Mathy Stanislaus

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

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Reposted from EPA Connect Blog

By Mathy Stanislaus

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

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

My foundation for working with communities started with my work on addressing issues such as solid waste facilities, Superfund sites and power plants. Through the redevelopment of brownfields, I sought to advance the renewal of New York’s low- and moderate-income communities. My experiences and the challenges I faced there generated fervor in me to press for greater consideration and inclusion of affected communities in environmental decision-making. I brought the same fervor to EPA when I came to the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response in June 2009.

Every day, I implore the people I work with to consider communities in everything they do – whether it’s permitting a facility, engaging stakeholders in the rulemaking process, or helping our state and local partners understand the importance of listening to the issues or challenges of their constituency.

I often ask myself and my staff, “What action can we take to make a community healthier and more economically sound?” That type of thinking is an important component in many recent programs and policies developed during my tenure. Brownfields’ Area-Wide Planning GrantsCommunity Engagement Initiative (CEI); Chemical Plant Safety and SecurityEnvironmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program (EWDJT); safe recycling facilities; andTechnical Assistance for Communities (TASC) are examples of this thinking.

So, as you can see, I have carried my whole-hearted commitment to serve throughout my career. In my professional life, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing people and I owe most of my successes – both personal and professional – to these people.

At EPA, we will continue to look for opportunities to create healthy, green and sustainable communities. Feel free to share any opportunities that we may be missing.

Happy 20th Anniversary to all of you!

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus is the Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), leading the Agency’s land cleanup, solid waste and emergency response programs. Mr. Stanislaus is a chemical engineer and environmental lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the environmental field in the private and public sectors. He received his law degree from Chicago Kent Law School and Chemical Engineering Degree from City College of New York. 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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E-Manifest: Modernizing Hazardous Waste Tracking

Hazardous waste barrels

When a facility generates hazardous waste, the waste is often sent to a management facility elsewhere to be stored, treated, or disposed. Currently, we require industry to track and keep records of type, volume, sources and destinations of hazardous waste shipments through a set of paper forms (manifests), reports, and procedures that follow the shipments from cradle-to-grave. This process produces millions of manifests each year in an often inefficient process.

EPA is working with states, industry, and other stakeholders to modernize this process by allowing for electronic manifests (e-Manifest). More

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

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Making Our Communities More Resilient to Climate Change

Flooding in a community as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy of U.S. EPA.

As a member of the EPA community leading efforts to prevent the release of hazardous substances and respond to emergencies, I know it is important to quickly assess impacts, help with recovery and cleanup, while also preparing for future events. My office, the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), helps to address these issues specifically by cleaning up contaminated land, managing hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and responding to emergencies.

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

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Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month

Members of the site visit tour of the Santa Clara Pueblo, center OSWER Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus

Members of the site visit tour of the Santa Clara Pueblo, center OSWER Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus

Recently, while in New Mexico attending the 4th annual Tribal Lands Forum, EPA’s Region 6 Regional Administrator Ron Curry and I were honored to be hosted by the Governor of the Santa Clara Pueblo Bruce Tafoya, the Tribal Sheriff Regis Chavarria, and the Environmental Director Joseph Chavarria on a tour of the Pueblo and its surrounding areas.

I experienced first-hand the impact of recent flooding and fire on canyon lands that are culturally significant to the Santa Clara Pueblo.  The Pueblo launched an organized multi-year emergency response effort to address imminent dangers and eventually restore the canyon’s land and water.

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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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Working Together to Ensure Chemical Facility Safety

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EPA has several programs in place to reduce the risks associated with hazardous chemicals. With the President’s Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, we plan to expand our efforts under our Risk Management Program and our Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know programs to ensure chemical facility safety.

Our goals in the Executive Order are to:

  • Leverage the stakeholder network already in place with trade associations, environmental organizations, industry, and labor unions to identify best practices;
  • Improve coordination with and provide assistance to state and local partners;
  • Enhance data sharing and coordination among federal agencies; and
  • Modernize policies, regulations, and standards.

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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 work with Tribal Nations

I’ve been spending a lot of time in New Mexico this month. It’s easy for me since it’s my long time home. Yes, I am from New Mexico and the first EPA Region 6 Administrator appointed from outside Texas.

New Mexico near Acoma Pueblo and Grants, NM

New Mexico near Acoma Pueblo and Grants, NM

Earlier in the month, I co-hosted our Regional Tribal Operations Committee meeting with Shawn Howard from Citizen Potawatomi Nation at the Isleta Pueblo. At EPA, we call it RTOC for short. The meeting brings together environmental managers from the 66 tribes located in our region and the EPA senior managers.

Quick quiz- Which state in Region 6 doesn’t have a federally recognized tribe? (Check the end of this blog post for the answer).

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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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Making Regulations Work for the Environment and the Economy

In March of 2011, I participated in a video town hall meeting to talk about finding ways to improve EPA regulations to make compliance easier and less expensive, without sacrificing protection of the environment and human health. In that meeting I encouraged participants to share their ideas about how EPA could streamline regulations and which regulations we should review. I also shared a Web page where you can find information on the status of priority rulemakings, retrospective reviews of existing regulations, and information on how to comment on rulemakings. The very first suggestion I received during the video town hall that day was for EPA to modify regulations on the management of solvent-contaminated rags and wipes used by various industrial sectors, such as publishing, printing, and automobile manufacturing.

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I’m pleased to say that we have acted on that suggestion and released a final regulation that reduces burden on tens of thousands of facilities that use solvent-contaminated wipes, while still being protective of human health and the environment. Based on the best available science, we’ve provided a regulatory framework for managing solvent-contaminated wipes at the appropriate level of risk. Not only does this reduce uncertainty for these regulated communities, this rule will result in an estimated net savings of $18 million per year in avoided regulatory costs and between $3.7 million and $9.9 million per year in other expected benefits, including pollution prevention, waste minimization and fire prevention benefits.

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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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