A Record Investment

by Tom Damm

 3…2…1…  On cue, EPA, state and local officials dug their shovels into the softened dirt to formally kick off major upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in Reading, Pennsylvania.

There was reason to be all smiles as the battery of professional and smart phone cameras captured the moment.  The improvements will contribute to local economic growth and lead to cleaner plant discharges to the Schuylkill River, where concerted efforts along the waterway are improving a drinking water source for more than 1.5 million people.

For EPA, it was the largest amount of water infrastructure funding ever applied to a single project in the Mid-Atlantic region – nearly $150 million – a fact that EPA Acting Regional Administrator Cecil Rodriques shared with the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The record sum of low-interest financing from EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) was provided to Reading through actions of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST.

Coincidentally, the day before the event, the PENNVEST board approved a series of projects that brought the collective total of its infrastructure investment efforts to more than $8 billion over nearly three decades.   The CWSRF and EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund together supplied about half of that total.

The upgrades to the Fritz Island plant will allow for growth in the system that now treats sewage for about 200,000 residents in Reading and a dozen suburban communities.  By taking advantage of the 1 percent CWSRF rate compared to current market rates for bonds, Reading is expected to save almost $2.5 million over 20 years.

The plant upgrades are targeted for completion by late 2019 when officials will trade their shiny, ceremonial shovels for sets of oversized scissors.

You can learn more here about the CWSRF and the projects financed in your area.  And check out this link for information on a major boost in funding just approved for EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

 

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.

Brownfields Job Training is a Win-Win for Job Creation and Environmental Protection

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For nearly two decades, our Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program has helped put people to work by building a skilled, local environmental workforce equipped to take advantage of the job opportunities created when cleaning up brownfields sites. The program awards competitive grants to nonprofit organizations and other eligible entities to recruit, train and place unemployed and underemployed individuals living in brownfields communities, in a wide range of environmental careers. By doing so, EPA has touched and changed the lives of thousands of local community members, often including low-income and minority residents, and other individuals with extreme barriers to employment, by helping them develop skills they can use to find sustainable careers and opportunities for economic advancement.

Approximately 16,300 individuals have completed training, and of those, more than 11,900 individuals have been placed in full-time employment earning an average starting wage of over $14 an hour. This equates to a cumulative job placement rate of 73 percent of graduates.

EPA is pleased to announce today the selection of 14 new entities that continue this local approach to environmental protection.

To hear directly from individuals who have completed training funded by EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, please visit:

For more information on Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grantees, including past EWDJT grantees, please visit:
https://cfpub.epa.gov/bf_factsheets/

For more information on EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program, please visit:
https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/environmental-workforce-development-and-job-training-grants

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.

Videos from Administrator Pruitt’s Visit to Capitol Hill

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Since the Environmental Protection Agency’s founding in 1970, Congress has had a unique and important role to play in EPA policy and funding. Members of Congress and their constituents back home understand the importance of EPA’s work and need the agency to be responsive.  Now, under the new leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt, EPA has developed an agenda that focuses on protecting the environment by engaging, listening to and learning from states and local communities. On Wednesday morning, Administrator Pruitt met individually with U.S. Representatives, both Democrat and Republican, to talk about environmental and economic issues facing our country and the Members’ districts.

Listen to Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois talk about the new leadership at EPA:

Following his meetings in the U.S. House,  Administrator Pruitt met with several Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso.

Watch Senator Barrasso’s response to an EPA that is getting back-to-basics:

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 Working With States on Real Solutions for Coal Ash Disposal

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA is working more closely with the states to find real solutions that allow manufacturing, energy production, and other parts of the economy to create jobs while protecting the natural resources on which our lives depend.

One area where coordination with the states is picking up is in how coal ash is managed. States are better equipped to determine how to coal ash in their states should be managed and recycled, but EPA can – and has — set a federal standard. Thanks to a new law by Congress, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), states are now authorized to manage coal ash under their own permit programs as long as the EPA determines that the state’s requirements are at least as protective as the federal standards.

Building on his Back-to-Basics agenda for refocusing EPA on its core mission and returning power to the states, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter this week informing Governors that EPA is working on guidance for state-led coal ash disposal programs under the WIIN Act.

Administrator Pruitt’s letter urges the swift submission of permit programs by states and cooperation to help states get their programs approved under the WIIN Act in order to place regulation and enforcement in the hands of those who best know the needs of their environment and local communities.

Click here to view Administrator Pruitt’s letter.

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.

Photo Essay: Back to Basics Agenda

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA just concluded two weeks of visits to Appalachia and the urban and rural mid-west. Here are some of the things we saw through the lens of our award winning photographer Eric Vance.

Happy to be working in West Virginia.

The tall rolling hills of Western PA.

Deep down in America’s largest underground coal mine.

A coal miner clocks out in Sycamore, PA.

EPA Administrator meets community member in East Chicago, IN.

East Chicago homes.

Contaminated soil removed and fresh soil being laid

Blue skies, fresh water and green farm land in rural Missou

EPA Administrator taking some cell phone photos with some happy power plant workers.

Coal field in Clifton Hill, MO.

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 Regulations and Court Victories Translate Directly into Wins for the American People

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

Over the past few years we have heard a pretty constant refrain about “EPA overreach” which is shorthand for saying EPA has gone beyond the authority given to it by Congress.   Even though as Administrator both Lisa Jackson and I pledged to follow two guiding principles – the rule of law and scientific integrity – it seemed with few exceptions that nearly every significant step EPA took to protect public health and the environment was met with criticisms of EPA overreach.   So I recently asked Avi Garbow, EPA’s General Counsel, to conduct an analysis of court decisions reviewing the actions taken by the Obama EPA under the Clean Air Act – which were the largest set of actions EPA took.  The purpose of this analysis was to determine whether in fact, the EPA followed these first principles of law and science.

Today I received the General Counsel’s memo summarizing the results of his analysis and in short, the record clearly shows that EPA followed the law and the science.  Overall, EPA won or mostly won, 81% of these D.C. Circuit cases and lost or mostly lost only 10% of the cases, with the rest resulting in mixed decisions.   And during the last two years, 2015-2016, EPA won 90% of the cases.  While we are concerned about any losses in court, we recognize that our rulemakings necessarily involve making judgments about matters on which the law is not settled, and as a result, some court losses are inevitable.

That said, ours is an excellent record on its face. And several other considerations make it even more impressive. About one-quarter of the losses resulted in remands without vacatur, meaning that the rule stayed in effect while EPA took additional action – in most cases, no more than providing additional explanation — to remedy the deficiency.  Furthermore, it should be noted that the judges on the D.C. Circuit are almost evenly split between those appointed by Democratic Presidents and those appointed by Republican Presidents, but Republican-appointed judges upheld EPA’s actions as often as Democratic-appointed judges.

Now as thorough and straightforward as this analysis is, I am sure it won’t quiet those who have claimed EPA overreach.  But, to the many hardworking, selfless EPA career staff who accomplished so much these past eight years, I am hoping they will read the memo and be filled with pride in so many jobs well done.  EPA not only followed science and the law, we identified reasonable, common sense steps forward that not only make our world cleaner and safer, but to support the amazing economic turn around and job growth that has taken place during this Administration.

But most importantly, I hope this analysis provides added comfort to the vast majority of Americans who support the work of EPA and want to know that the actions we have taken to deliver cleaner air, water and land – as well as a more stable planet – will be sustained.   EPA under President Obama’s leadership has a remarkable success story to tell.   My hope is that our record will remind people that government can and does work for them, and it will inspire young people everywhere to consider careers in public service because it is indeed the most noble profession.

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

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

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.

EPA Providing Guidance for Drinking Water After Radiological Emergency

Joel Beauvais Joel Beauvais

By Joel Beavais

What would happen if there was an emergency in the U.S. that caused radioactive material to contaminate drinking water supplies?  What steps could your utilities and government take?

This was one of the challenges the government of Tokyo in Japan had to address following the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident in 2011.  To assist local governments and utilities here at home to plan for such a situation, EPA has developed guidance for use only during nationally significant radiological emergencies, such as a disaster at a nuclear power plant or use of an improvised nuclear device.

This non-regulatory guidance, called a drinking water Protection Action Guide (PAG), will help decision-makers to ensure public health protection during an emergency. The drinking water PAG identifies doses of radiation that should be avoided during an emergency event. The PAG can be used to determine when the use of contaminated water supplies should be restricted and alternative drinking water should be provided – to keep doses to the public as low as possible during emergency situations only. The drinking water PAG levels were calculated based on a maximum one-year exposure and provide a level of health protection roughly equivalent to EPA’s mandatory drinking water standards for radionuclides, which are based on 70 years of exposure.

It’s important to know that EPA’s new guidance is not for use during normal water system operations and the PAG does not in any way affect or change EPA’s drinking water standards for radionuclides. The PAG does not represent acceptable routine exposures for drinking water. As with all drinking water regulations, water systems exceeding standards, regardless of the reason, are in violation.  EPA expects that the responsible party for any drinking water system adversely impacted during a radiation incident will take action to return to compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels as soon as practicable.  The guidance also does not impact actions occurring under other statutory authorities such as the EPA’s Superfund program, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decommissioning program, or other federal or state programs.

Thinking about these scenarios is certainly not pleasant and we hope that our PAG never has to be used. But EPA takes these actions to ensure that our country can be better prepared to protect public health if emergencies occur.

For more information, please visit https://www.epa.gov/radiation/protective-action-guides-pags

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

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

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

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

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!

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