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Acting on Climate Change for our Children’s Sake

2014 October 16
Gina McCarthy and Nsedu Obot Witherspoon


October 16, 2014
3:00 pm EDT

By Gina McCarthy and Nsedu Obot Witherspoon

The missions of the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) align for a simple reason: healthy people depend on a healthy environment to live, work, and play in.

Scientific research shows our children are especially vulnerable to environmental health hazards. October is Children’s Health Month, and as we work to raise awareness and act on health risks, we need to keep children’s health considerations and concerns at the forefront of our research, practice, and policy decisions. We need to be especially vigilant as we face new health risks from climate change.

Warmer temperatures from climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, are making allergy seasons longer and worsening smog, exacerbating children’s asthma. One in ten kids in the U.S. already suffers from asthma, and these numbers could go up. Hotter weather is also increasing moisture in the air in some locations. More moisture means more mold and mildew—which also cause respiratory problems.

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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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Who Are This Year’s Innovators Tackling Climate Change and Promoting Energy Efficiency?

2014 October 16
Jim Jones


October 16, 2014
11:57 am EDT

The 2014 winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards have done it again.  These scientists are helping to crack the code and solve some of the most challenging problems facing our modern society. They are turning climate risk and other problems into a business opportunity, spurring innovation and investment. They are reducing waste – energy, chemicals and water waste – while cutting manufacturing costs, and sparking investments.
Take a look at some of this year’s promising innovations:

New Bus Fuel Could Reduce Greenhouse Gases by 82%. Making and burning this new fuel could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum diesel.  Amyris (in California) has engineered a yeast to make a renewable fuel replacement for petroleum diesel. Since carbon pollution increases our costs in health care and other impacts, this technology could save tens of thousands of dollars each year.

New LED Lighting Material Could Save you 36% on Energy Bills. If QD Vision, Inc’s (in Massachusetts) technology were used in just 10% of flat-screen TVs, we could save 600 million kilowatt-hours worldwide every year – enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes for one year! Even better, producing these materials avoids the need for about 40,000 gallons of solvents per year.  This technology brings massive energy savings and is good for the planet, with reduced carbon emissions, heavy metals emissions, and less use of toxic chemicals.

New Safer Firefighting foam. This new foam doesn’t contain persistent toxic chemicals that can accumulate in our blood and that of animals. The Solberg Company (in Wisconsin) used surfactants and sugars that can fight fires more effectively than before. One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies will use it to fight fuel fires and spills. The product works better and is safer – a win-win for industry and for protecting our health and the environment.

Making Pills While Reducing Chemicals and Waste.  The manufacturing process for pills can create toxic waste.  Professor Shannon S. Stahl at the University of Wisconsin has discovered a way to safely use oxygen instead of hazardous chemicals in a step commonly used while making medicine. If brought to market, these methods could have a big impact on the industry, reducing chemicals, reducing waste, and saving companies time and money.

Making Soaps, Laundry Detergents, Food Products, and Fuels While Reducing Energy and Water Use, Waste, and Impacts on Forests.  These everyday products can now be produced with much less energy, water, and waste, thus saving money.  Solazyme, Inc. (in California) has developed novel oils from sugar and engineered algae in a way that significantly reduces the environmental effects that typically occur in producing and processing some oils. Also, the company’s palm-oil equivalent can help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gases that can occur from cultivation of palm oil.

As you can see, the Presidential Green Chemistry Award winners are solving real-world problems through scientific innovations. These prestigious awards are challenging American researchers and innovators to use their talent to improve our health, environment, and the economy.

During the 19 years of EPA’s Green Chemistry program, we have received more than 1,500 nominations and presented awards to 98 technologies. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2014 submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2014 winners. The 2014 awards event will be held in conjunction with an industry partners’ roundtable.

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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EPA Commitment to Outreach and Engagement

2014 October 10
Tom Reynolds


October 10, 2014
2:43 pm EDT

At its core, the Environmental Protection Agency is committed to broad outreach and engagement when developing rules and regulations that help protect human health and the environment where we live, learn and work.

Nowhere was that commitment to engagement more fully realized than in the development of the Clean Power Plan, the proposal to reduce harmful carbon pollution, drive innovation in the clean energy sector, and create new jobs across America.

Despite the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan proposal, some continue to push a flawed, cherry-picked, narrative that simply ignores the well-documented and widely reported and recognized sweep and range of the Agency’s engagement with the public, states and stakeholders over the past 14 months. read 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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U.S. Fuel Economy Reaches All-Time High

2014 October 8
Dan Utech


October 8, 2014
6:13 pm EDT

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.

In President Obama’s first term, he called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to take action to double fuel economy standards by 2025 and cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions in half. These actions combat climate change and help American families save money – more than $8,000 in fuel costs for each car by 2025.

In fact, over the duration of the program, Americans will save a total of $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels per day. And we are on track to roughly double fuel economy by 2025. This proves once again that addressing climate change can go hand in hand with strong economic growth.

Last year marked an important milestone in the Administration’s effort to fight climate change. According to EPA’s new Fuel Economy Trends Report, new vehicles in 2013 achieved their highest fuel economy of all time. Model year 2013 vehicles reached an average of 24.1 miles per gallon – a 0.5-mile-per-gallon increase over the previous year and an increase of nearly 5 miles – or 25 percent – per gallon since 2004. Fuel economy has now increased in eight of the last nine years, and our average carbon emissions last year hit a record low of 369 grams per mile in model year 2013.

Thanks to American ingenuity and the strength of the auto industry, in the last five years, an array of vehicles with higher fuel economy and lower emissions have arrived on the market. Consumers, in effect, are empowered with more options to choose from between a more diverse range of technology packages on conventional gasoline vehicles, as well as more advanced technology and alternative-fueled vehicles.

For consumers looking to make smart choices, the most cost-effective decisions are also the most climate-friendly.

Dan Utech is the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

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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National Manufacturing Day: Celebrating Energy Efficiency with Energy Star in the Manufacturing Sector

2014 October 3
Gina McCarthy


October 3, 2014
10:28 am EDT

Today, both manufacturing output and employment are growing, and companies are going even further by committing to improving their energy efficiency. Since the end of the recession, the manufacturing sector has created more than 700,000 jobs, and the industry supports more than 16 million U.S. jobs in manufacturing and its supply chains. The importance of this sector to our economy cannot be overstated. Manufacturing has the largest multiplier effect of any part of the economy, and for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, the sector generates $1.32 for the U.S. economy.

That’s why I’m taking this opportunity today, on National Manufacturing Day, to recognize three industrial facilities recently awarded with our Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Award for their highly efficient CHP systems, which decrease energy costs and reduce carbon pollution that leads to climate change. CHP, also known as cogeneration, simultaneously produces electricity and steam or hot water from a single heat source, using traditional or renewable fuels. It provides reliable and cost-effective electricity and heat for a variety of manufacturing processes, including the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, where energy costs can be a significant portion of operating costs. read 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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Where to Find EPA at WEFTEC

2014 September 24
Ken Kopocis


September 24, 2014
5:01 pm EDT

EPA has a long history of participating in the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) and 2014 is no different.  EPA will have a robust presence at the event, which is being held at the Morial Convention Center in New Orelans.

WEFTEC is the biggest meeting of its kind in North America and offers thousands of water quality professionals from around the world the best water quality education and training available today. Also recognized as the world’s largest annual water quality exhibition, WEFTEC’s massive show floor provides unparalleled access to the field’s most cutting-edge technologies and services. EPA is looking forward to being part of the event again this year.

This list highlights just some of the events and sessions in which EPA will play a part.

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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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EPA Works to Combat Climate Change with the Help of Tribal Communities

2014 September 23
Jane Nishida


September 23, 2014
3:42 pm EDT

As world leaders discuss ways to advance climate action during this week’s UN Climate Summit, we must consider one group that has a long history of understanding changing climates – Native American tribes. Many tribal groups have been observing the ebb and flow of rivers and harvests for thousands of years, and understand how to adapt for survival. This knowledge is often called Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and it holds a tremendous amount of value not only for indigenous groups, but for scientists and policymakers.

We are looking at how we can integrate TEK into EPA’s work, and the federal government is also making TEK an important part of the decision-making process. In November 2013, the White House Council on Native American Affairs was formed to improve coordination of federal programs and resources to support and assist tribal communities. Since then, a number of subgroups have been established focusing on specific issues, including a Climate Change Subgroup that Administrator McCarthy is leading in partnership with Secretary Sally Jewell of the Department of Interior. The Climate Change Subgroup will be looking at the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which included the leaders of two Native American communities who, in turn, held multiple engagements with tribal members across the country about their goals and needs.

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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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Greening America’s Capitals: Protecting Water, Boosting Resiliency, Strengthening Economies

2014 September 23
Joel Beauvais


September 23, 2014
3:17 pm EDT

Protecting water quality from polluted runoff is just one of the challenges many towns and cities face. Since 2010, our Greening America’s Capitals Program has helped 18 state capitals and the District of Columbia create sustainable community designs that incorporate green infrastructure. These projects can help clean the air and water, increase resilience, stimulate economic development and assist economically distressed neighborhoods, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places to live and work.

Today, we announced five new recipients of this technical assistance: Austin, TX; Carson City, NV; Columbus, OH; Pierre, SD; and Richmond, VA. Along with benefiting these communities, the projects are intended to serve as models for other communities that are trying to grow in sustainable ways.

A 2008 EPA study put the national cost of water infrastructure for managing combined sewer overflows and stormwater at more than $105 billion. As communities make choices about infrastructure investments in the face of growth and shifting climate patterns, green infrastructure offers a beneficial and cost-effective alternative. Green infrastructure can complement gray infrastructure by reducing and treating stormwater at its source while delivering a variety of environmental, social, and economic benefits.

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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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Climate Week – It’s Time For Action

2014 September 22
Gina McCarthy


September 22, 2014
9:30 am EDT

Last year, President Obama laid out a Climate Action Plan to cut the carbon pollution fueling climate change, build a more resilient nation, and lead the global climate fight. As the world comes together in New York compelled by the urgent need to act on climate, I’m proud to join President Obama to reinforce our commitment.

This past year brought tons of progress, including EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from our largest source—power plants.

This week, I’ll be helping deliver a clear message: a world-leading economy depends on a healthy environment and a safe climate.  EPA’s job is to protect public health.  More health risks mean more costs for all of us.  We don’t act despite the economy; we act because of it.

Today, I’m talking to government leaders and health organizations from around the world on how climate action helps reduce global health risks.  On Tuesday, I’ll be meeting with CEOs from some of the world’s biggest businesses, to thank them for the climate action they’re already taking, and to discuss ways to do more.  And later this week, I’ll be speaking at Resources for the Future in D.C. to lay out how a strong economy depends on climate action.

We know that climate change supercharges risks to our health and our economy.  OMB Director Shaun Donovan spoke last week on how the costs of extreme weather, especially in America’s coastal cities, are expected in increase by billions of dollars.  And we’re going to hear from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew later today on the “Economic Costs of Climate Change”—and the high price of inaction to American businesses and taxpayers.

The good news is, we can turn our climate challenge into an opportunity to build a low-carbon economy that will drive growth for decades to come.

A perfect example of smart climate action is EPA’s historic fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.  They’re cutting carbon pollution, saving families money at the pump, and fueling a resurgent auto industry that’s added more than 250,000 jobs since 2009.  The number of cars coming off American assembly lines made by American workers just reached its highest level in 12 years.  And let’s not forget—since President Obama took office, the U.S. uses three times more wind power and ten times more solar power, which means thousands of jobs.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan follows that trend.  We’ve already received great feedback on our proposal, with more than 750,000 comments from health groups, industry groups, faith groups, parents and more.  We want every good idea we can get, so we extended the public comment period through December 1st.

It’s true that climate change needs a global solution.  We can’t act for other nations—but when the United States of America leads, other nations follow.  Action to reduce pollution doesn’t dull our competitive edge—it sharpens it.  If you want to talk return on investment: over the last four decades, EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent while the U.S. economy has tripled in size.

Today we have more cars, more people, more jobs, more businesses, and less pollution.  We can—and must—lead on climate.  And being in New York this week, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of citizens calling for climate action, it’s clear to see that the American people overwhelmingly agree.  When we act on climate, we seize an opportunity to retool and resurge with new technologies, new industries, and new jobs.  We owe it to our kids to leave them a healthier, safer, and opportunity-rich world for generations to come.

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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A Commitment to Keep Our Waters Clean and Safe

2014 September 19
Cynthia Giles


September 19, 2014
4:28 pm EDT

 When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it gave EPA the responsibility to protect public health and the environment from pollution stemming from farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). We take this charge seriously and have dedicated one of EPA’s six National Enforcement Initiatives to preventing animal waste from CAFOs from contaminating water. If not managed properly, animal waste can impair drinking water sources, transmit disease-causing bacteria and parasites, and pollute the rivers and lakes on which we all depend.

In 2011, an EPA review of a poultry CAFO owned by Lois Alt in West Virginia determined that when it rained, manure and other pollutants were discharging into a nearby creek that flowed into the Potomac River. The discharge required a permit under the Clean Water Act which would have defined safeguards to minimize pollution.

EPA issued an administrative order to address this pollution. The Alt CAFO then clarified existing management practices and adopted new ones in its operations to reduce runoff of manure, and then challenged the order in court. After EPA’s follow-up inspection and correspondence with Ms. Alt confirmed that the changes would reduce pollution, EPA withdrew the order and requested the court to dismiss the case because the dispute was over. It was time to move on and focus on more pressing issues of environmental and public health protection.

The district court nonetheless heard the case. After more than a year of legal proceedings, the district court issued a decision that offers an overly broad view of the Clean Water Act’s exemption for agricultural stormwater.

Although EPA thinks that the district court decision is wrong, we also think that it is time to stop spending resources on litigation about this CAFO. EPA is not going to appeal this decision; our resources are better spent remedying more serious, ongoing pollution across the country.

The briefs we filed in this case – and many others – state that Congress established CAFOs as point sources, and that when CAFOs discharge pollutants from the production area into waters of the United States, as the Alt operation did, the law requires permit authorization.

EPA stands by this position.

Pollution from CAFOs flowing into local waterways when it rains is an environmental and public health risk. The law gives EPA the authority to require that agriculture operations with large numbers of animals in a small area that discharge pollutants to U.S. waters obtain a permit, to reduce their environmental impact. EPA remains committed to working with the agricultural community to ensure compliance with this legal requirement and to pursue enforcement when necessary. One district court decision does not change either the law across the country or EPA’s commitment to protecting water quality.

A smart and strategic enforcement program requires us to make choices about where to spend our time for the biggest benefit to the public. We stand firm on this commitment to protect public health and the environment.

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

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.