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The Insider

Environment Next Highlights Debate On Environmental Protection’s Future

Companies, lawmakers, research groups and others are ramping up their focus on changes in environmental protection policies in the coming years and decades, and Inside EPA’s exclusive new service Environment Next has the inside scoop on the major emerging issues.

Free to existing readers of Inside EPA, Environment Next offers a wide range of features to showcase innovation in environmental protection, as well as the challenges in addressing growing problems such as ocean debris pollution and risks from new chemicals.

Our profiles highlight key players, companies and organizations in the future of environmental policy, profiling their role in the burgeoning debate over the future of environmental policymaking. The series launched earlier this month with a focus on Ira Feldman, a former EPA enforcement official and long-time adviser to the public and private sector.

Profile: Ira Feldman
Former EPA official Ira Feldman for decades has pressed for the United States to adopt a federal approach to advancing sustainability that encompasses environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

Feldman previewed a then-pending meeting with House and Senate staff where he planned to talk about the need for refocusing existing government infrastructure around sustainability.

Democrats’ Green New Deal, he says, is triggering renewed debate on the need for a national sustainability policy that was never fully realized after the President’s Council on Sustainable Development ended in 1999. Yet Feldman says sustainability principles have continued to advance in the private sector and around the world.

Feldman wants the federal government to back approaches similar to the environmental management systems (EMS) that he pushed to include in EPA settlements while special counsel to EPA’s enforcement office in the 1990s. EMS policies seek to reduce a company’s environmental footprint while also growing revenue.

Environment Next spoke with Feldman after the June 10 meeting, at which he was joined by Alan Horowitz, principal and managing director of Trusted Companies LLC, who previously worked as an environmental health and safety compliance official at Microsoft and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Jeremy Symons, of Symons Public Affairs and formerly of the Environmental Defense Fund, moderated the discussion.

Consultants Urge Congress To Use Sustainability For Environmental Policy
A small panel of government and industry consultants is urging Congress to use sustainability as a framework for tackling environmental problems, saying the federal government is lagging behind on a coherent policy while companies advance sustainability’s goals of environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

“Properly understood, sustainability is a coherent framework for advancing the bundle of issues contained in the Green New Deal,” panelists said in a briefing presentation.

Feldman said the briefing sought “to push a reset button on sustainability as it is understood on the Hill,” where he says people have not been talking about sustainability for some time. Speakers provided staffers with a history of advances in sustainability in recent decades in the United States, which have occurred largely outside the federal government.

Other recent additions to our profiles section include a summary of the actions Walmart is taking to promote sustainability voluntarily among its suppliers, and today’s profile of Janet Ranganathan, the World Resources Institute’s vice president of science and research.

Environment Next also features traditional interviews with experts tracking the future of environmental protection. Our site launched earlier this month featuring an exclusive talk with former EPA Administrator William Reilly on the future of the agency.

“It has long seemed to me that the way we would see a reconciliation between Americans’ public polling showing that they believe in climate science, and the fact that they don’t vote it . . . will come through a series of catastrophes which scientists will attribute to climate change,” said Reilly, who headed the agency from 1989-93 under President George H.W. Bush.

Interview: Former EPA Chief Reilly Says ‘Catastrophes’ May Spur Climate Policy Deal
Former EPA Administrator William Reilly doubts any near-term compromise between Democrats and Republicans on policies to tackle climate change and instead expects it will take a series of environmental “catastrophes” to break the gridlock and spur a deal: one he hopes that will grow EPA’s role beyond traditional command-and-control rules.

Reilly has previously called for EPA to take on more infrastructure and land-use duties in order to manage the response to climate change impacts. The agency under President Barack Obama attempted to use the Clean Air Act to impose stringent greenhouse gas regulations on power plants, oil and gas drilling and other sectors, but EPA under President Donald Trump is working to repeal many of those rules.

However, environmentalists and others are fighting the repeal efforts, and former agency chiefs including Reilly are already debating the potential for future climate policies once Trump leaves office -- a debate that Environment Next is closely tracking.

With the 2020 presidential election looming, we’re also offering a semi-regular series profiling some of the Democratic and Republican contenders in the race. Our in-depth candidate profiles take a close look at the environmental platforms of the candidates, and what they might mean not just for EPA but also for other agencies and environmental protection post-2020.

First up: Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey who would make environmental justice a major component of his administration’s environmental agenda.

2020 Presidential Profiles: Cory Booker
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is pitching perhaps the broadest environmental justice (EJ) agenda of any Democratic candidate for president, using his time as a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee to inform his plan that includes massive funding and staff boots for EPA to tackle the major issues of EJ and climate change.

As a candidate for the Democratic nomination, he has framed his top environmental priorities around EJ, with policy proposals focused on bolstering the Superfund program, EPA’s enforcement and civil rights offices, abandoned mine cleanups and lead paint remediation.

That focus fits with Booker’s record in Congress, where he is a founding member of the Senate’s newly formed Environmental Justice Caucus and has repeatedly pushed legislation that would revive the Superfund law’s “polluter pays” tax. It also follows from his background as the former mayor of Newark, NJ, which is home to two Superfund sites and has struggled with drinking water contamination, most recently from the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Another occasional feature that will be new to Inside EPA readers is Environment Next’s “From The Editor” series of editorials, analyzing a pressing issue on the future of environmental protection, from climate change to sustainability and everything in-between.

The debut editorial featured a chat with Jim Tozzi, the former White House regulatory review chief and now head of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness that advocates for deregulatory measures. He might not be the first person that comes to mind when talking about the need to address climate change, but he explained how he’s now an advocate on that issue.

It all started with a visit to the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and Tozzi getting muddy feet when walking around the Tidal Basin because of rising water levels. That inspired him to believe that climate change is happening and is a priority for policymakers to address.

From The Editor: From Cherry Blossoms To Climate: EPA As Peace Corps For Environment?
Views on climate change can turn on a single incident; former White House regulatory review chief and deregulatory advocate Jim Tozzi says his position changed after the National Cherry Blossom festival.

An amusing anecdote but a serious topic, and just the first of many planned editorials. Environment Next is offering a different approach than the traditional news stories Inside EPA readers are used to, but with the same level of in-depth reporting and exclusive items to help prepare for the uncertain but exciting future of environmental protection.

Of course, we’re also offering our regular news stories and short items that subscribers of Inside EPA know. For example, we recently reported on how the Trump EPA’s rollbacks of Obama-era rules might prompt Democrats to support bills giving the agency major new authority.

EPA Rollbacks Might Spur Democrats To Back New Environmental Laws
EPA’s rollbacks of Obama-era rules could force Democrats to back a sweeping legislation-first approach to policymaking that gives the agency new rulemaking powers, a conservative attorney says, because the Trump administration’s agenda shows that even rules crafted in a two-term Democratic presidency are not “durable.”

Subscribers should check their inboxes every morning around 11 a.m. for the latest roundup of the day’s Environment Next news to stay informed on these and other topics.