Thursday, April 2, 2009

EPA is Back on the Job

I went to a conference at Columbia University called Translating Science to Policy on Monday. It was about children's health science and how our movement (called the toxics movement internally - though I wonder what the chemical industry calls us - probably something that you can be fined for on tv) can use recent science to get good laws passed for a more precautionary approach to protecting health instead of regulating chemicals. is that enough jargon for you this early in the morning?

Lisa Jackson, the new EPA Administrator, was there to discuss the agency's priorities. She gave some bold statements, such as EPA is back on the job. She also talked about the USAToday articles on air pollution and schools. She didn't mention that the EPA just announced 100 schools that are being monitored for the next 60 days for air pollution. The extent of this project can be found here.

On this issue, which I spend most of my time working on, EPA has been back on the job. In January, the agency announced that a working group had been formed to develop national guidelines on school siting. Though this announcement should have happened the January prior because now they are it looks like a sure thing they will miss yet another deadline which for this project is June 2009. (though I was told that I should be happy that their goal isn't 3 or 4 years) She gave a pretty good speech that allowed us in the room to feel that maybe our concerns will be looked at and examined in a thoughtful manner. Of course all this makes me nervous. Because it means that the public might become too complacent. Might think that because we don't have an environmental agency who fires scientists for speaking out against chemicals/corrupt corporations or dozens of staff quitting because they can't take having their science replaced with political favors and stymied any longer, that we all don't have a part in keeping the pressure up on our government.

They may be better than that past 8 years, but a democracy only works when people make it work. It doesn't exist in isolation or without arguments or without corruption. Democracy only works when the people watchdog and complain and FOIA the shit out of it. It only works when we are engaged and read the newspapers/blog/twitter/whathaveyounewssource and then discuss what you read with your neighbors and children and cubicle mates.

So even though Jackson gave this speech where she outlined a better regulatory system, children's health, cleaner water, cleaner air, and the precautionary principle as her priorities, that doesn't mean that today I'm not going to try to convince people and organizations to sign on to school siting principles that will then be used in local school districts to sign on letters to Jackson herself about how if these guidelines really do take 18 months longer than they were mandated to take, that the EPA isn't putting children's health first. That they will be failing in being back on the job.

Renee Claire

ps. I'm trying to come up with a project to highlight the 100 schools that are being air monitored, but I'm not sure what to do. Got any ideas?

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