Council on Environmental Quality Blog
- Posted byon December 5, 2011 at 4:00 PM EST
Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Naomi Shah, the sixteen-year-old winner of the Google science fair for her project focusing on the effects of air quality on asthma, and the importance of clean air in ensuring human health.
After watching both my dad and brother suffer from chronic allergies year-round, I was driven to find out why their symptoms persisted well past the pollen season. I started researching and found that the culprit was indoor air pollutants, which can also be influenced by outdoor air pollutants. I also discovered that people spend more than 90 percent of their lives indoors, and that the economic burden of asthma exceeds that of AIDS and Tuberculosis combined.
As soon as I realized this, I found myself investigating the underlying relationship between four pollutants and the lung health of asthmatic patients. At first, I just wanted to find out which pollutants had the biggest impact on lung health. But soon after, I developed a novel mathematical model which can be used by doctors and environmental specialists to quantify the effect of the pollutants on the lung function as measured by the peak expiratory flow rate-- which is essentially how much a person can breathe out in one breath.
What surprised me is that no model currently quantifies this relationship between environmental pollutants and lung health. I independently designed experimental methods that are scientific and HIPPA compliant and I studied the air quality and lung health in over 100 human test subjects in the Portland-metro area. Identifying which pollutants impact them the most can improve treatment and target remediation efforts.
I have participated in many science fairs since middle school; however, being a finalist winner in Google's Inaugural Global Science Fair opened many doors, including meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office in October 2011! Additional highlights of our trip to DC included meeting EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Directors of the National Institute of Health, and other government officials. I was very inspired by everyone I met on my trip to Washington, DC and was honored that so many people had heard about my research and believed that as a high-school student, I could impact many lives.
Yet, despite all the evidence implicating both indoor and outdoor air pollution's harmful impact on public health, we still have so much to do to clean up our act. We have the technology to clean up the unhealthiest sources of air pollution, and my research reiterated for me that we can't afford to wait too long to clear the air. I believe that as citizens and as a nation, we have a responsibility to provide for the common good and the common health. As long as we have the will to defend our right to clean air, we can ensure a brighter and healthier future.
Naomi Shah is the sixteen-year-old winner of this year's Google science fair.
- Posted byon December 2, 2011 at 2:22 PM EST
Editor’s note: This blog introduces readers to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Mayor Johnson is one of 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders who joined President Obama today in announcing nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades to buildings over the next 2 years.
I just finished one of the most important meetings in my term as Mayor of Sacramento. Last night, I took a red-eye flight and rushed this morning to the White House for a meeting with President Obama, former President Clinton and 60 university presidents, CEOs and elected leaders from around the country.
The topic? Jobs -- and the incredible opportunity Sacramento has by partnering with President Obama in his plan to invest nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades for our nation's commercial buildings through the Better Buildings Initiative.
This outstanding news could not have come at a better time. Sacramento is one of five cities that has taken the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, which translates into new jobs in our construction industry, where the unemployment rate has topped 30 percent. That's what I mean when I talk about putting Sacramento on the map!
Thanks to President Obama and our work through our Greenwise initiative here in Sacramento, hundreds of workers from the Sacramento region will return to job sites and begin retrofitting commercial buildings, and eventually schools and government offices, making them more energy efficient. And the work won't be done at taxpayer expense. Private companies will finance the upfront costs, and they will be paid back through the energy savings that result from the improvements.
In Sacramento, we have committed to retrofitting 12 million feet of commercial property. And that's just the beginning. There's $100 million available for energy upgrades to property owners within the city, thanks to our partnership with Ygrene Energy Fund.
The Ygrene program translates to 1,500 jobs -- and that's before we add schools and universities to the program and achieve a 20 percent energy use reduction by 2020. The 1,500 jobs do not include the 4,100 paychecks that will be created by our new Entertainment and Sports Complex, which will be one of the greenest and most energy efficient civic centers in the world.
This is huge. Sacramento is thinking big, acting big and generating jobs in a big way through smart investment in energy efficiency.
Kevin Johnson is Mayor of the City of Sacramento.
- Posted byon November 21, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST
At Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), Central Pennsylvania's Community College, we have a long tradition of understanding the educational and training needs of our local industries. We also understand that preparing our students to meet these needs can dramatically increase their chances of securing good jobs when they leave our program.
President Obama's American Jobs Act would invest $5 billion in modernizing community colleges across the country. In addition to making sure colleges are equipped to prepare our students for 21st century job opportunities, modernizing schools will create jobs in the very industries we are training our students for – jobs assessing the energy use of old buildings, and installing green technologies that save schools energy and money.
Pennsylvania has a number of old industrial sites that need to be reclaimed, restored and put back into alternative use. That's why we offer a brownfields program that trains the technicians who can inspect and remediate the old factory sites and return them to useful life. And because of the growing demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment and services, our college offers training programs in green technologies like photovoltaic technology and geothermal heating and cooling systems; technician training in wind power; and certificate programs for building analysts and energy auditors. In a key example of how these programs meet real-world gaps in the workforce, one of our photovoltaic technology professors uses the training program to recruit employees for his own solar manufacturing company.
In the end, we embrace green technologies because they are good for our students, for our communities and for our environment. We see great promise for future growth in these industries, and we know that our students will be prepared to take advantage of these new opportunities.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, EdD is President of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and Immediate Past President of the American Association of Community Colleges
- Posted byon November 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM EST
Every American deserves to live in a community that fosters health and prosperity. Yet all too often, low-income and minority families live in the shadows of some of the worst pollution in the Nation, leading to higher rates of diseases like asthma, cancer, and heart disease, and threatening the economic potential of their communities. The Obama Administration is committed to addressing these disparities.
Now, Federal agencies are releasing their Environmental Justice Strategies for public comment. These strategies are tailored to agencies' individual missions, and serve as a road map that will help integrate environmental justice into the programs they run, the policies they make, and the activities they engage in. By identifying potential ways that their work may have disproportionally adverse health and environmental effects on low-income and minority populations, as well as proposing strategies to address the inequalities, Federal agencies are advancing this Administration's unwavering commitment to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to live in healthy and safe communities.
The release of the draft Environmental Justice Strategies is just the latest step in Administration-wide efforts to ensure all Americans are protected from environmental and health hazards. In 1994, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order directing federal agencies to participate in a government-wide effort to address environmental justice issues. The Obama Administration revitalized this effort by reconvening the Interagency Environmental Justice Working Group for the first time in more than a decade, engaging community members at a White House Forum on Environmental Justice, and most recently, bringing Federal agency leaders together to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice. It was through this MOU that agencies committed to developing Environmental Justice Strategies and releasing annual implementation reports.
Over the next few weeks, agencies will have open comment periods on their draft strategies to give the public a chance to weigh in. Federal agencies will review all public comments and take them into account before finalizing the strategies early next year. We look forward to hearing from you as we expand the conversation on environmental justice in pursuit of healthy communities for all Americans.
You can read the strategies and share your ideas here: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Posted byon November 9, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST
There is a history lesson that all Americans should know, but it may not have been in your textbooks.
Just six weeks after the Civil War began, three slaves – Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory – escaped from behind Confederate lines and sought refuge at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. Commanding General Benjamin Butler refused to return the fugitives and declared the three men contraband of war. Soon, thousands of enslaved African Americans from all over the region descended on Fort Monroe in pursuit of freedom and sanctuary. This event fundamentally changed the meaning of the Civil War from states' rights to the immorality of slavery, and marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the United States.
Last week, President Obama signed an Executive Order designating Fort Monroe as a National Monument. Now, this 400 hundred year old site belongs to all Americans, and I hope all will have the chance to know its story, and appreciate its beauty.
From 1609 until just a few months ago, Fort Monroe was an active military base built on the site known as Old Point Comfort. Here's a little bit about its remarkable history: In 1619, it's where the first Africans arrived in America. Hampton is also where, in 1624, the first African-American child was born, named William Tucker. Robert E. Lee was stationed at Fort Monroe, and Jefferson Davis was imprisoned there at the conclusion of the Civil War. Edgar Allen Poe and Harriet Tubman both spent time at Fort Monroe, and Abraham Lincoln stayed there during the assault on Norfolk, VA – the last time a sitting President was actively involved in a military campaign.
Hampton is a city of about 140,000 people located in the middle of what is known as "Hampton Roads," consisting of more than 1.6 million people in 17 municipalities. It is home to NASA Langley, Joint Base Langley Eustis, Hampton University and boasts 124 miles of shoreline and gorgeous beaches. Those of us fortunate enough to live here revere the water, our history and our wonderful location, but what our community treasures most of all is historic Fort Monroe.
President Obama's decision to designate Fort Monroe a National Monument secures the stature of the Fort in our Nation's history. It also ensures the Fort will remain a vibrant part of our region's economy. Hampton lost more than 5,000 jobs when the Army left the Fort in September. Now, with the work of the National Park Service and a state-led reuse plan, the campus should become a center for recreation, history, business and education. This fortress will continue to be a refuge for those who wish to revel in its natural and man-made beauty for its – and Hampton's – next 400 years.
Molly Joseph Ward is Mayor of Hampton, Virginia
- Posted byon November 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST
Last week the Administration released a report that outlines how the Federal Government is expanding and strengthening the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to the risks associated with climate change. From the Federal Government's perspective, adapting to the impacts of a changing climate is simply responsible risk management. Working together, communities and the Federal Government can reduce long-term risks and costs, including from projected increases in extreme weather events.
Here's what others have to say about the importance of this interagency work to build resilience and protect people, property and economies across the country:
Mayor Mark Mallory, Cincinnati, OH
"Climate scientists tell us that Cincinnati will experience more frequent and more severe storms as a result of climate change. More frequent and more severe summer heat waves are expected as well. The Cincinnati region is just beginning to identify the things that we will need to do to be prepared for these weather changes. Just like cities plan for natural disasters or outbreaks of the flu, we need to prepare for the effects of climate change."
Aaron N Durnbaugh, Climate Adaptation Coordinator, City of Chicago
"As a local government working to prepare our city, citizens and natural resources for a changing climate, the City of Chicago is encouraged to see the coordinated federal climate action presented in the 2011 progress report. The federal efforts supporting cities including building local resilience and making climate science accessible, will create the resilient, healthy and prosperous City envisioned by the Chicago Climate Action Plan and, in turn, the resilient nation envisioned by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force."
Mark Tercek, President and CEO, Nature Conservancy
"We commend the Administration's Climate Change Adaptation Task Force on continued progress toward preparing our nation for coping with the impacts of climate change. We're pleased that the Administration continues to emphasize the essential role natural systems play in protecting Americans from climate impacts. As just one example, our barrier islands and floodplains have protected America's communities from storms for millennia and we need to ensure they continue to do so."
Laura Spanjian, Sustainability Director, City of Houston
"The City of Houston is beginning to implement adaptation strategies and tools to address the impacts and risks associated with climate changes that affect Houston's water resources and coastal zones, among other systems. Sustained funding from federal agencies will help cities employ proactive measures, instead of only short-term reactive measures that are detrimental to human livelihood, as well as being cost-prohibitive."
Brian Holland, Director of Climate Programs, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA
"The Council on Environmental Quality's Progress Report on Adaptation demonstrates the success achieved by federal agencies in building resilience in partnership with local communities. In working with our 550 local government members in the US, ICLEI has clearly identified a need for local-federal climate collaboration and has seen critical federal resources in action. This report lays the groundwork for continued partnership with the cities and counties that are on the front lines of extreme weather events and climate resilience."
J. Wayne Leonard, CEO, Entergy Corporation
"A meaningful discussion on climate change cannot stop at mitigation. The solutions must also include adapting to and resilience against its most negative consequences. Today's report recognizes that the livelihoods of people living in coastal communities, the sustainability of rich natural resources that support our economy and the security of residential, commercial and industrial assets are at great risk if we don't devise and implement plans to protect against, and recover from, the adverse effects associated with climate change."
Bennett Freeman, Vice President for Sustainability and Research, Calvert Investments
"Investing in climate preparations can create American jobs at home and spur exports abroad. We support efforts by the Administration to prepare for and respond to climate change impacts in vulnerable communities."
Jim Taft, Executive Director, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators
"ASDWA appreciates the efforts of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force in developing this Action Plan. We believe the six principal recommendations of the Action Plan (along with the various supporting actions) are sound and appropriate. In particular, the call for the compilation of the best available data/information, coupled with use of appropriate decision-making tools will be of considerable benefit to drinking water utilities as they consider meeting both the quantity and quality challenges posed by a changing climate. We also support the holistic approach to this challenge under the banner of integrated water resources management (e.g., promoting both efficient use of currently available water resources as well as careful consideration of future water resources). The Action Plan should prove beneficial to both drinking water utilities and state drinking water programs as they consider their future roles and actions."
Paul Fleming, Manager, Climate & Sustainability Group, Seattle Public Utilities
"Identifying, assessing and managing the risks and opportunities associated with climate change is not just about understanding the physical impacts of climate change, but also the managerial, technical and policy implications. From strengthening data observation systems, to calling for stronger coordination between federal and local governments to promoting flexible decision making, the National Action Plan reflects the multi-dimensional nature of the intersection between climate change and water."
Ken Kirk, Executive Director, National Association of Clean Water Agencies
"Climate change will affect water more than any other resource, and NACWA commends CEQ for recognizing the challenges facing wastewater utilities in adapting to and in mitigating the impacts of climate change. NACWA is especially pleased that CEQ recognizes the importance of integrated water resources management for managing these impacts, and the need for improved data to enable utilities to make better long-term decisions in the face of climate change. With utilities facing huge financial challenges as a result of the economic downturn, studies that help in planning for the additional costs and investment that climate change will necessitate are particularly helpful."
Susan Ruffo is Deputy Director for Climate Change Adaptation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality
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