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Celebrating Women who make Environmental Protection Possible

2015 March 24
Gina McCarthy


March 24, 2015
10:30 am EDT

In publishing her game-changing book in 1962, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson turned prose into a powerful tool for good. She transformed our perspective on the natural world around us, informing us of the dangers of rampant application of DDT, a powerful pesticide that poisoned birds. Her book raised awareness about the dangers of pesticide overuse and launched the environmental movement.

Carson, a marine biologist, worked for many years in public service as an editor at the Fish and Wildlife Service (learn more from an audio clip I shared with the White House). She, and many like her, blazed a trail for countless women over the years—scientists, researchers, activists, organizers—who overcame the odds to tell truths that needed to be told.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the courageous women who helped build and advance modern environmental progress.

Over the last 45 years of EPA leadership, we’ve made tremendous progress—dramatically cutting air pollution, cleaning up our water and land, and protecting vulnerable communities from harm. This month, we honor the leaders who’ve paved the way for women to follow in their footsteps—from the four women who’ve previously served as this agency’s Administrators, to the countless others who overcame prejudice to transform society.

Here are just a few of those women leaders, who shaped and advanced the environmental movement as we know it:

  • Rosalie Edge was one of the first women to found and lead an environmental advocacy organization in 1928, and was an ardent suffragist. An amateur birdwatcher, she founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the first preserve in the world for birds of prey.
  • Polly Dyer helped protect Washington State’s pristine coastline. She organized and advocated for the protection of the Olympic National Forest, and was a leader in the multi-year efforts to pass the 1964 Wilderness Act.
  • Peggy Shepard founded WE ACT for Environmental Justice in 1988, and has been a longtime leader there. WE ACT was the first organization in New York that focused specifically on cleaning up the environment to protect the health and improve the lives of people of color.
  • Sylvia Earle, an accomplished oceanographer, has led more than 50 underwater research expeditions. In the early 1990s, she became the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Time Magazine acknowledged her as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998.
  • Vivian Malone Jones fought all her life for civil rights. In 1963, she was among the first African Americans to enroll at the University of Alabama when it was integrated. As an extension of her fight for civil rights, she’d later take on a career at EPA, where she spent years as a foremost champion for environmental justice.

Back in the ‘60s, thanks in part to Carson’s foresight, President Kennedy took action that ultimately led to a ban on DDT. If she could see us now, Carson would not only be proud of our march toward a cleaner environment, but also of our march toward a more equitable society. Today, almost 40% of EPA scientists and engineers are women. But we know that there’s a lot more to do on both fronts.

I hope you’ll join me this month, and every month, in celebrating these incredible women—and that you’ll share the stories of the game-changing women who inspire you, too.

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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You Might Know the Next Rachel Carson

2015 March 20
Gwen Keyes Fleming


March 20, 2015
10:10 am EDT

flaagRachel Carson wrote a famous book called Silent Spring, which led our country to ban DDT, a harmful pesticide, and rethink the relationship between our environment and our health. Before that, she served as a scientist and editor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, eventually becoming Editor-in-Chief of all of the agency’s publications. In those days, it was rare for a woman to serve as a scientist, and even more rare to rise to a position of leadership.

Our country has made a lot of progress since then. In 1970, only 11% of women between the ages of 25 and 64 had a college degree. By 2012, that number had climbed to 38%. And since the late 1990s, women have been awarded about half of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering. But in spite of all these gains, only about one in four environmental scientists or geoscientists across the country are women – so we still have a long way to go.

EPA has been lucky to have many extraordinary women launch and grow their careers here. We make up a little more than half of EPA’s workforce, and about 44% of our supervisors and managers. Women do just about every job you can imagine — from running major research efforts to analyzing data to steering our work to protect clean air and water.

That includes environmental experts like Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in our Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for our Office of Air and Radiation, who worked to launch our international air quality monitoring effort that is helping us lead the way as we act on climate. It includes lawyers like Lorie Schmidt, who played a key role in last year’s Supreme Court win affirming our authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and who is heavily involved in finalizing our Clean Power Plan. It also includes innovative leaders like Cynthia Giles, our Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, who developed our Next-Generation Compliance program that leverages new technologies for monitoring, reporting, permitting and transparency, making it easier for companies and organizations to follow the law.

Five of our 13 Administrators since the agency was established have been women, including our current leader, Gina McCarthy. Five of our current Associate and Assistant Administrators are women, too. Three of our 10 Regional Administrators and seven of our 10 Deputy Regional Administrators are women who guide our work in different parts of the country. The women leaders here are too many to list, and for every one woman who has been in the public eye, there are dozens more driving our work forward throughout the organization.

Odds are good that you know a young woman who will soon be thinking about what she wants to study in school, and what path she wants her life to take. Encourage her to seek out a career where she can help protect the environment. That young woman you know could be the next Rachel Carson or Gina McCarthy, and she might step into a decades-long career in public service and environmental protection that changes the face of the world.

All throughout March, we’ll be highlighting women here at the EPA and at some of our sister agencies who are moving our work forward. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join the conversation, and check out the slideshow below to meet a few of the women who work here at the EPA.

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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Poison Prevention Starts with You – Protect Your Kids and Pets

2015 March 19
Gina McCarthy



and
March 19, 2015
3:07 pm EDT

By: Administrator Gina McCarthy & Elliot Kaye, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

There are some things in life we can’t control – like traffic or our favorite sports team’s performance. But there are plenty of things we can control—and protecting our kids from poison is one.

This is National Poison Prevention Week, which leads into the start of spring cleaning.  It’s important to remember that kids and pets are more sensitive to chemicals than adults.  Every second in the United States, there are 25 calls to poison control centers, with the majority related to children.  Each year, an estimated 80,000 children go to the emergency room with poisonings. Almost 75 percent of those are from sources in their homes. Let’s make sure our loved ones are not part of those statistics.

Most of us know that household cleaners and sanitizers, insect repellents and medicines can pose a serious poison risk for children. Some of these products are colorful and appealing, and could look like candy or toys to young children. But other poison hazards around our homes might be less familiar. Here are three for you to be especially aware of:

  1. Coin sized batteries in TV remotes and other electronics can cause chemical burns if lodged in the throat. With encouragement from the government, battery manufacturers are working on a design solution that would prevent the deadly poisoning hazard with coin cell/button batteries. But, they are not there yet.
  2. Exposure to the contents of single-load liquid laundry packets have led to at least one tragic death and thousands of children being treated in emergency rooms. At the urging of the government, manufacturers are developing a safety standard that would make it harder for children to get their hands on these poisonous packets. They, too, are not there yet.
  3. Old mercury thermometers can break and must be properly disposed of and cleaned up. Also, mercury is USED IN TRACE AMOUNTS IN [an essential part of] CFL lightbulbs. It allows a bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (i.e., not broken) or in use. If a bulb breaks, follow these important steps: http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl.

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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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When Hotels Save Water, They Save Money, Too

2015 March 18
Ken Kopocis


March 18, 2015
12:28 pm EDT

Hotels consume a significant amount of water in the U.S. and around the world, adding to their utility bills and their bottom line. Through technology, innovation and partnership efforts, we’re helping hotels to save water and money, too.

We know that America’s young people are extremely creative and great with technology. That’s why each spring we provide the nation with a glimpse of America’s winning future through our P3 student design competition for sustainability. “P3” stands for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Working in teams, students and their academic advisors devise innovative solutions to meet environmental challenges in ways that benefit people, promote prosperity, and protect the planet.

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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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Southern New England Coastal Towns Prepare for Climate Change

2015 March 12
Curt Spalding


March 12, 2015
2:00 pm EDT

We pulled into a parking lot in downtown Wickford, Rhode Island. A nearby car was parked in three inches of water, and salt water bubbled up through the storm drain. The tide was high, but not extraordinarily high.  These days, occasional flooding of a parking lot is more of an annoyance than a real threat.  But what about in the future?

A car parked in salt water in Wickford, RI. The parking lot storm drain routinely backs up at high tide.

A car parked in salt water in Wickford, RI. The parking lot storm drain routinely backs up at high tide.

 

Rhode Island was the second stop on my Adapting to Climate Change learning tour.  Last summer I visited several Cape Cod communities to see how they are dealing with accelerating beach erosion and other adaptation challenges, including chronic flooding from sea level rise, warming ocean temperatures, storm surge risk and habitat decline. More recently, I toured Rhode Island with the same objective, but with a special focus on developing decision-making tools to help communities become more resilient.

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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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Moms Matter in our Fight Against Climate Change

2015 March 11
Gina McCarthy, Lisa Hoyos, Harriet Shugarman, Kuae Mattox, and Dominique Browning


March 11, 2015
10:00 am EDT

Our children mean the world to us.  So as moms, when we say we must meet our moral obligation to leave the next generation a world that is safe and healthy, we mean it.  For us moms, it’s personal.   It’s our children and grandchildren who are currently suffering from the effects of pollution.  It’s our children and grandchildren who make up the future generations each one of us is obligated to protect.   This March marks Women’s History Month; a time to recognize the unwavering strength of the mothers coming together to organize, speak out, and stand up for the health of their children.

MomsblogEPA plays a critical role in protecting our children from pollution by keeping our air and water clean and safe, and by taking historic steps to fight climate change.  And it turns out, efforts to combat climate change double as public health protection, too.  The carbon pollution that fuels climate change comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants that cause smog and soot.  With 1-in-10 children in the U.S. today already dealing with asthma—and even higher rates in communities of color—we must do all that we can to reduce harmful exposure.

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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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Understanding the Benefits of Using a Community-Wide Approach to Reusing Brownfield Properties

2015 March 10
Mathy Stanislaus


March 10, 2015
12:23 pm EDT

When I joined EPA, I wanted to continue to help communities address their brownfield sites in a coordinated way – to bring the community, federal resources and stakeholders together to plan for the revitalization of neighborhoods, particularly in communities facing economic distress and disruption. EPA’s Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grants were modeled after New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) program which provided a framework for communities to draft brownfields revitalization plans and consider implementation strategies.

The AWP grants recognize that successful, sustained community revitalization occurs by fostering inclusive revitalization planning among neighborhood stakeholders, local governments and the private sector. This locally driven planning advances health and inclusive economic development by fostering  public-private  strategies for community-wide improvements such as infrastructure investments to catalyze redevelopment opportunities on brownfield sites – the types of investments needed to equitably revitalize communities in ways that meet local community needs for jobs, recreation, housing, and increased tax base. The program recognizes the need to affirmatively address environmental justice concerns, and rejected the notion that only low market uses can be built on brownfield sites in low- and moderate-income communities.

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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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This Spring, Look for the Safer Choice Label

2015 March 4
Gina McCarthy


March 4, 2015
1:16 pm EDT

Today, we’re unveiling a new Safer Choice label, which will make it easier to find household cleaners and other home products that are safer, more environmentally friendly—and still get the job done. If you missed the video where I shared the new label, check it out here:

The name says it all: Safer Choice products are safer for you, your kids, your pets and the environment. Our scientists employ a stringent set of human health and environmental safety standards when reviewing products for the Safer Choice program, so a product with the label is backed by EPA science. Consumers know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.

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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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This Year’s Super Bowl Filled 70,000 Plates on the Path to Zero Waste

2015 March 4
Jared Blumenfeld


March 4, 2015
11:21 am EDT

superbowl##

This post is a follow-up to my “AZ I See It” column in the Arizona Republic on January 26, 2015.

This year during the Super Bowl, the first “Kick the Waste” campaign took place at Super Bowl Central—the 12-block area in the heart of downtown Phoenix where thousands enjoyed parties and live music in the week leading up to the championship game. The city was host to quite a party on Superbowl Sunday. Fans gathered for good football and good food, whether they joined in the downtown celebrations, tailgated outside the stadium, or ordered from vendors in the stands.

All too often, what’s not consumed goes to waste. Every year Americans throw away more food than any other type of waste — almost 35 million tons — and much of it is still edible. The “Kick the Waste” campaign — a collaboration between the city of Phoenix, nonprofit food rescue organization Waste Not, the National Football League, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, vendors and fans — worked to make sure that any leftover food was shared with those who needed a good meal, and any waste was disposed of in the most beneficial way for the environment.

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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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Our Commitment to Scientific Integrity at EPA

2015 March 2
Francesca T. Grifo


March 2, 2015
12:52 pm EDT

As someone who has devoted her career to the advancement of strong, independent science, I am thrilled to announce the release of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report. In the report, we highlight accomplishments and identify areas for improvement and action, exemplifying the Agency’s unwavering commitment to setting and upholding the highest standards of scientific integrity in an open, transparent way.

The Scientific Integrity Annual Report we just released is the latest example of our efforts to continually monitor and share our performance, and take swift action when needed.  Because research provides the foundation for every action the Agency takes to meet our mission to protect human health and safeguard the environment, we are actively cultivating a culture across the Agency and beyond that embraces scientific integrity at all levels. We are working to ensure that every scientist and engineer who works for or in partnership with the Agency conducts investigation that are at once free from conflicts of interest, unburdened by bias or interference, transparent, and present results in fair, accurate, and accessible ways.

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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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