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New Report from American University, in partnership with the EPA Alumni Association: Moving Forward: Future Directions for EPA and Environmental Protection

By John Reeder and Derry Allen

The American University Center for Environmental Policy has released an important new report, Moving Forward: Future Directions for EPA and Environmental Protection.  The report is an exciting milestone for the two-year partnership between the Center and the EPA Alumni Association.

The report integrates informaton, insights and recommendations produced by the partnership and is intended to inform policymakers and interested members of the public who participate in discussions about the future of EPA and environmental protection.  The strength and uniqueness of the report is reflected in the participation of hundreds of EPA alumni who worked together to contribute this vast collective experience and expertise.

The Report

The report stresses that:

  • The remarkable environmental gains of the past 50 years have been achieved largely through regulatory actions to set standards, issue permits, and hold dischargers responsible for compliance, as mandated by existing laws.

  • New challenges, including climate change, are different from earlier challenges, and call for augmenting traditional programs with new approaches that engage states/tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, communities and other stakeholders more actively than at present.  The report details six key "future directions" to help EPA prepare for the challenges ahead.

The report looks years beyond EPA's upcoming 50th anniversary - past today's contentious issues, past EPA's current capacity and strengths/weaknesses, past incremental changes and past the current legislative framework - to a future time in which one hopes that many points of view can come together around a shared vision for the environment.  The agency and environmental protection have always been changing.  How they change in the future is important.

Initial Products

The initial products by the partnership, on which the report is based, include:

  1. The reports of five focus groups formed by the EPA Alumni Association in Summer 2018, involving 60 EPA alumni;

  2. A survey of EPA Alumni Association members about EPA's future directions, to which almost 400 EPA alumni replied;

  3. A report, Modernizing Environmental Protection: A Brief History of Lessons Learned, produced by several EPA alumni and EPA staff in cooperation with the American University (AU) Center for Environmental Policy;

  4. A conference on "EPA and the Future of Environmental Protection," held at AU on April 23-24, 2019, cosponsored by the Alumni Association, the Environmental Law Institute and the Hanley Family Foundation.  About 300 people attended the conference, including over 80 EPA alumni, many of whom spoke on panels; and

  5. A video, "A Future Inspired by the Past," featuring William Ruckelshaus, EPA's first and fifth Administrator, shown at the AU conference on April 23, 2019.

Finally, the Project Committee, the Board of the Association and other members of the Association provided many comments on the final project report itself.  Overall, the project has broken new ground for the Association.

Future Activities

Taken together, the project has produced an impressive body of work.  But, as the Alumni Association's motto says, "we're not done yet!"

AU's Center for Environmental Policy would like to continue working with EPA alumni.  Some proposed activities include:

  1. Planning additional forums with universities (or other organizations) with which Association members are affiliated on key themes arising from the first phase of the partnership;

  2. Forming a focus group to explore institutional and organizational issues associated with the future implementation of a large-scale federal climate initiative;

  3. Helping to develop the future environmental workforce by participating in AU's Environmental Careers Network, which facilitates one-on-one meetings between environmental professionals (or alumni, in this case), and students to provide advice and guidance for studies, networking, and job seeking.  This could be a pilot program with growth potential; other universities could be invited to participate if this collaboration proves successful.

If you are interested in working on any of these proposals or if you have other ideas, please contact John Reeder at reeder@american.edu

On a related note, John Reeder was the project lead on AU's side of the partnership wihle on an IPA assignment to AU.  He has since retired from EPA and is now on the faculty at AU (and also a full member of the EPA Alumni Association!)

The final report is available here: https://www.american.edu/spa/cep/future-directions/upload/report-on-future-of-epa-dec-17-pdf.pdf

Project Description: Looking Decades Ahead, Stimulating Public Dialogue

Project Committee Members: Derry Allen (Co-Chair); Tom Voltaggio (Co-Chair); Penny Fenner-Crisp, Phyllis Flaherty, Mark Greenwood, Ed Hanley, Vic Kimm, Stan Laskowski, Stephen Weil, Chuck Elkins (support).

Five Focus Groups and Their Reports: A Rich Set of Ideas

Survey of EPA Alumni Association Members

      Key Take-Aways from the Survey

      Full Survey Report

Conference on “Future Directions for EPA and Environmental Protection: April, 2019

      Video of each Panel on the Agenda

      Conference Handout: Future Directions for EPA and Environmental Protection

Related Materials

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