EPA Shifting Its Emphasis to ‘Sustainability’

By Susan Jones | December 2, 2010 | 9:56am EST

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at the climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Environmental Protection Agency, marking its 40th anniversary this week, announced that "sustainability concepts" will govern its programs from now on.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said her agency has commissioned a "groundbreaking" National Research Council study that will help the agency "incorporate sustainability into the way the agency approaches environmental protection."

The announcement signifies an important step toward building a society that can meet its needs while preserving the ability of future generations to meet their needs, the EPA said in a Nov. 30 news release.

Historically, environmental programs have focused on reducing air pollution and water pollution and identifying and monitoring chemical and environmental risks to human health and the environment. But, the EPA explained, today’s challenges involve the sustainable use of energy, water, materials and land – “and require solutions that stress the linkages between energy use, water use, environmental protection, human health, quality of life, and the global economy.”

What does that mean? The EPA gives an example of a sustainability solution – the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private international partnership that’s intended to improve the health of African women and at the same time protect the Third World environment.

In nations where women still cook over smoky fires, giving them inexpensive, clean-burning stoves will not only improve their health, the thinking goes – it also will reduce pressure on natural resources (wood for fires), protect women who will no longer have to forage for fuel, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One solution solves a variety of health and environmental problems, in other words.

In 1983, the National Research Council conducted a study that helped the EPA incorporate "risk assessment" and "risk management" in its work. Twenty-seven years later, the EPA is asking the NRC do another study, to help the EPA shift its focus to "a sustainability framework."


Two weeks ago – in what could be construed as a “sustainability” move ahead of the “sustainability” study – the EPA announced the nation’s first “WaterSense” homes.

WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA that seeks to protect the nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water.

The program will help homebuyers cut their water and energy use while at the same time saving money on utility bills.

The EPA said four WaterSense-labeled new homes built by KB Home in Roseville, California, will help families save an average of 10,000 gallons of water and at least $100 on utility costs each year.

“The construction of the first WaterSense labeled homes, and the plans to build more, mark the beginning of an innovative approach that gives homeowners the chance to cut their water and energy bills and protect a vital environmental resource,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

WaterSense homes use about 20 percent less water than a typical new home, the EPA says. They include efficient plumbing fixtures and hot-water delivery systems, water-efficient landscape design, and other water and energy-efficient features.
As CNSNews.com has previously reported, the EPA administrator already has made “environmental justice” a priority for her agency.

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