Council on Environmental Quality Blog
- Posted byon August 12, 2011 at 8:00 AM EST
In too many American communities, low-income and minority families shoulder a disproportionate burden of pollution in the places where they live, work and learn. These disparities result in health challenges like asthma and heart disease, and end up turning away job creators looking for attractive, healthy places to set up their businesses.
This past week the Obama Administration took an important step to address those disparities when Federal leaders signed their agencies into Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Environmental Justice. At the highest levels of the Obama Administration, we are intent on ensuring Americans have equal opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of a clean environment.
Across the Administration, agencies have already turned words into action to generate on-the-ground health, environmental and economic results for American communities. Agencies are:
- Integrating environmental justice into Federal programs. EPA has launched EJ2014, an environmental justice action plan with specific actions taken over the past few months including: incorporating environmental justice into enforcement; expanding community engagement with initiatives like Gulf Coast Restoration Environmental Justice Roundtables; and initiating Brownfield area-wide planning efforts in 23 communities. The Department of Transportation has recently issued an Emerging Trends and Best Practices Guidebook to promote a deeper understanding of the responsibilities, opportunities and benefits of addressing environmental justice in transportation planning.
- Increasing engagement with American communities. In response to feedback from environmental justice leaders at an historic White House Forum on the issue in December, many agencies have expanded their efforts to host listening sessions, sponsor conferences, and offer their programs up for public comment to ensure Americans have a chance to weigh in on issues that affect their daily lives. For example, the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations is working with the Forest Service to improve protection and preservation of American Indian and Alaska Native Sacred Sites. This initiative has already involved listening sessions with Tribal elected and spiritual leaders in more than 50 locations, and will result in a series of recommendations on ways to improve the Forest Services' sacred sites policy.
- Making policy choices that prioritize communities that are shouldering a disproportionate amount of pollution. For example, the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration have implemented a set of policy priorities to help focus investment funding as part of the competitive grant process. Two of these priorities are aimed specifically at reducing the burden of, or bringing benefits to, communities experiencing environmental justice issues.
- Revitalizing polluted waterways in under-served cities. Waterways are vital to the economic and public health of communities. Through an innovative new Urban Waters Federal Partnership (http://www.urbanwaters.gov/), 11 agencies are working with communities to clean, restore and revitalize polluted urban waterways in under-served cities across the country. The goal is to stimulate local economies and create jobs while improving the environment and protecting public health. The partnership will focus its initial efforts on seven pilot cities – Baltimore, the Bronx, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Northwest Indiana, and Washington.
- Focusing on the health of low-income rural communities. The Department of Agriculture is working to better serve persistent poverty in rural communities and socially disadvantaged farmers through its Strike Force initiative. This includes identifying and addressing disproportionate environmental and human health impacts in persistently poor communities.
- Helping communities tackle their health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it will make more than $100 million available in Community Transformation Grants for states and communities to make policy, environmental, programmatic and infrastructural changes to address the leading causes of death and associated risk factors. HHS also announced the Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project, which will make awards to community-based organizations to tackle health issues, placing a special emphasis on environmental justice, health equity, or healthy behaviors across all life stages.
These actions are just the beginning of our efforts to lay the ground work for achieving environmental justice for all Americans. The many Agencies involved are advancing this work as a part of an Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG). Stay tuned to the EJ IWG home page (http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html) for environmental justice updates in the coming months, including the release of Environmental Justice Strategies.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
Lisa Jackson is Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
- Posted byon August 11, 2011 at 8:15 AM EST
Across the federal government, and certainly in the Department of Defense, we know that after a decade of war we're entering a new era of smaller, tighter, leaner budgets.
One of the areas we can look to save is on energy – whether by conserving existing resources or developing and utilizing renewable energies. But we can't do it alone. President Obama saw an important opportunity for the Federal Government to lead by example when he issued Executive Order 13514 directing agencies to meet ambitious sustainability goals in our operations that will improve the government's environmental, energy and economic performance, reduce pollution, and save taxpayer dollars in avoided energy costs.
President Obama has been committed to ensuring that the Federal Government, as the single largest energy consumer in the country, acts responsibly in leading our nation to the new clean energy future. At the Department of Defense, we are doing our part in support of this vision.
We're going to make it easier for the private sector to work with us to support the Army's Renewable Energy Program, by reducing private sector risk and streamlining the approval process.
That's why today at the GovEnergy forum in Cincinnati, OH, I announced the establishment of the Army's Energy Initiatives Office Task Force. The EIO Task Force will be a one-stop shop for the private sector, so we can better harness the expertise of those who can invest and build economically viable, large scale renewable energy infrastructure on Army Installations.
The use of renewable energy sources will decrease the Army's fossil fuel consumption, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and creating a more assured energy supply. Through the EIO Task Force, we believe we can attract and engage private industry in that effort.
The Huntsville Center Corps of Engineers last month released a Sources Sought request for Renewable and Alternative Energy Power Production. The goal is to establish a pre-qualified pool of private sector partners positioned to finance development of large scale renewable energy projects and re-coup their capital investment through the sale of energy to the Army, and excess energy back to the grid.
With four-dollar-a-gallon fuel prices here at home, it's simple to just look at fuel consumption as a way to save a few dollars and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But for the military, it's something even more important. It's about reducing the threat to our nation's Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, fuel and water comprise about 70 to 80 percent of ground resupply weight. In Afghanistan, we suffer one casualty for every 46 resupply convoys. Less energy use means fewer convoys, and fewer convoys mean fewer casualties.
President Obama recently said that "our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard. Because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can't match: American ingenuity. American know-how."
Let me say that while some energy sources may be running low, American ingenuity, American know-how are in abundant supply in the United States Army. We will meet, we will exceed this challenge.
John M. McHugh is Secretary of the Army at the U.S. Department of Defense
- Posted byon July 27, 2011 at 1:37 PM EST
The U.S. solar energy industry is booming.
In June, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2011 report showing that in the last three years the U.S. solar industry has gone from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states.
Solar's robust growth in the past years has been the result of a very favorable combination of new, innovative business models, affordability for consumers, rapidly decreasing manufacturing costs, and most importantly, a strong commitment from the Obama Administration and other policymakers in Washington.
In the first quarter of 2011, the solar industry installed 252 megawatts of new solar electric capacity, a 66 percent growth from the same time frame in 2010. There are now almost 3,000 megawatts of solar electric energy installed in the U.S., enough to power 600,000 homes. In the manufacturing sector, solar panel production jumped 31 percent.
And with the growth of the solar industry, thousands of jobs have been created. In fact, solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, 93,000 Americans were employed in the U.S. solar industry in 2010 and that number is expected to grow between 25-50,000 this year.
The Obama Administration has taken solar energy initiatives to unprecedented levels and is leading the effort to win our clean energy future. In addition to creating American jobs, President Obama has put words to action through his call for the government to lead by example:
- Just today, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will install solar photovoltaic systems by summer 2012 at five VA medical centers in Oklahoma City; Temple, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; Loma Linda, Calif. and West Los Angeles. Prior to this announcement the VA has also awarded nearly $78 million in contracts to build solar panels at its facilities with a goal to derive 15 percent of its annual electricity usage from renewable sources by 2013.
- The Department of Energy has issued loan guarantees for solar power projects and manufacturing facilities that will create more than 26,000 jobs.
- The Department of the Interior has approved permits for solar power projects on public lands that will provide enough power for over 730,000 homes.
- The Department of Agriculture actively promotes the deployment of solar energy on farms and ranches throughout the country. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 extended benefits to farmers and ranchers who utilize solar systems.
And the list goes on.
The U.S. market is expected to more than double yet again in 2011, installing enough solar for more than 400,000 homes. Last year, the industry set the ambitious yet achievable goal of installing 10 gigawatts annually by 2015 – enough to power 2 million more homes each and every year. Combining continued leadership from the Administration with industry innovation that drives down cost, that goal is now within reach.
Rhone Resch is President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association
- Posted byon July 26, 2011 at 2:57 PM EST
Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Tom L. Pierson, Founder of TAS Energy Inc., a renewable energy and energy efficiency technology manufacturing plant based in Houston, Texas.
A few weeks ago we were very pleased to welcome CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and our Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, to TAS Energy to discuss and showcase how U.S. entrepreneurs are creating innovative ways to improve our energy infrastructure— directly resulting in significant domestic job growth. In fact, at TAS Energy we have almost 50 job openings!
We focused our discussion on American job creation opportunities from the modular, or exportable, approach to capitalize on the 'low hanging fruit' of economic clean energy—including emission free baseload power from industrial waste heat, modular cooling for building air conditioning and data centers (that is twice the efficiency of traditional systems), and a cooling technology for gas power plants to dramatically and cost effectively increase capacity.
These examples of the 'low hanging fruit' of economic clean energy have a unique advantage in leading the world in clean energy and American job creation, for both manufacturing and aftermarket services. The modular approach to manufacturing these energy systems for global export will result in a revolutionized clean energy economy for domestic job growth, significant energy conservation and an abundance of clean generation.
Our Country's leadership under President Obama is right on the mark when they say that American innovation is one of the keys to our economic recovery and future success. The TAS team and its many suppliers appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate for Chair Sutley and Congresswoman Jackson Lee how American innovation is creating jobs TODAY with tremendous opportunity for future American job growth with smart policy adoption. We look forward to helping the American economy grow through American job creation in the clean energy field.
Tom L. Pierson is Founder of TAS Energy Inc.
- Posted byon July 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM EST
Yesterday in Austin, Texas, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, General Services Administrator Martha N. Johnson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley joined the CEOs of Dell Inc. and Sprint, and a senior executive from Sony Electronics to release the Obama Administration’s "National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship" – a framework for responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling that will promote the burgeoning electronics recycling market and jobs of the future here at home. The announcement, made at Round2 Recycling Facility, included the first voluntary commitments made by Dell, Sprint and Sony with EPA aimed at promoting environmentally sound management of used electronics. The Administration's strategy also commits the Federal Government to take specific actions that will encourage more environmentally friendly design of electronic products, promote recycling of used or discarded electronics, and advance a domestic market for electronics recycling that will protect public health and create jobs.
The response has been quite positive. See some statements of support below from various business leaders, advocacy groups and Members of Congress:
John Shegerian, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Electronic Recyclers International, Inc. (ERI)
"ERI is encouraged to see that the Federal government is leading the way by establishing a policy to utilize only certified recyclers for its electronics processing, increase U.S. jobs, and reduce harm from U.S. exports of e-waste. As an R2 and e-Stewards certified company, ERI supports the safe handling of recycling electronics here in the U.S. and abroad and looks forward to working with the Federal government in promoting scientific and technological developments to improve the electronics recycling process and maximize the recovery of valuable materials from discarded electronics."
Willie Cade, CEO, PC Rebuilders & Recyclers, LLC.
"The release yesterday of the 'National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship' by the Obama Administration is a meaningful and positive step forward in solving the e-Waste problem. The strategy clearly shows that the Administration spent considerable time and effort listening, digesting and planning. This will prove to be a very successful jobs creation and sustainability or 'Green' program…This is the first comprehensive sustainability strategy in our nation's history."
Walter Alcorn, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Industry Sustainability
"Electronics recycling is a national problem that deserves a national solution. Today's announcement from EPA, GSA and CEQ echoes the principles our industry laid out this spring with the eCycling Leadership Initiative. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with EPA, GSA and CEQ in the hopes of fortifying a robust public-private partnership that ensures consumers across our nation have ample opportunities to recycle electronics responsibly. A formidable partnership is the best way to develop a national approach to eCycling that replaces the patchwork of costly and confusing state regulations."
Robin Wiener, President, The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI)
"Our federal government is the largest source of used and end-of-life electronics. It is encouraging to see that the government is taking a strong position on the responsible management of these materials. Even more, we are encouraged by the Obama Administration's flat dismissal of burdensome and overreaching legislation that would ban exports and pull the rug out from under an industry that continues to create jobs and contribute to both the U.S. and global economy. Today's announcement includes practical, effective steps that actually address bad actors instead of shutting down an industry."
Don-Michael Bradford, PhD, CE, President and CEO, Pacific Federal Energy Systems
"Your very important written policy framework will enable companies such as ours [which recycles e-waste] to show the investment community that the government is serious about providing a value-added solution to the growing eWaste problem in the US."
Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Solid Waste Project Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
"The export of unprocessed electronic wastes from the United States to the developing world must end because electronic wastes contain many toxic substances. Indeed, exporting of unprocessed electronic wastes is the number one environmental problem plaguing e-waste management in the United States. The Interagency Task Force on Electronics Stewardship report has recognized this as a global problem and the good news is that recycling e-waste domestically creates new jobs and stimulates wider economic development more generally. Consequently, what all municipalities, businesses, and all generators of e waste must take away from today's Task Force report is that used electronic wastes must be recycled domestically for both economic and public health reasons. However, the single largest generator of electronic wastes in the United States is the federal government itself, and it must lead by example and assure that all of its e-waste is recycled domestically as well."
Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Gene Green (D-TX)
"We are pleased that the Obama Administration is committed to addressing the growing issue of electronics waste, which now represents the fastest growing waste stream in the United States. Furthermore, we applaud the President for working not only with government agencies, but also the private sector to identify potential challenges and solutions to our e-waste problem. Private industry's perspective will be invaluable as we continue to develop workable and responsible e-waste policies."
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Co-Chair of the Senate Recycling Caucus and Chair of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management
"As the largest purchaser of consumer goods in our country, the Federal government has an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that it procures electronics in the safest, smartest way possible. The Obama Administration's announcement today of a 'National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship' leverages the purchasing power of the Federal government to support responsible purchasing, management and recycling of electronics within the Federal government. Through this initiative, the Federal government will work to promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products; direct Federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly; support recycling options and systems for American consumers; and, strengthen America's role in the international electronics stewardship arena. As Co-Chair of the Senate Recycling Caucus and as Chair of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, I warmly welcome the Administration's move to bolster electronics recycling and believe it will help not only our environment but also our economy along the way."
Sahar Wali is the Director of Communications at the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Posted byon July 21, 2011 at 10:29 AM EST
Since President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 and kicked off the GreenGov Challenge, the Federal community has been working to demonstrate what leadership by example means in projects around the country.
From Sandia National Laboratory's solar powered vehicles to NASA's Sustainability Base, these GreenGov success stories are showing that focusing on beneficial energy and environmental outcomes leads to good economic results – consistent with estimates that meeting President Obama's sustainability goals would save taxpayers up to $11 billion in energy costs over the next decade.
It's no surprise that projects that are focused on reducing energy and water use and eliminating waste would cut costs, too. Leading American companies report similar results, and their best practices – shared at educational events like the GreenGov Symposium – have helped to inspire and inform Federal efforts.
With nearly 500,000 buildings, more than 600,000 vehicles, and $500 billion in annual purchasing power, the Federal Government has a responsibility to operate efficiently and intentionally when it comes to leveraging our market scale to foster a clean energy economy. These initial success stories show how Federal agencies are making good on that promise.
Michelle Moore is the Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality
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