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

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

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.

Remembering an Environmental and Public Health Pioneer

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By A. Stanley Meiburg

I remember meeting Leon Billings only once—at National Airport in 1984. I was traveling as staff to then-Deputy Administrator Al Alm, when he walked over to a distinguished-looking gentleman and began an animated conversation. I don’t remember the subject of their conversation, but Al told me later who he was and described the tremendous influence Mr. Billings had on the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental statutes.

Recently, Mr. Billings passed away at age 78. Throughout his life, his trailblazing status was never lost on him.

“We certainly were entrepreneurs,” he said. “And maybe to a degree revolutionaries — because, to use a cliché, we went someplace that Congress has never gone before.”

As Mr. Billings explained in an article a couple of years ago, Congress had debated various versions of legislation on pollution control beginning in the late 1940’s, but provided very limited authority to the federal government. But Mr. Billings supported the intention of the late Senator Edmund Muskie and others to “create a legally defensible structure to assure that public health-based air quality would be achieved as swiftly as possible.” That, as Mr. Billings explained it, would require federal action. Soon, the 1970 Clean Air Act would make history by establishing the protection of public health as the primary basis for America’s air pollution control efforts.

Three examples of this, from the 1970 Clean Air Act, were the creation of national health-based air quality standards, requirements for national performance standards for new stationary sources, and provisions for technology-forcing emissions reductions from motor vehicles. In the course of these accomplishments, Mr. Billings acquired a reputation as “the man who brokered the behind-the-scenes deal making that enabled Muskie to push through his signature achievement.”

The effectiveness of Mr. Billings as staff director for Senator Muskie and advisor to many other members of Congress is well documented in the historical record, and left an enduring legacy in the nation’s principal environmental laws. Even after leaving the Senate staff, Mr. Billings continued to comment on proposals he thought would weaken the health-based focus of the act. For example, during the debate over the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, there was a proposal to set a cost-effectiveness threshold of $5,000 per ton of pollution reduced as a ceiling on what EPA could require. In criticizing the proposal, Mr. Billings said he thought this meant that we were now placing a price on health—clean air, at a cost of $2.50 a pound. The proposal was not enacted.

Some 40 plus years later, we owe a great debt to Mr. Billings and other 1970’s pioneers who crafted the core environmental statutes that continue to guide our work. Their willingness to move forward with new approaches was a remarkable gift. Measured by their results in cleaning up our air and water, our laws have stood the test of time and controversy amazingly well.

Pioneers like Mr. Billings could not have anticipated all the challenges that have emerged since the early 1970’s. The enduring usefulness of our environmental laws only adds to the luster of the legacy he left to us. Mr. Billings’ life work is being honorably carried on by his family—such as his son Paul, who has worked with the American Lung Association for many years to support clean air protections that prevent asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other consequences of air pollution. All of us at EPA extend our thoughts—and our gratitude—to Mr. Billings’ family and his many friends.

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.

Citizen Science in the Arctic

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Stan Meiburg

Yesterday, science ministers and other government leaders from around the world, along with representatives from indigenous groups, gathered in Washington, D.C., for the first-ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial (WHASM). This important event was held in response to the urgent need for increased scientific collaborations to address the dramatic environmental changes that have occurred in the Arctic in recent decades.

I have the privilege of representing EPA on the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, which was instrumental in the planning of the WHASM. The event focused on four key themes: understanding Arctic science challenges, strengthening and integrating Arctic observations and data sharing, building regional resilience, and promoting STEM education and citizen empowerment. We are playing an important role in supporting these themes through several ongoing or proposed projects.

Among our projects identified for closer cooperation and expansion are those supporting the Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network. This network of local environmental observers and topic experts, located in both Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, applies traditional and local knowledge, science and technology to document and understand significant, unusual events in Alaska. Through a cooperative partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), we helped deliver the LEO Mobile App, which puts the observation tools of the LEO Network into the hands of citizens in the field. This allows users to upload photos, audio, and text to make observations, thereby helping communities understand and document a range of environmental concerns. We also assisted with the launch of new LEO regional hubs in Northern California, Northwest Indian College, and in Canada (Northwest Territories and British Columbia). The WHASM aims to further facilitate LEO’s circumpolar expansion, helping remote communities across the Arctic to understand their environmental challenges and be part of the solution.

On the day prior to the WHASM, I had the honor of participating in a pre-Ministerial briefing with Arctic Indigenous Peoples. We had the opportunity to highlight our commitment to supporting indigenous communities in the Arctic, our support for the integration of traditional and local knowledge into decision making, and our WHASM projects that involve the LEO Network.

Although the environmental challenges facing the Arctic are serious and sobering, I was heartened by the extraordinary commitment of the global community to finding solutions through enhanced scientific collaboration and the empowerment of local citizens.

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.

Recognizing the Outstanding Accomplishments of EPA’s Public Servants

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg

Every day, EPA employees work in offices, laboratories, regions, and communities across the country to protect public health and the environment we all share. Whether they are investigating pollution issues at the community level, conducting cutting-edge research on environmental health impacts, working behind the scenes on the legal aspects of rulemakings, advancing environmental justice, or carrying out activities that support all of these efforts – these public servants are on the front lines of environmental protection.

This week is Public Service Recognition Week, and there is no better time to congratulate our extraordinary colleagues whose efforts above and beyond the call of duty are being recognized and honored by entities beyond the agency.

This week, two members of the EPA family were named as “Sammie Award” finalists and are in the running for prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. These awards, also known as the “Oscars of government service,” are a highly respected honor bestowed to individuals through a very rigorous selection process.

Photograph of David Hindin

David Hindin, a Senior Policy Director in OECA, is a finalist in the “Science and Environment” category. David leads EPA’s Next Generation Compliance initiative to modernize EPA’s enforcement program and take advantage of the latest technologies and innovations to more effectively find and fix pollution problems.

Photograph of Jessica Zomer.Jessica Zomer, an Attorney-Advisor in EPA’s Office of General Counsel, is a finalist in the “Call to Serve” category. Jessica is nominated for her exceptional work as the lead attorney supporting a regulation under the Clean Water Act that will reduce the amount of toxic pollution discharged by power plants into our nation’s waterways by over 1.4 billion pounds annually.

In addition, two of our EPA colleagues are receiving the prestigious Arthur S. Flemming Award, which honors outstanding federal employees who have between three and fifteen years of government service. The award is presented by the Arthur S. Flemming Commission and the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, in cooperation with the National Academy of Public Administration.

Dr. Gayle Hagler, an Environmental Engineer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development is being awarded for her leadership as an environmental engineer on the Village Green Project. Her project team developed an efficient, solar-powered monitoring platform that incorporates research-grade environmental sensors into a park bench structure that can be located anywhere – filling important data gaps in air monitoring and raising public awareness about air quality.

Photograph of Elliott B. ZenickAnd Elliott B. Zenick, an Attorney Advisor in the Office of the General Counsel is being recognized for his leadership in managing the EPA legal team that developed the Clean Power Plan’s innovative approach of providing states with wide latitude y in developing their own emissions reduction plans for carbon pollution from power plants.

These members of the EPA family have earned our warmest congratulations. All of them would say that their recognition is a symbol of the work done by all EPA employees to fulfill our mission of making our country healthier, stronger, and safer.  Kudos to David, Jessica, Gayle and Elliott for their great work!

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.

Announcing a Series of Actions to Strengthen EPA’s Civil Rights Program

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Deputy Administrator

Today, EPA is taking both regulatory and management actions to move its civil rights program forward and prevent discrimination.

EPA takes seriously its responsibilities under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal nondiscrimination laws. Today we are proposing a rule change to both improve how our Office of Civil Rights (OCR) operates and enhance our ability to help our partners comply with these laws.  In addition to the rule change, we are developing tools to help resolve cases more promptly and consistently across the country.

Over the last year and a half, we have been reevaluating our regulations to identify what data and information we currently obtain from grant recipients and how we can make our processes more effective and transparent. We have benchmarked our rules against those of twenty other federal agencies and are proposing changes to conform more closely to the best practices used by others.

One change is to remove inflexible, non-statutory deadlines from our internal rules that fail to respect the individual circumstances of each complaint. We support clear management milestones, but we also recognize that determining how pollution can impact populations is a scientifically complex process that can take longer than our previous deadlines allowed. We have also found that numerous discrimination allegations and legal theories may be asserted in a single complaint under Title VI or other nondiscrimination statutes, and we need the ability to treat each case individually.

This rule change will enable EPA to use new tools to resolve cases and protect communities, including informal resolution and Alternative Dispute Resolution, better positioning EPA to strategically manage its complaint docket and produce better case resolution outcomes.

On the management side, earlier this fall OCR released an External Compliance and Complaints Program Draft Strategic Plan 2015-2020 that set forth specific accountability measures to manage the docket of external complaints more promptly. Today we are also releasing an internal Case Resolution Manual, which we will post on line.  This manual will align OCR’s procedures with those already in place at many other federal agencies.

OCR is also strengthening its proactive compliance efforts through targeted compliance reviews, strategic policy development, and engagement with internal and external stakeholders—including recipients and communities. Proactive engagement and partnerships with recipients will let OCR address potential discrimination before it becomes a challenge for communities. This winter, we will release a Civil Rights Toolkit to help educate states, other recipients of EPA financial assistance, and communities on their rights and obligations under federal laws prohibiting discrimination in providing and utilizing federal assistance grants.

Finally, OCR will work more closely with communities to make sure they understand their nondiscrimination rights and how to work more effectively with recipients of federal financial assistance to secure those rights. For example, in the past some communities filed complaints with OCR against private companies that were not recipients of federal funds and thus were not subject to Title VI requirements. By working with communities from the beginning, we can help direct their concerns to where they can best be resolved, and strengthen transparency and accountability. Starting in 2016, OCR will publish an annual report to keep the public apprised of the office’s progress.

OCR is committed to systematically changing the way it approaches complaints, and EPA is committed to building a model civil rights program. I am confident that through the dedicated, proactive work of our staff and the efforts of recipients and communities, we will make that vision a reality.

Thank you for your interest and for sharing our commitment to both protect the environment and our civil rights as provided in federal law.  If you would like to learn more information, the website here can help.

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.

Improving Drinking Water Infrastructure is a Priority

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Stan Meiburg

This week in Chicago, thousands of water professionals met at the Water Environmental Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) to discuss pressing issues facing America’s water sector. Maintaining America’s drinking water infrastructure has been one of the most important topics at this year’s meeting.

Cities and towns across America are facing significant drinking water infrastructure challenges.  Many of the drinking water mains in Chicago are over a century old.  The situation in my own city of Washington, DC is no different – half the drinking water mains in Washington were put in the ground before 1936.

This issue is personal for all of us.  Few things are more important than knowing that the water that comes out of the tap is safe for our children to drink.

The good news is that our nation’s 51,000 community water systems continue to do a tremendous job of meeting that challenge.  Last year, 93 percent of all community drinking water systems met all the nation’s health-based drinking water standards, all the time.

But aging drinking water infrastructure is an issue we’ll have to address to continue to provide the highest quality drinking water to the American people. The Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund (DWSRF) is a federal/state partnership designed to create, in each state, a perpetual source of financing for drinking water infrastructure.

Last year, the DWSRF financed nearly 900 projects, served over 40 million people, and provided nearly $2 billion in financing. In fact, one out every 8 Americans lives in a community that was served by the DWSRF last year alone.

Most of our nation’s community water systems are small—92 percent of them serve fewer than 10,000 residents. And most small systems consistently provide safe, reliable drinking water to their customers, but many face significant challenges in financing needed maintenance and upgrades. EPA is working with states and other federal agencies to provide targeted support to small systems through the DWSRF and other programs.  For example, over the past two years, EPA awarded approximately $32 million to provide training and technical assistance to small public water systems.

In addition, the water treatment infrastructure we build today has to withstand not only today’s realities, but tomorrow’s uncertainties. Climate change is driving more extreme storms, floods, droughts, fires, and extreme temperatures today—and water infrastructure needs to be resilient. EPA is helping water systems become resilient to climate change with practical and easy-to-use tools from our Climate Ready Water Utilities initiative.

And earlier this year, EPA formed a new Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center to identify new and creative opportunities to support the water sector, including leveraging of private funds. The Finance Center will draw on local expertise all across the U.S. to help communities move forward with important projects in the water sector.

The states are also responding to the urgent need to support drinking water infrastructure. EPA has worked with the states to greatly increase the rate of spending under the DWSRF, achieving a 40 percent, or $500 million reduction in the amount of DWSRF unliquidated obligations in the last two years alone.

As I listened to the presentations this week, I was reminded that the American people enjoy the cleanest drinking water in the world. EPA looks forward to continuing to work with the water sector to make sure this is always the case.

 

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’s Office of Civil Rights: Improving our Procedures, Education, and Expertise to Prevent Discriminatory Injustice

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

EPA is committed to building a model civil rights program. Our Office of Civil Rights (OCR) exists to protect people from discrimination inside and outside EPA who are affected by agency programs, polices, and activities. OCR enforces statutes related to discrimination, one of which is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.

OCR’s External Compliance program has faced challenges in the past resolving Title VI cases. However, in the last 18 months, EPA has installed new leadership in OCR, developed a strategy to manage the docket of complaints more effectively, stepped up our emphasis on a proactive compliance program, and taken steps to make sure our employees have the training and tools they need.

Since 2014, EPA has staffed OCR with new employees that have previous civil rights experience. EPA has also appointed Deputy Civil Rights Officials in each of our 10 Regional offices around the country to act as liaisons to communities and states, to leverage OCR resources with EPA program expertise, and to help OCR collect the evidence and documentation needed for case investigations.

OCR is committed to systematically changing the way it approaches complaints. The office will soon release an External Compliance Program Strategic Plan that sets forth concrete accountability measures to manage the docket of external complaints more promptly, effectively and efficiently. It will also soon have in place a Case Resolution Manual —a comprehensive guide for OCR staff on all phases of case investigation and resolution—including complaints and compliance reviews, as well as model letters, investigative plans, and other standard operating documents for staff as they address and resolve civil rights cases. The manual will bring OCR in line with the kinds of procedures already in place at many other federal civil rights agencies, and for transparency, the manual will be posted online. By developing these tools, we’ll help make sure cases are resolved promptly and consistently across the country.

We’re also releasing a Civil Rights Toolkit, which will help educate states, other recipients of EPA financial assistance, and communities on their rights and obligations under federal nondiscrimination laws. And since every case is different, we will use all resolution options available, including informal resolution and Alternative Dispute Resolution, to promptly and effectively address communities’ concerns and bring about change. In addition, OCR is reevaluating its nondiscrimination regulations to make sure they offer the flexibility and clarity needed to manage the complaint docket more strategically, and to build a stronger proactive compliance program.

OCR is strengthening its proactive compliance efforts through targeted compliance reviews, strategic policy development, and engagement with internal and external stakeholders—including recipients and communities. Proactive engagement and partnerships with recipients will let OCR address potential discrimination before it becomes a real challenge for communities.

OCR will also work more closely with communities to make sure they understand their nondiscrimination rights, how to work more effectively with recipients to secure those rights, and how to file discrimination complaints that can withstand fundamental jurisdictional requirements. In the past, many communities filed complaints to OCR against private companies that didn’t receive federal funds. Since nondiscrimination requirements did not apply, OCR had to reject those complaints. By working with communities from the beginning, we can help make sure their concerns are directed to where they can best be resolved, and to strengthen transparency and accountability. Starting in 2016, OCR will publish an annual report to keep the public apprised of the office’s progress.

Finally, OCR is comprehensively evaluating position descriptions, skill sets, and current occupational competencies to make sure they align with OCR’s mission-critical priorities. EPA employees are the key to meeting the agency’s mission, so we’re making sure OCR staff have the training, developmental opportunities, and support they need to meet these goals.

EPA’s vision for the next five years is that OCR will have made strides toward promptly, effectively and efficiently resolving complaints. OCR will use all the tools at its disposal to resolve complaints, conduct compliance reviews and affect real change. It will have a well-established and proactive process to make sure recipients comply with nondiscrimination laws. And OCR will have a fully implemented public outreach and technical assistance program to educate recipients on their civil rights obligations, and to engage communities and empower them with civil rights information.

EPA is committed to building a model civil rights program. I’m confident that through the dedicated, expert and proactive work of our staff and the efforts of recipients and communities, we will make that vision a reality. Learn more here.

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.

New Online Resources Available for Local Leaders and Community Members

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

During my 38 years at EPA, I’ve had a chance to work here in Washington, D.C., in Research Triangle Park, in Dallas, and in Atlanta. In each of my roles, I’ve had many opportunities to meet with local leaders who are working hard to address concerns in their communities. So I know protecting environmental quality and public health happens most directly at the local level.

That’s why making a visible difference in communities is one of our top priorities for EPA. We are looking for ways we can support local officials juggling multiple responsibilities, as well as residents eager for information they can use to take action and improve local conditions.

So I’m excited about a new resource we’ve launched specifically for local officials and citizens. The Community Resources website gives visitors easy access to three unique resources that can help with a variety of local environmental and public health issues:

  • The Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN) website offers information to help communities understand and meet federal and state environmental regulatory requirements. Developed in partnership with the International City / County Management Association, it’s one of several compliance assistance centers EPA supports. Along with media-specific information, LGEAN also includes information to help with issues ranging from sustainable environmental management to transportation to public safety.
  • The National Resource Network website offers practical solutions to help communities reach their goals for growth and economic development. Established by HUD in cooperation with the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities, it offers local government officials a Resource Library to help with practical solutions and analyses, as well as a “311 for Cities” service that enables them to request and quickly receive assistance on a wide range of topics.
  • And EPA’s Community Health website gives users resources to help improve local environmental health conditions. It provides access to information about beach closures, fish advisories, toxic emissions, and other public health issues. Visitors can also find information about applying for EPA grants and technical assistance.

We hope you’ll find this new site helpful. We invite you to check it out and then, click on the link to give us your feedback. We want to hear how we can improve the site to help local officials and community members across the country find the resources that are most important to them.

The Community Resources site is just one way we are working to make a visible difference in communities. Let me share a few examples of work happening on the ground around the country:

  • In Lawrence, Massachusetts, we awarded a brownfields grant that will help the community cleanup and revitalize a neighborhood marked by abandoned and polluted industrial properties. Check out this short video that features Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas as they describe what this support will mean for the community.
  • In Wheeling, West Virginia, we joined local residents in exploring how it can transform an old apple orchard in an historic part of town into a regional hub for local foods. This work is part of the Local Foods, Local Places Initiative, which involves USDA and other federal agencies in helping communities develop local food systems as a means of revitalizing traditional downtowns and promoting economic diversification. Listen to what the Reinvent Wheeling’s Jack Dougherty has to say about this effort in this story by WV Public Radio.
  • In Fresno, California, we have been working with other state and federal agencies to help spur economic development and revitalization as part of the Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative. A new EPA report drawing on that work describes 30 strategies to help local governments overcome obstacles and encourage infill development, particularly in distressed communities. As many communities across the country have learned, infill development saves money through the more efficient use of tax dollars, increases property values, and improves quality of life. We’re excited about how it can help Fresno, and many other communities that recognize the benefits of reinvesting and restoring what were once vibrant neighborhoods.

Whether working on tools and information to help communities address priority issues or working right alongside community leaders, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and I are proud of the work EPA is doing to help communities build a greener, healthier, more prosperous future. We look forward to sharing more examples of how we are supporting communities in reaching their goals.

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 Employees Embody Public Service

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

By Stan Meiburg

It’s Public Service Recognition Week, and I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all EPA employees for their hard work and dedication.

I’m proud to have worked at EPA for 38 years. I am here today because for me, as for so many of our employees, environmental protection is a calling. It’s no exaggeration to say that EPA’s success—fueled by our fantastic employees—is important to the future of our nation and our world.

Thanks in part to our staff’s tireless work, today our country has more people, more cars, and more businesses than ever before—but less pollution than when EPA was founded in 1970. There’s no more potent measure of our employees’ success than that simple fact.

Today, Americans today enjoy the cleanest drinking water in the world. Our cars run 99 percent cleaner today than they did in 1970. A recent study showed that children’s lungs in Southern California are 10 percent bigger and stronger today than they were in children in the ‘90s—all because we dramatically reduced air pollution. EPA rules have cut acid rain levels by 60 percent since 1990. And thanks to EPA’s focus, we’ve gone from 88 percent of American children having blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter in the 1970s, to less than 1 percent today.

These successes and thousands of others have been made possible by the expertise and dedication of our employees.

Whether working directly on environmental protection or playing a more behind-the-scenes role—keeping EPA’s phones and computers working, providing administrative support, or keeping the lights on—each EPA employee has a crucial role to play in the agency’s mission.

In poll after poll, the American people support the EPA—and in my 38 years here, I’ve witnessed what an environmental turnaround this agency has helped spark. When I started at EPA in 1977, everyone could see—and smell—our nation’s struggles with air and water pollution. Today, we’ve made huge progress. And although we still face many remaining challenges, like climate change, I know EPA is well equipped to tackle them thanks to our employees.

Public servants should be thanked a lot more than once a year, and not just by their leaders. But for what it’s worth, I want everyone to know how much I appreciate our outstanding employee contributions at EPA. Please join me in thanking them for all they do—this week and every week.

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 Education Week 2015

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

This week, April 19-25, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) are celebrating National Environmental Education Week along with thousands of students and teachers across the country. Through environmental education, educators show students how science is a part of our daily lives, teach them the skills to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and encourage them to make responsible decisions. Earth Day, which falls in the middle of Environmental Education Week this year, is an important time to reflect on our environmental impact and what we can do to protect our planet.

Over the past several years, NEEF has led Environmental Education Week by focusing on “Greening STEM,” encouraging teachers and students to explore the connection between the natural world and STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education provides the building blocks for questioning, investigating, interpreting, and ultimately protecting the world around us. Within the STEM classroom, environmental education can help students relate the formulas on the whiteboard to real world, outdoor experiences. Environmental education and STEM together equip students to critically analyze and identify effective solutions to environmental problems.

This Environmental Education Week, EPA offices across the country are working with their communities to connect with educators as well as recognize outstanding young environmental stewards—the new winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award. This year’s winners are directly restoring damaged ecosystems, exploring exciting new alternative fuel options, and mobilizing their communities to support sustainable solutions to environmental problems. Later this year, our Office of Environmental Education will announce recipients of our Environmental Education Grants. Each year, we award $3.5 million to school districts, local governments, universities, tribal education programs, and other partners to support environmental education projects promoting awareness, stewardship, and skill building.

On Earth Day, NEEF staff will visit Nizhoni Elementary School in Shiprock, New Mexico, for the unveiling of a brand new Schoolyard STEM Lab, a unique learning space where students and teachers can participate in hands-on activities that exhibit the “greening” of STEM activities, from a greenhouse for science investigations to outdoor stations for engineering projects and more.

These unique experiences are what environmental education is all about—encouraging students to combine the skills they learn in the classroom with their curiosity about the natural world. It’s up to all of us to give them the chance to discover solutions to environmental challenges. We’re excited to explore the connections between environmental education and STEM throughout the year and to help teachers find the most engaging ways to enrich education through environmental themes.

There are many ways to get involved. Be an Environmental Education Week ambassador. Get outside this week and learn something new about the natural world. Share your understanding and encourage those around you to do the same. Find resources for your classroom or your child at http://www2.epa.gov/students/lesson-plans-teacher-guides-and-online-resources-educators and visit http://eeweek.org/ to learn more about how you can join the environmental education Week celebration.

About the authors: Stan Meiburg is the U.S. EPA Acting Deputy Administrator and Diane Wood is the President of the National Environmental Education Foundation.

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.