About EPA

EPA's Themes - Meeting the Challenge Ahead

Making a Visible Difference in Communities across the Country: EPA must work each and every day - hand-in-hand with other federal agencies, states, tribes and local communities - to improve the health of American families and protect the environment one community at a time, all across the country. We must:

  • expand the work we do to enhance the livability and economic vitality of neighborhoods in and around brownfields sites;
  • strengthen our relationship with America's agricultural community;
  • support green infrastructure to manage urban waters;
  • reduce air pollution along roadways, railways and at ports; and
  • take into consideration the impacts of our decisions on environmental justice communities through increased analysis, better science, and enhanced community engagement to ensure the protection of basic fundamental rights. 

Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality: Working across EPA and in partnership with other agencies, we will heed the President's call to action on climate change. We will work to mitigate this threat by reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and energy sectors, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) through our Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, and focusing continued attention on efficiency improvements in homes, buildings, and appliances. In collaboration with other agencies, EPA will build strong partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities to enhance the resiliency of local infrastructure as part of EPA's Sustainable Communities initiative.

On-going EPA programs such as Energy Star, SmartWay, WaterSense, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), and the Economy, Energy and Environment (E3) program, as well as partnerships with business and manufacturing, will continue to be critical to build innovation and to help consumers save money while seeing pollution reductions. International mitigation efforts, in partnership with other agencies, are an essential component of our work. Co-benefits of criteria pollution reduction will be maximized to deliver significant health benefits to the American public, while continuing to make progress to improve ambient air quality and reduce emissions of toxic pollutants in areas where exposures remain challenging.

Taking Action on Toxics and Chemical Safety: Keeping communities safe and healthy requires action to reduce risks associated with exposure to chemicals in commerce, our indoor and outdoor environments, and products and food. EPA must implement the existing Toxic Substances Control Act to the maximum extent possible in the near term, while providing technical assistance in support of a bipartisan effort to modernize the law. Continuing to oversee the introduction and use of pesticides, improve our Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, reduce radon risks, identify and address children's health risks in schools and homes, and improve chemical management practices will remain of central relevance to EPA's mission, including maintaining incentive-based efforts and research to promote green chemistry.

Oversight of chemical storage and manufacturing in coordination with our interagency partners will remain a key focus of attention, as will efforts to reduce urban air toxics. EPA must also enhance the tracking and management of hazardous waste through modern e-Manifest tracking systems and continue to improve our ability to monitor and model air emissions and provide American families with the information they need to understand and minimize adverse health impacts. 

Protecting Water: A Precious, Limited Resource: Given the nation's significant water infrastructure needs and substantial evidence that progress in advancing clean water and safe drinking water goals in the U.S. is stalled, there is a clear need to reinvigorate efforts to improve water quality. By taking action to reduce uncertainties about the scope of the Clean Water Act, to employ green infrastructure and other locally driven solutions that restore degraded waterways and revitalize communities, and to focus resources to decrease pollution to our waters and protect high quality waters, we can achieve real, cost-effective solutions to our nation's water quality challenges.

Simultaneously, our efforts will protect drinking water from known and emerging contaminants that endanger public health. Achieving these results requires new paradigms including state, tribal, city roles and incentives for local action. EPA realizes that we are not the only entity engaged and investing in this critical work. To complement these efforts and enhance our ability to fulfill our mission, we will coordinate closely with local, state, and regional stakeholders, including elected officials, industry, non-governmental organizations, and environmental entities.

Launching a New Era of State, Tribal and Local Partnerships: Good government, as well as the reality of scarcer resources, require that EPA work in concert with the states, tribes, local governments, and sister federal agencies that constitute our country's environmental protection enterprise, to ensure the efficiency, efficacy, and coordination of our overlapping and complementary efforts.  Work must be shared, roles must be refined, and stronger, more efficient and cost-effective partnerships must be built to ensure our continued joint success. EPA must work with our co-regulators as well as the regulated community and the people we serve, to build new tools and strategies that enhance coordination, establish joint priorities, manage resources effectively, and share information through E-Enterprise.

Embracing EPA as a High Performing Organization: To meet our mission, EPA must maintain and attract the workforce of the future, modernize our business practices, and take advantage of new tools and technologies. This will be critical as policy decisions are made, rules are promulgated and implemented, contracts are enacted, grants funds are distributed, technical assistance is provided, compliance is promoted, science is studied and integrated into decision-making, work is communicated, outreach is conducted, research is planned and funded, and personnel are hired, trained and supported to enhance their performance.  In short, with each and every "transaction” that is conducted within EPA and between EPA and the outside world, value must be added to our workforce, our co-regulators, our partners, and the people we serve.

As part of this effort, EPA must embrace "Next Generation" tools and processes. E-government must deliver data that is transparent, readily available, and understandable so that the entire environmental protection enterprise (federal, state, local, and tribal partners) can regularly conduct business electronically in an integrated way. The Agency must focus on streamlining internal business practices and decision-making at all levels.  We must continuously improve our work environment, and ensure that staff are properly trained and supported, that we promote diversity and protect civil rights, and that input from career staff in headquarters and the regions is welcomed and fully considered in policy and programmatic decisions.

To stay current, programs must be constantly revisited to ensure they are well focused and cutting edge; rules must be crafted to maximize environmental benefit while minimizing cost, and resources -- this includes enforcement and compliance efforts. As an Agency, our budget must align with EPA's priorities and we must ensure that we are using the right tools (regulatory or incentive-based) to maximize the benefits of EPA, state, tribal, and regulatory entity investments. Lastly, decision-making processes must be streamlined to increase efficiency and reduce costs while retaining or enhancing environmental benefits.

Working Toward a Sustainable Future: Our traditional approaches to risk reduction and pollution control can only go so far to deliver the long term and broad environmental quality we seek. The interplay between different media and different statutes also requires renewed attention to improve "synergy" and long-term solutions. Incentive-based efforts to complement our base of solid regulations and a review of new and key existing regulations to examine sustainable enhancements are important actions. Integrating efforts with a new commitment to innovation, the high-level use of data and information, partnerships, incentives, new and expanded constituencies, and environmental education will build momentum. The Agency's work with the international community will benefit from an approach in which sustainable practices are part of our dialogue going forward on issues of mutual concern.

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