The Story of a Veteran

By John E. Reeder

I remember my first Veterans Day after I began working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  At first I didn’t realize we had the day off.  I’d been assigned to work with a more senior staff member, a Vietnam vet, who said “of course” Veterans Day is a federal holiday, “to honor our vets…to honor you!”

I joined the U.S. Army right out of high school, in part to help me pay for college, in part to see the world, and in part because I had a bug about public service.  Then, I spent a good part of my college and graduate school years downplaying my military service. Not that I was embarrassed, but it always seemed to need an explanation and I just wanted to blend into the college scene.  I joined the army in 1979, at a time when the military was having trouble recruiting anyone with a high school degree.  So, I often got a quizzical look when people learned I had enlisted in the army, followed by, “what’d you do that for?”  By the time I finished college and grad school, my service seemed like a story from someone else’s life.

For many men and women, military service is a life-shaping experience. It certainly was for me. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and had never been to a military installation. I knew my great grandfather served in the Civil War, and then homesteaded our family’s farm in Minnesota.  However, our family didn’t have a military tradition. So, when I turned 17 and told my parents I was joining the army, it was the first time I saw my father cry.  It was all very foreign to them. We were baling hay one day, and the next I was shipped off to Alabama for basic training (my first time on an airplane!).

I know my parents worried every step of the way, , but my military service wasn’t any real hardship or dangerous. I spent 2000 hours in a guard tower during my 20 months in Germany, and on my days off I got to go sightseeing throughout Germany and parts of France. I made amazing friends, bonded by the shared experience of shipping off to basic training and having no idea where we’d end up.  We were all making a move of some sort, away from or toward something.  While intersecting for a brief point in our lives, we did our jobs and made memories that lasted forever. I think it’s that way for a lot of young men and women in the military.

Everyone who has served in the military has given something of themselves. They gave their time, they trained and prepared for potentially risky assignments. They went to forward locations, or they went into battle.  Or, maybe they sat in guard towers in Germany.  But, they all stepped out of the life they had, and gave themselves to the larger endeavor of protecting America.

There have been millions of service men and women before me, and after me.  Many have seen the horrors of war, and suffered physical or psychological damage. There are no words to thank them enough.  Many have done their time and left, like I did.  Some stayed for full careers.

What we know for sure is that every day and through the night, around the globe, there have been and will be American service men and women on duty monitoring radar, patrolling perimeters, assessing threats, and deterring our enemies. They are standing ready to put their life on the line so we can expect to wake up each morning, take our kids to school, and go to work.  We expect that our businesses can do business, our schools can teach, our utilities can deliver services, and we can fly or ride wherever we want any day. It’s hard to even imagine war on our soil, and that is truly the most amazing gift from many, many generations of American veterans.

Thank you veterans.

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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EPA Honors 2015 Green Power Leaders

By Janet McCabe

On October 19th, I had the honor of presenting EPA’s 15th Annual Green Power Leadership Awards to 25 organizations that are leading the charge in using renewable energy and setting an example for their peers, helping to accelerate development of a strong clean energy portfolio nationwide. The awards honor a range of organizations for innovative achievements in acquiring and using renewable electricity as well as commitments to responding to climate change.

In addition to large corporations, nonprofit and educational institutions were also highlighted. From Northwestern University, to Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Tucson Unified School District, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, these groups educate students and the public about the environment. For instance, Crossroads School (K-12) in Santa Monica, California sourced 100 percent of their electricity use from wind, biomass, and biogas resources through a collective procurement and includes green power in its academic curriculum. And at Phipps, a public garden in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 100 percent of its electricity sourced from renewable resources, its 350,000+ visitors annually get an in-depth look at photovoltaic arrays, a wind turbine, geothermal wells, and many, many other sustainable energy features—all within a single accessible site. In addition, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) installed one of the largest on-site solar generation projects at a K-12 school system in the nation last year, and shares the lessons it learned far and wide. TUSD also is working closely with a local Native American tribe on developing its own solar project.

As we’ve seen in the past few years, local governments are doing more with green power. This year’s government winners—Government of the District of Columbia, Ulster County, NY, and the City of Hayward CA Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF)—are leading the way in innovative approaches. For instance, Hayward WPCF’s new cogeneration facility uses the methane produced from the digesters as fuel. Waste heat from the new cogeneration system is captured and used to heat the city’s anaerobic digesters, further reducing reliance on natural gas formerly used to heat the sludge during colder months of the year. This cogeneration facility, along with the facility’s solar array, produces more renewable electricity than it needs, so it exports the excess renewable electricity to other city facilities.

The Sustained Excellence category winners – Intel, Kohl’s, and TD Bank – continue to uphold their outstanding work in driving the green energy market, and first-time winners like Traditional Medicinals and National Hockey League have been investing in sustainable operations, including clean energy and electricity use, for years. What a tremendous inspiration for all!
The Green Power Leadership Awards are sponsored by EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program in collaboration with the Center for Resource Solutions. See the award list for more about all the green power leaders.

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Join the Fight against Childhood Lead Poisoning

By Jim Jones

Why is it so hard to prevent childhood lead poisoning? Lead paint was banned over 30 years ago, but lead poisoning continues to plague communities across the country. One thing that makes this problem so hard to solve is that millions of homes built before the lead paint ban in 1978 still contain lead paint. In fact, lead from paint, particularly lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.

Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes, which not only can change a person, but can significantly impact a community. Every individual exposed to lead could mean one less child going to college or one more violent crime next door.

Here at EPA we work hard every day to spread awareness about the dangers of lead, provide advice on preventing lead poisoning and enforce our Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which requires the use of lead-safe work practices during renovations in older homes. But we can’t do it alone.

The solution lies in everyone playing a role. We need state and local governments to ensure that communities with the greatest risk for lead poisoning become a priority for action. We also need help from community organizations and concerned citizens. Organizations need to help families find lead-safe housing. Teachers need to help educate our families. Individuals need to be aware in order to protect themselves and their families.

Wondering what you can do to prevent lead from ever affecting your kids, your grandchildren, or your best friend?

  • Get your home tested. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. Find a certified inspector or risk assessor to get your home checked for lead hazards.
  • Get your child tested. Find out if your child has elevated levels of lead in his or her blood. You can test your child for lead poisoning by asking your pediatrician to do a simple blood test.
  • Help spread the word about Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, happening now! Join our Twitter Townhall on October 28, 2015 at 2 pm EST by following @EPAlive and using the hashtag #LeadChat2015. We’ll be answering questions and providing tips on how to protect your family from lead poisoning.

The good news in this story is lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Everyone is responsible for preventing lead poisoning; we need all hands on deck!

Learn more about lead and get tips to protect your family.

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Working Together to Implement the Clean Power Plan

By Gina McCarthy

This summer, EPA issued our historic Clean Power Plan, one of the largest steps America has ever taken to combat climate change and protect future generations. The Plan puts the U.S. on track to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants – our nation’s biggest single contributor to climate change.

Because greenhouse gas pollution threatens public health and welfare, EPA is using its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate sources of these pollutants, including in the power sector. Along with the many other actions we’re taking under President Obama’s leadership, the Clean Power Plan will translate to major health benefits and cost savings for American families.

The Clean Power Plan is grounded firmly in science and the law. Science clearly shows that carbon dioxide fuels a changing climate, which in turn poses threats to our health and to the environment that sustains us all. The Plan is fully consistent with the Clean Air Act, and relies on the same time-tested state-federal partnership that, since 1970, has reduced harmful air pollution by 70 percent, while the U.S. economy has tripled.

What makes the Plan so effective is that it reflects the voices of those who are closest to the issues on the ground. Extensive input from states, industry representatives, energy regulators, health and environmental groups, and individual members of the public helped us get to a plan that we know works for everyone.  In fact, we considered over 4.3 million comments received in response to our initial proposal.

And we listened.

It was feedback from utilities that made sure our plan mirrors how electricity moves around the grid, so that we could open up opportunities. It was input from states that made sure we set fair and consistent standards across the country. And it was comments from many folks that told us that we needed to extend the timeframe for mandatory cuts by two years, until 2022. States and utilities told us they needed more time, and we listened.

As a result of this unprecedented amount of outreach, the Plan is fair, flexible, affordable, and designed to reflect the fast-growing trend toward cleaner American energy.

With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability, and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix.

But our engagement hasn’t stopped with the signing of the rule. Since issuing the Clean Power Plan in August, we’ve reached out to all 50 states, making sure every state has multiple opportunities to hear from us and to ask questions.

We’ve also held dozens in-person meetings and calls with states, tribes, communities, industry representatives, and elected officials, and we’ve held or participated in a number of widely-attended conferences about the Plan.

Staff at each of EPA’s 10 regional offices and our headquarters have responded to hundreds of questions about the final rule, and questions continue to come in through meetings, our website, and other venues.

We’ve seen firsthand that when diverse voices are brought to the table, environmental protection works. For nearly 45 years, our interactions and engagement with states and stakeholders has resulted in tremendous progress to cut down air pollution and protect Americans’ health – including tangible benefits for communities, families, and kids.

We are committed to helping everyone better understand the Clean Power Plan and have been impressed – but certainly not surprised – by the remarkable level of constructive engagement across the board. Conversations are happening across the country. And we’re encouraged to see that many states are beginning their own planning processes because that means they’re preparing to take action.

We have every interest in helping states succeed, and every confidence that the Clean Power Plan provides states the options, time and flexibility to develop plans that meet their unique needs and goals.

We look forward to continuing our work with states, the energy sector, and many other groups to follow the science, implement the law, and build a healthy future for our kids and grandkids – together.

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EPA Continues Support for Local Preparedness/Prevention Activities

By Mathy Stanislaus

In 2014, after several catastrophic chemical facility incidents, I represented EPA as a Tri-Chair for the creation of The Report for the President, Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment, to recognize the central role of local community preparedness to advance safety of chemical plants. Local communities – working through Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) – are the lynchpin to advancing safety of chemical plants, as well as other hazards such as the transport of chemicals and oil by rail. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA), these local and state organizations receive information from more than 400,000 chemical plants about the volumes and hazards of chemicals. (This contrasts with the 12,500 chemical plants that we have direct oversight through the Risk Management Planning Program.) They then have the responsibility to analyze the information and develop plans for the safety of their communities from chemical plant accidents, working with local community members and organizations, as well as representatives from the chemical plants.

Enhancing Local Planning under EPCRA

To strengthen local planning efforts, we released a new guide for LEPCs that encourages collaboration through outreach to facilities, illustrating the importance of public safety and the need to comply with EPCRA, as well as steps that can be taken to prevent chemical accidents. This guide discusses the requirements of the EPCRA, roles and responsibilities of the various partners involved in local preparedness efforts, how to develop an emergency response plan, tools for planning and response, and how to enhance community engagement and public access to information. LEPCs and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs) play a key role in meeting the goals of EPCRA.

Public Engagement

We also recognize that members of the public have a role to play in assisting the LEPC or TEPC to understand the unique needs of the community regarding communication about the chemical risks and emergency response procedures. For example, individuals with special medical needs, such as the elderly, disabled/handicapped, children, and those with transportation challenges. Tailoring outreach to meet the specific considerations of the local community enables effective participation in the planning process and an efficient response to ensure safety of the public.

LEPCs and TEPCs notify the public of their activities and hold public meetings to discuss the emergency plan with the community, educate the public about chemical risks, and share information on what is to be done during an emergency (i.e., evacuation or shelter-in-place). LEPCs and TEPCs ensure procedures are in place for notifying the public when a chemical accident occurs (via reverse 911 or other system) and that the public understands what to do when they receive that information.
We’re also working with industry associations to develop and distribute similar communications to plant managers and process safety officials to clarify their role and responsibilities in engaging LEPCs and communities in emergency preparedness and response planning efforts. Efforts focusing on community involvement, evacuation and shelter-in-place planning, environmental justice issues, and vulnerable populations are critical to enhancing chemical facility safety, for both employees and the surrounding communities. It takes engagement from all partners to make an impactful change and increase chemical facility safety for those working in and living around hundreds of thousands of chemical plants around the nation.

While we are aware of extensive engagement in communities throughout the nation to collectively address the issues mentioned above, we recognize that there are communities where industry, government, and community partners would benefit from support from the EPA in strengthening their local efforts. I understand this importance and encourage communities to utilize existing tools and resources to work together to achieve local goals.

Tools and Resources

To assist state, tribal, and local agencies in collecting, managing, and using this information, we worked with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create the Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO). CAMEO (http://www2.epa.gov/cameo) is a system of software applications used to plan for and respond to chemical emergencies. CAMEO assists chemical emergency planners and responders to access, store, and evaluate information critical for developing emergency plans. CAMEO is updated frequently to address needs raised by users throughout the nation. The most recent upgrades will help support local communities and first responders in their planning efforts.

Together, we can work to continue to strengthen the preparedness and prevention efforts in our communities. We are committed to continuing our support to all of you working every day to protect human health and the environment.

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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EPA’s Grant Program – A Key Contributor for Environmental Results

By Karl Brooks

Here at EPA, we partner with other governments – state, tribal, and local – to share responsibility for protecting human health and our nation’s natural environment. In order to do so, our Office of Grants and Debarment annually transfers grants worth more than $4 billion to other governments, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

We are proud of our role supporting the efforts taken in 2009 to deal with an unprecedented national economic crisis. When Congress enacted the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, they more than doubled our annual grant award budget to $9.8 billion. Our ARRA grants helped communities throughout America direct billions of dollars into shovel-ready projects for environmental infrastructure and cleanup — efforts that enhanced the quality of life in communities and better protected public health.

We met this historic responsibility by obligating 50% more funds than had been usual — $6.5 billion in grants – in barely two-thirds of a normal cycle. To meet Congress’ stewardship expectations and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, we also instituted a monitoring program that far exceeded our standard process for non-ARRA awards.

After several years of managing ARRA funds, we faced other federal budget constraints triggering sequestration and furloughs in 2011-13. But now that our economy and grant program have entered a period of more normal operations, we are moving forward with a number of initiatives to further enhance our grants management system. In February 2015, we moved to Grants.gov for the submission of initial grant applications and deployed the first phase of our Next Generation Grants System, saving taxpayers $27 million by leveraging existing systems instead of developing new ones.

Working effectively in partnership with states, tribes, and other grantees, we have distributed, overseen, and accounted for more than $36 billion that went to governmental partners, educational institutions and non-profit organizations between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2014.

In administering this funding, we manage, on an annual basis, over 6,000 active grants involving more than 2,300 separate grantees and approximately 100 different programs. These programs sustain our environmental protection enterprise at all governmental levels, encourage vital scientific research and help communities shape environmental policy. We work with Congress, GAO, and our Office of Inspector General to ensure funds are properly managed. We welcome their scrutiny and continue to work diligently to make our grant program efficient and responsive to the American public.

To learn more about how our grant making is making a difference visit:

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Advancing Sustainable Materials Management at the G7

By Mathy Stanislaus

Recently, I represented the United States at the kick-off event of the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency in Berlin, Germany. “The Alliance” is a result of this summer’s G7 Leaders agreement that sustainably produced renewable resources should be a key priority. In the United States, we call this sustainable materials management, or SMM. SMM uses life cycle analysis and systems thinking to reduce environmental and other impacts as we use and manage material resources flowing through the economy, from extraction or harvest of materials and food (e.g., mining, forestry, and agriculture), to production and transport of goods, provision of services, reuse of materials, and if necessary disposal.

The kick-off event for the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency was co-chaired by Germany’s Federal Ministries for Economic Affairs and Energy; and the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The alliance was established to share best practices on how to use natural resources more efficiently, which will protect jobs, create new ones, and strengthen economies while protecting the environment. Earlier this year, the leaders of the G7 pointed out the importance of this work: “For every one percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent . . . much of raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste with[in] one year. . . Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and concomitant environmental degradation translates to increased business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions.”

At the kick-off event, a number of corporations including General Motors, Toyota, Werner & Mertz and Tarkett shared their success in establishing systems to maximize the reuse and reengineering of materials that advances their bottom line. In addition to G7 countries and the EU Commission, a number of international organizations including World Economic Forum, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Resources Panel, World Trade Organization and International Labor Organization, discussed the role of multilateral cooperation in fostering resource efficiency and areas for future cooperation. Academics and researchers such as Professor Marian Chertow from Yale University presented on research and innovation efforts to promote resource efficiency. The conversation focused on how best to establish a network of best practices that result in tangible, concrete outcomes.  There was a general view that the Alliance should prioritize activities, bring in business up front and effectively communicate both best practices and the rationale for advancing resources efficiency/SMM.  Many noted the importance of engaging countries beyond the G7 because of the global nature of material flows, including resources, manufacturing and products.

The conversation doesn’t end in Berlin. We continue to advance concrete actions to advance SMM both domestically and internationally, in partnership with businesses, states and local governments, NGOs and academia. Next spring, we will host a follow up G7 Alliance event on supply chains, with a focus on the auto sector.  Getting organizations to identify and address impacts across their value chain, in particular the supply chain, is critical for sustainability. However, the complexity of supply chains can make this challenging, including the flow of information within the supply chain. The auto sector is actively engaged in improving their operations, supply chain, and communities in which they operate. The workshop will focus on identifying and sharing best practices and successes in the auto sector that are transferrable to other sectors.

Leading up to the US event, the Alliance will hold workshops to identify and share best practices.  The UK October 29-30, 2015 workshop will focus on “industrial symbiosis” –an approach to directly match industry sectors and facilities to maximize the reuse of materials in manufacturing.  Under this practice the wastes or byproducts of one industrial facility becomes a resource for another facility. The US Business Council for Sustainable Development is working with companies, cities, communities and governments to advance this concept in the US.  After the event, a workshop will be held in Germany to discuss best practice examples of innovative bio-based products, value chains and resource efficiency in the building sector. They will assess the resulting opportunities, in particular for rural areas and discuss potential international cooperation on the topic.

Altogether, there are many promising efforts underway advancing and promoting resource efficiency and sustainable materials management. It’s exciting to be a part of and I was proud to represent the US in this effort. The challenge is to translate these efforts into concrete changes that achieve the promise of the economic, environmental and social benefits.

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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Collaborating with the Private-Sector to Reduce HFCs

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Yesterday, I met with dozens of private-sector leaders who are committed to reducing the use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and are working at the leading edge of innovations to get the job done.

HFCs are a potent greenhouse gases often found in air conditioning, insulation, and refrigerants. They can be hundreds to thousands of times more damaging to our climate system than carbon dioxide. That’s why curbing their use and emissions is a key part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

And it was the subject of a vibrant roundtable discussion at the White House yesterday, where I and colleagues from across the Administration had a chance to hear from business leaders who are stepping to the plate and committing to reduce HFCs.

Administrator Gina McCarthy looks a vending machine that emits less HFCs than conventional models at a technology showcase.

There is tremendous leadership and innovation in American business, all up and down the value chain—from deploying new, safer chemicals all the way to the freezer in your local grocery store.

In 2014, more than 20 business leaders shared their plans to reduce HFC use and emissions. Today, we heard from many of these and other businesses – large and small – about the progress they’ve made and new, ambitious steps they’re taking. The discussion was inspiring to say the least.

Lapolla, a small spray-foam-insulation company, announced that it has completed a transition of all foam operations to climate-friendly alternatives ahead of schedule. And the large American retailer Target announced that a class of new stand-alone coolers in its stores will be HFC-free and it will expand the use of carbon dioxide refrigeration systems to replace HFCs in new stores.

Administrator Gina McCarthy and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz talk to presenters at a technology showcase.

These and so many other private-sector commitments that launched today go hand-in-hand with the regulatory steps we’re taking here at EPA.

Over the past year, we’ve completed four separate actions under our Significant New Alternatives Policy—or “SNAP”—program that both expand the list of safer alternatives and prohibit HFCs from certain uses where safer alternatives are available.

We estimate that this will avoid up to 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025, equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from the annual energy use of more than 5.8 million homes.

And just yesterday I signed a proposed rule that will reduce HFC emissions by streamlining and applying the same refrigerant management provisions to both ozone-depleting substances and HFCs. I also announced that under our SNAP program we will continue to both expand and look back at our list of alternatives. We plan to propose additional changes that will ‘right size’ the SNAP list during the first half of 2016.

At EPA, we’ve taken significant domestic actions to change our mix of refrigerants here at home, and are working to amend the international Montreal Protocol agreement to first freeze, and later phase-down HFCs globally.

To cap off a great day of climate action against HFCs, I joined Secretary Moniz at the Department of Energy yesterday afternoon to tour a display of private-sector products that use safer alternatives to high global warming potential HFCs.

We saw Ingersoll Rand’s new air conditioning equipment, a prototype medical freezer from Thermo Fisher Scientific, and a host of other innovative products that promise to help smooth America’s transition away from high-global-warming-potential HFCs while improving energy efficiency at the same time.

For the United States, today was a great day of climate action to cut back on HFCs. Next month, I look forward to welcoming an international agreement that will do the same globally.

 

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Our Ocean 2015 Conference in Chile: EPA Launches International Marine Litter Initiative

By Jane Nishida

The world’s oceans are facing many serious environmental challenges that threaten the health of all marine life, our food security, and the air that we breathe. Land-based sources of pollution, such as marine litter, wastewater, and nutrient runoff, contribute to the deterioration of our coastal waters, habitats, and oceans. Ocean acidification, as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions, also threatens food chains and causes coral bleaching, which destroys valuable habitats for marine life. It is imperative that we work to find solutions to these problems and encourage others to take action that helps restore the health of our oceans.

Jane Nishida with Easter Island tribal leaders in traditional dress.

Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Jane Nishida with tribal leaders from Easter Island at the Our Ocean II Conference last week.

I joined Secretary Kerry and other distinguished experts at the Our Ocean 2015 Conference in Valparaiso, Chile the week of October 5. This conference brought together different government, policy, science, and advocacy leaders to raise awareness of the many problems affecting the global marine environment, including marine pollution, ocean acidification, sustainable fisheries, marine protected areas, and issues affecting local communities. Governments, international organizations, and NGOs committed to take actions that will address specific marine problems. Marine litter, in particular plastics, is a growing global problem with 8 tons of plastic entering the ocean annually – that is 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish.

I was proud to be able to announce a new joint partnership between EPA, the United Nations Environment Program’s Caribbean Environment Program , and the Peace Corps  to expand our Trash Free Waters strategy to the wider Caribbean region to help reduce land-based sources of marine debris. Trash Free Waters is a collaborative, stakeholder-based approach to mitigate marine litter by using regional and local strategies that reduces and prevents the amount of trash entering the waterways, and ultimately our oceans.

With EPA as the national technical focal point to the Land Based Sources Protocol to the Cartagena Convention in the wider Caribbean, this partnership will help national governments take action to prevent trash from reaching their waters. Peace Corps Volunteers will complement this strategy by providing support from on-the-ground projects in local communities that will help reduce litter and plastic trash from entering waterways and the ocean.

Jamaica and Panama will be the first countries to pilot a Trash Free Waters program to address marine litter in the wider Caribbean.  I met with the Foreign Ministers of Jamaica and Panama who were enthusiastic and noted the importance of this program in raising public awareness to the problem of marine debris. We are also working with the Peace Corps in both countries to help incorporate the Trash Free Waters approach into their programs so that the volunteers will be able to develop marine litter reduction and prevention projects in local communities.  We hope to be able to share success stories of our initial pilot work in Jamaica and Panama at the next Our Ocean Conference in Washington, DC in 2016. Our Trash Free Waters is playing an important role in getting trash out of our waterways and our oceans in the U.S. and globally.

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Unleashing Innovation for a Clean Energy Economy

By Gina McCarthy

One of America’s greatest assets is the ingenuity of its people. President Obama has been driving that theme home since the beginning of his Administration. At EPA, we’ve seen time and again that by unleashing homegrown American innovation, we can bring about big wins for both the environment and the economy.

Just look at renewable energy – today the U.S. generates three times as much wind power, and 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system in the U.S. has dropped by half. At the same time, the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy.

Photo of windmills with a blue sky.

And look at the auto industry – we’ve set historic fuel efficiency standards that promise to send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade—a move that will reduce pollution and save families money at the pump at the same time. Today, every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles. And since 2009, the American auto industry added more than 250,000 jobs.

These are wins all around. That’s why states, communities, and leading private sector companies are investing in clean energy innovation. Because it’s is good for the environment and it’s good for business. There are countless state-based projects already underway to reduce energy waste, boost efficiencies, and vastly increase the amount of energy solar panels can produce from the sun.

We’re already seeing tremendous progress across the country – including the development of smart, low-cost technologies that help households save on their energy bills. On this front, the state of Illinois is moving ahead at full speed.

Photograph of Administrator Gina McCarthy speaking at a podium.

Just last week, I was proud to join officials from the City of Chicago, utility companies, citizen groups, and two energy-technology companies – Nest and Ecobee – as they announced a major new initiative to get one million “smart” thermostats into northern Illinois homes by the year 2020.

The innovative partnership offers rebates that will nearly halve the cost of thermostats that allow residents to control the temperature of their homes via mobile device. And the technology is “smart” because it adapts to user behaviors over time. The new program is bringing together utilities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, private companies, and the state commerce chamber – all working together toward an ambitious energy efficiency goal.

The one-million smart thermostats effort is a prime example of the power of innovation and partnerships in solving tough problems. Because when we bring diverse skills, perspectives, and expertise to the table, we get creative solutions. The Illinois program will bring efficiencies that move the needle against climate change and it will help consumers’ savings on their energy bills at the same time. That’s a win-win.

And it’s precisely the kind innovative thinking that states across the country are using to help meet the requirements laid out in EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which launched this past summer.

The Plan puts the U.S. on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And when we cut carbon pollution, we also cut harmful smog- and soot-forming pollutants that come along with it.

We’ll start seeing health benefits in the near term, and by 2030, we’ll avoid thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school and work days.  In that same year, the average American family will see $85 a year in savings on their utility bills. That’s another win-win.

The bottom line is— America knows how to innovate, and solutions are already here. Technology and innovation are turning what used to be daunting challenges into real, profitable opportunities. The kinds of innovative thinking we’re seeing in Illinois and elsewhere are our best shot at seizing them.

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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