The Capitol Hill Anthrax Attacks – Fall 2001

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Ted Stanich, Associate Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Homeland SecurityBy Ted Stanich
Associate Administrator, Office of Homeland Security

As we remember the events of September 11, and mark the 19th anniversary and Patriot Day last week, I am reminded of the mood in Washington, D.C. in October 2001— “first 9/11, and now this?” The fear was real and we heard so many rumors about potential new threats that when there was anthrax in the mail it wasn’t necessarily a shock.

For all of us in EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) we felt a responsibility to support whatever EPA was asked to do. It was an “all-hands on deck” moment. We were assisting the EPA Region 3 On Scene Coordinators (OSCs) with sampling in Capitol Hill buildings (Dirksen and Hart) when the FBI called requested our assistance to collect evidence.

The FBI told us they needed help to collect mail on Capitol Hill. This meant donning personal protective equipment (PPE). But we were prepared to deal with this kind of biological threat. We worked with our agency colleagues, obtained the proper PPE, and knew the science of the threat. Rumors were flying in the media about “weaponized anthrax spores,” but hard data was hard to come by. We received much needed data from the FBI, which helped inform our decisions and helped keep us safe.

Anthrax sampling.Our first job was to retrieve the mail in the Capitol Hill complex and search for additional letters contaminated with anthrax. After the mail was collected, we constructed a containment facility at a General Services Administration warehouse in Springfield, Virginia and a sampling operation was developed. We were under the gun to see if there was another anthrax-laced letter. We worked with Region 3 OSCs to build a safe and effective containment area for sampling the contaminated mail. All personnel were trained to sample the mail which had been placed in over 600 large trash bags of mail stored in over 280 55-gallon drums.

As we cycled agents in from all over the country, a sense of camaraderie developed across EPA programs that was amazing during those long days. Ultimately, after several days of sampling we found the second letter sent to Congress, the “Leahy letter.”

The incident highlighted the importance of professional relationships and trust in the emergency response community and the critical nature of accurate data. EPA stepped up during this emergency, worked as a team and supported the FBI’s criminal investigation while completing our mission of protecting human health and the environment.

 

About the author: Ted Stanich is the Associate Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Homeland Security. Prior to that, he served as the Deputy Director of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training and was a special agent there for more than 27 years. Read more.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Celebrating Ozone Layer Protection Milestones of the Clean Air Act

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Anne Austin, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for U.S. EPA Office of Air and RadiationBy Anne L. Austin
Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation

Ozone layer protection in the United States reaches an important milestone in 2020. For 30 years the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been helping to protect and heal the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out ozone-depleting substances (ODS). This year marks the start of the final phaseout stage for certain ODS: hydrochlorofluorocarbons, otherwise known as HCFCs. To date, we have reduced production and import of ODS by over 99.5 percent. And, by the end of this decade, we will complete this historic phaseout.

I am proud that our country’s actions under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and global action under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) mean that the ozone layer is expected to recover to pre-1980 levels. With leadership from the Reagan Administration, the world agreed to the Montreal Protocol on September 16, 1987. This achievement was followed by the 1990 CAA Amendments that included provisions on Stratospheric Ozone Protection, which President George H. W. Bush signed into law. Over the past 30 years, the United States has made remarkable progress in phasing out production of ODS, reducing emissions of ODS, and transitioning to safer alternatives through the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. Now more than ever, we are supporting a smooth and seamless transition for consumers and industry.

Under President Trump’s leadership, EPA has revised the SNAP regulations to increase the acceptable charge limit for certain refrigerants to provide more flexibility for equipment designs by industry, expanded the list of acceptable alternatives, and supported adoption into industry standards. At the same time, we issued regulations to ensure the final phaseout of HCFCs while allowing for the continued use for servicing a broader range of existing equipment.

This phaseout is largely due to American companies’ innovative approaches to solving a global problem, which is a key tenet fostered under the Trump Administration. U.S. industry has led the way, at every stage, by developing next generation technologies even while the use of air-conditioning and refrigeration has steadily grown. The EPA has joined with companies to further reduce harmful emissions by establishing two partnership programs: the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program and the GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership. The RAD program works with stakeholders to dispose of old refrigerated appliances using the best environmental practices, and GreenChill works with the supermarket industry to reduce refrigerant emissions. Both voluntary programs help to reduce emissions and build strong partnerships in our communities. In the last several years, RAD and GreenChill have gained new partners contributing to the continued success of the programs– demonstrating that what is good for the environment is good for business.

But why is ozone layer protection so important? Stratospheric ozone is our defense against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. When ODS are emitted to the atmosphere, they destroy ozone molecules and thin the ozone layer, allowing more UV radiation to reach the Earth’s surface. Overexposure to UV radiation can cause a range of serious health effects, from skin cancer and cataracts to suppression of our immune systems. UV radiation can also damage sensitive crops, which reduces crop yields, and harm marine phytoplankton with potentially profound effects on the food chain.

In a recently released report, the EPA estimates that the full implementation of the Montreal Protocol will prevent approximately 443 million cases of skin cancer and 63 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone. We can also take simple steps to reduce health risks by being smart and safe in the sun. Together with the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA provides the UV Index, a daily UV forecast to help protect the public from overexposure to UV radiation. Anyone can download the free UV Index smartphone app in English or Spanish and quickly and easily access important information to help plan how to enjoy the outdoors safely.

You may not have known that ozone layer protection is part of our everyday life. I invite you to learn more by viewing the resources we developed for this milestone year. Visit our website for highlights on the many achievements made possible by ozone protection policies and explore Strat City, an interactive webpage where you can see how ozone layer protection affects the many aspects of our daily living.

 

About the author: Anne L. Austin is Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. Read more.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Homeland Security in 2020: How EPA Prepares for Modern Threats to Our Nation

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Paul Kudarauskas, Deputy Associate Administrator, EPA Office of Homeland SecurityBy Paul Kudarauskas
Deputy Associate Administrator, EPA Office of Homeland Security

Homeland security is part of our overall national security in the United States. Dating back before 9/11, homeland security officials from all departments and agencies worked to support national preparedness in various forms. Over time, the scope of potential threats to prepare for has expanded beyond large-scale terrorist attacks to also include cyber-attacks, pandemics and catastrophic natural disasters. The evolution of threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation required us to take a broader, more integrated approach to preparedness.

Over the years, we have strengthened the security and resilience of the United States using systematic preparation, which is an integrated, national-level, capabilities-based approach to preparedness. Within this national preparedness system, we’re using a series of integrated national planning frameworks that covers: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

ASPECT Team members process the day's data from overflights of BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Left to right, Paul Kudarauskas, John Cardarelli, Bob Kroutil, Tim Curry, and Team Leader, Mark Thomas. USEPA Photo by Eric Vance

ASPECT Team members process the day’s data from overflights of BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Left to right, Paul Kudarauskas, John Cardarelli, Bob Kroutil, Tim Curry, and Team Leader, Mark Thomas. USEPA Photo by Eric Vance

These frameworks are adaptable, with coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities to deliver the necessary capabilities. They are coordinated under a national, unified system that uses common terminology and approaches; builds upon basic plans that support an all-hazards approach to preparedness; and utilizes functional or incident annexes to describe any unique requirements for threats or scenarios as needed. Each one describes how actions taken in that specific framework are coordinated with relevant actions described in the other frameworks across the preparedness spectrum.

The term “Homeland Security” has changed over the years. At EPA, we are also focusing on new impacts to homeland and national security, such as “Insider Threats,” theft of intellectual property by foreign adversaries, and other counter-intelligence issues. We need to support our partners in the water sector — teaming up with them to reinforce their cybersecurity, to ensure clean water and continuously operating systems. Historically, we haven’t included these other focus areas in our homeland security program, however with the evolution of threats, we cannot afford to overlook them today. As we look at our homeland security program in 2020, we see a more agile and resilient program using a risk-based approach to prioritize preparedness under the five national planning frameworks.

 

About the author: Paul Kudarauskas is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Homeland Security in the Administrator’s Office. Paul has spent 23 years in the Federal Government supporting environmental management, emergency response and homeland security programs at the Department of Transportation and at EPA, in both field and senior leadership positions.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Advancing Chemical Safety by Listening to You

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution PreventionBy Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

Like many things in life, the way we work to ensure chemical safety is a process. I’m proud to say we’ve taken some big steps in that process over the past several weeks by issuing our first two final risk evaluations for methylene chloride and 1-bromopropane. Now we’re taking the next step in the process by moving to risk management. This is where we develop a plan to protect public health from the unreasonable risks we found in our final risk evaluations.

What can you expect from us as we take this next step? You can expect transparent, proactive, and meaningful education, outreach, and engagement with our many stakeholders. We need your input, expertise, and feedback now, early in the process, to help shape the ways we’re going to address the unreasonable risks we’ve found.

This will include public webinars as well as one-on-one meetings with stakeholders. In fact, we’re working to schedule our first two public webinars for September and expect to announce the details soon. We’ll also be holding formal consultations with state and local governments, tribes, environmental justice communities, and small businesses.

We’ll be using these different opportunities to educate the public and our stakeholders on what we found in our final risk evaluations, the risk management process required by TSCA, which options are available to us for managing unreasonable risk, and what that means for all of you moving forward. We’ll also be seeking input on potential risk management approaches, their effectiveness, and any impacts those approaches might have on businesses.

We all have a shared purpose in this effort – to protect workers and consumers from any unreasonable risks while ensuring businesses continue to grow and thrive.

That’s why we’re embarking upon this outreach effort. We want workable solutions that protect the health of people who work with and use chemicals every day. We need to know about how any potential risk management approaches could impact business operations, in both positive and negative ways. Then we can use that feedback to develop proposed regulations that are both protective and practical.

There are several actions we can take to address the unreasonable risks we’ve found including banning or phasing out certain uses of a chemical, requiring warning labels and other special instructions on how a chemical can be used, recordkeeping/testing, and requiring manufacturers to notify distributors of any unreasonable risks.

I’d like to encourage all of you to take advantage of these engagement opportunities as they come up. Your feedback is an integral part of the work we do. We’re relying on you to ask questions, raise concerns, bring things to our attention that we may not have considered, and to provide us with information we may not already have. I assure you, we will be listening to you as we all work together to advance chemical safety.

More information on our risk management process and opportunities for engagement will be posted at https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/current-chemical-risk-management-activities. We’ll also be improving this page and others to make sure points of contact and other key information is easy to find.

 

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Celebrating Our Agriculture Communities, Partnerships

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By Carrie Vicenta Meadows
Agriculture Advisor to Administrator Wheeler

As EPA recognizes our many partners as part of EPA’s 50th anniversary celebration, it is vital to highlight partners who touch our lives every day: our agriculture community. Now more than ever, Americans are appreciating the critical role that farmers have in our society. Farmers and ranchers are invaluable partners in fulfilling our mission to protect human health and the environment. We at EPA, with the leadership of Administrator Wheeler, have focused on working hard to enhance and strengthen our partnership with farmers and ranchers.

One of the Trump Administration’s priorities is to engage more effectively with the agriculture community. Last year, we welcomed over 650 farmers and ranchers from across the country to visit EPA Headquarters — many for the first time. We have also launched the Smart Sectors program in all 10 of our regional offices to hear from a variety of sectors, including the agriculture community. We know the importance of hearing firsthand from producers on the issues impacting their day-to-day life.

As EPA’s Agriculture Advisor, I look forward to meeting with members of the agriculture community, but I know it takes more than meetings to constitute meaningful change in our communities. One of the Administrator Wheeler’s priorities for EPA has been to restore trust for our agency among agricultural stakeholders and rural communities. To truly understand what’s going on at farms and in fields across the country, Administrator Wheeler reinstated the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee in 2020 with full membership. This committee will provide valuable input on how EPA’s decisions impact rural America. Reinstating this committee, is another step toward restoring that trust and strengthening the voice of American agriculture at EPA.

We are also cultivating partnerships with the next generation of farmers. In 2019, Administrator Wheeler signed EPA’s first-ever agreement in the agency’s history with the National FFA Organization. This MOU reflects the importance of agricultural practices in promoting environmental stewardship and will help expand environmental education courses taught to FFA’s 670,000 student members.

We have made great strides at strengthening our relationship and restoring trust with the agriculture community, and we look forward to continuing to build on our partnership. EPA’s goal has always been and will continue to be promoting environmental stewardship, through working cooperatively with the public and this must include the agriculture community. As we reflect on EPA at 50, we celebrate our partnership with farmers and ranchers and our commitment to protecting the land, water and air, and recognize the continued work by American agriculture and rural America to protect our natural resources.

I’d like to invite you to reach out to our team of agricultural liaisons at EPA. Contact your Regional Ag Advisor or email us at Headquarters ruraloutreach@epa.gov.

 

About the Author: Carrie Vicenta Meadows is the Agriculture Advisor to Administrator Wheeler. The role of the Agriculture Advisor’s Office is acting as a primary advocate and liaison for U.S. agriculture at EPA. Before coming to EPA, Carrie is a 16-year veteran of Capitol Hill where she worked extensively on agricultural policy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

TSCA is ‘4’ the Future

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution PreventionBy Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

I am a strong believer that the future depends on what we do in the present. The 2016 Lautenberg Act amendments to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) set the stage for EPA’s work over the past four years to build a new regulatory program from the ground up, informed by the past and inspired by the future.

Under the Trump Administration, we have set up the processes, policies, and resources to review over 40,000 existing chemicals in the marketplace and any new chemicals that companies want to bring to market. We’ve taken the necessary time to do this in a way that increases transparency, produces high quality work using sound science, and ensures that Americans are protected from unreasonable risks. We’re learning from our experiences and adapting as we move forward; our goal is to transparently carry out a chemical safety program for our nation. We know our work will benefit public health and the environment, as well as facilitate innovation in the chemistry for years to come.

Other examples of how we’ve been working towards a safer, heathier future under TSCA include:

With these and many more important accomplishments under our belt, we intend to focus the second half of 2020 on:

  • Finalizing the remaining nine risk existing chemical risk evaluations, so we know where to focus future risk management rulemaking efforts to reduce risks from these chemicals.
  • Issuing final scope documents for the next 20 risk evaluations, so the public knows which uses our future risk evaluations of these chemicals will cover.
  • Issuing restrictions on five persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals, to ensure future generations won’t have to deal with the consequences of these chemicals that build up and persist in the environment.
  • Finalizing our proposal to strengthen lead regulations, to protect children from the health effects of lead exposure and help them achieve their full future potential.
  • Gathering important, best available scientific evidence on the next 20 chemicals, and others on the 2014 TSCA work plan, so that when we begin work on a chemical, we have a complete set of information on exposure and hazards.

Looking back over the past few years and looking ahead to the future, I think it’s important to focus on our common goals. I know we’re all working on TSCA to protect public health and the planet – right now and for the future. What do you do TSCA “4”?

 

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Protecting Public Health and the Planet Through Pollution Prevention and Green Chemistry

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Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator of U.S. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution PreventionBy Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention

When you think about how the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention supports EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment, the first thing that might come to mind is our work to review the safety of pesticides and other chemicals. Another important aspect of our work is finding ways to stop pollution before it starts—pollution prevention—and encouraging the development of environmentally friendly products and technologies through green chemistry.

One way we do this is through the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. For 24 years, these awards have recognized innovation by American businesses and researchers that redesign chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and manufacture of hazardous substances. These innovations help keep businesses globally competitive, prevent pollution at its source, and protect human health and the environment.

This year’s awards have special meaning because it’s also the 30th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act, which focuses industry, government, and public attention on reducing the amount of pollution through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use. Green chemistry and pollution prevention work hand-in-hand to stop pollution at its source, resulting in less waste, economic growth, and protection of public health.

Our efforts to recognize, encourage, and speed the adoption of green chemistry have produced real results. Through 2019, Green Chemistry Challenge Award winning technologies have provided big opportunities for pollution prevention, including:

  • Eliminating 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents each year—enough to fill almost 3,800 railroad tank cars or a train nearly 47 miles long.
  • Saving 21 billion gallons of water each year—the amount used by 820,000 people annually.
  • Eliminating the release of 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents to air each year—equal to taking 810,000 automobiles off the road.

These results are proof that the combination of green chemistry and pollution prevention can produce powerful results for public health, the environment, and the economy.

For more information on this year’s Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners, visit: www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-winners-2020-green-chemistry-challenge-awards.

Learn more about green chemistry and pollution prevention at: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry and www.epa.gov/p2.

 

About the author: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn is the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Prior to that she served as the Regional Administrator for EPA Region 1, and her responsibilities included overseeing the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and ten tribal nations. Read more.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Tribal and EPA accomplishments over the Last 50 years

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By Scott Mason

Scott Mason official portraitDuring my tenure at the United States EPA, I have had the pleasure of meeting with many tribes across this beautiful country. I’ve listened carefully to the views, concerns and plans of tribal leaders, and on these visits, I’ve witnessed first-hand the majestic mountains, coastal plains and rugged mesas – to name a few of the geographical features that make up Indian country. As we mark EPA’s 50th anniversary, our commitment to protect human health and the environment in Indian country remains unyielding.

As a proud citizen and enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, I am aware of the unique challenges that individual tribes face. Moreover, we recognize the COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately impacting tribal communities. Tribes are grappling with the difficult task of implementing environmental programs on their tribal lands, while alleviating the impacts from the pandemic. EPA, under the Trump Administration, is continuing our commitment to help tribes protect public health and the environment.

This year, as we celebrate EPA’s 50th anniversary, I am pleased to highlight the important environmental progress tribes have made over time with EPA’s assistance, especially when considering the unique issues with which they are confronted.

Since joining the EPA, I have always kept in mind that tribal governments and environmental agencies do not exist as adjuncts to the federal government. The relationship with tribes 50 years ago, at the creation of our agency, was very different. Today, tribes have greater experience building environmental programs and are more sophisticated and robust than ever before. Over the years, EPA has aimed to create a legacy of respectful, government-to-government interaction with tribes. Under the Trump Administration, we are focused on making this legacy as successful as it has ever been.

Additionally, in some areas of the country where tribal communities are economically distressed, President Trump has led efforts to vitalize these previously forgotten places. I’m proud of the work that our agency is doing in conjunction with the White House to ensure that tribes located in Opportunity Zones are able to multiply the impact of President Trump’s tax reform package and attract more economic development.

For years, American Indian nations have taken on a greater role in environmental protection on their own lands, including through our process for delegating regulatory authority to tribes, called Treatment in a Similar Manner as a State (TAS). This delegation process provides tribes essentially the same authority in Indian country that states have within their respective borders. I’m especially proud that since January 2017 there has been a 100% increase in regulatory program delegation approvals when compared to the previous four-year period.

EPA salutes the progress tribal nations have made and recognizes the importance of our continued commitment to improving access to safe drinking water and other environmental protections in Indian country, which are all the more important amid the current pandemic.

These accomplishments are just a few of the EPA-Tribal milestones realized in the last 50 years. We owe these achievements to the dedicated work of EPA and tribal professionals across the country as these tangible results demonstrate the success of the EPA-Tribal partnerships. Together, we are building a cleaner and healthier environment for Indian country.

 

About the author: Scott Mason is Director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO). AIEO lead efforts across the Agency to protect human health and the environment in Indian country. Before coming to EPA, Scott was a vice president and the executive director of federal programs at The University of Oklahoma (OU), where he led state and federal relations for all three of the university’s campuses. Prior to joining OU, Scott served on the staff of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, as well as on her gubernatorial transition team. Scott is a proud citizen and enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and is 5th generation western Oklahoman.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Appreciating the Chesapeake Bay

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By Dana Aunkst

Critter of the Month – the Snowberry clearwing. (Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program)

Critter of the Month – the Snowberry clearwing. (Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program)

It’s Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week – a good time to learn more about our nation’s largest estuary and the commitment by EPA and its partners to restore it.

There’s a variety of information online – from quizzes for students to captivating videos for everyone.  Here’s a selection of offerings:

And for some fun student activities to learn more about the broader environment, check out these EPA games, quizzes and videos.

While it’s a week to become more aware of the Bay and its natural wonders, it’s also Effective Partnerships Month as part of EPA’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

EPA is working with six states, the District of Columbia and sister federal agencies, among other partners, to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the local rivers and streams that connect to it.  You can learn more about that partnership here and pick up some good tips on how you can help in the restoration effort.

 

About the Author: Dana Aunkst is the director of the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Acid Rain Program: A Success Story

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By Christopher Grundler

This May, as EPA celebrates “Improving the Nation’s Air” Month, we salute the resounding success story of the Acid Rain Program (ARP). Since its inception in 1995, the ARP has earned widespread acclaim due to dramatic reductions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants, extensive environmental and human health benefits, and far lower-than-expected costs. The ARP’s SO2 cap and trade program, the first nationwide experiment in emissions trading, has been a victory for policy innovation, stakeholder collaboration, and human health and the environment.

Congress created the ARP in Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, in response to deterioration of ecosystem health in lakes, streams, and forests across the United States and Canada, particularly in northeastern North America. To achieve this goal, the SO2 program set a permanent cap on the total amount of SO2 that can be emitted by power plants in the contiguous U.S. and allows emissions trading so sources can choose their preferred method of compliance. The final cap for SO2 emissions was set at a very ambitious target in 2010: 8.95 million tons, or about half of the 1980 level of 17.26 million tons. The ARP also required NOx emission reductions under a more traditional rate-based regulatory program, representing about a 27% reduction from 1990 levels. Just five years into ARP implementation in 2000, SO2 emissions were already down to 11.2 million tons and NOx emissions reductions had exceeded their target.

Bean Pond, a Long-Term Monitoring site in Somerset Co., Maine, is one of twenty-six lakes in the New England region that shows improving sulfate trends from 1990-2018.

Bean Pond, a Long-Term Monitoring site in Somerset Co., Maine, is one of twenty-six lakes in the New England region that shows improving sulfate trends from 1990-2018.

EPA is proud of the successes of the ARP and its subsequent interstate emission reduction programs and the marked progress those programs have achieved in cleaning up SO2 and NOx. In 2019, annual SO2 emissions measured only 0.97 million tons, a 94% reduction from 1990 levels. Annual NOX emissions measured 0.88 million tons, a reduction of 86% from 1990 levels. While market forces in the power sector – including significant increases in the availability of low-cost natural gas – have put downward pressure on emissions, by 2019, 82% of coal-fired power plants had installed advanced SO2 controls and 68% had installed advanced NOX controls.

For those of you who don’t have memories of the 1980s, allow the data to explain how the ecosystem and air quality have improved over the last 40 years. The national average of SO2 annual ambient concentrations decreased 93% between 1980 and 2018. Wet sulfate deposition – a common indicator of acid rain – decreased 86% reduction from 2000-2002 to 2016-2018. During that same time period, data from EPA’s Long-Term Monitoring program showed an 81% improvement in the number of monitored streams and lakes that experienced critical load exceedances, an indicator that reveals when acid deposition levels are causing harmful effects.

The human health benefits have been just as significant. A 2011 analysis of the benefits and costs of the 1990 Clean Air Act estimated that adult mortality risk decreased significantly due to the improved air quality, with up to 230,000 premature deaths avoided in 2020 as a result of lowered SO2 and NOx pollution levels.

Emissions trading programs have evolved over time to address changing industry and environmental challenges. These programs have been successful, producing near-perfect compliance, along with emissions and operations data at an unprecedented level of accuracy and detail. Annual Progress Reports and numerous tools enable anyone from power plant operators to students to access and analyze data to provide insights from the national level to our own backyards. EPA just posted the latest data, for the first quarter of 2020.

The core principles of accountability, transparency, and results have characterized every iteration of our regulatory efforts since the ARP started it all. By using ARP as a model, these foundational elements should and will guide EPA’s programs as they continue to fulfill the Agency’s primary mission of protecting human health and the environment.

 

About the author: Christopher Grundler is the Director of the Office of Atmospheric Programs. He has held multiple senior leadership positions during his forty years of service with the agency, including his recent tenure as the Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.