The larger question is whether the next Administration's goal ought to be to simply restore USEPA's historic role, appoint talented policy and technical leaders, boost staff morale, and work with Congress to provide the needed resources. Or, whether an entirely different future role should be planned for the Agency. First some background.
Over the years, various commissions and ad-hoc groups have prepared vision and policy papers designed to help USEPA 'steer away from "Command & Control" and toward a more voluntary or clearing house role. Mostly what we heard in these reports was 'more like Energy Star,' overlooking the fact that the nation's 40-year old water and wastewater management infrastructure is at end of design life and crumbling, and that over the last 15 years the US has outsourced the most highly polluting segments of its industrial supply chain to Asia, Central Europe, and South America.Off-shoring did not happen just because the US requires maximum levels of pollution control, and the developing world does not. Off-shoring happened because industry took advantage of tax incentives, cheap labor, an almost complete absence of environmental and safety standards or at least a general lack of enforcement of those standards which did exist, undemocratic regimes where the will of the people can be easily overlooked, and access to cheaper raw materials. It was all these things and more.
In other words, EPAs regulatory cheese got moved overseas for reasons not of their own making (largely).
How do we get EPA's future covered in the US presidential debates? Will free trade get mixed up with environmental accountability? Or does this all end up planned behind closed doors again?
Pay attention now because this is big. Crosslands Bulletin has informed us of an announcement which we see as the Republican Party's strategic move in this venue - unleashing a catalyst for this very debate - two years in the making. Perfect timing: and, very likely to catch the Democrats without a strategic counter-move.
After two years, more than 30 teleconferences, and six face-to-face meetings, a working group of 15 hand-picked experts has completed a report telling the US Environmental Protection Agency to re-frame its mission with stewardship as the unifying theme and ethic.
In its report to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (Nacept) says,EPA should strive to become the world‚s premier stewardship model and catalyst by integrating regulatory programs, grants, voluntary partnerships, information, in-house operations, and other tools into a common framework.
We cannot understate the significance of this report. It re-frames the debate over EPA's future based on ideas coming from people and organizations entirely outside the green "base". Foundations, universities, industries, law firms, and a few state government agencies were represented on Nacept. No NGO reps on the roster. No prominent conservationists, either. No designers or engineers. No climate scientists. No biologists. No...
The Nacept chair is John Howard, Jr., a partner at the Texas-based international law firm Vinson & Elkins and Republican Party environmental policy advisor. Howard led the Bush-Cheney 2000 transition team's environmental group and later in senior positions for George W. Bush helped develop energy policy. He worked for then-Governor Bush as natural resources policy director in Texas. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson appointed him to head Nacept at the beginning of 2006.
Nacept is USEPA sanctioned. The Nacept webpage is here and membership roster is listed here.
This report by Nacept may well force the Democratic Party's hand, requiring them to come up with a strategic vision for USEPAs role in facing a climate crisis, crumbling public infrastructure, and a host of issues not yet imagined. We think that would be all good news.
Send us your tips and insights and we'll stay on the story.
Update:: A critical "driver" was left out of the background synopsis, above, when this post was originally published. Since the "Republican Revolution" of the mid-90's, European, and to some extent Asian, governments have led the way in
regulating product end of life and product constituent limits: a.k.a. "Stewardship," by means of take-back requirements, minimum recycled content programs, REACH, RoHS, and so on.
While deregulatory forces succeeded in largely stalemating similar US efforts at the Federal level, US-state and especially the EU efforts, have progressed, and have had very significant impact on global businesses and product design/formulations.
Because USEPA is not a voting or even a formal observing member of the European Commission, the power of EU regulations has left US businesses in a weak "follower" position in influencing environmental rules which originate in Europe and which affect world product designs and markets. It is the logical consequence of Island USA thinking. The idea of making USEPA a global 'stewardship' leader ( in the Nacept report) should be considered in that context.