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Climate Justice

2014 April 22
Charles Lee


April 22, 2014
6:00 pm EDT

Climate change is impacting our lives today, including record high temperatures, reduced air quality, extreme weather, severe droughts and sea-level rise, just to name a few examples. While we all share this burden, these impacts greatly exasperate the many environmental and public health challenges in minority, indigenous and low-income communities. That’s why EPA promotes “climate justice” – a movement, building on more than 20 years of commitment to Environmental Justice, to protect disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by climate change.

The impacts of climate change on our lives, families and communities are felt by everyone. In low income communities, these impacts are often devastating, including compromised health, financial hardship, and social and cultural disruptions. Often they are the first to experience heat-related illness and death, respiratory ailments, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and crushing natural disasters.

At the same time, these communities receive less support and experience greater obstacles when trying to influence decisions about mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts. Their voices, concerns and ideas can easily be discounted. We must develop processes that make them active participants in developing solutions.

I know from experience that these communities want their voices heard and valued. They want to participate meaningfully in climate change negotiations and help to develop solutions that will affect their lives and their children’s lives for generations to come. Indeed these communities have much to contribute. For millennia, many indigenous communities have survived through cycles of environmental change using “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK). This can be immensely useful in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies. For example, TEK may assist in predicting weather patterns, identifying medicinal plants, and adapting new plants to a changing ecosystem.

A 2010 study from the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that “in many cases, minorities are equally as supportive, and often more supportive of national climate and energy policies, than white Americans.” In particular:

  • 89% of blacks supported the regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant
  • 70% of Asian-Americans consider themselves as environmentalists
  • 60% of Asian-Americans prioritize environmental protection over economic growth

A recent poll shows 74 percent of Latinos believe climate change is a serious or very serious issue, and 86 percent of Latinos support the President taking action to reduce carbon pollution.

As part of EPA’s focus on climate justice, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee to EPA, is preparing advice and recommendations on how EPA can help improve community resilience in or near industrial waterfronts with environmental justice concerns. This project highlights the efforts of former NEJAC Chair Elizabeth Yiampierre to strengthen community resilience and emergency planning in her overburdened Brooklyn, NY community. NEJAC also embarked recently on a project to provide advice and recommendations for EPA’s individual program and regional climate adaptation implementation plans.

In 2012, communities in California took climate justice to a new level. Their advocacy resulted in legislation that ensures that resources go to communities most hurt by climate change. SB 535 calls for 25 percent of proceeds from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. By using CalEnviroScreen to identify disadvantaged communities, the state will make both socio-economic and environmental factors important considerations for determining where potentially billions of dollars of climate change resources will go.

It’s evident that minority, indigenous and low-income communities not only care about the impacts of climate change, but have been leaders in creating solutions. They believe strongly that as a nation, we can address climate change with common-sense, comprehensive strategies. In that process, they will help us build healthier and more sustainable communities, as well as a stronger more inclusive economy beneficial to all citizens.

Charles Lee is the Deputy Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Lee is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice, as the principal author of the landmark report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.

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

How EPA Conserves Energy

2014 April 22
Renee Wynn


April 22, 2014
5:30 pm EDT

When one hears ‘information technology’, often times their first thought is not about climate change. But electronics, electricity, and changing hardware or software versions have the potential to be environmentally friendly. As Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Environmental Information (OEI), I am charged with leading the Agency’s information management and information technology programs to provide the information, technology, and services necessary to advance the protection of human health and the environment.

EPA is committed to taking a common sense approach in addressing climate change and promoting a clean energy economy, but what do we do on a daily basis to ensure the information technology services and equipment that are provided to our employees conserve energy resources?

Whenever we purchase equipment, whether it be hardware or software, for our employees to do their jobs, we require the devices to be certified at the silver or gold level under the electronic product environmental assessment tool (EPEAT). EPEAT is an environmental procurement tool that is designed to help purchasers evaluate, compare, and select electronic products, such as computers, based on their environmental attributes.

EPA employees are encouraged to turn off their computers when they leave work for the day. To further help conserve energy, we have implemented power management on all computers, monitors, and printers, which puts them to ‘sleep’ after 15 minutes of inactivity.

We take every effort to extend the life our information technology equipment in order to reduce unnecessary turnover. When it is time to dispose of equipment, our Property Office works diligently to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, equipment is reused or recycled.

What are some ways in which you can use information technology to combat climate change?

  • Power down your electronics.
  • Donate or recycle your electronics.
  • Plug into power strips.
  •  Purchase Energy Star.

Check out EPA’s Act on Climate website for more helpful tips on how you can use information technology to help combat climate change.

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

The Dollars and Sense of Climate Change

2014 April 22
Maryann Froehlich


April 22, 2014
5:00 pm EDT

When I’m not in Washington D.C. acting as Chief Financial Officer for the EPA, I spend a lot of time at my home on the New Jersey coast. So, when Hurricane Sandy hit the area in the fall of 2012, I sat in my office in D.C., anxiously awaiting news from my friends. I wondered when I would be able to get back into the area and how much damage was caused by the storm; I noted the increasing regularity of extreme weather events due to climate change.

Luckily, I know that at EPA, we are taking action on climate change.

read more…

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

Climate Change Impacts Water First

2014 April 22
Nancy Stoner


April 22, 2014
4:30 pm EDT

 

By Nancy Stoner

In my travels this year, I’ve been experiencing firsthand how communities around the country are taking innovative steps to cope with the environmental changes affecting the water environment. From extreme weather–such as severe droughts and flooding–to more subtle changes–like declining recharge of aquifers and loss of wetlands–communities are facing up to unprecedented challenges.

We depend on a reliable, clean supply of water to sustain our health, nourish our fields, produce energy and manufactured products, support fish and shellfish beds and allow us to enjoy recreational activities. But we are witnessing a historic collision between our growing population, increasing urbanization, and climate change that are putting unprecedented pressure on water resources and water management systems. At EPA, we are concerned about how this is affecting water quality and quantity, and in turn, how it affects our communities, ecosystems and the economy. read more…

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

Making Smart Choices to Combat Climate Change

2014 April 22
Mathy Stanislaus


April 22, 2014
2:00 pm EDT

Climate change is an international challenge with local impacts that threaten the health and welfare of American families. In light of increasing knowledge of how climate change impacts our communities, our Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) is focusing our efforts to ensure we continue to protect the land that surrounds them.

OSWER is partnering with states and communities to make contaminated sites resistant to the impacts of climate change. For example, flooding from more intense and frequent storms, or sea level rise, may lead to contaminants spreading from OSWER sites. The increased intensity and frequency of storms may also increase debris that must be managed, and puts additional sites and communities at risk. In addition, OSWER will work with other agencies to evaluate whether changes in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events will require additional emergency response resources.

While we build resilience to the impacts of climate change, we must continue to reduce current and future greenhouse gas emissions. The manufacture, transportation and disposal of materials and goods are responsible for as much as 42 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. As individuals, we can make choices that minimize the life cycle environmental impacts of materials – such as buying products made of recycled materials – to reduce emissions. One projection is that by 2050, unless we can substantially minimize and reuse materials, we will not be able to sustain our global population and encourage economic growth.

We can rethink the way we use land to significantly reduce emissions. By reusing formerly contaminated properties for commercial, industrial, residential, or green space purposes, we can preserve open space, including forest lands, and increase the carbon sink. Redevelopment of brownfield sites and other contaminated properties located in downtown and economic centers can reduce transportation emissions, another large contributor to climate change. One study indicated that development at brownfields sites can result in a 32 percent to 57 percent reduction in daily vehicle miles traveled compared to development at greenfield sites in less densely populated areas, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As we celebrate Earth Day, please keep these facts in mind to as we address the impacts of climate change.

Mathy Stanislaus is the Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), leading the Agency’s land cleanup, solid waste and emergency response programs. Mr. Stanislaus is a chemical engineer and environmental lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the environmental field in the private and public sectors. He received his law degree from Chicago Kent Law School and Chemical Engineering Degree from City College of New York.

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

Climate Change and Green Chemistry Technologies

2014 April 22
Jim Jones


April 22, 2014
9:00 am EDT

When it comes to preventing climate change, you’re right to think about the big sources of carbon pollution like power plants and cars. But did you know that if each of us washed our clothes in cold water, it would cut residential carbon pollution by a total of 4 percent?  Plus, by doing so, we would save money on our home energy bills at the same time.  Cold water detergents now make it possible to skip the need to use hot water to clean our clothes, and it’s one of the break-through green chemistry technologies that help us mitigate climate change.

Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances in the first place.  In addition to cold water detergents, EPA is promoting the development of other exciting green chemistries. Through our Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards we recognize the groundbreaking work of some the most innovative scientists and researchers in the U.S. read more…

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

How EPA Research Supports Taking Action on Climate Change

2014 April 21
Lek Kadeli


April 21, 2014
4:45 pm EDT

By Lek Kadeli

As my EPA colleagues and I prepare to join millions of people from across the nation and around the globe to celebrate the environment on April 22, it’s a good time to remember how much we’ve accomplished together since the first Earth Day in 1970.

Forty-four years ago, it wasn’t hard to find direct evidence that our environment was in trouble. Examples of air pollution could be seen at the end of every tailpipe, and in the thick, soot-laden plumes of black smoke flowing from industrial smokestacks and local incinerators. Litter and pollution-choked streams were the norm, and disposing of raw sewage and effluent directly into waterways was standard practice. A major mid-western river famously ignited, sparking both awareness and action.
read more…

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

Showcasing Community Efforts to Clean the Air and Safeguard Health

2014 April 21
Janet McCabe


April 21, 2014
11:19 am EDT

What do the following projects have in common: A solar photovoltaic system built by a small community in Tennessee; indoor air quality training for 200 tribes in the Northwest; cleaner buses for 115 school districts across North Carolina; and incentives for ocean-going vessels to use low-sulfur fuels at the Port of Seattle? The answer is that all of them are making a difference in air quality across the country … and they are just a few of the winners of EPA’s 2014 Clean Air Excellence Awards.

“Clean School Bus NC: Kids Breathe Here” program has significantly improved air quality through retrofits, reducing idling, and other steps, benefiting the 800,000 children who travel by bus across the state.

“Clean School Bus NC: Kids Breathe Here” program has significantly improved air quality through retrofits, reducing idling, and other steps, benefiting the 800,000 children who travel by bus across the state.

 

The Clean Air Excellence Awards Program, started in 2000, honors outstanding and innovative efforts to help make progress in achieving cleaner air. On April 2, I had the pleasure of recognizing one individual and twelve different organizations for their commitment and on-the-ground results in improving the air we breathe. read more…

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

Enforcing the Law to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

2014 April 17
Cynthia Giles


April 17, 2014
1:59 pm EDT

Years ago, when I needed to have my house painted, I called local contractors to submit bids for the work. My daughter was four years old at the time, and so I was acutely aware about dangers of lead paint exposure. It can cause a range of health issues, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and other serious problems, putting young children at the greatest risk as their nervous systems are still developing. So I paid close attention to the bids to make sure the one I chose would be lead-safe.  In those days, finding a lead-safe contractor wasn’t easy.

But today, it’s easier. Other families shared the same concern I had, prompting the adoption of new regulations for lead safe practices in 2010. EPA is working to protect children from lead poisoning by enforcing these regulations. A case in point: Today we’ve announced a major settlement that requires Lowe’s Home Centers to enact a corporate-wide compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work in customers’ homes follow the law and protect children from lead paint exposure. Lowe’s is taking responsibility to police the contractors it hires, which we think sends an important message to renovation companies across the country: Follow the rules on lead-safe practices and make sure the contractors you hire do the same. read more…

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

Protecting Our Children and Our Environment

2014 April 16
Ron Curry


April 16, 2014
1:28 pm EDT

It is great to be a granddad. My granddaughter Marin was born on December 8 and my newest granddaughter Effie was born on March 3. They are the most beautiful babies ever. Yes. I am biased. People often ask me why I became a regional administrator for EPA – and I only have to hold one of my granddaughters to know the reason.

Photo of Ron and Marin, his granddaughter.

Ron and Marin, his granddaughter

 

At EPA, we make visible difference in communities by addressing possible threats to children’s health from environmental exposures and impacts of climate change. Did you know…

  • In Region 6 alone, there are 10 million children under the age of 18. The percentage of children living in poverty in this Region is about 27 percent, just about the highest percentage in the nation. Some people are particularly at risk, especially those who are poor.
  • Asthma prevalence continues to grow. Nationally over 7 million children, or about 9.5 percent have asthma. The Regional average is higher, at more than 12 percent.
  • Climate change is likely to increase the amount of bad ozone in the air because more ozone is created when the temperature is warm.

read more…

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