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Executive Message

Sustainability and Innovation at EPA

Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas

As we embark on 2011, I am particularly excited about the new directions and new beginnings taking shape in our agency.  Here at EPA, we have a strong tradition of excellence in science—one that we are well poised to build upon to take environmental protection to the next level.  For decades, we have protected human health and the environment by reducing air pollutants and water contaminants, cleaning up hazards waste sites, and many other significant actions.  In 2011 and beyond, we have the opportunity to strengthen this legacy through actions that Administrator Jackson has described in terms of both innovation and sustainability.

Our research focus in 2011 will continue to emphasize high priority areas including toxic chemicals, air toxics and water treatment technologies.  But in addition to the cutting edge knowledge that we have traditionally pursued, we will continue to drive toward innovative and sustainable solutions.  What does this mean for EPA research?

  • It means that by investing in research on innovative technologies, we can promote synergies between environmental protection, health protection and the pursuits of economic growth and job production.
  • It means that instead of working to make things less bad, we are working toward a healthy, sustainable environment.  As Administrator Jackson put it recently, “It’s the difference between treating disease, and pursuing wellness…”
  • It means that we are approaching our research with a holistic, systems perspective rather than chemical by chemical, problem by problem, reductionist approach.

This re-shaping of our approaches, methods, and mentality is a response to a call to action made by Administrator Jackson when she launched a new National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study in November. In real time, the NAS is convening the leading scientific experts in the nation to build upon 25 years of sustainability science and provide an operational framework for sustainability that can be incorporated into the work of EPA.

In her announcement of the study, which is being called the Green Book, Administrator Jackson explained, “…what I am announcing today is not an initiative, program or project. It is the beginning of a new approach. It is a step toward the more effective pursuit of all of our work, including our statutory requirements, by incorporating sustainability into our foundations.”

As an agency, we are ready to face scientific challenges in 2011 that range from mountain top mining to hydraulic fracturing to endocrine disruption and more. But the reason it’s so important to invest in the kind of new thinking, methods, and approaches that Administrator Jackson has called for, is to ensure our ability to take on those challenges we can’t foresee. Innovative thinking and sustainable approaches will be out best tools to confront new environmental challenges as they arise.

Paul T. Anastas
Assistant Administrator
Office of Research and Development

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