Environmentalists Send Detailed Wish List to Obama

Washington, DC (November 25, 2008)- Today, a group of 29 environmental organizations delivered a 391-page report to the Obama transition team. It outlines the actions that the group, collectively, requests of Obama’s environmental team both by issues (such as climate and energy and land and water conservation) and agency (such as Defense Department, Forest Service, Department of Energy, EPA, and more). There are only two references to “tree, ” and the several links to urban pertain to LWCF, open space, EPA stormwater, or “climate justice.”

Perhaps the most troubling finding about the report is that these environmental organizations confuse the terms “green infrastructure” and “gray infrastructure.” Requests for wind farms, solar panels, hybrid cars, mass transit, and efficient buildings connected to a smart electricity grid are all referred to as “green infrastructure” in the report.
On a positive note, the document advocates for “infiltrating stormwater through vegetation and soil to reduce both the pollution carried by runoff and sewer overflows in many urban areas.” However, the NGO environmental organizations negate the Forest Service’s authorities in this area.
Here are some of the highlights:
Establish National Park Service Corps (Interior)
A new National Park Service Corps should be created to complement the anticipated expansion of Americorps and provide employment and volunteer opportunities directed at restoring our national parks. In the 1930’s, thousands of young Americans worked to renew our national inheritance by planting trees to prevent soil erosion and by building roads and other facilities to help families access the national parks.
President-elect Obama has proposed a substantial expansion of “national service” opportunities. We propose that 10,000 of the new positions under the Obama proposal or the Serve America Act be dedicated to the Corps. The NPS would administer the Corps and deploy new volunteer coordinators in national parks, and the new positions would be funded with living stipends and education awards through the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Half the slots will be devoted to each of two successful models based on the current AmeriCorps program. The AmeriCorps State and National program “provides financial support through grants to public and nonprofit organizations that sponsor service programs around the country…. These groups recruit, train and place AmeriCorps members to meet critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.” The other model, the National Civilian Community Corps is a federally administered, full-time 10-month residential program for young men and women who receive intensive training and are deployed as teams for projects that range from disaster response to environmental protection. Projects using the NCCC model could include trail reengineering and repairs, erosion control, hiking bridges, “green” initiatives like reforestation and wetlands restoration, eradication of invasive species, rehabilitation of structures, etc. Projects using the State and National grant model could include enhanced services in parks, the design of service-learning projects to engage disadvantaged youth in learning history, biology, and other subjects, etc.
Responsible Officials: Secretary of the Interior; Director of the Corporation for National
Fund Green Infrastructure (EPA)
The new Administration should develop and promote legislation that provides grant and loan funding and other incentives to assist communities in transitioning to integrated and sustainable, water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructures that provide safe, sufficient water supplies for human and ecosystem needs in light of population growth, urbanization, and climate change.
Ensure Climate Justice (EPA)
The new Administration should support climate legislation that will ensure emissions reductions and accompanying health benefits are fairly distributed and occur in urban areas and that reduce emissions of fine particulate matter, its gaseous precursors, and other toxic pollutants at the same time that emissions of carbon dioxide are being reduced. Such legislation should deploy renewable energy sources and conservation techniques extensively in urban areas to reduce emissions of and to help revitalize the economies of urban areas. It should also require the formulation of climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation strategies designed specifically for people of color and low-income urban residents.
Responsible Official: EPA Administrator
Protect, restore, enhance natural resources for water supply
It should be a national priority to protect and restore our water resources now. The administration must first guard against the further loss of headwater streams, wetlands and other waters that comprise and are an integral part of our aquatic systems. It is also necessary to enhance the use of green infrastructure – such as infiltrating stormwater through vegetation and soil to reduce both the pollution carried by runoff and sewer overflows in many urban areas. Additionally, the administration must work to restore natural aquatic ecosystems, like our coastal and other wetland systems that protect people, wildlife and our economic interests. Collectively, these natural resources help purify water, reduce flooding, provide aquatic habitat, and recharge water supplies – all functions hard to otherwise achieve and vital to the Nation’s environmental and economic well-being in the 21st Century.
Other involved agencies include: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior, Council of Environmental Quality, Office of Management and Budget, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture.
Make Green Infrastructure the Predominant Development Paradigm (EPA)
The new Administration should require permitted municipal separate storm sewer systems to implement green infrastructure to restore natural hydrology and meet local water quality standards. It should also require controls for construction & development industries that address both construction-phase and post construction-phase stormwater discharges. Finally, it should include green infrastructure in long-term control plans for combined sewer systems and in remedies in related enforcement actions.
Responsible officials: Administrator, AA for Water, General Counsel, AA for Enforcement
Reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
In keeping with the need to fund green infrastructure, the new Administration should promote community investment and job growth by reauthorizing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund at a much higher authorized level and ensuring that a significant percentage of the funding is invested in green solutions.
Responsible Officials: EPA Administrator; AA for Water
Adequately Fund the State Revolving Fund
The new Administration should propose a budget that includes $3 billion in funding for the State Revolving Fund, an amount which is the same level authorized by the House earlier this year and $200 million less than the level approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The Administration should also request $3.5 billion in grants for combined sewer overflow remediation, including the use of green infrastructure. Finally, the Administration should seek an increase in the tribal set-aside percentage from the SRF from 1.5 to 3 percent.
Responsible Officials: EPA Administrator; AA for Water
Related Resources:
Transition Report to Obama from Environmental Groups
Green Budget 2010