Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • The Health of Our Lands and Waters and the Health of Our Economy

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar at the Economic Rural Forum

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar engage with stakeholders at a breakout session on conservation, tourism, and the economy at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. (Photo by Tami Heilemann - Department of Interior)

    From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been a champion for the wise stewardship of America’s natural treasures, understanding the strong connection between the health of our lands and waters and the health of our economy. Smart, community-led conservation presents a tremendous opportunity to improve quality of life across America, and to build and grow local jobs in industries like recreation and tourism. In fact, one in every 20 jobs is related to outdoor recreation, making conservation integral to a thriving American economy. 

    Beginning very early in 2009 with the President’s historic signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, this Administration has invested in land and water protection by creating the most important conservation initiative in more than a generation. Through his America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the President has announced an action plan, built with ideas from the American people, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that communities care about, and to reconnect people – especially children – to the outdoors.

    In our most recent travels throughout the Northwest and the Northeast, we saw firsthand the intersection of conservation and economic growth in rural communities. Below are just a few of the highlights from our trips:

  • A Student Goes to Washington

    Teirra Scott

    Teirra Scott, Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden

    I am Teirra Scott, an incoming freshman at Howard University. I've been an employee at the Green Youth Farm in Chicago for three years, starting as a crew member and now a  crew leader. Recently, our organization had the pleasure of hosting White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley at our farm and showing her our organic gardens. With approximately 20 high school students working at each of our four sites every year, Green Youth Farm (GYF) harvests and sells sustainably-grown produce throughout the City of Chicago and neighboring areas.

    When I first heard of the opportunity to work at GYF, my initial reaction was "Yes! I can make some good money this summer!" But after starting, I realized that the work I did motivated me more than the pay I received. It felt good to grow healthy, organic produce for a community where obesity is too common. This is why I have returned to the Farm every year. Though I know I am still young, I want to help as many people as I can. GYF has taught me that anyone regardless of his or her age can do just that. In addition, I have learned many gardening skills that I hope to apply when I plant my own garden (or perhaps at the White House garden) in the future!

    Leaving high school, I'm glad to have been a part of GYF where I have developed leadership and communication skills and, most importantly, learned more about myself. I know that in college next year I will be better equipped to live in a new community and talk to people about the importance of eating healthy and sustainable food.

    Teirra Scott, age 18, is a Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden

     

  • Fostering the New Green Economy

    Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Fred Walti, Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited LACI prior to its official opening.

    LACI

    Chair Sutley visits the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator that is being launched to accelerate the development of innovative clean technologies in Los Angeles. Chair Sutley and to her left, Fred Walti, Executive Director of LACI, are joined by representatives from UCLA, Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Senator Feinstein's office, Senator Boxer's office, and JPL.

    White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited Los Angeles to discuss the Obama Administration's commitment to harnessing clean energy opportunities to create American jobs on Friday, July 22. She met with business leaders, city officials and top educators from UCLA and other institutions and toured the new LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), at the future site of LA Cleantech Corridor. Los Angeles is committed to leading the charge toward a new green economy, and it is LACI's mission to support that growth and be a central resource for the cleantech sector. It was a great opportunity to connect with an Administration official and to hear how President Obama’s initiatives, along with our work here in LA, will create thousands of local family-supporting jobs in green sectors in the years to come.

    Years in the making, Los Angeles launched its new cleantech business incubator to accelerate development of startups focused on sustainable solutions that can create both efficient clean technologies and green jobs. The incubator offers flexible ready-to-go office space, lab facilities, and a supportive environment where startup teams can share ideas with other entrepreneurs and fuel innovation. LACI also gives each startup the chance to work with a dedicated mentor, as well as access to a growing network of cleantech and business experts and introductions to prospective investors. LACI is the business equivalent of baseball's farm system: identifying local talent, nurturing it, and preparing the best prospects to perform on a global stage, resulting in more jobs and a bigger green economy in Los Angeles and beyond.

    LACI currently has partnerships with UCLA, USC, Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and will help accelerate the commercialization of their clean technologies in addition to championing and nurturing the growth of local entrepreneurs. Currently the largest market for electric vehicles and solar installations, Los Angeles is a great place for cleantech companies to make their homebase.

    LACI 2

    Chair Sutley and Fred Walti stand in LACI's permanent location, under construction now. The 25,000 square foot La Kretz Innovation Campus is located at the heart of Los Angeles's Cleantech Corridor.

    LACI offers its portfolio companies three game-changing services: (1) Fully built-out, furnished, and equipped office/lab space at flexible terms; (2) CEO coaching and mentoring from highly accomplished, senior advisors who have created and managed highly successful companies; (3) Access to our large and growing network of potential customers, industry experts, investors, and public leaders.

    Statement of Support from Alexandra Paxton, Project Manager, Downtown Region, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles:

    It was very gratifying to hear from Chair Nancy Sutley firsthand about President Obama’s initiatives to foster innovation for the clean energy economy of the future. As a redevelopment agency, our vision is that the young companies fostered here will move into the surrounding industrial area, revitalizing the district as a place to live, work, innovate, and manufacture. In this way, partnering with education and workforce development, we will be able to build opportunities and jobs for the people who live in our communities, as well as solve our environmental problems. Ambitious? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely!

    To find out more about the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, please visit http://www.laincubator.org/.

    Fred Walti is Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

  • Across the Administration, Action for Healthy Communities

    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

  • Conserving Our Resources, Securing Our Forces

    John M. McHugh

    The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the U.S. Army

    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

  • Fastest Growing Industry in the U.S. – Solar Energy

    Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. Today, as part of President Obama's  Executive Order calling on Federal agencies to lead by example in Energy, Environment, and Economic Performance, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that they will install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems by summer 2012 at five VA medical centers in Oklahoma City; Temple, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; Loma Linda, Calif. and West Los Angeles.

    SEIA Photo

    Solar Panel installation at the Dallas VA Medical Center. (Photo courtesy of Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

    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