Tales of a Specialized Generalist

About the author: Karen Reshkin manages the Web site in EPA’s Chicago office. She’s been there since 1991, and can still remember life before the Internet.

federal messenger envelopeI’ve worked at US EPA since the early 90s. I must enjoy my work, because I’m always surprised to watch the years mount up.

A more unsettling surprise comes when people ask me about EPA’s policies or recent actions that get into the news. More often than I like to admit, my answer is, “I don’t know.”

Why not? Well, I don’t follow news as closely as I probably should. But also, my job at EPA is mainly concerned with our Web site. I can help you find info on epa.gov, or tell you all about our Web standards (though you might never ask), but I can’t always tell you what was in the news release I posted yesterday.

One of the things I know best, oddly, is what we don’t do. Michelangelo is credited with saying that when creating a sculpture, he’d start with a block of stone and chip away everything that didn’t look like a horse (or an elephant, or an angel, depending on who’s telling the story). When I worked answering our hotline, I found that many calls and emails were “wrong numbers” – people contacting us for things we don’t do. For example, if you can’t renew your license plates because you didn’t get an emissions test for your vehicle, you’ll need to contact your state transportation or environmental department, not US EPA.

When I was invited to write for this blog, I decided to repair my ignorance. I plan to find out about some of the things that EPA does and tell about them as plainly as I can. It’s sort of the “inside outsider” approach. I’ll also do some sculpting and tell you about a few things you might think we handle, but we really don’t.

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.