Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • A New Tool for Ocean Planners

    Today the Administration launched ocean.data.gov, a new portal that gives all Americans transparent access to the same data and information that Federal agencies have about our oceans and coasts. The portal collects all of the latest Federal ocean data and planning tools in one place, and makes them available to the public to serve as a one-stop hub for anyone who wants to use it—from fisheries management councils, to businesses, to state and local governments, to regional planners, to you.

    Click here to read the blog post announcing ocean.data.gov.

    Here's what members of the ocean and coastal community have to say about the new tool:

    "The new Ocean.Data.gov website brings together a huge amount of previously difficult to access data in one place. It will become an essential source of information for managers of coastal resources and communities, researchers, students, and interested citizens who are seeking to understand the US coastal ocean, one of our nation’s most valuable natural resources."
    Andrew A Rosenberg, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Conservation International

    "I envision using the site as a resource for updating data for which I don’t have direct access such as distribution of fishing effort and survey catches. This portal will allow me to ensure I have the best available information when helping to develop fishery management plans." 
    James Armstrong, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

    "Supporting the health of our oceans will require that we breakdown silos and ensure that all stakeholders and agencies are working with open and clear collaboration--as I called for in my bill Oceans 21. This portal is a great step forward in that direction. I want to commend the Obama Administration for taking action to better coordinate data collection and communication, which will ultimately result in increased efficiency and improved conservation of our marine resources."
    Congressman Sam Farr, Co-Chair of the House Oceans Caucus

    "This portal may very well be an outstanding tool for states and federal agencies to utilize to make sure information is readily available to the public at a single, easy to access and navigate through site."
    Bill Walker, Chair of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Management Team and Executive Director of the MS Department of Marine Resources

    "The new National ocean data portal allows diverse American ocean stakeholders a one-stop shop for easy access to the ocean data and information produced by multiple agencies. It’s a great start with its built in features that offer the opportunity to join a community to advise government on how to make it better, and how to ensure that our ocean continues to provide the goods and services that people want and need."
    Jay Odell, Mid-Atlantic Marine Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

    "The National Ocean Council is finally breaking through some of the barriers that have prevented this kind of seamless data sharing in the past."
    Doug Myers, Director of Science, People for Puget Sound

    "The National Ocean Data Portal provides for the first time a single access point to coastal and marine data hosted by the various federal agencies. It will be immediately useful to ocean managers and industries, and provides a model for other regional and state information networks."
    Nick Napoli, Director of Marine Planning Programs, Seaplan

    "This is the best data portal I have seen yet. This portal provides valuable one-stop shopping for ocean data and a useful hub to build relationships with other members of the community."
    Justin Manley, Senior Director, Business Development, Teledyne Benthos

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land & Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Opening Our Oceans With Data.Gov

    [Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the National Ocean Council blog]

    Today, we are pleased to announce the release of ocean.data.gov, the newest community on Data.gov.  This effort is the result of two important initiatives of the Obama Administration: the development and implementation of the National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes and the creation of Data.gov to make Federal data more accessible to the American people.

    Since President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing a National Ocean Policy, the Administration has been working steadily to implement this policy.  One cornerstone of the policy is the Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, a science-based, regional planning process conducted jointly with states and tribes that guarantees the public and stakeholders a voice in decisions affecting the ocean.  Making the science that is available to the Federal Government accessible to all ocean users is a key to the success of this initiative.  That's why the National Ocean Council has teamed with the Data.gov initiative to create an open and accessible website that houses and references a wealth of information and tools available to support ocean planning efforts.  

  • A Student's Clear Lesson on Clean Air

    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.

  • The President's Big Boost to Sacramento's Green Economy

    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. 

  • Voice of an Innovator: Equipping Students for 21st Century Jobs

    Editor's note: This blog introduces readers to John J. Sygielski, President of Harrisburg Area Community College in Central Pennsylvania. Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley met with students and educators at the college's green jobs training facility. 

    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.

    HACC Roundtable

    From left, Cindy Reiner, HACC Dean of Workforce Training; HACC President John J. Sygielski; and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley. The three engage in a roundtable discussion on initiatives that are helping to lead students to the 21st century clean energy economy.

    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

  • A Big Step Forward on Environmental Justice

    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