By Chelsea Gridley-Smith, NACCHO Program Analyst
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) met on July 27-29, 2016 in Washington, DC to discuss high priority issues for the EPA and local, state, and tribal governments working on environmental efforts. The LGAC is composed of locally elected and appointed officials (e.g., mayors, county executives, city managers, commissioners, etc.), state representatives, environmental interest groups, and labor interest groups from across the country. Open to the public, this meeting convenes LGAC members and representatives of the various EPA offices including Assistant and Regional Administrators approximately once every three months. July’s meeting topics covered clean and safe drinking water, clean air, climate change, and environmental justice.
To start, Dr. Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor to the EPA Office of Water, discussed the Clean Water Act, co-regulated by the EPA and state partners. The focus of this legislation centers on both state and local challenges in implementing the Act’s various pieces into practice, including nutrient pollution, algal blooms, aging infrastructure, and climate change. Harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxic events (severe oxygen depletion) were emphasized as a severe threat to coastal areas promoting a large-scale responsive effort titled, Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA).
Jane Nishida, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator to the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs, highlighted key environmental health-related points discussed during the recent 2016 National Tribal Caucus. The primary concerns brought up by tribal government representatives included access to safe and clean drinking water; solid waste management due to illegal dumping on tribal lands; and coordinating emergency responses with neighboring local and state emergency officials. Efforts to address these concerns were also presented, including collaboration between state and tribal government leaders to collect primary contact information of first responders within tribal communities.
In an accompanying session of the Small Community Advisory Subcommittee (SCAS), agricultural policy and drinking water topics were discussed as they relate to small communities with less than 10,000 residents. Ron Carleton, Counselor to the EPA Administrator for Agricultural Policy, emphasized the importance of soil health, renewable fuel standards, and pollinator and pesticide issues. Maria Lopez-Carbo, Branch Chief in the EPA Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, described the organization’s dedication to increase managerial and financial capacity for small water systems. These efforts are in direct response to the current status of nation-wide systems “indicated to have 18% water contents leakage” and “the disproportionate ratio evidencing 92% of current water systems serving only 10,000 people within their jurisdiction.”
The topics of air, climate, and energy were covered by Dr. Joel Scheraga, Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation in the EPA Office of Policy. He introduced the upcoming release of a Resource Adaptation Center, described as “a training module to provide services and support for local government officials to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to the changing climate.” This resource was created in an effort to educate and empower all communities to identify which issues are priorities based on their local needs, and provide them the resources to effect change. The tool is scheduled to go live at the end of September and will be available at www.epa.gov/arc.
During a working lunch session, the meeting convened a forum to incentivize collaboration strategies for engaging local government agencies with national intergovernmental organizations including NACCHO, U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), National League of Cities (NLC), National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), National Association of Counties (NACo) Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), and EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW). A general consensus on detailing key concerns, brought by all parties involved included challenges of an aging infrastructure, emerging contaminants (e.g. cyanotoxins), strengthening public-private partnerships, effective risk communication, spending less money more wisely, strengthening oversight, and updating the lead/copper rule.
The meeting’s closing session, highlighted the topics of cleaning up our communities, introducing the Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act as a guiding resource. This legislation amends and updates the Toxic Substance Control Act, which mandates the testing and evaluation of existing chemicals, prioritizing chemicals based on high- to low-risk, and eliminating any unreasonably high-risk chemicals, with the exclusion of pharmaceuticals which are regulated by the FDA. Jeff Morris, Deputy Director for Programs in the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, reinforced the importance of state and federal partnership in achieving successful implementation of this Act.
Learn more about EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee and how to get involved on their website. NACCHO also has a number of useful resources on the various topics covered at this meeting, including: