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EPA and the Future of Environmental Protection Conference

This week American University hosted the EPA and the Future of Environmental Protection Conference, focusing on EPA’s role in leading the nation and the world in meeting future environmental challenges. The Conference included discussion on opportunities to accelerate environmental protection working with businesses by encouraging public and private partnerships. These partnerships allow for companies to make environmentally forward decisions, like replacing chemicals with known safer compounds. It was also suggested that EPA look more closely into a system that would track environmental improvements businesses are making, separating those making substantial progress from free-rider companies. Another panel centered around fostering technologies for environmental protection, involved ideas of embracing IT and cognitive technologies to revitalize workforce and better use of weather data and modeling to improve resilience.

The Conference also brought in former EPA Administrators William Reilly, Carol Browner, and Gina McCarthy to discuss the lessons of leadership and navigating EPA’s future. The proposed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Rule was a hot topic in the conversation with the insistence that EPA have access to more science, not less. During a session on designing EPA for the future, EPA was encouraged to be as efficient as possible by tracking and judging progress since implementation of environmental programs. It was also suggested that EPA work on better identifying the problems behind issues to improve public’s perception of EPA actions. During the EPA’s Interface with States and Tribes Panel, there was discussion on the heavy and hard-hitting issues states are currently dealing with like climate change and emerging contaminants, such as PFOA and PFOS. This discussion concluded with the emphasis that states and EPA need to be at the same table and continue building relationships, so as issues arise there is a better level of trust between states and EPA.