Strategic Plan

Charting EPA’s Direction

Last December, I reached out to you, our readers, to ask you to tell us what you thought of our draft strategic plan for the years 2014 through 2018. EPA received nearly 25,000 comments from individuals, communities, states, and tribes interested in our work to protect people’s health and the environment!

This week, we released our final FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan outlines our goals to address climate change, prevent pollution, and protect public health and the environment by enforcing environmental laws. The plan also seeks to improve air quality, protect America’s water, ensure the safety of chemicals, and clean up communities while advancing sustainable development. 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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Tackling the Cases That Matter Most

By Cynthia Giles

This week, EPA released its final strategic plan outlining the agency’s priorities for the next four years, including enforcement and compliance assurance. When the draft plan was released back in November, we received thousands of public comments that stressed the importance of a robust enforcement program that holds polluters accountable and deters violations of environmental laws. I couldn’t agree more.

Now that we have a clearer understanding of EPA’s budget, we have made some adjustments to the numbers outlined in the plan. While they are projections – and actual results are often higher than projected – greater budget certainty has allowed us to increase some of the targets. The final strategic plan reflects EPA’s commitment to vigorous enforcement for the cases that have the highest impact on protecting public health and the environment. 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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Adapting EPA’s Strategic Plan to a Changing Environment

New Picture (4)In my time at the Environmental Protection Agency, I’ve always been interested in how the agency responds and adapts to emerging environmental issues and challenges like climate change, as well as new opportunities that arise, such as  green technologies and green infrastructure that help the country address problems in a more practical and sustainable way.  I am also seeing changes in how we go about our daily work, toward a more collaborative approach—reaching out to federal, state, and local agencies, tribes, agricultural and manufacturing sectors, small businesses, industry, and other stakeholders—to develop innovative solutions and take advantage of advances in technology and greater access to environmental data.

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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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Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies: Share Your Ideas by Friday!

Last month, I penned my first Greenversations post. I encouraged readers to share their ideas and feedback on a new component of the Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan, the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies. Since then, close to 2,000 individuals have checked-out our Discussion Forum and dozens have shared powerful and thoughtful ideas that will help us shape the way we do our work to protect the environment and human health.

The Discussion Forum is a new tool for many of us at the Agency and it has provided EPA with a unique opportunity to engage with you. We have appreciated the feedback you have provided to date—about transparency, partnerships, environmental justice, children’s health, science, and work force. And we welcome your additional ideas and advice as we turn the strategies into actions and take steps to tangibly change the way we do our work.

Share your feedback on the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies Discussion Forum until this Friday, July 30, 2010, which marks the close of the public comment period for the Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan.

About the author: Kathy O’Brien is the Director of EPA’s Office of Planning, Analysis, and Accountability and leads the efforts to develop and measure progress towards the Agency’s Strategic Plan. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

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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Share Your Ideas to Advance EPA Science, Research, and Technological Innovation

As the editor of Greenversations’ “Science Wendesday” posts I get to engage in regular discussions about what makes for a good blog post. An articulate blogger-scientist who likes to share their work is always a good recipe. On top of that, my favorites are those that feature timely, interesting research projects. I’m fortunate that EPA science frequently involves all of the above.

But I have to admit that even after almost two years of having a front row seat to EPA science blogging efforts, I’m not so great at predicting which blog posts will be successful. For me, blog success is really measured in the comments that follow the post. In my opinion, a great blog post is one that sparks thoughtful, engaged discussion through the reactions and opinions shared in the comments section.

Social media, or “web 2.0 technology,” provides a great opportunity for us all to communicate better, and is quickly becoming an important tool for managers at EPA for engaging with the public for soliciting ideas and input.

One ongoing such effort is unfolding now as EPA asks you to join the discussion and lend your insights to the following question:

What improvements can be made to EPA’s research efforts? How can EPA better communicate its research to inform and empower communities?

Please share your thoughts!

The on-line discussion is part of the “Cross-cutting Fundamental Strategies” included in EPA’s Draft Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2011 to 2015. One of those strategies is “Advancing science, research, and technological innovation.” One of the best ways to achieve that is tap the collective creativity and expertise of as many people as possible. So please add your voice to the discussion.

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer-editor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and the editor of the Science Wednesday section of “Greenversations.”

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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Working for Children's Health and Environmental Justice

I started my career at EPA as one of the first health scientists in the Superfund program in EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. In the regional Superfund program, we often met with communities impacted by Superfund sites. One of the questions that was most often asked was “Are my children safe?”

There are many things in everyday life that are important for protecting children’s environmental health. The air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the places where they live, learn and play, all affect the health of children. Over the past two decades research has demonstrated many ways that children are different from adults in how they are affected by their environment. For EPA, this means that all of the actions we take to protect human health must be informed by the fact that children are not just little adults; we need to consider that early life exposures can cause lifelong disease and disability.

Often, the children that are most at risk are those that live in low income communities and communities of color that are overburdened by environmental pollution. These communities face a larger proportion of environmental hazards and, often, do not have the resources or capacity to ensure that community members, especially the most vulnerable members like children, are protected from these hazards (see Lisa Garcia’s post, Becoming an Environmental Justice Advocate). We know that there are disparities in exposures and health outcomes, such as elevated blood lead levels and respiratory diseases, in low-income and minority children. These issues cannot be addressed by one or two offices in the Agency. They must be central in all the work that we do to protect human health.

By creating the cross-cutting strategy, “Working for Environmental Justice and Children’s Health,” we are not just highlighting the fact that children are uniquely vulnerable because of the stage of life that they’re in or that some communities are uniquely vulnerable because of the multiple environmental hazards they experience. We are incorporating these facts, and the data and research that support them, into the everyday business of EPA.

Tell us how you think EPA can best institutionalize working for Environmental Justice and Children’s Health? If we are successful, what do you think that success would look like?

About the author: Peter Grevatt is the Director of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education and the Senior Advisor to the Administrator on children’s environmental health.

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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Strong Management Plays an Important Role in Helping EPA to Address Complex Environmental Challenges

As a supervisor here at EPA, I deal with a variety of issues involving the management of human resources, contracts, grants, and facilities nationwide. These experiences give me the opportunity to see the important role that sound administrative practices have in helping to support EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.

There is no question in my mind that EPA’s ability to achieve a cleaner, safer and healthier environment is dependent upon a top-notch, diverse and committed workforce. We are dedicated to hiring the best people and keeping them here, with supportive management, a high-quality work life program, good office and laboratory facilities, and access to cutting-edge technology. All of this is made possible by EPA’s outstanding stewardship of our financial and physical resources.

EPA’s Draft FY2011-2015 Strategic Plan addresses these priorities as one of our Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies: Strategy 5, Strengthening EPA’s Workforce and Capabilities. Strategy 5 lays the foundation for EPA to be a strong and innovative agency helping us to focus on the value of skilled, knowledgeable, and diverse employees. By following this strategy, we are working to be efficient and responsible in our fiscal stewardship and to provide an information infrastructure that is innovative, reliable and secure. Every day I take pride in our aggressive environmental management goals and systems to reduce the environmental footprint of our own facilities and operations. It is clear to me that we are truly following through with our commitment to be accountable and transparent in all we do. I hope you will share your ideas about how we can strengthen EPA’s workforce and capabilities through our discussion of the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies.

I find EPA to be a personally fulfilling and special place to work because of our great mission. I think most of my colleagues would agree that EPA is a place where you can make a difference through hard work and dedication.

About the author: John Showman works in EPA’s Office of Administration and Resources Management (OARM). He is the Deputy Director for OARM’s Office of Policy and Resources Management. John was born and raised in Virginia. John keeps busy at home with his three dogs, and is a loyal fan of his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

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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Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies: Share Your Ideas!

Since 1997, EPA has developed four Strategic Plans, which chart the Agency’s path in protecting the environment and human health. I am especially excited to introduce the Draft FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan, and to invite you to share your ideas on a new and innovative element of the Strategic Plan: the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies.

For me, the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies are about changing the very fabric of our Agency, including what we do and how we do it. Inspired by the Administrator’s priorities and the ethos of accountability, openness, and inclusion that guide EPA’s work, the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies articulate and set a framework for our commitment to:

  • Expanding the conversation on environmentalism
  • Working for environmental justice and children’s health
  • Advancing science, research, and technological innovation
  • Strengthening state, tribal, and international partnerships
  • Strengthening EPA’s workforce and capabilities

Through our Discussion Forum, we are using web 2.0 technologies to provide a space for your engagement in the development of the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies. Each week, we will be hosting a focused discussion around one of the Strategies. Your feedback will be used by senior Agency leaders who are “championing” the Strategies as we implement ideas and actions to tangibly change the way we do our work.

I am eager to hear your ideas on the Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies Discussion Forum— please share your input!

About the author: Kathy O’Brien is the Director of EPA’s Office of Planning, Analysis, and Accountability and leads the efforts to develop and measure progress towards the Agency’s Strategic Plan. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

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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Engage With Us On Our New Draft Strategic Plan

Barbara Bennet, EPA Chief Financial Officer

Barbara Bennett, EPA Chief Financial Officer

Last November I was confirmed as EPA’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). For many people, I imagine my title conjures images of number crunching and spreadsheets (which are all certainly part of what I do). However, my experience in finance has taught me that numbers always tell a story.

In my role as EPA’s CFO, the numbers I look at every day help paint a picture of how EPA accomplishes its mission and goals throughout the year. One way we are able to tell a story here at EPA is through the Agency’s five-year Strategic Plan. This Plan is our way of communicating the framework for our environmental programs, the plans for our budget resources, and the progress we have made on our priorities to the U.S. public.

I am delighted to announce that the Draft FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan is now available for your review and comment, and I invite you to engage and share your thoughts and ideas with us from now through July 30:

  • Read, review, comment, and review other comments on the Plan at www.regulations.gov (copy and paste docket number EPA-HQ-OA-2010-0486 into the search box).
  • Share your ideas on EPA’s new Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies on our Discussion Forum. We will be hosting a dialogue around a different Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategy each week!

The Draft Plan presents measurable environmental and human health goals that EPA will work to achieve over the next five years. The Draft Plan also includes five Cross-Cutting Fundamental Strategies, which are integral in guiding how EPA will work to accomplish our goals, and which also foster a renewed commitment to accountability, openness, and inclusion.

I look forward to reading your ideas on the Draft Strategic Plan and how we can fundamentally change the way EPA works to protect our environment and human health in our communities, our nation, and beyond.

About the author: Barbara Bennett is EPA’s Chief Financial Officer. Prior to joining EPA, she served as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Discovery Communications, Inc. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two children.

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: Planning for the Future

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

About the Author: Jay Messer, Ph.D. is a Senior Science Advisor at the National Center for Environmental Assessment in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is a lead writer of EPA’s 2008 Report on the Environment.

Watching my retirement recede into the future as the financial crisis deepened put me in mind of EPA’s 2008 Report on the Environment.

image of cover of the 2008 Report on the EnvironmentThe purposes of the Report are to “provide valuable input to EPA in devel­oping its strategic outlook and priorities, and [to] allow EPA and the public to assess whether the Agency is succeeding in its overall mission to protect human health and the environment.”

The release of the Report last spring marked the first time that such a wide range of objective, transparent, and scientifically-solid information about environmental status and trends has appeared under in a single EPA publication. I believe that it makes a valuable contribution in telling us how we’ve done over time (not bad!), but I’m less sanguine about its influence on planning for the future.

We in EPA are certainly familiar with “performance measures:”

  • EPAstat presents measures of quarterly performance, primarily aimed at short-term management “outputs,” and
  • EPA’s Annual Performance and Accountability Reports present measures of annual performance aimed at output and longer-term (e.g., 5-year) “outcome” targets for specific programs.

Performance measures are important management tools, but most of the agencies responsible for overseeing banks and securities received scores of “adequate” or better on their latest performance reviews. Apparently we needed more to protect the economy. So we probably need more to protect the environment.

Rather than measuring the performance of particular programs, the indicators in the Report on the Environment ideally reflect more on the outcomes of the way resources are allocated across and among programs, and on multi-program and multi-agency efforts to solve environmental problems and fill critical data gaps. EPA’s latest Strategic Plan notes that many of its targets are consistent with the trends in the Report, but there is no forum in which the Report is systematically used to inform strategic thinking at a higher level.

This is not a problem unique to EPA. Environmental agencies around the globe are facing the same challenge, and a review of several major environmental decisions suggests that environmental indicators seldom demonstrably inform strategic decisions. I’d argue that this needs to change and that EPA can and should provide international leadership in effectively using indicator information in strategic planning.

Because we all look forward to a healthy, well-protected environment that we can (eventually) retire to!

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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