government

Celebrating an EPA Ethic of Public Service

In October of last year, EPA employees, along with hundreds of thousands of other federal employees, were furloughed due to a lapse in appropriations.  During the government shutdown, 94% of EPA staff was unable to do the important work that Americans depend on for a clean and healthy environment.

Our scientists and inspectors were prevented from keeping our air and water safe to breathe and drink. Vehicle certifications couldn’t be completed, industrial chemicals and pesticides couldn’t be evaluated, and hazardous waste sites couldn’t be cleaned. Small business couldn’t receive our assistance in learning about grants and loans to continue building our clean energy economy. And on a personal level, our employees and their families made tremendous sacrifices just to get by.

But through it all, I heard stories from furloughed EPA employees who volunteered in their communities, in food banks and shelters – still finding a way to give back. The stories were nothing short of amazing, which is why I’d like to share some of them. I’m so proud to work alongside the EPA community every day, including the tough ones. The creative, innovative work both inside and outside the Agency by EPA staff speaks for itself, and we’re going to continue to find ways to celebrate that work. Here’s a sample of those stories of compassion, perseverance, and volunteerism during the shutdown: 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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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.

Open Dialogue with North American Environmental Ministers

Last week, Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe led the U.S. delegation to the 20th Annual Council Session of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in Los Cabos, Mexico. Each year, the North American Ministers to the CEC meet to discuss their ongoing efforts under the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation to address potential trade and environmental conflicts as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The two-day meeting is open to the public and is an opportunity for the environmental leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to engage the public on environmental issues of concern and what the CEC is doing to address these issues.

Traditionally, members of the public have been invited to make presentations to the ministers on environmental issues related to the theme of that year´s meeting. Last year, the Ministers incorporated a town-hall meeting into the public portion of the session to broaden the participation of the public through social media and questions over the webcast. This new format charged the dialogue, allowing much greater interaction and potential to influence the cooperative work of the CEC. This year, the three countries broadened the reach of the town hall by establishing communication hubs in each of our countries in Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City, and in Washington D.C. at EPA headquarters.

The town hall allowed for dynamic comments and questions from students, professors, environmental NGOs, and citizens concerned with transportation and environment in North America. Some of the questions addressed to the ministers were about the plans the three countries have to develop the infrastructure for vehicle recharging, and renewable and alternative fuels. There were also questions about how the governments are working together to harmonize regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. The ministers spoke candidly about the challenges facing their respective agencies and the potential for the CEC to enable the three countries to develop a collective approach. The ministers’ responses were thorough, specific, and knowledgeable.

Opportunities to communicate with senior government officials are rare, so it is important to make the extra effort to make sure that those who have something to say or to ask about the CEC have this opportunity. EPA has hosted a series of CEC Talks broadcasts and encourages discussion by involving our experts on each topic in the conversation. We will continue to work with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts to ensure that the dialogue does not end with the close of the meeting. Like environmental issues, the dialogue with the public knows no borders and public input will continue to inform the work we do to protect human health and the environment.

To learn more about the work EPA conducts through the CEC, go to: http://www.epa.gov/international/regions/na/nacec/

About the author: Patrick Huber is an international environmental program specialist in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs focusing on multilateral and bilateral environmental agreements in North America. Prior to joining EPA in 2010, Patrick completed a dual MPP/MBA from Georgetown University and the University of Geneva and has 12 years experience in international project management in the private and civil sector. Patrick lives with his wife and 2 young children in Falls Church, Virginia.

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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Seizing the Opportunity in Rio

By Scott Fulton

Olá!  A few days ago, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development (a.k.a. “Rio+20”).   I’m excited and humbled to be a part of this milestone event, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first UN Earth Summit.  Rio+20 offers an important opportunity to consider anew the global challenge of sustainable development and to provide guidance and inspiration for the path ahead.  While I’m here in Rio, in addition to attending Rio+20 itself, I’ll be participating in many satellite events designed to make the most of this opportunity.  Just a few examples:

  • On June 16, I participated  in the Rio+20 Colloquium on Environmental Law & Justice, a panel discussion of the Role of Courts in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement over at the Supreme Court;
  • Over the next few days, I will attend the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in Mangaratiba. This meeting of judges, prosecutors and auditors from around the world immediately precedes the Rio+20 Conference.
  • On Thursday, June 21, I will participate in a meeting led by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, “Rio+20, CCICED +20, Sharing the Achievements, Embracing the Future.” This promises to be an interesting opportunity for an exchange of ideas with our colleagues in China.

On June 16, I was also given the opportunity to moderate the Environmental Governance and Social Inclusion program at the U.S. Center in Athletes Park.  It was a successful and lively discussion with an extremely well qualified panel and an engaged audience. Some of the issues we touched on included:

  • Key features of effective systems for environmental governance at the national level, such as access to environmental information, public participation, law reform, and implementation and accountability mechanisms including robust enforcement systems;
  • The critical importance of efforts to engage vulnerable communities to promote social inclusion and environmental justice; and
  • Steps we can take to enhance cooperation, coordination and collaboration on strengthening environmental governance in countries around the world.

I think these concepts are integral to the notion of sustainability. After all, when we talk about Environmental Governance we are talking about the very real building blocks of a governance system that can make all the difference in the world—the difference between the concept of environmental protection expressed as written law and the reality of cleaner air and water, healthier people, and a secure a future where these benefits can be sustained for future generations.

And when we talk about environmental justice we are talking about the kind of social inclusion that allows us to reach an end state where no one’s environmental health is compromised because of his or her race, national origin or income level, and all have equal access both to the environmental decision-making process and to a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

To read more about environmental governance, click here: http://inece.org/resource/foundation/

About the author:  Scott Fulton is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s General Counsel.

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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Coming Home

By Rob Goulding

A few months ago I emerged from the Holland Tunnel on a still cold spring day prepared for my initial drive into Brooklyn as a lease holding resident. While I grew up in the center of the greater NYC metropolitan area in a small city called West New York, NJ, I’ve been nothing more than an occasional tourist since 2004.  Since then, the changes in the area and our Agency’s role in shaping a sustainable region serve as remarkable testaments to the intersection of environmental protection, community involvement and redevelopment.

I’ve had the good fortune over the last six years to bounce from Trenton to Washington, DC to San Francisco and observe, as a citizen and government employee, the ongoing work of civic engagement and redevelopment. NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but I’ve learned that no city stays dormant for long.

I am excited to come back home and help work on issues that will change this area for the better. I see this region as both the boy who grew up here, when things always seemed dormant, and as someone who’s now able to see the cornerstones and the construction zones as the fluid building blocks of a changing urban landscape. . More

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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Help us serve you better by being more open!

Open EPA logoHave you heard about President Obama’s Open Government Directive (PDF) (81K, about PDF)? Under this plan, we’re looking for your help making EPA more transparent and finding ways for us to work with you better. The ultimate goal? Getting the best ideas for how we can meet our mission of protecting health and the environment.

I’m personally excited about this new effort because it ties in so well with many other projects that use new tools to connect with you and get you involved.  One of the first was this blog, launched in April 2008.  Since then, we’ve started Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts, put together online discussion forums, done some live video webcasts, and launched Pick 5 for the Environment.

To get started, check out our new open government Web site, which links to many innovative projects and our social media sites.

It also shows our progress on several milestones.  The next one is to write our open government plan.  It’s due April 7, so until March 19 we’re using a special idea collection system to get your thoughts about:

  • what should be in the plan
  • how we should prioritize what we publish
  • how to improve the quality of our information
  • new ways of doing business and new tools we should be using

You can also vote and comment on other people’s ideas.

I look forward to hearing from you!

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director 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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