cross-posted from the Administrator’s Blog

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of ecologist Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking 1962 book Silent Spring. By 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established.

That’s no coincidence.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring launched the modern-day environmental movement and changed the world we live in.

In her book, Carson discussed the widespread and detrimental use of certain pesticides – especially DDT, a toxin that almost wiped out our national symbol, the bald eagle. EPA banned the use of that pesticide in 1972.

Rachel Carson’s writing helped Americans see the connections between their health and the health of the environment. Her efforts helped ignite the conversation on environmentalism in America.

One of my priorities as administrator of EPA has been to continue what Rachel began by working to expand the conversation on environmentalism. Bringing people together around environmental issues is essential. We want mothers and fathers to know how important clean air, water and land are to their health and the health of their children. We want to continue to engage African Americans and Latinos and expand the conversation on environmental challenges, so we can address health disparities resulting from pollution that affects low-income and minority communities. Environmental justice will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

Though we’ve made a great deal of progress since Silent Spring, we still have much work to do. Heart disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses are three of the top four most fatal health threats in America. They account for more than half of the deaths in the nation – and all three have been linked to environmental causes. Environmental issues are critical health issues, and we need all Americans to participate in this conversation.

Rachel Carson helped show many Americans that, though they may not think of themselves as environmentalists, environmental issues invariably play a role in their health and in the future of the nation.

Her message remains as true and as critical today as it was 50 years ago.

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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EPA Administrator Talks Jobs in NYC

EPA Administrator Lisa P Jackson has a candid conversation with New York City stakeholders at the green jobs roundtable held last Monday.

By Elizabeth Myer 

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson dropped by our New York City offices on Monday, where she spoke to and inspired employees and held a roundtable with local stakeholders. During her visit, the Administrator addressed many of the priorities laid out in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last week, namely focusing on the intersection of environmental protection, public health, green jobs and a strong economy in 2012 and beyond. 

(Left) EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck answers questions alongside Administrator Jackson

At the Roundtable that followed, Lisa Jackson posed a question to NYC leaders in order solicit their thoughts on job creation through environmental protection. Specifically, the Administrator wanted to know how to amplify the success stories many small businesses have had creating green jobs in the backdrop of large industry cuts. Participants were asked to enlighten others by sharing past work which highlighted the nexus between environmental protection and a strong economy. The overall response was encouraging and inspiring. One stakeholder suggested that green jobs should be expanded to all sectors (instead of just energy) as a means to change the national narrative. Another participant emphasized the importance of professional development for individuals seeking work in the green jobs sector. Furthermore, the roundtable attendees each made suggestions for specific steps to promote job creation in the field of environmental protection. Jackson listened intently throughout the meeting and in her concluding remarks, challenged the roundtable participants to “be the legislation” that drives these issues. 

Here is my question to you, our valuable readers and environmental stakeholders: How can we broaden communication between diverse groups on the subject of green job creation?

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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Investing in Our Communities and Creating Jobs

This post is cross-posted from The White House Blog

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Ed. Note: Check out this slideshow of former abandoned waste sites that have been revitalized with EPA investments.

Every American wants their air and water to be clean and the land where they live, work, play and learn to be free of pollution. But President Obama knows that these cleaner, healthier communities are also better places to buy a home or start a business – boosting local economies and creating jobs often in areas where they’re needed most. That’s why this Administration is investing in clean, green, sustainable communities that will help us win the future.

Since EPA’s brownfields program began less than a decade ago, it has spurred almost 70,000 American jobs. To build on this record of success, I’m in Lansing, Michigan today where I’m announcing $76 million in clean-up grants that will be used for projects throughout the nation.
With the help of local workers, we’ll turn tainted factories, deserted gas stations, closed smelters and some of the more than 450,000 other abandoned or contaminated sites throughout America into vibrant residential and retail districts filled with opportunities for American workers.

I chose Lansing to make this announcement because of the progress they’ve seen thanks to EPA and local funding that has helped to revitalize a distressed community. In recent years, a troubled auto industry put many Lansing residents out of work, while leaving in its wake vacant and often contaminated lots. But the community rallied back, and with the help of a $2 million brownfields grant, they leveraged about $230 million in private investments. Today they’re receiving additional funding to continue expanding their success.

We’ll soon see stories like this one unfold throughout the nation with the help of the funding being awarded today. Like in Chicago, where 575 children will benefit from a new school being built in a disadvantaged neighborhood where a vacant industrial property now lies. Or like in Nassau County, New York, where a park, hotel, affordable housing, and restaurant and retail space will be built on top of unused waterfront property – creating more than 7,700 local jobs. Eight-hundred more jobs will be created in Milwaukee, where a modern business park will replace a contaminated site that’s threatening the health of locals. And in Springfield, Missouri, a clean-up grant will transform a former rail yard into parks and leverage $6 million in private investments.

In reinvigorating these abandoned and often polluted sites – and hundreds of others across our country – we’ll improve our health at the same time that we strengthen our economy. These cleaner, healthier and more prosperous communities will also be more resilient and sustainable for our future.

Find more information on EPA’s brownfields program.

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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Protecting Our Kids from Asthma

This post is cross-posted from Mom’s Rising.org

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This month is National Asthma Awareness Month, when we address an illness that affects nearly 25 million Americans and one in every ten children in the United States.

Safeguarding the air we breathe and preventing illnesses like asthma attacks is one of my most important jobs as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But it is important to me for other reasons as well — before I am Administrator, or an environmentalist, I am a mother of two teenage sons whose health, happiness and future are my and my husband’s top concerns. Over the years, my youngest son has struggled with asthma, giving my work for clean air an added urgency.

In some cases, raising a child with asthma means startling awake at night because of the lightest sound of a cough. In other cases, it means family trips with a nebulizer, breathing masks and asthma medication. But in every case, it means taking special care to monitor the environmental conditions that might trigger an attack.

National Asthma Awareness Month is an important opportunity to raise awareness about those triggers and ensure that everyone has the knowledge they need to help control asthma. The EPA has assembled a number of great resources on our website.  I’ve also recorded a short video about Asthma Awareness Month. I hope you’ll watch it, share it, and help us get the word out about asthma awareness.


This National Asthma Awareness Month, we need your help to make sure everyone knows what they can do to help prevent and protect against asthma.

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.

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.

Remembering Katrina

Lisa P. Jackson
I was in New Orleans visiting my mother in the days before Hurricane Katrina struck. As the warnings grew more dire, we packed a car and drove out of the city, escaping the destructive force of the storm and the water that flooded the home where I grew up.

While my mother and I escaped to safety, in the aftermath of the storm hundreds of EPA personnel and emergency response volunteers traveled into the area. Their mission was to assess the environmental impact of the event and uncover any immediate health threats. As EPA responders deployed throughout the city, they ended up rescuing more than 800 people.

2010 marks the fifth year since Hurricane Katrina struck, and we have asked some of the responders on the scene in 2005 to tell their stories. Today we are sharing those stories with you, and providing a glimpse into an unprecedented response effort. I invite you to read their accounts below,  learn about the events on the ground and in the water five years ago, and share your remembrances.

More about EPA activities in response to Katrina.

Dave Deegan
Boston, MA Regional Office

It’s hard to believe that we now are reflecting on the fifth anniversary of Katrina and the devastation it left. The lessons and experiences of responding in the Hurricane’s aftermath simultaneously feels much more recent and ancient.

All of us – EPA responders and citizens alike – recall images from the terrible flood: displaced families and individuals who symbolized an entire city, and their abandoned homes and businesses. Utter, heartbreaking devastation.

What I recall most strongly at this point, however, is more positive and hopeful. I spent two weeks or so in Louisiana, only a few weeks after the storm had hit. While I wasn’t in the first wave of responders who helped pull victims from the flood waters, I was there pretty early in the response effort. And within just those few weeks, I was incredibly impressed with how EPA staff from all across the country responded.

I remember someone saying while I was there, that there were something like 1,000 EPA employees volunteering at that moment to help the people of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast cope with the disaster. This amount of people represented a new EPA regional office – and a larger office than any of the existing ten – which had been pulled together in one month’s time. This represented a thousand families across the country where a mom or dad, a son or daughter, a sibling or loved one, had dropped every other important thing in their life, to respond to a call of duty and try to help our fellow American’s cope with a dreadful situation.

The hours were long and exhausting, the comforts nonexistent, the suffering we all witnessed was terribly disturbing. But nonetheless, responding during that emergency was probably the proudest moment I have ever had working at EPA during a 19 year career. It wasn’t about us, and it still isn’t. It’s about pitching in when there is a need and you are able to do something to help.

David Kluesner
New York, NY Regional Office

Being a part of EPA’s cleanup efforts in Louisiana reinforced my belief in the strength of the human spirit and our ability to live, fight and even thrive in the face of loss and destruction. In late September 2005 I reported to EPA’s Incident Command Post in Baton Rouge as an Assistant Public Information Officer (PIO). Shortly after arriving I had an opportunity to drive out to Slidell, Louisiana with the outgoing Assistant PIO.

Like many other communities, Slidell was hit hard from flooding. Nothing prepared me for the emotions of what I was about to see and experience. Homes toppled over in canals. Sofas perched in trees 20 feet above us. The inescapable smell of decaying animals. My nature is that I often absorb the feelings of those around me. I remembered feeling sick, overwhelmed and sad after a couple of hours of meeting folks in Slidell and witnessing their loss. I had nothing tangible to give the hurricane victims other than my time helping out with EPA’s household hazardous waste cleanup efforts. The folks in Slidell, and in particular the last resident that I met, reminded me of the value of listening and the importance of being there, the need for humans to feel connected.

A man in his late 60’s stood near his flooded home on a rural road just outside Slidell. It was almost completely destroyed, definitely uninhabitable. We stopped our car, and he invited us to look inside his home and walk around. Flooded and too dangerous to go into, we stood outside, under a tree with that sofa high above our heads. We listened as he told us of his losses and that his wife of 40 years had kidney disease and had to be taken to a hospital in Baton Rouge shortly before Katrina hit. She had only a few months to live he told us. Their home was an anchor to so many of their memories, and now that was pretty much destroyed. My heart was at its lowest as I thought we really had nothing to offer him. We had no check to give him. No promises of getting him into that home any time soon. I remember I felt embarrassed for “wasting his time”. As we said good bye and walked to our car, he yelled out “Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for listening and just letting us know that someone is out there trying to help us!” He had the biggest smile on his face. And that smile, and his words of thanks, gave me such strength and reinvigorated my own determination in the days and weeks that followed. Five years later, recalling that moment, I can see his smile like it was yesterday and it still lifts me.

Bonnie Bellow
New York, NY Regional Office

Nothing teaches you more about what EPA does and why we do it than taking part in a response to an emergency. I had the privilege of serving as a public information officer during the response to Hurricane Katrina, a chilling experience that taught me lessons and provided memories still very much alive to this day.

I arrived at the Incident Command Post in Metairie, Louisiana about six weeks after the storm, and will never forget the silent ride from the airport as I looked over the devastation left by the receding waters. While the pictures on TV were shocking, seeing the watermarks well above the doors of home after home with my own eyes was much more compelling and disturbing. The city was deserted and quiet. But the Command Post, in which staff from EPA, the Coast Guard and the state environmental agency were working side by side, was cookin’. It was like a small city, completely organized to cover every needed function, from the operation itself – largely focused at that point on the identification and retrieval of hazardous materials – to the planning and logistics required to manage such a huge operation, to the simple needs of food and shelter for more than 100 people. If you needed bug spray, or a map to provide to a reporter, or an update on the exact number of electronic devices we had collected, there was a place to find it, and find it quickly.

The scope of the operation was simply mind boggling. One image etched in my memory is the sight of thousands of refrigerators lined up in neat rows in a huge field waiting to have their Freon removed so they could be crushed and recycled. It was a giant refrigerator graveyard. As I walked up and down the aisles with reporters in tow, I kept thinking how each refrigerator – a mundane part of daily life – had come from someone’s home that was now destroyed.

Looking back, I sometimes think about the 7:00 am mandatory meeting for the whole team – over a hundred bleary-eyed people, some who had been up half the night planning the next day’s work, getting their marching orders. One of my jobs was to report the results of the previous night’s sports scores, information critical to team morale. We got our assignments, the safety brief, and were sent off for our 12-hour shifts, exhorted by the burly and boisterous state Incident Commander to “Plan your play, and play your plan.” That’s what EPA does, even in the toughest situations, and does it best.

David Eppler
Dallas, TX Regional Office
IMT Safety Officer and Enforcement Officer in the Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division

In early October, 2005, I was driving through the Ninth Ward on the way to do an inspection, and came upon two women in the front yard of the remains of a house knocked down by the floodwater. They looked haggard and exhausted. I stopped and asked them if they had food and water. They told me they had just come back to their home from Baton Rouge, where they went to escape the disaster. They were an elderly mother and her young granddaughter, sifting through the remains of their lives. looking for whatever they could find. “We were both born and raised in this house” the grandmother said. “Now it’s all gone. But at least we have food and water for today. We’ll be all right. Thanks for asking.” I drove on, knowing I would forever remember their tired faces as they searched for future meaning in the disaster of the past.

The storm surge from Hurricane Rita had lifted the house of an elderly couple off its foundation and set it back several feet, resulting in a demolition order. Rural, somewhat isolated, the Calcasieu Parrish agricultural area south of Lake Charles had been ruined for years by the salty water that flooded the rice fields to a depth of nearly thirty feet. It was February, 2006, and as I stood in their front yard, observing the demolition of the more than fifty year old house, I watched tears form in the eyes of the couple, standing a few feet away, as they watched their home since the 1950s’ being torn apart like it was garbage. I walked up to them and asked if I could get them a cup of coffee or something. “Oh, we’ll be alright”. the wife said. “We built this house in 1952, and we’ve been raising rice and beef cattle here ever since, and it’s just a little hard to say good-bye.” “Our neighbor had it pretty hard though.” said the husband. “How so?” I asked. “Well” said the husband, “as the flood water began to rise to a foot high in his house, he finally decided he had better get out, so he got in his brand new pickup and headed down the road. He made it as far as our old oak tree, here in the front yard..” The husband pointed to a gnarled old tree in the southwest corner of their property, near the two lane blacktop farm road. “The force of the incoming floodwater shoved his pickup off the road and into the tree, where it lodged. He climbed out of the truck into the tree, and kept climbing as the water rose higher and higher. He spent more than forty eight hours in the top of that old tree, kicking back snakes and ‘gators, till the Coast Guard came by in a boat and got him out. He still doesn’t know where his truck ended up, but he’s alive. We left before the surge came in. We’ve got our pickup and clothes, and each other. We don’t really need nothin’ else.”

Jeffrey Levy
Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education

In my 17 years at EPA, leading the Web response to Hurricane Katrina was one of my proudest, most meaningful experiences. I wasn’t on the front lines, but coordinating online communications across several offices required quick thinking and long hours under intense pressure. And let me tell you, we’re all lucky to have my colleagues who work in the headquarters Emergency Operations Center.

Our Web effort actually started a few days before landfall. I was at a picnic over the weekend and my boss called. Thirty minutes later, I was downtown, prepping materials and planning the opening days of Web development. One of the first pieces we published helped drinking water companies prepare.

I had two young daughters then, and they missed having Daddy to play with while I worked long hours. But we discussed how our family could help people hurt by the storm. My girls didn’t have money to donate, and they couldn’t physically go clean up. But what they could do was to let me work the hours I needed to work. It was a small sacrifice compared to what people lost, but I was proud to have passed on my dedication to public service. When people ask me why I work in government, I respond that I have the privilege of serving people as we did after Katrina.

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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Clean Water Enforcement Action Plan

On July 2, 2009, Administrator Lisa Jackson asked me, as the head of EPA’s enforcement and compliance program, to examine our water enforcement program in light of information showing that water quality goals are not being met and that there are too many violations in too many places. She asked me to report back in ninety days with recommendations to improve transparency, strengthen clean water enforcement performance, and expand our use of technology to increase efficiency and to provide useful information to the public. Our recommended action plan needs to improve compliance and address the problems that are having the biggest impact on water quality.

To help us achieve the Administrator’s goals, we invite you to share your ideas through our discussion forum. The blog can be found at http://blog.epa.gov/cwaactionplan Your ideas will be considered for recommendations to the EPA Administrator about the future direction for EPA’s water enforcement program. In all our discussions, EPA will be mindful of the need to focus on the most important work for protecting water quality and improving compliance with the Clean Water Act, given resource constraints that require us to place a premium on innovation and efficiency.

About the author: Cynthia Giles is Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

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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