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Exit Memo: Environmental Protection Agency

Administrator Gina McCarthy  |  January 5, 2017


As the Obama administration draws to a close, I want to report on the historic progress we have made in achieving the environmental protection goals the President has set out, using science and the law as our guiding principles.

For decades, many world leaders wrestled with public health and environmental challenges as if they were unrelated. The founders of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set out to create something different. They envisioned an agency that addressed environmental protection across air, water, and land through national environmental goals and collaboration with others to stop pollution of the environment. Since then, the agency has become one of the world’s most successful protectors of public health and the environment.

Over its 46 years, EPA has made significant progress. However, science tells us that pollution remains a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of our children, families, and communities, as well as to the healthy, vibrant ecosystems on which we rely for clean air, water, and land. The past 46 years have shown us that we can make enormous progress to reduce these threats while we grow jobs and strengthen our economy.

President Obama clearly understood that a clean, healthy environment is not a luxury. It is a right. And his Administration has made the case that smart investments in our environment do not conflict with a growing economy – they support it. These investments have helped contribute to the more than 15 million private-sector jobs created since early 2010. And in 2014 alone, clean energy investment increased by 14 percent, a rate five times that of the rest of the U.S. economy.. But we at EPA cannot by ourselves provide the kind of sustainable future for our children that we all want. We recognize the need to work with partners in practical actions that firms, governments, communities, and individual citizens can take part in.

Thanks to the President’s vision and EPA’s efforts over the past eight years, these partnerships have been built and nourished to deliver on fundamental protections that all Americans depend on. Over the course of this Administration, I’ve been determined to remind everyone that EPA protects the health of every American family and every community. To that end, we’ve worked better with states, local communities, and tribes. We have doubled down on our efforts to listen and respond to the many diverse voices of the people we serve. And we have empowered citizens with new air and water quality monitoring tools and provided access to a wealth of new online applications that give the American public the information they need to take action to protect themselves and their families from exposure to pollution.

I am proud to report that we are now better protecting more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from the health impacts of pollution, while our communities are stronger and more prepared for the effects of climate change.

Protecting Air, Saving American Lives, and Addressing Climate Change

During the Obama Administration, EPA has continued its strong record of protecting public health by taking commonsense steps to address climate change and significantly cut air pollution. EPA has taken bold and achievable steps to fulfill its statutory obligation to reduce pollution from power plants, cars and trucks. Taken together, these actions will help prevent thousands of premature deaths, reduce asthma attacks among children and the elderly, save Americans money on gas and electricity, and address the risk of climate change.

Addressing Climate Change

Over the last eight years, EPA has taken steps to meet its statutory obligation to regulate carbon emissions in order to protect public health and welfare. Before 2009, there were no Clean Air Act standards on the books to address greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In 2009, EPA issued the first ever finding that greenhouse gas emissions threaten the health and welfare of the American people.

After making this finding, EPA set GHG standards for cars and trucks. Through our light duty program, we will cut almost 6 billion metric tons of GHGs, nearly double fuel economy, and save consumers and their families money at the pump. And through our medium/heavy duty program, we will lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners nearly $170 billion in fuel costs, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels.

We also took action to drive down the carbon pollution that fuels climate change through the Clean Power Plan. The Plan puts the United States on track to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants—our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution – in a manner consistent with the long-term trends of the power industry. In addition to putting Americans to work making the U.S. electricity system less polluting and our homes and businesses more efficient, the Plan will shrink electricity bills by about $7 each month for the average American family if states deploy cost-effective energy efficiency investments to secure emission reductions. The plan has public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $34 billion per year in 2030, far outweighing its costs.

The Clean Power Plan rests on a strong scientific and legal foundation, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement tailored plans, and fulfills EPA’s statutory responsibility to address carbon pollution from the largest source in our country. Because of the Plan’s alignment with existing trends in the power sector and many flexibilities for state implementation, analyses by power companies, grid operators, and states across the country have reinforced EPA’s determination that the Plan can be met through common sense steps in the years ahead.

Under the Administration’s Methane Strategy to curb methane—a greenhouse gas upwards of 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide—we set the first performance standards for landfills and new and modified oil and gas systems and began developing standards for existing oil and gas production units, including gathering data from companies to provide information on their emissions and costs of control technologies.  As part of the landfill initiative, we have cut hundreds of thousands of tons of emissions from methane and ozone-forming volatile organic compounds or VOCs. And we launched the Methane Challenge with 40 private sector partners to encourage best management practices across their oil and gas operations.

Reducing Air Pollution

During President Obama’s Administration, we set stronger, science-backed standards for ozone, particle pollution, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide that improve public health, especially children’s health. This includes protecting millions of families and children from harmful toxic air emissions from power plants. When EPA issued the first-ever Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants in 2011, we projected that the rule would prevent about 90 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air; reduce 88 percent of acid gas emissions from power plants; and cut 41 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants. We also cut hundreds of thousands of tons of smokestack emissions across the country that travel long distances through the air leading to soot and smog pollution in downwind states. This means more states will be held accountable for harmful levels of air pollution they send downwind.

Tier 3 Emission Standards for Passenger Vehicles

Another important part of our work to reduce air pollution includes our initiatives to reduce emissions from refineries. In recent years, we updated our emissions standards for refineries, which included first-of-its-kind fenceline monitoring requirements. These precautions better protect local neighborhoods from toxic air pollutants that can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues.

EPA’s mission includes limiting the pollution that vehicles emit into the air we breathe. As part of this goal, we set cleaner emission and fuel standards for cars and trucks. These new standards—known as Tier 3 standards for passenger vehicles—will slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses. They also tighten standards for smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent and establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and virtually eliminate fuel vapor emissions.

Going Forward

All of these forward leaning actions will require additional focus in the years to come. On climate change, EPA will need to continue implementation of the Clean Power Plan, provide technical assistance to the international community on tracking greenhouse gas emissions, and continue our work with the Department of Agriculture to cut food waste in half by the year 2030. The agency will also need to work with states on significant air pollution reduction efforts, including ozone attainment. And with a higher level of citizen engagement, consumers will continue to demand more energy efficient products from the ENERGYSTAR program. Continued investment in consumer-based online applications that allow the agency to help engage the public with tracking the air quality index or assessing indoor air quality at schools will also be necessary.

A strong vision for the future will allow the agency to continue its mission, while anticipating new challenges and emerging issues. To continue to reduce air pollution, the agency will need to address a myriad of environmental concerns. This includes addressing emerging air quality challenges related to diesel emissions and the various forms of transportation used in and around our marine ports. In the years ahead, there will be a continued focus on technological approaches to address vehicle emissions—manufacturers and the market will continue to trend toward greater utilization of electric and zero-emission vehicles. And as the world changes and evolves, we must be prepared to participate in future conversations about carbon markets and emissions trading programs. Both represent a tremendous opportunity for economic growth.

Protecting Water: A Precious, Limited Resource

This Administration has made remarkable efforts to protect the water resources of this country—the water we drink, the water we use as a drinking water supply, and the water that protects our valuable ecosystems, supports our farms, and provides recreational opportunities for all Americans.

Clean Water & Resource Protection

About 117 million Americans–one in three people–get drinking water from streams that are still vulnerable to pollution. And our Clean Water Rule will ensure that we are doing everything possible to protect the nation’s water resources. Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been a confusing, complex, and time-consuming process at times. The Clean Water Rule will make it easier to understand which waters are protected and why. In short, it follows one simple creed: the health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters depend on the streams and wetlands where they begin. Now and in the future, it will be important for us to defend and build on this important work. We also advanced efforts to improve water quality. For example, we set the first federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants. Through this steam electric power generating effluent guidelines rule, we expect to reduce the amount of toxic metals, nutrients, and other pollutants that steam electric power plants are allowed to discharge by 1.4 billion pounds and reduce water withdrawal by 57 billion gallons.

At EPA, we know that our health and well-being depends on the health of our lakes, streams, and waterways. Over the past eight years, EPA has assisted in partially or fully restoring 490 waterbodies. Through various enforcement agreements, we found common-sense ways to cut discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater in cities across the country. This includes restoring, creating, or preserving 187,211 linear feet of stream miles and 7,252 acres of wetlands.

Infrastructure Investment

We also strengthened water infrastructure financing by providing $2 billion per year in federal support to states. This included prioritizing investments to low-income communities. In the future, we must redouble our efforts and work even harder to fulfill our responsibility to all Americans. Over the course of the Administration, we also provided $9.6 billion for drinking water infrastructure projects and $16 billion in funding for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects. We know there is a need to continue to invest in our country’s water infrastructure. We have been doing it for a long time, but there is still more to do.

Protecting & Improving Iconic Water Resources

It’s clear that we need innovation to make the infrastructure dollars we have work smarter and harder. That’s why EPA created the Water Infrastructure Resilience and Finance Center – a “think-and-do-tank” that’s dedicated to driving innovation in water infrastructure finance. Through the Center, we’re taking a multi-pronged approach to helping communities make more informed decisions about their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. We also laid the foundation for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, authority, to provide loans to large infrastructure projects.

Protecting & Improving Iconic Water Resources

EPA also led the unprecedented coordination of 17 federal agencies as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). With more than $2.2 billion appropriated for this project, it’s the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. Since 2010, EPA has awarded more than 600 grants totaling more than $350 million for Great Lakes restoration projects. EPA focuses GLRI efforts on invasive species, nonpoint pollution sources affecting nearshore health, and toxic substance cleanup. We also worked alongside other members of the federal family to protect and restore the Puget Sound watershed. EPA’s Puget Sound program has provided $261.15 million to directly support the State of Washington’s Puget Sound Action agenda priorities: storm water management, shellfish sustainability, and salmon habitat protection and expansion.

EPA’s dedication to maintaining the health of our water bodies extends to the valuable Chesapeake Bay region. By partnering with local and regional leaders, we made significant improvements to the Chesapeake Bay that resulted in a 65 percent reduction in air pollution deposition. To build on this progress, we implemented the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Because of this work, we have reduced nitrogen going into the Bay by 57 percent and phosphorus by 75 percent since 1985. And, for the first time, the Bay is effectively meeting its 2025 wastewater nutrient pollution limits in the TMDL.

Our Next Generation Compliance effort, which modernized EPA’s compliance program, combines tough innovative enforcement with the newest monitoring and information technologies.  As part of this program, we created the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): an e-reporting rule that replaced most paper-based compliance monitoring and reporting requirements with electronic reporting. This action not only saved time; it saved more than $22 million annually for permittees, states, tribes, territories, and the federal government.  It also increased data accuracy and supported EPA’s goal to provide better protections for our nation’s water resources.

Internationally, through our Trash-Free Waters Program, we work with several forums to reduce and prevent marine litter. This joint collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program (Caribbean Environment Program) and Peace Corps helps to carry out community-based trash reduction projects, create effective solid waste management policies at the national and local level, and identify best practices to remove and prevent trash from entering Caribbean waterways.  Earlier this year, I traveled to Chincha, Peru to launch the first trash-free waters program in South America.

Going Forward

The environmental infrastructure needs of the country are significant. More than $655 billion in investment is needed for drinking water and wastewater alone over the next 20 years, and that doesn’t include estimates of replacing all of the nation’s lead service lines. Meeting these needs will require a robust commitment to infrastructure from all levels of government, as well as continued development of programs like the Water Infrastructure Finance Center, with a focus on public/private partnerships. And, while we have made significant improvements to the Chesapeake Bay, continued work by the agency and our state partners will be needed to fully implement the total maximum daily load, a historic and comprehensive “pollution diet” to restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the region's streams, creeks, and rivers.

In addition, with new technology citizen science continues to grow, allowing the agency to engage the public with new apps that can track the air quality index, assess indoor air quality at schools, and check the condition of nearby waters.  The “How’s My Waterway” app, which provides information about the conditions of local streams, lakes and other waters anywhere in the U.S., is one such example. As citizens become more and more involved with new and innovative technologies, the agency will need to adapt and embrace these changes.

The situation in Flint has sadly reminded the nation that there is still much work to be done to protect our precious drinking water resources and aging infrastructures. To better protect the country’s drinking water, the agency’s future focus must include building capacity for financing, including in low-income, small, and environmental-justice communities; strengthening source water protection and resilience of drinking water supplies; reducing lead risks through the Lead and Copper Rule; and addressing unregulated/emerging contaminants. These objectives and a series of others were outlined in EPA’s recently released Drinking Water Action plan and, collectively, they provide a blueprint for improving and maintaining safe drinking water across the country.

Continued federal action must occur to address drinking water pollution and help communities provide their citizens with clean drinking water. And while the agency has significantly reduced point source pollution, non-point source pollution and stormwater runoff plague our waterways and will need future attention. Left unaddressed, nitrogen and the other pollutants conveyed from run-off into receiving waters will result in situations similar to those experienced in Florida, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, and many other waterbodies where harmful algal blooms have impacted water quality.

Taking Action on Toxics and Chemical Safety

EPA has strengthened chemical standards that protect the health of more Americans while underpinning economic growth—including the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a bipartisan bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. This was the first update to that statute in 40 years and a huge step forward to protect Americans from the public health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals. In addition, EPA revised Worker Protection Standards, Certification & Training Standards, and expanded the Safer Choice program to help protect Americans, including farm workers, from chemicals that can impact their health.

Chemical Safety

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation’s primary chemicals management law, passed with bipartisan support with much needed updates. This includes a mandatory requirement for EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines; new risk-based safety standards; increased public transparency for chemical information; and a consistent source of funding for EPA to carry out the responsibilities under the new law. These changes allow us to protect even more Americans from dangerous chemicals. To build on this important advancement, EPA cancelled pesticides that posed unacceptable risks to public health or the environment, such as carbofuran, azinphos-methyl, and several rodenticides and organophosphate insecticides.

Our agency also worked with USDA and other federal agencies to develop a Pollinator Protection Strategy. This initiative identifies specific steps we can take to restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years. The foundation of this work is federal action, public/private partnerships, sensible science-based regulation of pesticide uses that threaten pollinator health, and collaboration between pollinator providers and production agriculture.

Finding cleaning and other products that are safer for you, your family, and the environment should be easy — that’s why we developed our new Safer Choice label. We all play a role in protecting our families’ health and the environment. And products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance. The Safer Choice program has certified more than 2,000 cleaning and other products that have ingredients that are safer for families and the environment. Every chemical has been evaluated and meets the very stringent Safer Choice criteria. Today, more than 500 companies make Safer Choice-certified products.

Increased Safety for Workers and Citizens

EPA played a key role in efforts to enhance the safety and security of our nation’s workers and chemical facilities across the nation. EPA proposed, and is working to finalize revisions to our Risk Management Plan (RMP). This will help identify process safety improvements, enhance emergency planning and preparedness, improve response capabilities, and increase public access to risk information. EPA also continues to assist communities in developing local emergency contingency plans and work with chemical facilities on chemical accident prevention and preparedness.

Our updated worker protection standards now include annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections, which increases the likelihood that protections will be followed. Expanded training also includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics. And for the first-time ever, they include a minimum age requirement: children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides.

Abandoned hazardous waste sites remain a health concern in many American communities. And over the past eight years, our Superfund program has continued to aid these communities by responding to emergencies and cleaning up many of the nation’s most contaminated sites. In addition to site cleanups, our Superfund team responds to oil spills, chemical releases, and other urgent situations ranging from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the TVA Kingston coal ash spill to train derailments, pipeline leaks, factory explosions and abandoned drums of toxic waste. In the past eight years, EPA completed: 2,704 removal actions and remedial site assessments at more than 5,300 sites; more than 700 individual remedial projects; and construction of cleanup remedies at 130 sites. Through this program, we also placed 142 sites on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) and got 464 Superfund sites ready for their anticipated use.

Cleaning up Chemical Facilities Across the Country

The Superfund program has helped boost local economies. In 2015, 454 cleaned-up sites supported 3,900 businesses with annual sales of $29 billion, employing more than 108,000 people who earned $7.8 billion. And when researchers at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed census tract data, they found that removing sites from the NPL after cleanup raised the value of owner-occupied housing within three miles by 19-25%.

EPA has also led international efforts that support sustainable technology and planning, and reduce physical waste.  As part of the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency, we recognized that economic growth and prosperity are directly tied to the ways we build and dispose of materials.  Materials flow in the global economy, and the associated land use, are responsible for a major share of greenhouse gas emissions.  In fact, this makes up about 42% of emissions in the U.S.  Materials flow also results in harmful environmental impacts such as loss of biodiversity, toxicity, and threats to water quality.  Demand for raw material use in the world’s industrial economies is increasing at twice the rate of the population. Addressing this trend through sustainable materials management is a core part of EPA’s mission, a major goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, and a key objective of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Going Forward

Two major priorities needing future action will be the implementation of TSCA and the worker protection standards. EPA recently announced the first 10 chemicals for review under the new law, but this is only the beginning of a long and necessary process to further protect Americans from toxic chemicals. And while the agency is proud to further protect farmworkers, the new standards will require a sustained effort of outreach and engagement to ensure they truly protect all workers. And thanks to the Safer Choice program, consumers are also able to make informed decisions about the products they purchase for use in their homes. The success of the program will mean that consumer demand will rise and that more testing on new products coming onto the market will too.

While TSCA was a huge step forward, it is only one piece of the puzzle. A strong vision for the future of chemical safety must include approaches to addressing chemicals and pesticides. Another consideration are legacy sites which have been contaminated, but once cleaned up could become revitalized properties. To meet this need, the agency will need to use new and emerging technologies to clean-up sites while partnering with local communities.

Strong science will always be a foundation of the work EPA does. Today and going forward, EPA and the research community will continue to explore approaches to develop risk assessments to correspond with the hundreds and hundreds of chemicals that come on to the market. In addition, science amongst EPA and sister federal agencies will be brought to bear to deal with emerging situations – such as they did for Zika and Ebola in recent years.

At its core, EPA is a public health agency, and with this mission, EPA will need to remain on the cutting edge of science aimed at better understanding pathways to exposures and the risks associated with those exposures–whether it be from second-hand smoke, as was the case when EPA was deeply engaged with that issue several decades ago, or from boutique pesticides engineered to deal with the latest pest that is resistant to available products. EPA will also play a role in developing approaches and practices associated with genome editing and bioengineering, as we work to better understand the benefits, impacts, and collateral ramifications of this rapidly growing field.

Making a Visible Difference in Communities Across the Country

EPA’s statutory and regulatory authorities are not the only tools that we need to achieve our public health goals. Consistent with the Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities vision, one of my objectives for EPA was to renew our focus on communities, especially those that have not fully shared in the environmental benefits that EPA has brought to this country over the past 46 years. There are many examples of how EPA has made a visible difference in communities across the United States, including our environmental justice work to protect minority and low-income communities from the immediate impacts of pollution.

Environmental Justice

Through EJ 2014 – EPA’s first strategic plan for environmental justice – we built stronger relationships with local community leaders. We integrated environmental justice into every EPA program. And we strengthened our collaborative efforts across the federal family.

This progress is important, but we still have a lot of work to do. With EJ 2020, EPA’s next four-year strategic plan for environmental justice, we’re building on this foundation as we work together to turn this progress into even more action. EJ 2020 provides a roadmap for us to move forward, together, in a more productive and holistic way. It also provides guidance for federal, state, tribal, industry, and community partners on ways to include environmental justice in their programs, it deepens environmental justice practice in EPA’s programs, and it helps us measure the progress we are making on our most significant environmental justice challenges. And through another tool, EJSCREEN, we can better identify which communities need our resources the most.


Through another initiative, “Making a Visible Difference,” we identified 51 communities across the country that wanted to advance economic opportunity and improve quality of life. We worked alongside local leaders to coordinate technical assistance and other resources across EPA programs; with states, tribes, and local governments; and with other agencies to support their efforts to pursue environmental improvements. Through this effort, EPA is now leveraging $3 per $1 invested by EPA.

Transforming Communities

One example of this initiative in action is our ReGenesis partnership in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This collaboration grew a $20,000 EPA environmental justice small grant into more than $250 million in public and private funding through partnerships with more than 120 organizations. The creation of a solar farm is a major achievement of the work that the ReGenesis Project has done to promote the cleanup of and reinvestment in the Arkwright and Forest Park neighborhoods in Spartanburg. President Obama is committed to ensuring that every American family can choose to go solar and cut their energy bills, and that every American community has the tools they need to tackle local air pollution and global climate change. Since President Obama took office, solar electricity generation has increased 30 fold and solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

EPA’s Brownfields Area-wide Planning (AWP) program is another way we are working to advance inclusive economic development. Initiated during the Obama Administration, it has emerged as one of the federal government’s most important innovations in community redevelopment and has created more than 67,000 jobs over the past eight years.

Stakeholder Engagement

We’ve partnered with communities that recognize the realities of climate change, we’ve ensured that more Americans are breathing clean air, and we’ve detected and reduced water pollution. Along the way, we have heard from people from every walk of life, every background, and every corner of this nation. And I’m proud of EPA’s work to expand our presence and support within the faith, African-American and Latino communities. For example, a series of conferences and meetings with the faith community garnered tens of thousands of comments on the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States.

Through this engagement, EPA officially partnered with various groups to encourage environmental education around climate change and environmental justice. Today, EPA has official partnerships with groups like the National Black Farmers Association, Mocha Moms, the League of United Latin Citizens, and the National Hispanic Medical Association.

Going Forward

Community-based work has been greatly expanded during this administration and has resulted in deeper and more meaningful relationships with our stakeholders. Launching EJ 2020 was a great start, but implementation will be key. Work will need to continue making a visible difference in communities, while expanding to new locations. And future investments should continue to be made in revitalizing brownfields as economic engines for local communities.

As we’ve grown our outreach efforts, we recognize that the future vision of the agency must include greater community involvement at all levels, while finding ways to increase transparency of our processes and bring more agency awareness to citizens. We also see the need to reimagine development on a larger scale than currently exists.

Launching a New Era of Tribal, State, Local, and International Partnerships

We are especially proud of our work with Native American peoples, states, local communities, and international partners. While challenges remain, EPA has modeled strong and collaborative relationships at every level.

Tribal Partnerships

We have made EPA a model of mutual respect between tribal communities and the federal government. These efforts underscore our belief that every community needs and deserves the space to chart its own destiny. A large part of this conversation relates to recognizing the unique treaty rights of tribal communities. To this end, we established the first-ever Tribal Treaty Rights Guidance which outlines a process to help navigate treaty rights discussions with tribes. The guidance is the first of its kind for any federal agency and follows the implementation of EPA’s Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes which established clear EPA standards for the consultation process. This new policy makes it easier for us to learn about the ongoing efforts of other agencies and work across the federal family. And it strengthened our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. 

Protection of Tribal Treaty Rights

Throughout this Administration, we provided 61,200 American Indian and Alaskan Native homes with access to basic sanitation and 32,715 American Indian and Alaskan Native homes with safe drinking water. EPA is proud of our work to create the agency’s Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program. Through this initiative, EPA scientists partnered with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) professors to address environmental challenges. The Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program has given more than 150 TCU students the opportunity to work directly with their professors and EPA scientists.

State & Local Partnerships

By working with our colleagues from the Environmental Council of the States, in the last two years we have established a joint governance structure and proceeded with initiatives such as easier access by local governments to EPA services, better ways to inspect pesticides labels, and consolidating air emission reporting requirements. One example among many is an e-reporting rule for water permits that replaced most paper-based monitoring and reporting requirements with electronic reporting. This action saved both time and more than $22 million annually for permittees, states, tribes, territories, and the federal government, while increasing data accuracy and transparency.

We also launched E-Enterprise for the Environment, a new model for collaborative leadership among environmental co-regulators. Working together, environmental leaders at EPA, the states, and tribes, are using this model to simplify, streamline, and modernize the implementation of our environmental programs.

Lastly, we engaged the agency’s Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) on a number of studies and reports related to agency actions including the status of drinking water systems across the country and the development of the Clean Water Rule while seeking their input on issues such as hydraulic fracturing and ozone standards.

Going Forward

EPA has been a federal leader in our work with tribes. For continued success, additional federal agencies need to work with EPA on implementing Tribal Treaty Rights initiatives. This will also mean the agency takes actions to further build capacity within the tribes. States will also need to better resource environmental protection efforts-- including investments in technology, data, and infrastructure needs. Collaboration is key and should involve the expansion of e-enterprise platforms which allow the agency and states to share information. The development and deployment of technology and IT platforms that can be shared and utilized by states and tribes to better capture environmental data which can then be used to better define the metrics and objectives associated with resource protection initiatives. Looking to the future, we must also find ways to build greater Tribal engagement in environmental work, while recognizing the use of traditional ecological knowledge in policy development.

States also need to reassert their oversight role on environmental matters. Over the last decade, resources at all levels to support environmental protection measures have either remained flat or declined. In the years to come, a great investment is necessary to help states face the many complex challenges that currently exist while preparing for the next set of challenges. As part of President Obama’s call for federal agencies to find more innovative and efficient ways to do our work, EPA joined with state partners on lean operations across the agency.  Actual results of completed projects show a 39 percent reduction in the time to do work, a 47 percent cut in the overall time for complete projects to take place, and a 42 percent reduction in the number of steps necessary to complete those projects.  This kind of innovative approach must continue.

It is also important to remember that innovative partnerships will continue to be the foundation of our shared progress.  We have already seen how the power of partnerships can advance our work in many concrete ways.  E-Enterprise for the Environment is just one example.  Future investments in these efforts will help us more effectively tackle our increasingly complex mission to protect public health and the environment.

International Engagement

Over the past eight years, EPA has built on its long history of international collaboration on a wide range of global environmental issues. Working in collaboration with bilateral and multilateral partners, we have addressed shared environmental and governance challenges, from improving global environmental health to combatting climate change.

During my time as Administrator, I’ve had the opportunity to meet representatives from many different agencies and organizations around the world.  And I can tell you from first-hand experience that EPA is the international gold standard when it comes to environmental and public health protections.  Countries all across the globe are eager to work with us to achieve these protections because they benefit their citizens and the American people as well.

We are proud that EPA has been actively engaged in global environmental health discussions. The agency was a driving force behind the world’s first United Nations agreement to limit or eliminate the usage and emission of mercury worldwide. Studies indicate that as much as 70% of the mercury deposited to U.S. soils and waters is from international sources, meaning that only international action could reduce the various health threats that mercury poses. At EPA, we worked alongside our colleagues at the Department of State to build support for a strong agreement. Ultimately, the United States became the first country to sign the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

EPA has tackled the scourge of cookstove smoke, which is responsible for four million premature deaths a year amongst the half of the world’s population that still relies on rudimentary cookstoves and open fires to cook their food. EPA provides research and independent scientific data on cookstove emissions and energy efficiency that informs the development of cleaner sustainable cooking technologies.  And our support of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves will help to foster the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020.

The agency supported the Paris climate negotiations, where nearly 200 countries came together and pledged to limit global warming by 2 degrees Celsius. Science tells us these levels will help prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, including more frequent and extreme droughts, storms, fires, and floods, as well as catastrophic sea level rise. These are impacts that many of our own communities, from Florida to West Virginia, are already facing. EPA also led the U.S. delegation that successfully amended an international agreement to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a highly potent greenhouse gas, and worked through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to set international CO2 emissions standards for aircraft and adopt a global market-based measure to offset the growth in international aviation emissions from 2020 onward. Each of these agreements has been widely supported by the civil society and the business industry.

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In closing, while the world continues to change, EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment endures. This task is timeless, non-partisan, and essential to every single life. Americans care deeply about having clean air, safe drinking water and fishable, swimmable rivers and streams. They care about safe places to live, work, and play. They want food that’s free of harmful pesticides, products free of harmful toxics, neighborhoods, homes, and workplaces that are safe and healthy, and futures for their kids that that are free from the dangers of climate change.

This is the mission of EPA. And I am proud to say that we have done our job while making the environmental enterprise more inclusive and more effective than ever. We’ve taken our task seriously, while energizing the American people who will demand not only clean air and clean water for their children, they will demand a safe, stable planet.

It has been an honor to serve in the Obama Administration. The President’s leadership has enabled us to accomplish so much good on behalf of the American people and to carry out our mission of protecting human health and the environment. As we pass the baton, we are proud to have run our leg of the race with steadfast vigor, and left a healthier country and a stronger EPA.

Read and download the memo as a PDF.