Monthly Archives: February 2014

Net Zero Strategies: Partnering to Promote Sustainability

Bob P RTP 1

Deputy Administrator Perciasepe tours the solar roof of EPA’s current Research Triangle Park building with U.S. Representative David Price, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack, Stan Meiburg, and EPA employees Pete Schubert, Greg Eades, and Liz Deloatch.

 

How can communities reduce their water, waste, and energy footprints? How can they promote sustainable strategies at the local level while simultaneously fostering economic growth and promoting citizen health and well-being? I was recently given the opportunity to consider these questions alongside EPA scientists and community leaders and while observing cutting edge sustainability work.

This week, EPA scientists and community leaders from across the country came together at the Feb. 25-26 workshop “Promoting Sustainability through Net Zero Strategies.”   More

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

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Celebrating Diversity

By Elias Rodriguez

February is National African American History Month and I’ve been reflecting on my distinctly mixed heritage as a Nuyorican. Before relocating to New York City, my immediate forbearers were both born on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico or Borinquen, as the natives originally referred to it. Although born in the Big Apple, it wasn’t until I lived in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico that I discovered the wide diversity of colors, shapes, shades and hair texture of my extended family and related cousins. From ebony to ivory from brown-eyed to green-eyed, the genetic mixture of my family was both wondrous and intriguing to behold. You see, Puerto Ricans benefit from un Sancocho (a stew) of African, Spanish and Taíno bloodlines. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived they encountered the island’s friendly Taínos who spoke Arawakan, the most commonly known native tongue of all South American and Caribbean natives at that time. As generations passed, the peoples mixed and a prodigious progeny was birthed.

My aunts, uncles and grandparents were light skinned, dark skinned and somewhere in between. They were equally beloved and I always asked for their Bendición (blessing). I proudly derive a crucial part of my identity from this generic diversity and rich tradition. My second language is Spanish and I thoroughly enjoy listening to Salsa music with its unmistakable African beat. The nexus between island natives and Africans is historically significant. Who could have looked at the great late Roberto Clemente and not assumed he was black? The famous fort San Felipe del Morro was built with slave labor. Juan Garrido, who made landfall in 1508, is believed to be the first person of African descent to voluntarily arrive on the island when he arrived with Juan Ponce de Leon. The Espiritismo practiced by my maternal grandmother was surely influenced by traditions from across the Atlantic. One look at my childhood photographs and I can surmise that my mother’s taste for dressing me in psychedelic clothes did not come from the Plymouth Rock pilgrims.

The threads of African culture within my own heritage are enriching and enhance my awareness of cultural differences in my work as a federal representative. I teach my children to appreciate this multiculturalism. After all, the U.S. Census Bureau instructs us that “People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race.” As a native New Yorker, I celebrate the melting pot that gives our nation its strength and resiliency.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Are you hungry? I think Missouri is.

By Jim Callier

I grew up in Missouri, and Missouri was always known as the “Show Me State”. You know, show me the money, show me the goods, etc. Well, times may be a changing. This time I see Missouri stepping out front and not waiting for the “show”.

You may be wondering; what’s up with this title about Missouri being hungry? No, it’s got nothing to do with sports teams, even though they did better this past year. It has to do with food. “How is that you say?” Let me tell you and I’ll keep it brief.

First, food manufacturing is the #1 economic sector in Missouri, employing nearly 40,000 workers, according to the 2012 “Missouri Economic Indicator Brief: Manufacturing Industries” (compiled by the Missouri Economic and Research and Information Center). Food also represents the #3 export from Missouri with sales more than $1.5 billion in 2012.

Now, let me tell you more about why I say “Missouri is hungry”. On February 19, 2014, I attended a meeting in Columbia, Missouri, hosted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. At this meeting, representatives from at least 11 different federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities agreed to the “Food Production” would be the focus for Missouri’s E3 program. Here food production has the scope from “farm to table.”

MOE3

Missouri’s E3 team deliberates the E3 opportunities in a Food Production effort.

You say, “What’s E3? And why is this important?” Just read below for a description of E3.

E3 (Economy, Energy and the Environment) is a national initiative that promoting sustainable manufacturing and economic growth throughout the United States. E3 brings together federal agencies, states and local communities for a broad discussion on how to connect respective programs to deliver responsive, coordinated manufacturing solutions The E3 Framework facilitates collaboration among groups with common interests and a common agenda. Because the E3 initiative brings together interests on people, planet and profits it is at the core a collaborative SUSTAINBILITY effort.

E3 is a federal technical assistance framework helping communities, manufacturers and manufacturing supply chains adapt and thrive in today’s economy. EPA, five other federal agencies and their state/local partners pooled their resources to support communities across the country reduce pollution and energy use while increasing profits and creating new job opportunities. See http://www2.epa.gov/e3 for more information on the national program.

I’m excited about this. The profit margin in food production is thin. With the support of E3, the food production sector should not only be economically sustainable, but also be able to grow. Both rural and metropolitan areas in Missouri should benefit.

Stay tuned and follow this blog for updates on E3 in Missouri. Thanks, and have a nice day.

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA Takes a Step Forward in Protecting our Nation’s Farm Workers

This blog was originally posted on the White House Blog.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standard in order to protect the nation’s two million farm workers and their families from pesticide exposure.

I am proud that this administration has taken another step forward in protecting our nation’s farm workers, a cause that is at the very root of my passion for public service. My hero and grandfather, Cesar Chavez, fought tirelessly for the rights of farmworkers, from higher wages and worker compensation, to access to drinking water and safety from pesticides.

My grandfather’s work centered around justice and ensuring that hard working, decent people were treated with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve. EPA’s revised Worker Protection Standard will afford farm workers similar health protections to those already enjoyed by other workers in other jobs. The rule, covering farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses, has not been updated for 20 years – and certainly for many it is long overdue. More

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EPA’s 20th Anniversary for Environmental Justice: A Perspective on Community Work

Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Mathy Stanislaus participates in Federal Facilities roundtable with Citizens for Environmental Justice in Savannah, GA

Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Mathy Stanislaus participates in Federal Facilities roundtable with Citizens for Environmental Justice in Savannah, GA

 

I am excited about the 20th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 12898.  Former President Bill Clinton signed EO 12898 on February 11, 1994. I was not there, but I knew the people who were. Some of those people are no longer with us, so today I honor them.

It seems like just yesterday that I started my career right out of law and engineering school. Since that time, I have worked fervently with and for communities ensuring that they have a say in environmental decisions that affect their lives, their children’s lives, and the lives of fellow community members. The well-being of those community members is always in the front of my mind, and drives my work each day. More

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

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Are Your Genes Making You Susceptible to Air Pollution?

 

Healthy Heart graphic identifier

 

By Ann Brown

Smoking, high-fat diets and a couch potato lifestyle are risk factors for heart disease.  Kicking the habit, changing your diet and exercising are ways to reduce those risks and enhance quality of life.

But there may be a risk factor for heart disease that is more complicated to address: our genes. Our genetic makeup that we inherit from our parents may contribute to the development of heart disease, but our genes may also play a role in how our cardiovascular system responds to air pollution.  

We all have the same set of genes, but there are subtle differences in the makeup of those genes that vary from one person to another.  These individual variations are called polymorphisms and have been shown to make some people more susceptible to things like breast cancer or diabetes. 

Research has shown that high levels of air pollution, particularly fine particles emitted by cars, trucks, factories and wildfires, can trigger heart attacks and worsen heart symptoms in people who have heart disease. But are some people with heart disease more responsive to high levels of air pollution than others because of their genes?  

EPA researchers and collaborators are investigating the contributions genes may have in the way individuals respond to air pollution exposure. The study is made possible by tapping into a unique database of genetic and clinical information called CATHGEN, developed by Duke University Medical Center. The database contains health information from nearly 10,000 volunteers, most who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. 

The database is providing an opportunity for EPA and other environmental health researchers to ask whether specific genetic variations make people more susceptible to the damaging effects of air pollution on the heart. While people cannot change their genetic make-up, it is hoped that the knowledge gained from this research can one day be used by health care providers to educate their patients with heart disease. Heart patients don’t have to wait for more research to take action, however.

EPA recommends people who are more sensitive to air pollution, such as those with heart disease, take steps to reduce their exposure during times when pollution levels are higher. You can check current and forecasted air quality conditions at www.airnow.gov.

Learn more at: epa.gov/healthyheart

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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President Obama’s Proclamation on Environmental Justice

By Lisa Garcia

Earlier this month I was very excited to share President Barack Obama’s official Presidential Proclamation commemorating February 11, 2014, as the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. While this may seem purely symbolic, the proclamation is much  more than a symbolic gesture.  It is a very visible statement from the White House firmly re-committing this Administration’s dedication to making sure that we, “live up to the promise that here in America, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can pursue your dreams in a safe and just environment.”  This commitment has been echoed throughout EPA and other agencies, and indeed the entire country during this anniversary month.

As a federal employee, I understand the important role the federal government plays in advancing environmental justice, but I also believe that the only path to a healthier and more resilient country is through the hard work and leadership of communities and individuals. This reaffirmation by the President  sets the stage for all of the U.S., states, and tribal governments to continue to work together, side-by-side, to ensure that we continue to deliver on the letter and spirit of the executive order signed 20 years ago this month.

20TH ANNIVERSARY OF EXECUTIVE ORDER 12898

ON ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

downloadTwo decades ago, President William J. Clinton directed the Federal Government to tackle a long-overlooked problem. Low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and tribal areas disproportionately bore environmental burdens like contamination from industrial plants or landfills and indoor air pollution from poor housing conditions. These hazards worsen health disparities and reduce opportunity for residents — children who miss school due to complications of asthma, adults who struggle with medical bills. Executive Order 12898 affirmed every American’s right to breathe freely, drink clean water, and live on uncontaminated land. Today, as America marks 20 years of action, we renew our commitment to environmental justice for all.

Because we all deserve the chance to live, learn, and work in healthy communities, my Administration is fighting to restore environments in our country’s hardest-hit places. After over a decade of inaction, we reconvened an Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group and invited more than 100 environmental justice leaders to a White House forum. Alongside tribal governments, we are working to reduce pollution on their lands. And to build a healthier environment for every American, we established the first-ever national limits for mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants.

While the past two decades have seen great progress, much work remains. In the years to come, we will continue to work with States, tribes, and local leaders to identify, aid, and empower areas most strained by pollution. By effectively implementing environmental laws, we can improve quality of life and expand economic opportunity in overburdened communities. And recognizing these same communities may suffer disproportionately due to climate change, we must cut carbon emissions, develop more homegrown clean energy, and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that we are already feeling across our country.

As we mark this day, we recall the activists who took on environmental challenges long before the Federal Government acknowledged their needs. We remember how Americans — young and old, on college campuses and in courtrooms, in our neighborhoods and through our places of worship — called on a Nation to pursue clean air, water, and land for all people. On this anniversary, let us move forward with the same unity, energy, and passion to live up to the promise that here in America, no matter who you are or where you come from, you can pursue your dreams in a safe and just environment.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 11, 2014, as the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs and activities that promote environmental justice and advance a healthy, sustainable future.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

About the author: Lisa Garcia is the Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice to Administrator Gina McCarthy

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Protecting Communities at Our Border

Environmental Justice is a guiding principle here at EPA, and one that is woven into the work of all of our programmatic and regional efforts, both domestically and internationally. EPA administers a unique initiative in North America that focuses on community-led environmental programs that benefit one of our most at-risk communities along the U.S.-Mexico Border.

EPA, along with local, state, and federal officials, and communities in the U.S. and Mexico, break ground on new drinking wells

EPA, along with local, state, and federal officials, and communities in the U.S. and Mexico, break ground on new drinking wells

 

The work of U.S.-Mexico Border Program is immensely important because the U.S. residents of the border community are among the poorest in the United States, and they’ve experienced severe environmental degradation over the years.  Since the signing of the La Paz Agreement in 1983 between the U.S. and Mexico, EPA has partnered with Mexico’s Ministry of Environment (known as SEMARNAT) to address border issues, such as waste, wastewater management, drinking water, clean air, and emergency response.  More

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La EPA y los trabajadores agrícolas de EE.UU.: Ayudando a crear un ambiente de trabajo más seguro

por Cindy Ramirez


Soy la nieta de un bracero . En 1961, mi abuelo fue parte de un programa de trabajadores invitados – informalmente conocido como el Programa Bracero – que le permitió a hombres mexicanos trabajar temporalmente en la agricultura estadounidense. Me abuelo me contó que cuando él llegó, los funcionarios lo rociaron con plaguicidas para matar “las pulgas mexicanas”, una experiencia compartida por más de 2 millones de hombres, para así poder trabajar en Estados Unidos. Por los próximos dos años, él trabajó en las granjas de tomate de California para ayudar a su joven familia que había dejado en la zona rural montañosa del centro de México. Hoy día, millones de trabajadores agrícolas continúan migrando aquí por temporadas o imigran permanentemente en busca de trabajo agrícola.

 

Como una interna en la Oficina del Programa de Pesticidas de la EPA, aprendí que a pesar de que los trabajadores agrícolas no sean rociados con plaguicidas como le pasó a mi abuelo, algunos se siguen exponiendo a sustancias químicas dañinas sencillamente por trabajar donde trabajan.

 

El disminuir el riesgo de la exposición ocupacional a plaguicidas en la agricultura es el objetivo del Estándar de Protección del Trabajador Agrícola (WPS, por sus siglas en inglés) de la EPA. Ahora la EPA está proponiendo enmendar los reglamentos de 1992 para que casi 2 millones de obreros se beneficien del adiestramiento anual sobre seguridad de plaguicidas que incluirá cómo protegerse mejor de la exposición a pesticidas en el  trabajo y evitar traer pesticidas a la casa en sus vestimentas y exponer a sus familias a las sustancias químicas. La propuesta también incluye una actualización de los estándares del equipo de protección personal para aquellos que manejan pesticidas. Por primera vez, se establecerá un requisito de edad mínima para los que manejan pesticidas y otros obreros. La propuesta también incluye mejoras a las notificaciones de las áreas tratadas con plaguicidas; y acceso a la información para el trabajador agrícola y sus defensores sobre la aplicación, las etiqueta y los datos de seguridad de los pesticidas.

 

He visto trabajar a los obreros agrícolas a pesar de muchos riesgos, incluyendo la exposición a pesticidas, para mantener a sus familias que puede que estén en el hogar o a su lado en los campos. Mi abuelo vivió dificultades similares para forjar una vida mejor para sus hijos. Las enmiendas al Estándar de Protección del Trabajador Agrícola de la EPA ayudarán a crear un ambiente de trabajo más seguro para los trabajadores agrícolas actuales y futuros.

 Dígale a la EPA su punto de vista en la propuesta al estándar del trabajador agrícola.

 

 

Sobre la autora: Cindy Ramirez es una interna que trabaja en la EPA en Washington, DC, en proyectos relacionados con asistencia a los trabajadores agrícolas, seguridad de pesticidas y el reglamento de la EPA para la protección de trabajadores.

 


 [JL1]Link to the news release.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Use Wood Wisely

By Steven Donohue, Region 3

I was born and bred in Pennsylvania. My teen years were spent chopping several cords of wood a year to feed a wood stove in an attempt to heat our drafty old house and reduce our heating bill.  
 
Today, I use about a half cord of wood a year in our fireplace to brighten cold nights and wet, dreary days. Our energy efficient house and careful burning reduce emissions and save time, money, and my back!

Before burning wood (or any other fuel for heating), it just makes sense to seal up any air leaks and add the recommended amount of insulation to keep the heat you generate inside your house.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That old saying, by Philadelphia favorite Ben Franklin, applies as much today as when Ben said it in 1735. 

It’s also important to burn your wood efficiently. Anyone who’s ever tried to heat a house with a traditional fireplace knows they suck almost as much heat up the chimney as they provide.  Our 1970s wood stove was better than a fireplace, but still nowhere near as good as the EPA certified unit I have now.  Our fireplace insert is likely fifty percent more efficient, allowing us to burn a third less wood for the same heat.  And, a few years from now, we’ll have even more efficient units: EPA just proposed new rules to reduce the amount of particulate smoke (unburned fuel) down to the weight of about half a penny per hour.

When using our fireplace, I also make sure I burn only seasoned, dry wood.  Wet wood not only gives off less heat, but it makes more smoke and forms creosote that can cause chimney fires. Having planted my share of trees over the years, I know how long they take to grow, so I try to use the wood they provide us wisely.  Once again, a penny saved is a penny earned. To learn how to tell whether your firewood is ready to burn, and get other information on burning wood efficiently, please visit the  BurnWise website.

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he focuses on greening EPA and other government facilities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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