Regional EPA chief discusses top issuesApril 19th, 2010 by cdunagan
Dennis McLerran, the new regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, held his first news conference today, saying he wanted to touch base with reporters during Earth Week.
This year is not only the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, he noted, but also the 40th anniversary of the EPA. McLerran said he was a freshman at the University of Washington in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. (That’s the year that I graduated from Mercer Island High School. Like McLerran, I have been involved in environmental issues for much of the last 40 years.)
Coming to the EPA from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, McLerran said he has had to expand his horizons to take in all environmental issues. “Wall-to-wall briefings” has been “kind of like drinking from a fire hose,” he said today.
The regional administrator said he was taking many clues from his boss, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson — including focusing on her top seven priorities:
- Taking Action on Climate Change
- Improving Air Quality
- Assuring the Safety of Chemicals
- Cleaning Up Our Communities
- Protecting America’s Waters
- Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice
- Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships
Additional notes from McLerran’s comments and responses to questions:
- While the Bush administration downplayed climate change, it is one of the top issues for the Obama administration. “We are looking at how to integrate climate change issues into everything we do.”
- New ambient air standards could put Seattle and a few other areas out of attainment for air-quality standards, requiring an action plan to reduce air pollution.
- A big priority is to protect water quality in the region’s major river systems. Some communities may need to find ways to reduce their nutrient loadings to meet standards dictated by the federal Clean Water Act. He said there are “tensions across state boundaries” over how the reductions in loading should be allocated between Washington and Idaho when it comes to cleaning up the Spokane River.
- As a kayaker, McLerran said he has a personal interest in cleaning up Puget Sound. Grants for $20 million coming to the EPA for Puget Sound restoration in the 2009 federal budget should be announced soon. That funding has been increased to $50 million for 2010, and the president’s budget would keep it at $50 million for 2011.
- In answer to a question from me, McLerran said he has not heard much about ocean acidification being enforced under the Clean Water Act, not at the regional level anyway. I’m not really surprised that this has not filtered down yet, even though the lawsuit that triggered an inquiry from the EPA was started in Washington state by the Center for Biological Diversity. See Water Ways entries for March 18, Jan. 22 and the first description of the lawsuit back on May 15 of last year.
- McLerran said he is preparing to meet with the stakeholders in the Superfund site in the lower Duwamish River. Likewise with Portland Harbor in Oregon. “My job is to put the pressure on moving forward and getting it done rather than more studies…”
- McLerran said he does not expect to see the Superfund tax on chemical companies to be reinstated anytime soon, which is why he is working with stakeholders and sometimes using money from programs covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
You may wish to check out my previous Water Ways entry on McLerran.
Tags: Clean Water Act, Dennis McLerran, Earth Day, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Pollution, Portland Harbor, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Superfund, the 40th anniversary of the EPA, United States Environmental Protection Agency