communities

Suburban Chickens: Sustainability at Work in My Home

by Mindy Lemoine, Region 3

As a child, I hung out at my grandparents’ farm outside of Ville Platte, LA, where they had chickens, pigs, cows, guinea fowl, a garden, a smokehouse, fruit trees, etc. Now, my house sits on about 1/64th of an acre just outside the city limits of Philadelphia. And just as my grandparents did, every morning I put on my barn coat and walk about 30 steps to feed my two chickens.

Chicken

The chickens, Marshmallow and Speedy, live in a coop tucked discreetly behind my garage. Since the spring, my hens have provided me with one or two eggs daily: sage green from Marshmallow and speckled brown from Speedy.

How did a former country kid, who grew up to be a scientist living in the suburbs, start keeping chickens? As a child, I loved to feed the chickens and gather their eggs. While living outside of Philadelphia, one day my nephew offered me his hens because he was moving and had no place to keep them. I jumped at the opportunity to return to my farm roots and put more of my sustainability views into practice. I was fortunate: thanks to an enlightened elected official who was a fellow chicken lover, my township allowed residents to keep chickens.

The space behind my garage had a nice 6×18-foot fenced-in area that was perfect for keeping my girls safe.

Aside from the fresh eggs, one of the delights of owning suburban chickens is that neighbors and their children stop by to visit my hens.

Because of my work at EPA, I know the importance of keeping food waste out of landfills. My hens know something about that, too, because they get excited about the old rice, carrot peelings, food scraps, toast crusts, etc., that I feed to them.

The food scraps that the chickens don’t eat, and other things like coffee grounds and egg shells, are a great addition to my compost pile. The hens help out with the compost as well: their droppings provide a rich source of nutrients that will eventually help nourish my garden. Compost reduces the amount of fertilizer, weed killer and water that my garden needs – a model of sustainability!

The hens are part of the family, and the next generation has arrived. I have four adorable fuzzy baby chicks peeping under a heat lamp in my basement! But as a mom, the best thing about owning chickens is pictures of my son and his friends with chickens sitting on their heads!

About the author: Mindy Lemoine is a Life Scientist and Pollution Prevention Coordinator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. A native of Opelousas, Louisiana, Mindy grew up rambling in the woods and fields with her siblings and developed an abiding curiosity about what might be living in that ditch. She holds an MS in Geography from Louisiana State University.

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

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Partnership for Sustainable Communities: Four Years of Helping Communities Become Economically Stronger, Environmentally Healthier

Join us for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Twitter Town Hall on Monday, June 17, at 1:30 PM ET.

Posted online by HUD, DOT and EPA on respective websites.

By Bob Perciasepe, Maurice Jones,  and John Porcari

June 16, 2013 marks the four-year anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 2009, our three federal agencies have been working together to help communities build stronger regional economies, improve their housing and transportation options, and protect the environment.

As President Obama said when the Partnership launched in 2009, “…by working together, [the agencies] can make sure that when it comes to development—housing, transportation, energy efficiency—these things aren’t mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand.”

Our collaboration helps communities plan the housing, transportation and economic development they need as infrastructure for economic growth, helping them attract businesses and improve quality of life for residents.

The Partnership is a one-stop shop for communities to access federal resources that can help them become more economically and environmentally sustainable. To date, the Partnership has provided more than $4 billion in funding for projects in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, coordinated investments across our agencies are supporting the revitalization of the East Side neighborhood. (Read the case study; watch the video.) An EPA Environmental Justice Showcase Community Grant facilitated renewed access to the waterfront for residents. An $11 million DOT grant for TIGER multimodal transportation is helping build and upgrade roads around the East Side’s Steel Point Peninsula to prepare for redevelopment. And a HUD Regional Planning Grant helped study the opening of a proposed rail station on a cleaned-up brownfield in Bridgeport’s East End. The station will anchor the East Side redevelopment plan, leading to new business investment; mixed-use, transit-oriented development; and affordable homes.

To celebrate the four-year anniversary of work on these and similar projects, the Partnership is undertaking three major activities this summer:

  • EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones, and DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari will respond to your questions and comments about the Partnership in a Twitter Town Hall on Monday, June 17, 1:30 PM ET. Twitter users may ask questions in advance and during the Town Hall using the hashtag #sustainableqs. You may also join us through the live webstream.
  • Throughout the summer, the Partnership agencies will host roundtables in Arlington, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Toms River, New Jersey, and other communities across the country. Municipal staff, community leaders, business and industry representatives, and other stakeholders will be invited to tell us about the successes and challenges of their projects—and what the Partnership can do to help.
  • In July, the Partnership will host a webinar series about three of the topics on which EPA, HUD, and DOT offer coordinated support: investing in green infrastructure, creating context-sensitive streets, and integrating housing and transportation planning. See www.sustainablecommunities.gov for dates and further details.

Staff from HUD, DOT, and EPA continue to regularly work as a team to find ways to serve tribal communities, small towns, rural areas, suburbs, and cities more effectively. We feel privileged to be a part of this collaboration, and hope that you will join us in celebrating the progress of communities across the country that are investing in a sustainable approach to economic growth.

About the authors: 

Bob Perciasepe is acting administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Maurice Jones is deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
John Porcari is deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

 

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

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Help Us Find the Winners! National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

2012 Winner for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth: The BLVD Transformation, Lancaster, CA Photo courtesy of EPA

By Sarah Dale

Do you know a community that has made its downtown more walkable, bikable, and accessible to public transit? Used policy initiatives and regulations to improve the local environment? Turned its public parks into a driver for economic development? Then you might know a community that could apply for the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. If so, please pass this blog post along!

Communities across the country are making choices about how to grow and develop while improving environmentally, socially, and economically. Through this award, EPA recognizes and supports communities that use innovative policies and strategies to strengthen their economies, provide housing and transportation choices, develop in ways that bring benefits to a wide range of residents, and protect the environment. This year, EPA is

2012 Winner for Equitable Development: The Mariposa District, Denver, CO Photo courtesy of EPA.

recognizing communities in four categories:

  • Built Projects
  • Corridor and Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Plazas, Parks, and Public Places
  • Policies, Programs, and Plans

Additionally, the review panel will choose one Overall Excellence winner.

Past winners are enthusiastic about the award: here’s what a few of the 2012 winners had to say:

  • “We’ve received an outstanding response from winning this award, and our project has received attention from throughout the state, across the nation, and even internationally.” Marvin Crist, Vice Mayor, Lancaster, CA
  • “Receiving the award increased awareness about what the Denver Housing Authority is doing among many different policy makers and stakeholders.” Kimball Crangle, Denver Housing Authority, Denver, CO
  • “I think the Smart Growth Award is a part of what solidified our position to the point where partners decided they wanted to be a part of this.” Scott Strawbridge, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale, FL

2012 Winner for Programs and Policies 2012: Destination Portsmouth, Portsmouth, VA Rendering courtesy of Urban Advantage.

If you know a community that is doing amazing things, encourage them to apply today! The competition is open to both public- and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities. The application process is outlined here; the application deadline is April 12, 2013.

About the author: Sarah Dale is a special assistant with the Office of Sustainable Communities, which manages EPA’s Smart Growth Program. This is her third year managing the awards.

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

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Networking to Improve Emergency Response

By Rich Weisman

As I watched the progression of Hurricane Isaac several weeks ago, I thought back to 2003 when Hurricane Isabel impacted my water system in Virginia and caused local schools to close. Water and wastewater utilities are vulnerable to threats such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, and other natural and man-made disasters. Water systems are not often impacted during emergencies that may affect other aspects of a community, but when a disaster does impact a utility, they work diligently to restore services as quickly as possible. (My colleague Laura Flynn imagined a day without water as part of our blog series for Preparedness Month). Mutual assistance programs like the Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, a network of utilities helping utilities, provide access to specialized resources needed to restore water services.

The Minnesota Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network was activated in June when Duluth and surrounding areas experienced significant flooding that washed out roads and interrupted 911 service. Through the network, seven communities asked for and received assistance in the form of water pumps and support personnel. Several years ago, the Colorado Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network helped respond to a Salmonella contamination incident in the city of Alamosa. Water utilities from around the state provided crews and equipment to help plan a response to the outbreak, and then flush, disinfect and sample 49 miles of the Alamosa water distribution system.

For larger emergencies, federal agencies often provide assistance when local and state resources are exhausted. EPA’s water emergency response program has developed tools, resources and training opportunities to prepare water utilities to respond to and recover from disasters, and to help utilities practice navigating this process.

One resource that helps utilities plan for and practice their responses to emergencies is a tabletop exercise tool that EPA developed. The tool contains 15 scenarios that address an “all-hazards” approach to emergency preparedness and response as well as introduces users to the potential impacts of climate change on the water utility sector. Each scenario has a customizable situation manual, discussion questions and PowerPoint presentation. Utilities can modify these materials, allowing them to conduct a tabletop exercise to meet their needs.

And, since finding the resources needed to recover from disasters is critical, we provide information about where to find federal funding that supports disaster recovery. In all these efforts, EPA works closely with our partners and stakeholders in local communities, states and other federal agencies.

About the author: Rich Weisman has worked at EPA since 2006 and currently serves as Team Leader for the Water Emergency Response Team in the Water Security Division of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. He can be reached at weisman.richard@epa.gov.

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

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Going Green As You’re Going Back to School

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Summertime is coming to an end, and kids are heading back to school. And even though they’ll be spending less time outdoors, we should still be thinking about how to protect the environment and safeguard our children’s health. Fortunately, small actions can turn into big results for protecting the environment, and can even save extra money for the school year.

For example, try to cut down on waste. More than 30 percent of what we throw away comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. Look for pens, pencils, and other supplies that are packaged with recyclable materials. That goes for spiral notebooks and notebook paper, too. For every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper, an entire tree is saved.

Buying school supplies every year can get expensive. A good way to save money is to conserve energy use around the house. Energy Star products – from lightbulbs and laptops to televisions and air conditioners – are more energy efficient, which means you’ll pay less in utility bills every month. In 2011, the use of Energy Star products helped Americans save $23 billion on their utility bills, and prevented more than 210 million metric tons of green house gas emissions.

There are also ways to make sure our schools are environmentally friendly. In addition to choosing products made from recyclable materials and using energy efficient appliances, check to make sure the products used to clean your child’s classrooms carry the “Design for the Environment” label. This label means those products are safer for students and better for the environment.

Every child deserves a clean and healthy place to learn – and all parents should be able to trust that their children’s health is not at risk when they send them off to school. The EPA is working hard to reduce health threats in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and we want to make sure schools and parents have what they need to minimize pollution in and around classrooms and give all of our kids healthy places to learn.

Last but not least, these actions help teach children the importance of a clean, healthy environment. Making “green” a part of everyday learning – both inside and outside the classroom – is an easy way to engage our kids in the efforts to safeguard the planet they will inherit, and protect their future.

<em>About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</em>

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

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Sister Blog: EPA Seeking Feedback on Beta Tool to Address Community Environmental Issues

(Reposted from EPA’s Environmental Justice in Action Blog.)

By Dr. Valerie Zartarian and Dr. Andrew Geller

Communities and individuals are faced with exposure to many different kinds of pollution, like lead, air pollution, water pollution, and toxics in fish. People want to understand their health risks and how to prevent them. As communities move to protect their neighborhoods, the issues can seem too numerous, with too few experts and limited access to information that can limit meaningful involvement.

In EPA’s Office of Research and Development we are designing the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) and related research to address these challenges. C-FERST is being developed to increase the availability and accessibility of science and data for evaluating impacts of pollutants and local conditions, ranking risks, and understanding the environmental health consequences of your community. (Keep reading at Environmental Justice in Action.)

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

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EPA and DOL Support For Auto Community Redevelopment

Cross- posted from the Department of Labor Auto Recovery Blog

By Mathy Stanislaus

As I meet with mayors and talk with community leaders throughout the country, I witness first-hand the significant challenges communities face as they work to rebuild their economies. Taking action to support economic development and community revitalization while protecting public health and the environment is a long-standing commitment at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our assistance and funding to support redevelopment and economic recovery is helping communities, on the ground, to revitalize their neighborhoods.

EPA’s Brownfields program provides funding and technical assistance to help communities in assessing, cleaning up, and redeveloping former manufacturing facilities. Brownfields may be contaminated properties, but, once cleaned up; they can be transformed into important community assets. Often, these properties are in key locations with existing infrastructure. With the Brownfields program, we are making investments to help leverage redevelopment at these sites. I believe that removing blight and redeveloping the industrial properties that often sit at the heart of a community’s downtown can renew both the spirit and the economy of our cities.

Since the program’s inception, EPA’s brownfields investments have leveraged more than $18.3 billion in cleanup and redevelopment. Over the years, this relatively small investment of federal funding has leveraged more than 75,000 jobs. This year, our grants were targeted to communities that experienced auto and other major plant closures, and in the last three years alone, EPA’s Brownfields Program provided more than $15 million in financial support to auto communities.

The Brownfields Program is about rebuilding communities. Today, EPA is partnering with the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers and other Federal agencies to identify opportunities to target federal government grant resources specifically to the needs of auto communities.

Under my leadership, EPA is working closely with the Department of Labor (DOL) to help bring necessary coordination and resources to these communities. We are working with our state partners and local officials to identify opportunities for flexibility within EPA’s regulatory programs to encourage the revitalization of these former auto plants. We are also working closely with The Manufacturing Alliance for Communities on a series of auto community roundtables that are structured to allow for local officials to identify their resource needs, as well as their visions for the revitalization these sites in their communities. These auto community roundtables bring together economic development leaders, elected officials and investors from the public and private sectors that are committed to redeveloping former auto properties.

Moving forward, DOL and EPA will continue to coordinate with The Manufacturing Alliance for Communities and the Mayors Manufacturing Coalition, the RACER Trust, and charitable and philanthropic organizations such as the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, to assess needs and to deliver resources, and to develop a comprehensive toolbox of technical assistance available including the timelines and processes for applying for these competitive resources. By developing this comprehensive tool box we are working to identify potential ways for private foundation money to provide coordinated technical assistance that will leverage available federal and state resources. We also ask that communities continue to identify priority properties and work in partnership with EPA and other federal, state, local, public, private and philanthropic partners to identify their resource needs and garner their community assets.

At EPA, many of our programs and efforts focus on ways to improve the quality of life in local communities. We realize that to move projects forward it takes a variety of resources. In 2012 EPA is looking forward to continuing to make investments in communities through all aspects of our Brownfields program so that this Administration’s efforts on behalf of American communities will continue to support redevelopment and economic recovery, and help rebuild and revitalize neighborhoods and communities across the country.

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER)

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

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Seizing the Opportunity in Rio

By Scott Fulton

Olá!  A few days ago, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development (a.k.a. “Rio+20”).   I’m excited and humbled to be a part of this milestone event, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first UN Earth Summit.  Rio+20 offers an important opportunity to consider anew the global challenge of sustainable development and to provide guidance and inspiration for the path ahead.  While I’m here in Rio, in addition to attending Rio+20 itself, I’ll be participating in many satellite events designed to make the most of this opportunity.  Just a few examples:

  • On June 16, I participated  in the Rio+20 Colloquium on Environmental Law & Justice, a panel discussion of the Role of Courts in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement over at the Supreme Court;
  • Over the next few days, I will attend the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in Mangaratiba. This meeting of judges, prosecutors and auditors from around the world immediately precedes the Rio+20 Conference.
  • On Thursday, June 21, I will participate in a meeting led by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, “Rio+20, CCICED +20, Sharing the Achievements, Embracing the Future.” This promises to be an interesting opportunity for an exchange of ideas with our colleagues in China.

On June 16, I was also given the opportunity to moderate the Environmental Governance and Social Inclusion program at the U.S. Center in Athletes Park.  It was a successful and lively discussion with an extremely well qualified panel and an engaged audience. Some of the issues we touched on included:

  • Key features of effective systems for environmental governance at the national level, such as access to environmental information, public participation, law reform, and implementation and accountability mechanisms including robust enforcement systems;
  • The critical importance of efforts to engage vulnerable communities to promote social inclusion and environmental justice; and
  • Steps we can take to enhance cooperation, coordination and collaboration on strengthening environmental governance in countries around the world.

I think these concepts are integral to the notion of sustainability. After all, when we talk about Environmental Governance we are talking about the very real building blocks of a governance system that can make all the difference in the world—the difference between the concept of environmental protection expressed as written law and the reality of cleaner air and water, healthier people, and a secure a future where these benefits can be sustained for future generations.

And when we talk about environmental justice we are talking about the kind of social inclusion that allows us to reach an end state where no one’s environmental health is compromised because of his or her race, national origin or income level, and all have equal access both to the environmental decision-making process and to a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

To read more about environmental governance, click here: http://inece.org/resource/foundation/

About the author:  Scott Fulton is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s General Counsel.

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

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Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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

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How Can You Help Environmental Justice Communities Create an Oasis in a Food Desert?

By Ann Carroll

It’s a simple question. How far do you have to go to get healthy food?

I’m lucky. I can walk eight blocks to get to a full service grocery store. If I bike in the other direction, I have even more options: a Latino food market and a grocery store full of organic vegetables, fruits, and other healthy options. In a pinch, Swiss chard from my garden becomes a meal of fresh greens.

While many people associate environmental justice with reducing pollution problems, access to healthy food is just as essential for public health as well. In many urban and rural areas, families may have a long journey to get healthy, fresh foods. The ‘Food Desert’ as it is now called, is an area where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food. While the definitions and distances vary in a city or rural area, the idea is the same: Getting healthy food is hard work in a food desert.

Many brownfields communities also are ‘food deserts’ where options for getting healthy foods are difficult. Brownfields are abandoned properties or vacant lots where the presence or potential presence of environmental contamination prevents reuse.#

In the last few years, the EPA, our state and tribal partners and community leaders have highlighted how brownfield communities can change their ‘food environment’ as part of site. They are putting brownfields to new healthy uses that improve food access in underserved areas, contributing to public health and economic development.

You can learn how former brownfields are becoming supermarkets, farmer’s markets, urban farms, community gardens, and even food banks. Take a look at the resources we’ve developed from projects or those of our Superfund colleagues.

Do you live in a food desert? These maps from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help connect you to your food environment.

You can help your community see that vacant building or abandoned gas station in a new way. It may be a brownfield now, but it can improve food access in your community. You can work with local officials to pick safe garden sites and learn what vacant lots to avoid due to likely environmental contamination. Talk to your city or town about whether a brownfield grant can fund assessing or cleaning lots or structures to become the supermarket, greenhouse, garden, urban farm, farmers market or a healthier grocery store you need.

About the author: Ann Carroll has a science and public health background and has worked on environmental health issues in the US and internationally for close to 30 years and with the EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization for the last ten years. She helps communities assess and clean brownfields and plan for their safe reuse. Ann is working on a doctorate in environmental health and is a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for a Livable Future.

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

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