Learn: Our Environment

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Progress So Far

Protecting our Oceans: On June 12, 2009, the President created an Interagency Task Force on Ocean Policy, chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He charged the Task Force to submit recommendations for (1) a national policy for the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, (2) a strengthened policy coordination framework, and (3) an implementation strategy to better meet our Nation’s stewardship responsibilities within 90 days. The President also charged the Task Force with developing a recommended framework for coastal and marine spatial planning within 180 days. The work of the Task Force is well underway and final recommendations will be presented to the President in the coming months.

Protecting our Ecosystems: President Obama established the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Working Group, co-chaired by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget, to improve Federal coordination of restoration activities within the Louisiana and Mississippi coastal regions.  The Working Group includes the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Gulf Coast Restoration, Army Corps, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency.  On March 4, 2010, Obama Administration officials released a Roadmap for Restoring Ecosystem Resiliency and Sustainability in the Louisiana and Mississippi Coasts that emphasizes the protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems as a key element to the long-term safety and viability of the region.

Land Conservation: Laying the foundation for his Administration’s commitment to promoting a Great Outdoors America agenda, President Obama in March signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111‐11), the most extensive expansion of land and water conservation in more than a generation. Most of those lands will fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. The President and Secretary Salazar actively supported early passage of the legislation by the Congress in 2009. The bill’s enactment was a major early landmark achievement of the Administration.

Renewing the Federal Commitment to California's Bay Delta: The Obama Administration has renewed its commitment to restore the California Bay Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast. The Bay Delta is critically important to hundreds of species of fish and wildlife and to millions of Californians who rely on it for their water supply.  On September 29, 2009, six Federal agencies and departments signed a Memorandum of Understanding that established a leadership committee to coordinate the Federal response to the California water crisis and to facilitate a partnership with the State of California to address California’s water supply and environmental challenges. The MOU also committed the Federal agencies to develop an Interim Action Plan on an expedited basis. On December 22, 2009, the Administration released an Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay Delta that outlines near-term actions and a reinvigorated Federal-state partnership.

Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration: On May 12, 2009 the President signed an Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. On November 9, 2009, the Federal Leadership Committee released its draft Strategy for Restoration of the Chesapeake Bay for public comment. Under this Executive Order, Federal agencies and state and local governments are coordinating closely to tackle non-point source pollution in the Chesapeake through both tougher regulation and financial assistance for mitigation. After decades of failed action, this effort is widely regarded as the most aggressive plan yet to save this critical ecosystem.

Clean Water Act Jurisdiction: At the request of Congressional leadership, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) led an interagency effort to provide principles regarding the restoration of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The letter, dated May 20, 2009, was signed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letter provided a statement of the challenges generated by recent Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the waters protected by the Act and principles for legislation to address these problems. On June 19th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Clean Water Restoration Act.

Great Lakes Restoration: President Obama has committed to making Great Lakes restoration a national priority. In February 2009, President Obama proposed $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the most significant investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. In February 2010, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson released an Action Plan, which covers FY 2010 through 2014, and was developed by 16 federal agencies as part of the federal interagency task force chaired by Administrator Jackson to guide the Obama Administration’s historic efforts to restore the Great Lakes. It lays out the most urgent threats facing the Great Lakes and sets out goals, objectives and key actions over the next five years to help restore the lakes.

Restoring Endangered Species Consultation: The Obama Administration through Secretary of the Interior Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Locke restored the role of independent science in the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) “Section 7” interagency consultation process. The two Secretaries rescinded the previous Administration’s December 2008 regulation that curtailed longstanding requirements for federal agencies to consult with the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—the two agencies that administer the ESA—on actions that may affect threatened or endangered species. Their decision requires Federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts before taking action that may jeopardize threatened or endangered species.

Mercury: Reversing seven years of opposition, the United States played a leading role working with other nations to craft a global, legally-binding agreement to limit the mercury emissions into the environment. This change of US position led to an agreement on February 20, 2009, among more than 140 nations to negotiate a treaty to reduce mercury emissions globally, which they hope to conclude in 2013.

Reduce Environmental Impacts of Mountaintop Coal Mining: The Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining through interagency action plans and implemented reforms. Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; and Terrence “Rock” Salt, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works on June 11, 2009, Federal agencies have taken action to strengthen oversight and regulation, and minimize adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop coal mining in the six Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

National Environmental Policy Act: On February 18, 2010, the White House Council on Environmental Quality proposed four steps to modernize and reinvigorate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), in conjunction with its 40th Anniversary. These measures will assist Federal agencies to meet the goals of NEPA, enhance the quality of public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the environment, increase transparency and ease implementation. Enacted in 1970, NEPA is a cornerstone of our Nation’s efforts to protect the environment and a fundamental tool to harmonize our economic and environmental aspirations.

In accordance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, CEQ has submitted four reports to Congress regarding the status and progress of projects and activities receiving funds under the Act and how they have complied thus far with NEPA requirements. The report highlights instances where the environmental review process assisted Federal agencies in improving the quality of their decisions, thereby saving money, protecting vital resources, and increasing public participation. The full report is available at www.nepa.gov.

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