Progress in Strengthening Our Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribal Nations

By: JoAnn Chase and Ethan Shenkman

EPA has long honored tribal rights to sovereignty, self-governance and self-determination. These principles are enshrined in EPA’s Indian Policy, signed by Administrator Ruckelshaus in 1984 and reaffirmed by every EPA Administrator since. Thanks to the unique partnership between our offices — EPA’s American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) and EPA’s Indian law team in the Office of General Counsel — we have made great strides in bringing these principles to life and weaving them into the very fabric of this agency.

One important example is our work to ensure tribal nations have the tools they need to protect waters on Indian lands. Under the Clean Water Act, tribes may apply to EPA for the ability to administer certain regulatory programs on their reservations, just as states do. To date, over 50 tribes have used this special status to issue their own water quality standards under the Act. We worked closely with the Office of Water to streamline and simplify the process for tribes wishing to apply for this status, so that more tribes can take advantage of these opportunities. In addition, we worked together to expand the scope of authorities that tribes can assume by providing a new pathway for tribes to engage in water quality restoration. Tribes who take advantage of these new authorities will be able to issue lists of impaired waters and develop “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for those waters – critical regulatory tools for ensuring the protection of their waters, and the ecosystems and communities who depend on them.

EPA has also made tremendous strides under this Administration in living up to the ideals of true government-to-government consultation with tribal nations. In 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum directing federal agencies to develop a plan for implementing the tribal consultation obligation in Executive Order 13175. In 2011, we issued the Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes, which sets a very high bar for ensuring meaningful, government-to-government consultation on EPA actions that affect tribal interests.

When we consulted with tribal leaders across the country, we listened, and we learned. It became clear that we needed to do more to ensure that we consistently consider tribal treaty rights when making decisions that may affect tribal natural resources. We recognize that treaties between the United States and tribal nations are the Supreme Law of the land, and that we have a solemn obligation to ensure that our decisions do not compromise those commitments. As a result, with terrific input from tribal nations, in February 2016, we issued a groundbreaking Treaty Rights Guidance as a supplement to our tribal consultation policy.

The new guidance ensures that EPA staff will engage in a critical inquiry with tribes about treaty rights (and similar federally-protected reserved rights) when the agency is making decisions focused on specific geographic areas where tribal hunting, fishing and gathering rights may exist. Under the guidance, EPA will “consider all relevant information obtained to help ensure that EPA’s actions do not conflict with treaty rights, and to help ensure that EPA is fully informed when it seeks to implement its programs and to further protect treaty rights and resources when it has discretion to do so.”

EPA’s treaty rights guidance was well received by our tribal partners. The White House Council on Native American Affairs was then asked by tribes to consider embracing the concept more broadly. As a result of conversations that we at EPA had with our federal partners, in September 2016 we signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination and collaboration in the protection of treaty rights and similar tribal rights. We are delighted that nine agencies have thus far signed on to the MOU, most at the Secretarial level, and EPA and the Department of Agriculture are co-chairing a working group to implement this commitment moving forward.

These are but a few examples of the tremendous progress we have made in strengthening EPA’s government-to-government relationship with tribal nations – progress that is owed to the outstanding dedication and talents of the employees of our respective offices, and to the steadfast support of EPA’s Administrator and senior leadership. Nor could this progress have occurred without the close collaboration and partnership of our tribal counterparts. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served our shared mission of protecting human health and the environment for the benefit of future generations.

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.

Modernizing the Risk Management Plan Rule

Our country’s chemical industry provides necessary goods we use in our everyday lives, provides employment in many communities throughout the country, and provides key ingredients for many diverse industries nationwide. But while there are numerous chemical plants that operate safely, in the last decade nearly 60 people died, approximately 17,000 people were injured or sought medical treatment, and almost 500,000 people were evacuated or sheltered-in-place as a result of accidental releases at chemical plants. Over the past 10 years, more than 1,500 incidents were reported causing over $2 billion in property damage.

With this in mind, I’m proud to announce that EPA modernized the accidental release prevention requirements under the Clean Air Act, also known as our Risk Management Program (RMP). This rule is a crucial component of EPA’s efforts to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities nationwide. Safer facilities can save the lives of facility workers, first responders and nearby community residents. For example, these finalized amendments will help avoid accidents, such as the explosions at the Chevron Richmond refinery in 2012 and at West Texas Fertilizer in 2013.

In the Report for the President (June 2014) on implementing Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (August 2013), we envisioned amending existing RMP regulations by 2016. The amendments were signed on December 21, 2016, and are available online at: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/final-amendments-risk-management-program-rmp-rule.

This rule is based on discussions and feedback spanning three years of across-the-board engagement with industry and first responders, as well as community leaders, local, tribal and state governments, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders – more than 1,800 participants in over 25 states. Taking input from first responders, facility owners and operators, state, local and tribal partners, and community members, we developed a broad request for information in 2015 and a proposed rule in February 2016. Since then, we have narrowed the proposal, after listening to concerns raised, for example the increased costs and workload to industry and first responders, security concerns regarding the public availability of information, and the need to focus on evacuation and shelter-in-place planning. This rule moves our efforts to enhance chemical facility safety forward, while listening to input from around the nation.

One contributing factor to chemical accidents is a lack of effective coordination between facilities and local emergency responders on the chemical risks at the facility. One of the most important benefits of the rule is to clarify who has response lead and who has the equipment to respond. Increasing coordination and establishing appropriate response procedures can help reduce the effects of accidents and save lives. That’s why we’re requiring annual coordination. Facilities must conduct notifications, field and tabletop exercises, and invite local responders to participate.

We are committed to preserving facility security while enabling communities to protect themselves. That’s why the final rule strikes a balance between communities’ right-to-know, for the sake of first responder, community and employee safety, and facility security concerns, for the sake of business confidentiality and broader, homeland security issues. Responders and community members can request appropriate facility chemical hazard information while allowing protection of sensitive information that could be misused. This can significantly improve community emergency preparedness and allow emergency planners to develop effective evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures.

Under this rule, facility owners/operators will better analyze why accidents happen and determine what they can do to prevent future accidents. Incident investigations will include accident and near-miss root-cause analyses. Facilities will hire an independent third-party to conduct a compliance audit of facility processes after an accident occurs, and hold a public meeting within 90 days of an RMP reportable accident so communities can talk with facility representatives directly.

Finally, facilities in chemical, petroleum/coal products, and paper manufacturing sectors will take a hard, serious look at safer technology and alternatives, to inform, but not to dictate. Decisions on which technologies are most appropriate for a facility remain with the industry experts to determine, once they have conducted the analysis.These amendments are based on years of extensive outreach with a broad array of interested parties – many events I personally participated in, traveling the country to hear what people had to say. The rule’s focus is on:

  • empowering local communities to obtain information they can use to prepare themselves for emergencies;
  • requiring facility owners/operators to examine the root-causes of chemical accidents and possible safer technologies to prevent catastrophic accidents;
  • valuing independent audits; and
  • improving coordination between chemical facilities and the local planners/responders.

It will have lasting benefits to the safety of communities nationwide.

This is a rule a long time coming and the emphasis on extensive, collaborative input has resulted in straightforward requirements that can be implemented without undue burdens on industry yet potentially saving the lives of our first responders, facility employees and local residents – which is goal for all involved.

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.

Why Science Matters

As someone who has utilized and appreciated science for the better part of my life, I want to take a minute to reflect on the importance of science at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most people recognize EPA as a regulatory agency, but they may not be aware of the tremendous role EPA plays in protecting public health and its worldwide leadership in science. Without question, EPA is one of the premier public health agencies in the world, and our work helps all Americans have a clean and healthy environment to live, work, and play.

And the very foundation of everything we do comes down to one principle: using science in a factual and nonpartisan way to inform our actions to protect the American people and our environment.

As John Adams said, “facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” This remains as true today as it was when said centuries ago. As we enter a different time in American history with a new Administration and new Congress, one thing must be clear – those chosen to lead this country cannot dictate science or make changes to the way in which science is conducted simply to meet a political or policy outcome. Nor should they minimize the impacts of EPA’s science that has been and will continue to be critical to progress in keeping our kids and communities safe and healthy.

We know full well that as a regulatory agency, we often face a high degree of scrutiny from stakeholders influenced by EPA regulations and policies. That’s to be expected and welcomed. EPA is a world leader in science in critical areas like public health, toxicology, epidemiology, ecology, engineering, risk assessment, and more.

While it is understandable that there will be difference of opinions about policy and even strong opposition to some of the agency’s work, denying the science and facts as determined by a majority of scientists benefits no one. It undermines our global scientific leadership and cedes future opportunities to other nations.

And it is this use of science that fuels our vitally important work that affects every single American. Whether we are working to clean up waste sites, improve air quality, ensure safe drinking water, or advance chemical safety, science guides everything we do. For example, EPA scientists are learning more each day about how air quality impacts human health, with recent research showing that air pollution can affect cardiovascular health and even trigger heart attacks and strokes. That’s important information for all Americans, not just the millions of Americans who have heart disease and for the doctors and nurses whose job it is to keep people healthy. The more we understand the problem, the better we can be at addressing it and protecting the health and environment of our citizens.

We also use our science to keep the nation’s waters clean. For example, we recently partnered with other federal agencies to use satellite data to monitor harmful algal blooms in our rivers, lakes, and streams. These increasing algae blooms can contaminate drinking water sources, make water toxic to people and animals, cause beach closures, and raise drinking water treatment costs. EPA scientists and colleagues developed an early warning system and guidance to help alert and prepare public health officials as toxic algal blooms arise so communities can better manage the environmental, health, and economic impacts.

EPA science is also essential to states and their efforts to protect local communities. EPA’s scientists are often called upon to assist states during emergencies such as the recent chemical spill into the drinking water in Corpus Christi, Texas. EPA worked in close partnership with the city and state to bring its technical experts to the table to help inform decisions about drinking water restrictions.
Yes, we’ve made tremendous progress over the years – we have clearer air, cleaner waterways, and we are doing all we can to protect our fellow citizens by controlling pollution. Just look at a picture of Los Angeles from a few decades ago to see the progress that we have made together. But the challenges we face today are increasingly complex and sometimes even more dangerous than those in the past. Legacy pollutants like lead and new contaminants continue to demand the best science we can offer if we hope to ensure the long-term preservation and protection of our water resources.

Climate change and discovering even new sources of pollution due to improved technologies – these are the very issues that need to be informed by the best science and the dedicated scientists at the EPA.

Through science, we can gain understanding, discover solutions, and show that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. Since the EPA was founded, we have cut pollution by 70 percent while our GDP has tripled.

The American people demand clean air and water, food free of harmful pesticides, products free of harmful toxics, and their communities resilient to climate change. They also demand that we use the best science and research to define challenges and come up with solutions. And while there will always be political changes in Washington, the use of science at the EPA and its core mission will continue. That is the timeless goal at the EPA – to protect public health and the environment – and with clear science as the very bedrock of those goals, EPA’s mission will continue to endure for years and years to come.

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.

Electronics: The Next Frontier in Sustainability

By: Mathy Stanislaus

Last year was quite a year for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. October marked the 40th anniversary of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and we have been taking stock of our success managing our materials and waste, and discussing where we need to head in the future. In addition, we have worked continuously to advance Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) and life cycle thinking. Recent analysis concludes that global raw materials use is accelerating to a point of creating economic risks, along with increasing environmental consequences such as greenhouse gas emissions. As the U.S. Government’s representative to the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency, I have championed SMM to make life cycle thinking ubiquitous throughout a product’s supply chain. This includes manufacturing, transportation use, and end of life management to get the most out of the materials we use. A perfect example of SMM in action in the U.S. today is the design and management of electronics.

The Electronics Lifecycle

The Electronics Lifecycle

In 2012, the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge was launched under the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (NSES). The Challenge encourages electronics manufacturers, brand owners and retailers to strive to send 100 percent of the used electronics they collect from the public, businesses and within their own organizations to third-party certified electronics refurbishers and recyclers.

Graphic displaying the total benefits of Electronics Challenge participants

By EPA publically acknowledging their efforts and achievements, we amplify the message of the safe management of electronics across their life cycle and inspire the electronics industry and other sectors with transferrable best practices.

Through source reduction, designing with environmental awareness, responsible recycling, and outreach, our Challenge participants – Best Buy; Dell Inc.; LG Electronics, USA; Samsung Electronics Co.; Sony Electronics, Inc.; Sprint; Staples; and VIZIO, Inc. – have made significant environmental contributions.

Electronic products are a global economic driver, with supply chains reaching around the world. Like so many products on the market, today’s electronics are made from valuable resources and highly engineered materials, like precious metals, plastics, and glass. If not properly managed, some of the materials in our electronics may pose a risk to human health and the environment. By designing with the environment in mind and through a life-cycle lens, toxic materials can be designed out of the product and the product can be made to be more readily repairable and reusable, extending its life and facilitating recycling.

Dell and Samsung have innovated in their industry sectors with this principle in mind. Dell is a 2016 Champion for their use of post-industrial recycled (PIR) carbon filled polycarbonate in a new line of laptops, the first laptop to use this material. By using PIR material, Dell kept 170,000 pounds of carbon fiber from being landfilled in 2015. Samsung is a 2016 Champion for their Cadmium-free Quantum Dot ultra-high definition televisions (HDTV), also an industry first. The resulting TVs are free of cadmium – a hazardous heavy metal – and use less materials and energy than other HDTVs, with properties that allow for better light efficiency and improved durability. This allows the display to be kept at peak quality for years, delaying end-of-life management decisions.

Since the Challenge was launched, our participants collectively have sent nearly 950,000 tons of electronics to certified recyclers, which is equivalent to powering over 334,072 homes with electricity for one year or diverting over 717,900 tons of waste from landfills! Staples is a 2016 Champion for their innovative outreach and public education initiative, which reached over 6 million consumers with information on their Technology Recycling Program. Through their efforts, Staples attained a significant increase in the tons collected per store from 2014 to 2015 and then ensured that 100% of the e-waste collected from consumers was sent to a certified recycler.

The SMM Electronics Challenge is about much more than electronics recycling. In addition to rewarding significant recycling efforts, we also give out the Champion Awards, which honor our participants for using life cycle thinking in designing their products and promoting this thinking through outreach programs aimed at consumers. The products and programs recognized by these awards are real-world examples of SMM in action. You can learn more about previous and our current champion award winners here.

I am exceptionally proud of the successes the Electronics Challenge participants this year and the hard work of my staff for keeping the momentum going. In addition to recognizing the great work of our Challenge participants it’s also important that we use this moment to encourage other businesses in their sustainability programs to model the substantial commitment and deliver the same outstanding results that our Challenge participants have produced.   Some might even want to step up and join our Electronics Challenge program; we would welcome your participation.

To honor the achievements of our participants and broaden our message to the electronics community, I am thrilled that we are partnering with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) for the awards ceremony. The ceremony will be held on January 7, 2017, on the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) stage at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV. CTA and EPA will also be co-hosting a panel discussion where we will have a robust dialogue with our stakeholders and participants. The actions of today influence our tomorrow, so let me once again congratulate our 2016 Electronics Challenge participants!

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.

Keeping Up Our Great Lakes Momentum

A Lake Erie algae bloom seen by satellite courtesy of NOAA/NASA

A Lake Erie algae bloom seen by satellite courtesy of NOAA/NASA

We as people will always need clean water.

With more than 90 percent of the nation’s fresh surface water, few if any places tell the story of the need for and work to protect public health as it relates to fresh water than the Great Lakes.

We started down this trail together by calling for a “new standard of care for the Great Lakes,” to leave them better for the next to the next generation than the way we found them. Since then, we’ve punched the accelerator on Great Lakes protection and restoration by:

  • Establishing a “Great Lakes Trust”—If you believe like I do that clean water, air and land is our life support system, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a much-needed investment through thousands of projects to improve water quality, rebuild habitat, educate the next generation, and many others efforts from Duluth to Buffalo and points in between.
  • Taking a “zero tolerance policy” toward invasive species—When in 2009 evidence appeared of silver and bighead carpin the Chicago Area Waterway System, agencies scrambled to patch together their authorities to prevent an invasion of the Great Lakes. By forming the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, they institutionalized their efforts and, so far, have kept the fish out.
  • Revitalizing the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement—For the first time in a quarter century, the policy that guides how the two federal governments coordinate now addresses threats to the Great Lakes from climate change, habitat, invasive species, and others.There are many other accomplishments that deserve mention—such as reducing toxic mercury, rebuilding Lake Ontario coastal wetlands with International Joint Commission, and others—than can be detailed here.But maybe the most important milestone in the journey is that it has not been top-down. It is the growing partnership of states, tribes, municipalities, businesses, environmental organizations, academia and individual citizens who simply “show up.” We’ve seen this through the Agreement’s Great Lakes Executive Committee, the federal agencies’ Great Lakes Advisory Board, and others.It is through this vibrant ecosystem of people and jurisdictions that the remaining work—and there is much still to do—will carry forward the effort to protect and restore one of the Earth’s most magnificent and vital life support systems.

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.

Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA

By Stan Meiburg, Acting Deputy Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency

At EPA, we can’t protect the environment alone. Environmental protection belongs to all of us, and participating in environmental science is one way that members of the public can have an impact. Citizen science broadens environmental protection by enabling people to work together with government and other institutions toward shared goals.

In citizen science, members of the public participate in scientific and technical work in a variety of ways, including formulating research questions, conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and solving problems. In particular, community citizen science addresses questions defined by communities and allows for community engagement throughout the entire scientific process, empowering people to ask their own questions, collect their own data, and advocate for themselves.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with experts who participate in an EPA advisory council, the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). EPA’s advisory councils are an important way for EPA to gather opinions and recommendations from experts outside the Agency. NACEPT has been working for a year to understand citizen science, gather the best thinking on the topic, and provide EPA with advice and recommendations for how to best integrate citizen science into the work of EPA.

Their timely report – Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA – outlines the transformational potential of citizen science and provides EPA with 13 recommendations to fully integrate citizen science into the work of the Agency. Citizen science can mean many things, and this excellent report provides a useful conceptual framework for considering the spectrum of uses of citizen science data, highlights the importance of a place-based approach to environmental protection, and emphasizes the need to be proactive about engaging the public in environmental protection. This report will resonate with those around the country who see the opportunities in this next wave of environmental protection. It also tells us that we at EPA have work to do in promoting high quality science and expanding our access to information that promotes constructive solutions to environmental problems.

The report is available here: https://www.epa.gov/faca/nacept-2016-report-environmental-protection-belongs-public-vision-citizen-science-epa

EPA has a number of innovative projects working to engage citizens in environmental science and decision-making and involve the public in all aspects of EPA work. You can learn more about EPA’s work in citizen science at www.epa.gov/citizenscience. EPA will take this new report very seriously and use its insights to help us make even more progress in the years to come.

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.

EPA Launches Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determination Website

By Joel Beauvais

We live in a society that increasingly allows us to visualize information and data on our phones, TVs, and computers. That’s why I’m excited to announce that EPA is once again demonstrating its commitment to transparency in decision-making by launching a new website that helps the public see where the Clean Water Act applies. The website will increase public understanding of the types of waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The launch of the website supports a commitment made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy to develop a publically available website to house Clean Water Act jurisdictional determinations. EPA worked in coordination with the Corps to develop a website that includes all CWA jurisdictional determinations made since August 28, 2015, the effective date of the Clean Water Rule. This includes jurisdictional determinations made under both the Rule and under the previous regulations while the Rule is stayed. Note that the website only makes use of information that was already publicly available online and does not display all waters of the United States subject to the Clean Water Act, only those for which a jurisdictional determination has been requested.

The website is the first to gather and interactively display jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act across the country. This builds upon the existing  jurisdictional determination public interface on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters website.

Users are able to search, sort, map, and view information from jurisdictional determinations using different search parameters and filters. The easy-to-navigate website provides information about the presence or absence of jurisdictional waters where landowners requested jurisdictional determinations, and only makes use of public information. The website will increase and improve transparency regarding agency decision-making on Clean Water Act geographic jurisdictional matters.

I anticipate that the website will also improve jurisdictional determination requests, as the public will be able to easily access information from nearby and related determinations. Increased public access to information about how our jurisdictional decisions are made can assist landowners by providing information about the locations and types of resources that are and are not protected by the Clean Water Act.

We look forward to hearing feedback from stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead regarding website functionality and usability. We are committed to increasing the public’s access to information about how our decisions are made, because this is a key component of making the agencies’ programs more consistent, predictable, and environmentally effective.

For more, visit: https://watersgeo.epa.gov/cwa/CWA-JDs/.

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.

Update on EPA’s Clean Power Plan Model Rules

By: Janet McCabe

States, cities, businesses, tribes, and other organizations across the country are taking important steps to cut carbon pollution from power plants. In fact, power plant carbon emissions in 2015 were almost 25 percent below 2005 levels. Our extensive public engagement highlighted this continued progress and helped us ensure that the Clean Power Plan (CPP) was in line with the transition that is under way in the electricity sector. Our outreach also made it clear that states were looking to the agency to continue providing support and tools, including the Model Rules, that would help them in developing or expanding programs and strategies to cut carbon pollution.

EPA proposed the Model Rules in August 2015 when we issued the final CPP.  The proposed Model Rules highlighted straightforward pathways to adopting a trading system, making it easy for states and power plants to use emissions trading to reduce carbon pollution. Today, we are withdrawing the draft Model Rules and accompanying draft documents from interagency review and are making working drafts of them available to the public. While these drafts are not final and we are not required to release them at this time, making them available now allows us to share our work to date and to respond to the states that have requested information prior to the end of the Administration. In a letter issued today, we have notified those 14 states about the information we are making available.

We believe that the work we have done so far may be useful at this time to the states, stakeholders and members of the public who are considering or are already implementing policies and programs that would cut carbon pollution from the power sector. These drafts may be especially helpful to states considering the use of emissions trading programs or the expansion of existing trading programs, since one of the chief areas of focus of the draft Model Rules is emissions trading.  Similarly, states interested in using or expanding energy efficiency programs might find the material presented in the Evaluation, Measurement & Verification document useful as well.

The documents we are posting today are still working drafts. They are not final documents, they are not signed by the Administrator and they will not be published in the Federal Register. EPA’s docket will remain open, with the potential for completing the agency’s work on these materials and finalizing them at a later date.

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.

Smart City Air Challenge Awardees Announced

By Ann Dunkin, Chief Information Officer

In August, EPA launched the Smart City Air Challenge and asked communities to create strategies to collect, manage and share data from hundreds of air quality sensors. We understand what a challenging tasks this is and we’re pleased to report that 22 communities responded to the challenge. The depth and breadth of the responses reflect communities’ enthusiasm for managing air quality data and their commitment to collaboration.

We are proud to announce that the City of Baltimore and Lafayette, Louisiana, Consolidated Government were selected as the two awardees of the Smart City Air Challenge. Additionally, four other projects were recognized as honorable mentions for their innovation and potential: New York, New York; Mesa County, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

The projects were evaluated on four criteria: data management, data use, sensor procurement and deployment and project sustainability. The two awardees will receive $40,000 each to deploy air sensors, share data with the public and develop data management best practices. After a year of implementing the projects, both communities will be eligible to receive up to an additional $10,000 based on their accomplishments and collaboration. You can read about the details of the challenge on the challenge.gov website.

We are excited to work with these awardees in the next year. Here are some of their plans:

Baltimore, Maryland: This community intends to engage several partners and neighborhoods to deploy a network of 300 ozone and nitrogen sensors in a phased approach, leveraging a scalable cloud platform for data management. They aim to assemble commercially-available components to build their sensor system and distribute the data on a City of Baltimore website. Partners in this project include Johns Hopkins University, BmoreCool and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.

Lafayette, Louisiana: This submission proposed a partnership between a university, local government and a nongovernment organization to deploy a network of 300 ozone and particulate matter sensors. The project has a strong data management plan utilizing a scalable cloud platform. They plan to use commercially-available sensors for the project and make the data available to the partners and public in a variety of ways. Partners in this project include the Lafayette Consolidated Government, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and CGI Technology and Solutions.

We received many strong submissions, and we’re recognizing four additional projects with an honorable mention because of their innovation and potential:

New York, New York: has a strong sensor network and platform. The team plans to integrate air quality and weather data. The project has an indoor/outdoor air component and has the potential for other communities to learn from their experience with a network of 380 sensors and the management and use of the resulting data.

Mesa County, Colorado: has a strong grassroots effort with the community taking a proactive ownership role in the project. This project is in a geographically remote county, which will provide ideas for other rural or growing regions.

Raleigh, North Carolina: is a partnership between researchers and the community to better understand air quality, asthma and lung function. They proposed a sensor that is in a watch-like device that requires low energy.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: hopes to collaborate with university, city and community partners. The project engages cyclists to carry the sensors, which will clarify pollution levels in specific areas of the cities.

We look forward to working with the awardees and honorable mention projects to share knowledge about how they collect, store and manage large amounts of data. This challenge is experimental in nature and we hope to learn how communities manage data using hundreds of sensors for non-regulatory purposes. The sensors will produce as much as 150 gigabytes of open data per year, which can benefit all communities and researchers. We will encourage these communities and others to share their findings so other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and findings.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted an application. I encourage all the submitting communities to implement your projects. Build upon the collaboration you’ve established with your communities and partners. Please keep us informed of your progress, because EPA and other communities want to learn about your successes and best practices too.

As I mentioned in the post announcing this challenge back in August, I firmly believe that data can make a difference in environmental protection. I look forward to seeing the difference Baltimore and Lafayette and the honorable mention projects make in the coming year. Communities, show us how it’s done!

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.

Embracing Data for a More Efficient Government

By Robin Thottungal

Innovators across the federal government are leveraging the power of data to address some of our most complex national challenges.

Data allow us to discover patterns, connect the dots and identify opportunities for innovation. Data should not be buried in spreadsheets, filing cabinets and static reports; they should be accessible at the push of a button or a quick internet search.

For the past year, I have had the privilege of representing EPA in the Federal Data Cabinet, a community of over 100 innovators across approximately 50 agencies. Together, we identify which tools and guidance are needed to sustain the people, practices and policies of a data-driven government.

Looking with a bird’s eye view at government-sized programs

To see a single, integrated view of our operations, we need to be able to explore data visually. Interactive dashboards and platforms can cut through increasing data volume and complexity.

For example, my team is building a data analytics platform to further enable evidence-based decision making across EPA. By integrating all of our acquisitions data into a single dashboard, called the Spend Visualization and Strategic Sourcing Savings Tracker, we can create a clear picture of EPA’s logistics and supply chain.

EPA's Strategic Sourcing tool leverages the Agency’s full buying power in order to reduce acquisition administrative costs and develop long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with best-in-class providers of products and services.

EPA’s Strategic Sourcing tool leverages the Agency’s full buying power in order to reduce acquisition administrative costs and develop long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with best-in-class providers of products and services.

 

The EPA Spend Tool enables our Office of Acquisitions Management (OAM) to accurately monitor, compare and answer questions regarding EPA spending.

The EPA Spend Tool enables our Office of Acquisitions Management (OAM) to accurately monitor, compare and answer questions regarding EPA spending.

Looking beyond EPA, there are many other stories to tell from Federal Data Cabinet members. For example, the General Services Administration is empowering business analysts to manage and support basic federal agency functions with their Data-2-Decision (D2D) platform. D2D moves analysis beyond describing the past; it allows users to diagnose reasons for events, prescribe ways to achieve desired outcomes and forecast future scenarios.

Increasingly, federal agencies are working together to see an even bigger picture, and these collaborations are causing positive advances across the board. In an effort to improve health outcomes, strengthen food security programming and monitor land use change, the U.S. Agency for International Development partnered with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to create GeoCenter, a geospatial analysis platform. The platform was immediately useful for pinpointing the most effective methods for preventing the spread of malaria in Mozambique.

Placing information in the hands of decision-makers

What happens when tech platforms unveil the patterns behind the data? Policymakers across the government can establish smarter, evidence-based policy. Decision-makers can target interventions and focus on the biggest opportunities. Researchers can design studies with more insightful results.

EPA has been a leader in sharing data with researchers, businesses and the environmental community. For the past 20 years, we have published much of our data on EnviroFacts, a single point of access to environmental activities that may affect air, water and land across the U.S. By enabling users to find, map and analyze information, we facilitate others to make informed decisions that rely on cross-cutting information.

Health and Human Services also set a precedent by publishing an interactive map that uncovers geographic discrepancies in chronic disease among Medicare beneficiaries. The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool provides policymakers and researchers with a quick and easy way to identify vulnerable populations and target interventions that address racial and ethnic disparities.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool is a user friendly way to explore and better understand disparities in chronic diseases.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool is a user friendly way to explore and better understand disparities in chronic diseases.

Federal employees are not the only decision-makers who benefit from a data-driven government though. Citizens benefit too! Who else better understands the important issues impacting communities across America? Opening government data has empowered citizens to track trends and make informed personal decisions.

Do you want to ensure that you’re supporting businesses with a proven commitment to labor rights? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an online enforcement database for that. The data, covering more than four decades, include details on the roughly 90,000 OSHA inspections conducted every year.

Or do you want to understand more about the environment around your home or school? EPA’s online tool, My Environment, allows the public to learn more about air, water and land based on a search location. It also provides key resources that address local environmental challenges for citizens wanting to engage more with their communities.

Data is key to improving performance and services

The best government is one that delivers the right services, using the most cost-effective methods. By unleashing innovative technology, we are getting deeper, more meaningful insights about federal services and processes—and we are getting more efficient at delivering what citizens need most.

Take, for example, how the Internal Revenue Service is using data to enhance some of their important services. Processes for tax preparers, tax software developers and taxpayers have all improved. In addition to improving processes, their data-driven approach has resulted in a total of almost $1.7 billion dollars in revenue protected over just four years.

As another example, look at how the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) incentivizes high performance for all health insurance providers that participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) program. OPM uses a data approach to benchmark clinical quality, customer satisfaction and resource use. With this approach, OPM reinforces quality health care for all its 8.2 million FEHB federal employees, retirees and family members, and holds 97 health insurance carriers accountable.

A multiplier effect across the government

We have already seen what a tremendous impact the data-driven approach has made in the services provided by individual government agencies. What we are seeing now is the multiplier effect, sparking change across the federal government.

This multiplier effect explains the success of the Department of Commerce (DOC)’s Data Academy, which educates and empowers DOC employees to make data-driven decisions. The agency is improving its service delivery to businesses, which strengthens America’s competitiveness.

Here at EPA, data enthusiasts have formed communities of practice to build capacity to operate in a data-driven manner. For example, EPA’s Geospatial program provides regular training, workshops and webinars on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Going forward, my team will further empower the agency with training and support to visualize and analyze data using advanced, innovative methods.

We have worked hard to create a safer, smarter, more responsive government – one that keeps pace with our quickly changing world – by better leveraging our data. With data in our toolbox, we can answer new questions, arrive at deeper insights and make better decisions to improve outcomes.

All citizens benefit when the government saves time, talent and resources; becoming more efficient paves the way for new economic activity and social benefits.

Data are some of our most valuable national assets, and we are working hard to use them even better.

 

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.