Public Participation

Environmental Governance: A Key Stepping Stone on the Path to Peace and Stability

By Ethan Shenkman

Public participation. Information disclosure. Implementable and enforceable laws. Strong accountability mechanisms. In the United States, we sometimes take principles like these for granted. For those who practice environmental law here, we feel intuitively that they are necessary features of any effective legal system.  But in many countries around the world — grappling with fundamental issues of democracy and rule of law — these basic principles of “environmental governance” take on an even greater meaning and significance.

The legal community, both in the U.S. and abroad, increasingly recognizes a direct connection between environmental governance and the promotion of rule of law more generally.  And we see, based on firsthand experience, how sound environmental governance is essential to ensuring public health — and a healthy economy.

"Good environmental governance is critical not only to achieving a healthy environment, but to achieving a healthy economy." Ethan Shenkman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join diplomats from the State Department in Vienna, Austria for the Economic and Environmental Forum of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The OSCE includes more than 50 countries from North America to Europe to Central Asia. It has a comprehensive focus on security and its activities range from conflict resolution to energy security. The OSCE hosts several Economic and Environmental and Forum events each year because it recognizes the importance of effective environmental institutions, laws, and enforcement in promoting economic growth and ensuring peace and stability in the region. As the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, emphasized in his plenary statement, environmental governance is an area that “touches all of our lives.”

While discussing environmental governance with officials from throughout the OSCE region, including the newly independent states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I was impressed by the uniformly positive response and desire to engage on these issues. The forum recognized promoting strong environmental governance and sustainable development as central elements of OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security and stability. Other countries highlighted a number innovative pilot projects, ranging from the use of microfinance to green the economy, to harnessing the ideas generated by civic participation in promoting resource efficiency.

We look forward to following up on numerous opportunities to transform principles of environmental governance into progress on the ground.  Exciting possibilities ahead range from an important international initiative to help countries establish and implement laws to reduce the use of lead paint, particularly in homes where vulnerable children are exposed; to compiling legal framework models to reduce air pollution; to providing implementation assistance for countries seeking to modernize and improve their environmental laws.

EPA has useful wisdom to share on advancing environmental governance given our decades of experience in developing and implementing environmental regulations while the U.S. economy has expanded steadily over time. Supporting international cooperation to address environmental problems is essential to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. Pollution and other failures to protect valuable natural resources have concrete and direct impacts on people’s lives, and those problems do not respect borders. Because effective governance systems are fundamental to the success of environmental protections, helping build strong environmental institutions and legal structures is a top priority.

About the author: Ethan Shenkman is EPA’s Deputy General Counsel.

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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Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Delaware: Your Chance to Engage in the Discussion

By Christina Catanese

 

Are you curious about how sea level rise will affect the beach towns you visit in the summer, and how coastal communities can adapt to these impacts?  If you’re in the Delaware area, you’ll have this opportunity in the coming weeks.

Impact of Sea Level Rise Scenarios on Mid Atlantic Coastal Wetland areas

Impact of Sea Level Rise Scenarios on Mid Atlantic Coastal Wetland areas

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of public engagement sessions to give residents a chance to hear more about Delaware’s vulnerability to sea level rise and adaptation strategies that the state can take.  DNREC invites the public to ask questions, discuss potential options, and provide feedback at these sessions.  There will be displays, presentations, and discussion – get a preview and more information on this page.

Yesterday’s session in Lewes, DE kicked off this series, but there are still two opportunities to attend:

February 19, 4-7 p.m.

New Castle Middle School

903 Delaware Street

New Castle, DE 19720

February 25, 4-7 p.m.

Kent County Levy Court

555 Bay Road (Rt. 113)

Dover, DE 19901

For more information on ecosystem impacts of climate change in the First State, you can also learn more about how the Delaware Estuary is preparing for climate change through the Climate Ready Estuaries program.

Not a Delaware resident?  You can still learn more about the Impacts of Sea Level Rise, other climate change science, and look out for similar opportunities where you live.  The impacts of climate change will vary by region – check out climate impacts in the Northeastern U.S. and in the Mid-Atlantic Region here.  What is your community doing to get ready?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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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In Philly, Plain Rain Barrels are SO Last Season

By Nancy Grundahl

If you were Michelangelo, what would your rain barrel look like? It certainly wouldn’t be plain. No, it would convey beauty, reflect creativity, stand out from the crowd, cause walkersby to catch their breath in amazement.

One of the designs (“Fish Flow”) that you can vote for in the Philadelphia Water Department's Rain Barrel Art Contest

One of the designs (“Fish Flow”) that you can vote for in the Philadelphia Water Department's Rain Barrel Art Contest

To raise awareness of the benefits of rain barrels, the City of Philadelphia is holding a rain barrel art contest, but instead of Michelangelo, the artists are local students. Students between the ages of 11 and 21 from the Laura W. Waring School and YESPHilly worked with artists from the Mural Arts Program and educators from Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center and the Philadelphia Water Department to create beautiful original artwork for decorating rain barrels. How will it work? The designs will be printed on shrink wrap that will then be wrapped around rain barrels distributed by the Water Department.

The contest has been narrowed down to 8 finalists and they’d like you to vote for your fav. The contest ends on February 13, so hurry!

Rain barrels are good ideas no matter where you live.  They help capture rain water that can be reused around the home. And they help prevent that water from rushing from your downspouts and into storm sewers, picking up pollution that winds up in your favorite streams and rivers.

Feel creative?  Tell us your ideas for beautifying rain barrels at your home!

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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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Your Comments Sought on Drinking Water Quality Report

By Christina Catanese

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Each year by July 1st, you should receive a short report (called a consumer confidence report or drinking water quality report) in the mail from your public water supplier that tells you two main things: where your water comes from and what’s in it.  It’s an annual water quality report that a community water system is required to provide to its customers each year.  The report lists the regulated contaminants found in your drinking water, as well as health effects information related to any violations of the drinking water standards.

If you’ve looked at these reports in the past, have you ever felt like there was information that wasn’t in them that you wished there was?  Or you wished you could read the report online instead of in print?  How could these reports be more valuable to you?

EPA will be holding an online public meeting on Thursday, February 23, 2012, to get your thoughts on these reports.  EPA periodically reviews its existing regulations, and is right now seeking public input on the consumer confidence report rule.

Topics on the agenda include:

  • electronic delivery of the reports,
  • resource implications for implementing report delivery certification,
  • use of reports to meet public notification requirements,
  • how contaminant levels are reported in the consumer confidence reports,
  • and more!

YOU are invited to participate in this information exchange on the consumer confidence report rule and make your voice heard!

To participate in this listening session, you can register here.   Can’t participate in the live meeting?  You can also join the web dialogue discussions community.  You can share and post comments on the dialogue in this online forum from February 23, 2012, to March 9, 2012.

For more information, please email CCRRetrospectiveReview@epa.gov.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

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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