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Veterans Day Lessons from My Father, a Tuskegee Airman

2014 November 10
Gwen Keyes Fleming


November 10, 2014
3:15 pm EDT

On Veterans Day, we honor the heroes who made our nation and our world better for others, who created a path for peace, and who served as stewards of our nation’s ideals.

It’s also a day to remember those close to each of us who served. For me, that was my father, Andrew J. Keyes, who served as a Tuskegee Airman from 1944-1946. During those years, he trained as a pilot and ultimately served as a sergeant in the control tower, where he cleared the way for safe landings for the first African-American pilots in the U.S. military. He faced numerous obstacles—but he never let that stop him.

After his military service, he was educated via the GI Bill, became a devoted husband and father, and continued his public service as a civilian Department of Defense employee for more than 40 years.

What inspired his military service was what drove him the rest of his life—a desire to serve others and make this country better. From him, I learned simple but profound lessons: Never give up. Work for a cause greater than yourself. And always, always aim high.

Those were the values he instilled in me every day, and I see the same drive and sacrifice in our veteran employees at EPA.

Since President Obama launched the Veterans Employment Initiative in 2009, EPA has hired more than 350 veterans, bringing our agency-wide total to over 1200. And in addition to their commitment to public service, they bring training, resilience, and crucial problem-solving skills to help tackle some of our nation’s most complex environmental issues.

EPA works with other agencies, the private sector, and colleges and universities to recruit veterans every day. For example, we’ve partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer on-the-job training, and to connect veterans with disabilities to careers in the water and wastewater sectors.

Last week, we hosted a Veterans Day Celebration featuring Admiral Michelle Howard of the U.S. Navy. She described environmental stewardship as mission-critical for the U.S. military—because when they conserve our natural resources, reduce waste and boost energy efficiency, they gain a tactical edge. Our EPA veterans embody this premise every day as they work to achieve this agency’s mission: protecting public health and the environment.

On Veterans Day, we thank those heroes still with us, as well as those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We at EPA know we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs were it not for the freedoms they’ve secured, the peace they’ve preserved, and the ideals they’ve defended. We must not only say “thank you;” we must pay it forward and strive so that every free American receives clean air, clean water, and healthy land to call home.

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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Local Government Officials Weigh in on the Clean Water Proposal

2014 November 7
Ken Kopocis


November 7, 2014
1:00 pm EDT

Across the country, thousands of local governments manage our nation’s water resources, so their input is critical to shaping our proposal to protect clean water. Last spring, Administrator McCarthy asked the 28 members of EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) to provide frank and candid recommendations on how the clean water proposal intersects with the important issues and priorities facing local officials.

LGAC members came together to help the EPA “make the best rule possible.” The Agency and the LGAC absolutely share that goal, and that is what we seek to achieve by engaging with thousands of stakeholders before and during the public comment period.

I thank the LGAC members for their hard work and personal commitment in gathering input on the clean water proposal. On top of their regular responsibilities of managing cities and governing counties, they volunteered countless hours and traveled thousands of miles to engage with other state, local, and tribal leaders to craft a thorough report and set of recommendations. They sought input through a series of public meetings held in St. Paul, MN; Atlanta, GA; Tacoma, WA and Worcester, MA.

These meetings demonstrated overwhelming support from local officials for clean water and the EPA partnership with state, local, and tribal governments. Bob Dixson, Mayor of Greensburg, Kansas and chair of the LGAC, said that “The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule is an important tool for federal, state, tribal and local officials to use in our collaborative role in environmental stewardship.”

Susan Hann, City Manager of Palm Bay, Florida, found that “The EPA’s engagement with the LGAC broadened the community conversations regarding the proposed rule and is indicative of the Administrator’s call for a new era of partnerships.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed noted, “I know how vital it is to have the local voice heard at the federal level,” and he went on to say that “this is a critical time in which water is needed to strengthen our economy.”

On November 5, LGAC concluded its six-month review of the clean water proposal and passed its recommendations to Administrator McCarthy. Their report presents more than 50 recommendations to the Agency ranging from rule language, clarity of definitions, permitting innovation, and implementation.

Input from stakeholders is critical to our activities here at EPA and we gratefully receive the LGAC’s report, along with the comments of state, local, and tribal officials from around the country. They will certainly impact the final rule as the Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work to address concerns raised.

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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New England Communities Ramp Up for Renewable Energy

2014 November 6
Curt Spalding


November 6, 2014
10:53 am EDT

At EPA, we’re constantly promoting sustainable development.  Renewable energy is at the top of that list because it’s an upfront investment that improves the environment and saves money.  It’s a win-win from every angle.

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend time driving through the tunnels of deep red maple trees and brilliant yellow birch leaves that mark New England in autumn. My purpose: see a sampling of the most impressive, innovative clean energy projects in New England. These solar, waste-to-energy and bio-mass projects are cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, providing jobs and boosting local economies.

I’m proud to represent a region on the forefront of environmental and energy policy. Some of the projects I saw – including in New Bedford and Dennis, Mass. – were located on former landfills, making productive use of otherwise afflicted space. And the clean energy efforts in Burlington, Vt., are a reminder of what we all can achieve.

Photo of EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding and U.S. Congressman Bill Keating at a Dennis, MA solar installation.

EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding and U.S. Congressman Bill Keating at a Dennis, MA solar installation.

 

In the Massachusetts town of Dennis, on Cape Cod, I saw the launch of New England’s largest solar development – 22 megawatts of panels that will provide half the electricity used in Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. This project includes nine solar arrays, including seven sitting on capped landfills. Altogether, this project will reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of more than 2,700 passenger vehicles. It’s the latest piece in the state’s ambitious goal to create 1600 MW of solar energy by 2020.

Photo of solar panels in Dennis, MA.

Solar panels in Dennis, MA.

 

In Dartmouth, Mass., I stood at a city landfill where a new plant will turn food waste into energy. This bio-energy facility will be the first of its kind in the state: an anaerobic digester generating biogas for use at the Crapo Hill Landfill. The digester will initially accept up to 3,000 gallons a day, though it’s eventually expected to take 30,000 gallons. This plant was built in preparation for a state regulation that forbids commercial businesses over a certain size from discarding food waste in landfills.

In nearby New Bedford, I saw a former 12-acre landfill turned into one of the country’s most forward-thinking and innovative clean energy projects: 5,490 solar panels will create 2 MW of power, and will help meet the city’s goals of purchasing power from renewable sources. A $15 million Superfund cleanup allowed the city, working with other public and private groups, to reuse this property to produce clean, sustainable power. New Bedford’s investment installing solar panels around the city is a model for other towns and cities across the country.  The trend is clear:  What used to be a waste pit has become a source of energy for the city.

The highlight of my trip was a day in Burlington, Vt., once again in the forefront of environmental protection. As of this fall, Burlington became the first city in the country to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. They set that goal in 2004, and met it as of September with a mix of hydroelectric, wind and a bit of bio-gas.  It’s enough to give electricity to all 42,000 residents.

In addition to clear environmental benefits, Burlington will see financial advantages. The town won’t have any rate increases right now, and as the latest hydroelectric station is paid for over the next two decades, the city will see a savings. And Burlington’s energy prices are not tied to fossil fuels.

Burlington is the leader in a state that has set a goal of reaching 90 percent of energy — including heat, electricity and transportation — from renewable resources by 2050. It was wonderful to be in Burlington and see its success in leading the way, proof that it can be done.

These projects all represented the kind of innovative and practical investments we encourage at EPA.  We have a moral obligation to reduce carbon pollution in this country, and in order to do that we have to lean more heavily on alternative sources of energy.

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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Today’s historic Clean Air Act settlement keeps key climate change effort on track

2014 November 3
Cynthia Giles


November 3, 2014
10:30 am EDT

By Cynthia Giles

Our rules to combat climate change – like all environmental protection rules – only work when they are implemented in the real world. Today, we are delivering on our commitment to make sure that happens, through a settlement with the automakers Hyundai and Kia who sold more than 1 million vehicles that will emit close to 5 million more metric tons of GHGs than what they had certified to us.

Hyundai and Kia will forfeit 4.75 million GHG emission credits that they can no longer use to comply with the law, or sell to other automakers. That’s 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that could have been emitted if we hadn’t taken this action, equal to the emissions that come from powering more than 433,000 homes for one year.

They will also pay a $100 million penalty, the largest in Clean Air Act history. The size of this penalty demonstrates how significant these violations are, and reinforces our commitment to level the playing field for automakers that play by the rules. Hyundai and Kia will also spend millions of dollars on a series of steps—including improved vehicle testing protocols—to prevent future Clean Air Act violations.

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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EPA Releases Roadmap for Agency to Prepare for a Changing Climate

2014 October 31
Joel Beauvais


October 31, 2014
3:36 pm EDT

Two years ago this week, Super Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, causing approximately $65 billion dollars in damages, as well as loss of life and immeasurable suffering for the people of that region. In many ways, that storm was a wakeup call on the need to better prepare for extreme weather and a changing climate.

Today, we know the climate is changing at a rapid rate, and the risk for extreme weather events is increasing. And that’s why the Climate Change Adaptation Plans we’re releasing today are so important. EPA’s overall plan, prepared in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order 13653 (“Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”), provides a roadmap for how we’ll work with communities to anticipate and prepare for a changing climate.

Given our critical responsibilities for protecting human health and the environment, we recognize the need for smart, strategic and effective responses to new threats and challenges. This plan delivers just that. It reflects serious thinking about how the work we do can be disrupted by a changing climate and ways that we can begin to reduce those potential risks.  And it reflects our commitment to support communities all across the country that are already grappling with questions of resilience to current and future climate changes.

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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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Energy Star Day: The Power of the Little Blue Label

2014 October 28
Gina McCarthy


October 28, 2014
9:01 am EDT


Let’s start with a few numbers:

300 billion dollars in savings. That’s how much consumers and businesses have saved on utility bills in the last 22 years because of the Energy Star program.

Two billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, or the equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 420 million cars, over the last 22 years. Thanks to our little blue Energy Star label, folks are doing their part to reduce their greenhouse emissions and combat climate change.

Since President Obama took office, Energy Star has helped American consumers and businesses save over one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and approximately $110 billion on their utility bills.

That’s one powerful little label.

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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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Green Infrastructure Helping to Transform Neighborhoods in Cleveland and Across the Nation

2014 October 27
Joel Beauvais


October 27, 2014
11:33 am EDT

By Alisha Goldstein

By Alisha Goldstein

Every community wants clean water. And most communities would like more green space that allows residents to enjoy the outdoors and makes neighborhoods more attractive. Green infrastructure – a natural approach to managing rainwater with trees, rain gardens, porous pavements, and other elements – can help meet both these goals. It protects water quality while also beautifying streets, parking lots, and plazas, which attracts residents, visitors, and businesses.

This week, we are releasing a new report, Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure, that can help communities develop a vision and a plan for green infrastructure that can transform their neighborhoods and bring multiple benefits. It can be useful to local governments, water utilities, sewer districts, nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and others interested in innovative approaches to managing stormwater to reduce flooding and bring other environmental, public health, 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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Protecting Children’s Health from Lead Poisoning in Paints in the US and Around the World

2014 October 22
Jane Nishida


October 22, 2014
11:30 am EDT

Pictures of brightly painted playgrounds, schools, and day care centers make for cheerful spaces for smiling, laughing children. However, in many developing countries these colorful paints can actually pose a serious health threat because lead can still legally be used in paints in places where children live and play. Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning from lead in paint.

Lead poses serious, lifelong health risks to children. As lead paints deteriorate, it enters the environment and can lead to lead poisoning. Some of the potential effects include sensory, motor, cognitive, and behavioral impacts that can result in lowered intelligence; reading and learning disabilities; impaired hearing, reduced attention span; hyperactivity; delayed puberty; reduced postnatal growth; and anemia.

The economic impact of the loss of IQ due to lead poisoning is significant as well. A recent study in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal estimated lost economic productivity due to lead poisoning to be “a total cost of $977 billion of international dollars in low- and middle-income countries”. The health, social, and economic impacts of lead poisoning are devastating, but avoiding risk from lead in paint is something that we can easily address.

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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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American Innovators Step in Again – This Time to Tackle Pesticide Spray Drift and Protect People and the Environment

2014 October 21
Jim Jones


October 21, 2014
12:55 pm EDT

When I am out in the field in rural farm communities it’s obvious to me that when pesticides drift it creates problems for everyone. Drift happens when pesticide application sprays and dusts move through the air  and land where they’re not intended to be. Both farmers and neighbors want them landing on the crop rather than on nearby properties, streams, and wildlife.

American innovators are stepping in to solve the problem. For several years, EPA has worked with innovators from government to industry to academia to facilitate a viable approach to pesticide drift. These innovators are turning the drift problem into a business opportunity, spurring innovation.

We are now launching the Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program, which has the potential to reduce up to 90 percent of pesticide drift. The voluntary program encourages the manufacture, marketing and use of safer spray technologies and equipment (like low drift nozzles, spray shields and certain drift-reduction oils or other liquids that can be added to the pesticide spray tank), scientifically verified to significantly reduce pesticide drift.

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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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Surviving the Flood

2014 October 17
David Goldbloom-helzner


October 17, 2014
3:00 pm EDT

Looking down the stairs, I can still picture the glistening, glass-like surface of our 1950’s parquet basement floor.  Only a slight ripple revealed the thin layer of water lapping on the baseboards.  It was an evening of heavy pounding rain from Hurricane Agnes. I was 10 or 11 years old and the first in my family to discover our flooded basement.  Armed with towels, buckets, and shop vacs, we fought the rising water. But water has a way of consuming everything in its path.  For us, the flood claimed our rugs, furniture, clothes, furnace, and water heater.  Many of us have faced similar flooding first-hand, or seen dramatic TV images of flooding, such as cars washed away by rushing water, boats floating down roadways, or rescue teams racing to save citizens from rising waters.

After years of similar floods, our family finally had enough and adopted the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We landscaped the grounds to channel the water away from the house.  We installed two sump pumps in the basement to remove the rising water before it reached our basement floor.  And it worked.  These mitigation steps protected our household, restored our confidence, and became our insurance policy against reoccurring flood damage.  Why did we wait so long?

During floods, even when the electricity is out, you can turn on the faucet and flush the toilet. Thankfully water and wastewater utilities are very reliable during disasters, but they are often located near rivers and in low-lying areas that are prone to floods.  In the last 5 years, more frequent and larger rainstorms and extreme flooding has severely affected water and wastewater utilities in New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Connecticut to name a few.  Like us, utilities know they are vulnerable, but it is not easy to take those first ounces of prevention.

EPA’s newly released tool, Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities helps utilities understand their flooding threat and identify practical and cost effective ways to protect themselves by, for example, elevating instrumentation, installing submersible pumps, and installing backup power.  With easy to use worksheets, instructional videos, and flood maps, the Guide helps give utilities as well as us, their customers, confidence that we are flood resilient.

See the Guide at water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/emerplan/.  See a video on flood resilience at http://youtu.be/r25J-DJH2NQ.

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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