My Journey from Peace Corps to Minamata

By Marianne Bailey

Every day at EPA, I have the privilege of working with our staff to advance public health and environmental protection through international cooperation. As a high school student in the 1970s, I knew that diplomacy in some form was my path. As it turns out, diplomacy comes in many guises, and the kind we do at EPA is the most fulfilling kind I could have imagined.

After getting some work experience under my belt after college, I got an MPA degree then joined the Peace Corps in Mali, where I worked on agroforesty and nutrition. After that, EPA became my home. I worked on our Asia and Africa programs early in my EPA career. EPA’s expertise is unrivalled in the world, and is in big demand.

Working in close cooperation with our program and regional offices, and with strong management involvement, we achieved a very rapid phase out of leaded gasoline in China and many other countries in both regions, started air monitoring programs, and advanced environmental health initiatives such as the Chemical Information Exchange Network.

More recently, I was proud to have been involved in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention requires all countries to meet the same obligations to reduce the globally circulating emissions which impact the food Americans consume.

The Convention even addresses an informal sector, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, which has emerged as the largest source of global mercury emissions. It addresses that sector in a way that respects miners and their families, and should allow them to continue this important income-generating activity without facing the severe health impacts caused by inhaling mercury when the mercury-gold amalgam is burned to make pure gold.

And now, I am so proud of how our newer staff members have put their intelligence and leadership qualities to work on today’s most pressing challenges. Because what has stuck with me the most about this work over the years is that we can make such a big, positive difference in peoples’ lives through our public service.

My advice to those thinking about public service, including careers in environmental protection, and to those embarking on their careers: be willing and eager to take on new challenges, to stretch, to reach for something that might seem unachievable at first look. Look again – there is no challenge too big for your vision!

About the author: Marianne Bailey is the Deputy Director for Global Affairs and Policy at the US Environmental Protection Agency, which works on a wide range of global environmental issues. Marianne has worked on global mercury issues for over a decade and was the US negotiator for the Minamata Convention’s ASGM provisions. She has previously managed US EPA’s bilateral efforts in Africa and Asia; served as a US Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer in Mali; and worked for the US House of Representatives.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Mr. Superfund

By Wanda Ayala

In the comic books we have fictional superheroes like Batman and Superman whose mission is to safeguard the people of Gotham or Metropolis, communities that are similar to where many of us work or live. Here, in our Region 2 offices, we have our own hero. His name is Walter Mugdan, head of our Emergency and Remedial Response Division, and I call him “Mr. Superfund.” He is part of a great team of people dedicated to public service, many of whom started when the Agency was young (so were they!) as part of a movement that was taking place in our society to ensure that we safeguarded our people and our nation from the consequences of pollution. Mr. Superfund knows and explains to others that EPA is not just about consolidating authority over environmental issues, but that we work to establish standards for industry and life that directly and indirectly affect public health and our overall well-being. Having an EPA means the concerns over the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the ground that we walk on are reduced because our environment is being protected and maintained.

Walter Mugdan addresses Newtown Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group in Brooklyn, NY

Walter Mugdan addresses Newtown Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group in Brooklyn, NY

 

About the Author: Wanda Ayala is a community involvement coordinator in New York City.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Public Service Recognition Week

PSRW_logo_600x268

By Judith Enck

This week is Public Service Recognition Week. It’s a time for us to celebrate and honor those who serve our nation in all levels of government. I want to take a moment to talk specifically about the people here in EPA’s regional office in New York – serving New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, USVI and eight tribal nations in New York. There is a common misconception that government workers are lazy bureaucrats. In my experience as Regional Administrator at the EPA, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the past seven years, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the most committed individuals I have ever worked with, some of whom you have gotten to know through this blog and many of whom have dedicated their entire careers to protecting the environment and safeguarding public health. Thanks to the hard work of people here at EPA, Americans enjoy:

Cleaner cars – cleaner everything! Vehicles emit drastically less pollution than even only a decade ago. Also, trucks, buses, ships, locomotives and even construction equipment are all much cleaner today, making the air we breathe healthier.

Cleaner lakes, streams and oceans –thanks to EPA regulations restricting what can be discharged into our waters. Many of our urban rivers are badly polluted by unfettered industrial practices, but the EPA is working to clean those rivers up, including the Passaic River, Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal right here in the metro area.

Land being cleaned up and turned back to the community. Through a variety of programs, such as Superfund and brownfields, the EPA has worked to successfully turn areas once written off as too contaminated back into community assets.

Consumer products that are less harmful. Paints no longer contain lead and give off less fumes. Safer Choice Labels help consumers choose cleaning products with less toxic ingredients.

We all benefit from EPA’s work. People across America are living better, healthier lives because of the work we do.

This week, I hope you are able to reflect on the critical role public servants play in our daily lives. Maybe even thank a friend or family member for his or her service. The recognition is well-deserved.

About the author: Judith Enck is the Regional Administrator of EPA Region 2, which serves New York, New Jersey, Eight tribal nations, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a native New Yorker who currently resides in Brooklyn.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Celebrating Sammie Winner Jacob Moss

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

I’m thrilled to announce that our EPA colleague Jacob Moss is the winner of one of this year’s prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, also known as the “Sammie” award. Sammies are awarded each year by the Partnership for Public Service to a small number of federal employees with impressive accomplishments. They’re a big deal, and while EPA has had fantastic nominees in the recent past, Jacob is EPA’s first winner in several years.

Jacob truly exemplifies the spirit of this Environment and Science Medal for his work spearheading a global initiative that seeks to eliminate the threat of toxic smoke from indoor cookstoves, one of the deadliest threats facing billions of people across the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to smoke from cooking fires is the developing world’s fourth worst health risk, responsible for an estimated 4.3 million premature deaths every year.

In 2010, Jacob was a driving force behind the development of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a partnership led by the United Nations Foundation with 10 U.S. federal agencies and more than 1,300 partners across the globe. He has since coordinated U.S. government efforts under the Alliance, leading the development of an initial 5-year, $50 million commitment which has since grown to over $114 million. Under Jacob’s leadership, the United States announced last November additional anticipated support that could bring this investment up to $325 million by 2020.

In total, the partners in the Alliance have committed to investments of more than $500 million (beyond the U.S. investments) to meet a goal of improving 500 million lives in 100 million households by 2020. By reaching this 2020 goal, the Alliance estimates that this work will save 640,000 lives, create 2.1 million jobs, and offset 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2-equivalent. The Alliance’s partners are on target to meet this 2020 goal, and they have already reached 28 million homes with cleaner and more efficient cooking solutions.

Jacob’s first introduction to the environmental challenges associated with cookstoves came when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa in the late 1980s. He began his work on cookstoves at EPA in 2002 when he helped launch an international partnership to address this pollution. By 2007, through EPA’s Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, EPA efforts were helping hundreds of thousands of people. In 2010 the Global Alliance was formed.

Jacob’s work is an example of many years of dedication, resourcefulness, and tenacity that we can all be inspired by and proud of. The work being honored by this Sammie Medal not only serves this country, but countries and people around the world. This is work that saves lives. Congratulations on your achievement, Jacob, and from all of us at EPA, thank you for all you do.

ABOUT JACOB

Jacob grew up in Houston, Texas, went to college at Ithaca in New York state and then joined the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa.  Jacob started at EPA as a Senior Policy Analyst in 1999.  He lives in Washington, D.C. and likes to spend time with his daughter, play tennis, and travel. Jacob has additional experience with GE Capital Corporation, Clean Water Action, the Peace Corps, and IBM.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Cornell University and a Master of Public Policy degree from Princeton University.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Public Service Week: Perspectives from EPA’s Inaugural Employees

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

My father was a teacher.  My sister is a teacher.  I grew up with the notion that public service was the noblest thing you could do. That’s why it’s such a privilege to come to work every day with my fellow EPA colleagues, dedicated to serving the American people, and determined to fulfill our mission to protect public health and the environment.

EPA has been around for 45 years.  During that time, we have been fortunate to have thousands of committed public servants call EPA home.  This Public Service Week, I wanted to take a step back, and let some of EPA’s “Charter Members” – the few and proud EPA employees who’ve been here since day one – speak to how EPA’s success in fighting pollution has led to significant progress in our country.

Ken Shuster, a charter member who has spent his career committed to resolving solid and hazardous waste issues, explains the essential and difficult task of figuring out what the problem is and why it is critical to determining how we deal with it.

“In 1974 and 1975, I was responsible for documenting damages associated with solid waste disposal. I documented 34 cases of drinking water wells being contaminated by waste disposal sites; and in all 11 cases of vapor intrusion (gases generated by waste disposal sites, mostly methane and carbon monoxide) …  in all cases resulting in fatalities by explosion or asphyxiation. These cases became part of the legislative history leading up to the passage of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1976. During this study effort I visited seven sites that were ultimately listed among the top 15 Superfund National Priorities List.”

When there’s something worth fighting for–like a healthy environment for our families–you’d better be willing to fight. And that’s exactly what we’ve done from day one, especially when things get tough.  Bob Freeman, a charter member and Senior Environmental Engineer focused on wastewater treatment had the challenging and critical task of explaining a certain set of Clean Water grants to the public and the private sector:

“I learned in those [early] days that achieving the goals of our Agency was much more likely to happen if we developed positive working relationships based on competence and trust with our stakeholders.  That approach has served well throughout my career.” 

Through it all, EPA’s charter members’ sense of why we do what we do, only strengthens over time.  I speak for many when I say that I’m humbled by their lasting commitment to shield people from environmental harm, and their selfless dedication to something bigger than themselves.  To me, that’s what makes public service still among the highest of callings. Here is Carl Edlund, director of Region 6 Superfund Division:

“When I started with EPA in 1970…we knew that EPA was going to tackle immense changes in the way that people interacted with the environment … For all of human existence, the environment was an unending immensity impervious to lasting damage and something to be conquered, tamed, exploited and/or dumped on.  In 1970, huge, very visible, problems were evident ranging from polluted air, water, and land to indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals.  The enthusiasm of many EPA staff was reflected by one of our early posters that showed a babbling brook with the words ‘I believe that I can change the earth’.  Armed with a slew of new statutes, we set out to make that change … When he participated in the 40th anniversary of EPA, Bill Ruckelshaus [first EPA Administrator] commented that working at EPA was remarkable because it combined excitement, challenges, work of extreme interest and fulfillment. From my experience, I second the motion.”

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Commitment and Innovation: Serving America at EPA

Gina McCarthy Gina McCarthy

Every day, EPA employees go above and beyond the call of duty to protect public health and the environment. And three EPA all-stars, Bob Kavlock, Stephanie Hogan, and Jacob Moss, are truly exceptional. They are finalists for the 2015 Sammies (Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals), a highly respected honor with a rigorous selection process. Only 30 finalists are chosen from across the federal government.

I had the chance to meet with them recently and hear about their experiences at EPA and their commitment to public service. We had such an awesome conversation—and they had such great insight—that I asked them if we could share it publicly.

BlogSammiesBelow I’m proud to pass on their reflections—in their own words—on their time at EPA and the crucial work our agency does. We’re extremely proud of them, and we’re thrilled they’re being recognized for their great work. – Gina

Bob Kavlock

It’s fascinating to me to look back on a single day and realize how it changed my life. It was a Friday afternoon during my senior year in college when a friend asked me if I wanted to keep him company when he went to apply for a job. We drove down to the edge of the Everglades and went into the Perrine Primate Pesticide Effects Laboratory. While he was applying, the women asked if I was interested too, as they had a number of positions. Without thinking too much about it, I filled an application, and needless to say, was hired to work in a laboratory studying the effects of pesticides on fetal development. The rest is history. I wound up changing my graduate school research emphasis to developmental toxicology (from Everglades ecology), although I lost the job when the laboratory was moved to Research Triangle Park as part of the consolidation of the newly formed EPA research facilities. I did, however, manage to rejoin EPA upon getting my PhD and have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated my career here ever since. Having been a work study student, a principal investigator, section chief, branch chief, division director, and center director, I have seen many levels of the EPA, albeit within the relatively sheltered confines of our Office of Research and Development (ORD). At least that was until I moved to headquarters three years ago to become the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in ORD, when I really got to experience the remarkable organization that is EPA. What we do affects virtually every person every day in positive ways, and I much more now appreciate the strength, intelligence and diligence of our remarkable workforce. I can’t imagine having spent a career anywhere else.

Stephanie Hogan

I’ve had a longstanding interest in environmental issues, so I welcomed the opportunity to work at EPA four years ago. I was fortunate to be asked early in my career at EPA to work on important Clean Air Act issues including the challenging question of how to regulate pollution originating in one state that affects air quality – and therefore public health — in another state. Before joining the agency, I was working for a small public interest law firm that represented communities affected by toxic pollution. I appreciate that my work had the potential to directly benefit those communities and that now, at EPA, I contribute to and defend agency actions that provide even more substantial environmental and public health benefits. Above all, I value working with a supportive, creative, and motivated community of colleagues across the agency.

Jacob Moss
I got fascinated at how environmental pressures shape our lives while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. I came back and worked on a range of water, air quality, and waste issues at the state and local level, and eventually decided to join EPA to explore opportunities to solve these problems on a national scale. Working at EPA has been a joy in so many ways: I’m passionate about the mission; I love the people; and I thrive on the culture of solving important environmental problems in innovative, yet practical ways. But what’s been most amazing for me personally has been the risk the agency took with regard to my cookstoves work. Neither my superiors nor I were sure we could succeed, but our collective risk has paid off in a meaningful way.

We still have a long ways to go, but I’m not sure there are many other organizations who would give an employee the time and freedom to try something so unusual and ambitious.
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These exceptional public servants represent the best EPA has to offer, and we wish them luck at the award ceremony this fall.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Service to America

Bob Perciasepe Bob Perciasepe

By Bob Perciasepe

The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—to safeguard the natural environment and protect human health—is one that I find easy to embrace. And as you might expect in a workplace like EPA, I’m not alone.

Everyday (and sometimes late into the evenings), I’m surrounded by colleagues who have devoted themselves to public service in pursuit of clean air, safe and sustainable water, vibrant ecosystems, and healthy communities.

And even in that atmosphere, there are still a handful of individuals who manage to inspire us all: true leaders who blaze career paths marked by sustained achievement and tireless advocacy on behalf of the American people.

Continue reading

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.