The Center has launched a new project to outline an agenda for 21st century environmental protection. The world faces new kinds of problems, has access to emerging technologies, and needs creative problem-solvers to protect the environment. This project is designed to help us anticipate and prepare for these challenges. The focus of this effort will be on the paths to achieving fairness and equity in how we define, assess, and manage environmental challenges in the coming decades.
Clean Air for All: 50 Years of the Clean Air Act
In partnership with the American Lung Association and American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking, the Center for Environmental Policy is pleased to announce the symposium Clean Air for All: 50 Years of the Clean Air Act. The September 29, 2020 event, will feature a full day of moderated panel discussions with practitioners and experts as well as the premiere of a new short film, Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air.
Future Directions for Environmental Protection
In April 2019, the Center launched a new initiative, Future Directions for Environmental Protection, which included a two-day conference and informed its recent report, Moving Forward: Future Directions for EPA and Environmental Protection, that suggests how EPA and other institutions should prepare for future environmental challenges. In November 2019, the Center convened a summit with representatives from Yale University, entitled Advancing 21st Century Environmental Protection: Policies, Technologies, and Institutions, focused on the roles and responsibilities of the government, NGO, and private sectors to address the major challenges facing the environment today and in the future.
Equity Considerations for Lead Service Line Replacement in Washington, DC
Typically, water utilities expect households to pay to replace the portion of the lead service line (LSL) on private property to avoid a partial replacement, which can significantly increase short-term lead in water levels and fails to provide the long-term lead exposure reductions provided by full replacement. Since low-income households may be unable to pay, this practice raises health equity and environmental justice concerns. To evaluate these concerns, American University’s Center for Environmental Policy (CEP), in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, analyzed more than 3,400 LSL replacements (LSLRs) conducted in Washington, DC between 2009 and 2018. In 2009, Washington, DC, launched a program to promote full LSLR by streamlining the process for households as part of the utility’s Capital Improvement Program to restore water mains. The program required the household to pay for the LSLR on private property, but provided logistical support to the resident. Comparing data provided by the city’s water utility with demographic data, AU researchers found that the program had the unintended consequence of disproportionately impacting low-income and minority neighborhoods. The study saw similar impacts with a related program designed to support households proactively paying to replace their LSL, outside of infrastructure repairs (1,300 households participated). The federal government, states, communities, and water utilities need to recognize the unintended impacts of LSLR programs that support access for wealthy households but leave low-income and minority households behind—especially given known health impacts of even low levels of lead exposure. Achieving health equity and environmental justice in LSL replacement is essential, not only because all children and communities deserve to benefit from reductions in lead exposure, but because these residents already bear a disproportionate burden.
Partnership on Technology Innovation and the Environment: Workshop on Environmental Protection, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning
In this project, the Center for Environmental Policy provides management and analytical support for the Partnership on Technology Innovation and the Environment in its effort to identify and advance artificial intelligence and machine learning in support of environmental protection goals. This was the fifth such workshop organized by the Partnership.