Spinach fans – Happy New Year! We hope you enjoyed the holidays (please, no more Christmas cookies). The Team is back and we’re ready to enlighten you in the next week with issues we think are a priority for 2013 and with a wrap up of 2012’s successes/issues of concern.
With that idea in mind, let me get things started. If you have not heard, the current Administrator (head honcho, el presidente for my fellow spanish spinach writers, commander in chief) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa P. Jackson (LPJ), has announced that she is going to resign from her post for President Barack Obama’s second term. It has left a few people saying
While others, maybe some with the business and industry sectors, are doing
Regardless of the reactions to her departure, there is no doubt that LPJ came to EPA with an agenda. LPJ grew up in New Orleans and went to Tulane University (shout out to Nola and TU!) and then worked for the State of New Jersey’s Department of the Environment after completing her graduate degree at Princeton (hi Pam). I presume having connections to both of those states were eye openers to how industry-environment relations function (in those states probably favoring industry). What LPJ sought to do however, and I as the Greenlight could not agree more, was to show how protecting the environment relates back to our health. Under LPJ’s direction, when new EPA rules were proposed so were the number of asthmas and premature deaths prevented, human lives saved, and the number of tons of carbon removed from the atmosphere (I bet even more figures were included!).
But most importantly, LPJ sought to eliminate toxic exposures felt by vulnerable communities – this term is called environmental justice (ej, or as the movement recently says environmental injustice). Traditionally these are minority, low-income communities that disproportionately bare the impact of toxic air and water from nearby facilities; they typically have little political clout to voice their concerns and as a result face serious health impacts, such as cancers. LPJ reinvigorated the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (started under Bill Clinton, then stopped by George W. Bush) which convened 17 federal agencies to include EJ into their agency missions and programs. The EPA Care program, and other new federal agency program offices have issued new grants and trainings on technical assistance and research tools to aid communities obtain the basic rights to clean air and water they deserve. Just like many other community leaders have done for decades.
In LPJ’s term at EPA, the agency issued environmental penalties to not only be monetary, but restorative (e.g., tree planting, technology retrofits), and to me passed three big things that could be tied to her agency legacy (I’m always the legacy tribute writer here). Though there are other successes, the mercury and toxics standard for power plants, the new auto fuel standards for 2025, and the soot rule for boilers and cement kilns were, to me, LPJ’s and EPA’s three biggest rules. The Natural Resources Defense Council did a nice write up on LPJ’s legacy too.
So, what about 2013 and 2014, and the next EPA Administrator? My personal thought is that the next Administrator could be Bob Perciasepe (LPJ’s current Deputy Administrator) or Gina McCarthy at the EPA Office of Air and Radiation. Since the person must be approved by Congress, these are no easy shoes to fill, Bob and Gina could be the least controversial.
For 2013 – Matt Damon already took a swing at the fracking debate (the natural gas industry so hates him right now(my film review to come next week)). EPA announced that it will publish findings of its fracking study in 2014; however, I suspect information will be leaked on fracking before the final 2014 findings are released. You can track the EPA Fracking Study here. The Keystone Pipeline is another pending issue that could get approved or denied this year. President Obama said he would address the Keystone Pipeline after the November 2012 election. Those are my top issues that will be addressed, while I think there are many others, to me, these are the most realistic that will be addressed this year. We’ll let you know what happens!
Enjoy your weekend. Cheers.