Category Archives: S&T Research

Application of Green Net Metropolitan Product to Measure Urban Sustainability: Preliminary Exploration for the Chicago Metropolitan Area

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has been increasingly incorporating the concept of sustainability in its research programs. One facet of this research is the quantitative assessment of the sustainability of urban systems in light of several multidisciplinary sustainability metrics. In this work, we explore the estimation of economic measure of sustainability for Chicago Metropolitan Area (CMA) based on Green Net Metropolitan Product (GNMP), by adapting the economic models of sustainability at the macroeconomic level to regional sustainability. GNMP aims at amending the limitations of Net Domestic Product (NDP), a classical indicator of economic wellbeing, which fails to account for the degradation of environmental and natural resources caused by economic activities. We collect data for computing GNMP from publicly available secondary sources on variables such as gross metropolitan product, net income, emissions, solid waste, etc. In estimating GNMP for CMA, we have accounted for the damage costs associated with pollution emissions based on marginal damage values obtained from the literature using benefit transfers method. In addition, we attempt at accounting for the marginal value of depletion of natural resources in the CMA in terms of water depletion and changes in urban ecosystems such as green spaces. We account for the marginal damage cost associated with solid waste generation. It is expected the preliminary results of this exploration serve as guidance for formulating a refined GNMP estimation model for CMA that could be extended for the sustainability assessment of comparable urban systems elsewhere.

An Evaluation of LH-Stimulated Testosterone Production by Highly Purified Rat Leydig Cells : A Complementary Screen for Steroidogenesis in the Testis

An Evaluation of LH-Stimulated Testosterone Production by Highly Purified Rat Leydig Cells: A Complementary Screen for Steroidogenesis in the Testis. 1Botteri, N., 2Suarez, J., 2Laws, S., 2Klinefelter, G.1Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, TN, 2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ORD, NHEERL, TAD, RTP, NCThe H295R steroidogenesis assay uses an adrenocarcinoma cell line which fails to elicit LH mediated responses. This limits the assay’s ability to detect chemicals which disrupt LH-mediated Leydig cell responses in the testis. This study evaluated whether LH-stimulated T production by purified rat Leydig cells would be altered after exposure to chemicals that failed to decrease T production in the ToxCast H295R screen. Ten chemicals negative for T inhibition in the H295R screen, were selected based on alterations in upstream substrates (deoxycorticosterone, hydroxyprogesterone) expected to result in a decrease in T. Based on earlier work, simvastatin served as our positive control. Each chemical was tested over 6 concentrations ranging from 0.1 µM to 100 µM. Leydig cells were cultured overnight under maximal LH stimulation. A minimum of 3 replicate experiments were conducted for each format (24 and 96 well) and chemical tested; cell viability was assessed using a live/dead cytotoxicity kit. T data were excluded if viability was less than 80% of control. Initial evaluation using a 24-well Leydig cell assay confirmed that 4 of 10 chemicals produced significant (P < 0.05) concentration-related decreases in LH-stimulated T synthesis. To increase throughput and efficiency, we adopted a 96-well assay and observed that exposure to the same chemicals decreased T; in addition corticosterone decreased T. The lowest observed effective concentrations for simvastatin, metconazole, anilazine, hydroquinone and corticosterone were 0.1 µM, 1 µM, 3 µM, 10 µM, 100 µM, respectively. The 96-well assay data revealed decreases in T at lower concentrations (anilazine, metconazole). Perhaps greater sensitivity of the 96-well assay is attributed to the relative increase in T production by cells in this format compared to the 24 well format (1436 vs 738 ng T/106 Leydig cells). Using similar selection criteria, additional chemicals negative for T in the H295R cell assay will be screened using the 96-well Leydig cell assay. We will also determine chemical response with and without LH stimulation. The inherently greater sensitivity afforded by cells making over 1µg of T, together with the ability to capture LH-mediated alterations, makes the Leydig cell assay a reasonable complement to the H295R steroidogenic screen.This abstract does not reflect US EPA policy

Developmental Exposure to Mild Variable Stress: Adult Offspring Performance in Trace Fear Conditioning after Prenatal and Postnatal Stress

In utero exposure to mild variable stress has been reported to influence learning and memory formation in offspring. Our research aims to examine whether nonchemical environmental stressors will exacerbate effects to chemical exposure. This study utilized a varying stress paradigm to simulate human psychosocial stress incurred during and after pregnancy to identify phenotypic learning changes in adult offspring that are potential stress markers. We additionally wanted to compare these behavioral outcomes to rat performance induced by perinatal exposure to manganese (Mn), a neurotoxic environmental element, at 2 or 5 g/l in drinking water throughout gestation and lactation. Pregnant Long Evans rats were exposed to an unpredictable series of mild stressful events which had previously been shown to increase maternal corticosterone levels. Nonchemical stressors were presented from GD 13 through GD 21 and included varying noise, light, housing, and confinement during both sleep and wake cycles. A subgroup of offspring was also exposed to periods of maternal separation. Starting at PND 97 offspring were trained with a trace fear conditioning protocol whereby rats were exposed to a compound cue (light and tone) followed by 30 seconds (trace period) and a mild foot shock (1mA, 0.5 seconds). Five paired training sessions occurred on the first day. The following day, context and cue learning were assessed by measuring motor activity. Preliminary data suggests adult offspring learned the task and exhibited reduced movement in response to both context and cue regardless of stress or Mn exposure. Ongoing research will continue to look for treatment differences in offspring of dams concurrently exposed to Mn and prenatal stress and if there are molecular changes to RNA in the hippocampus or amygdala of adult offspring after learning the trace fear conditioning task. This is an abstract of a proposed presentation and does not necessarily reflect EPA policy.

R package CityWaterBalance

CityWaterBalance provides a reproducible workflow for studying an urban water system. The network of urban water flows and storages can be modeled and visualized. Any city may be modeled with preassembled data, but data for US cities can be gathered via web services using this package and dependencies, geoknife and dataRetrieval.

Avoiding false positives and optimizing identification of true negatives in estrogen receptor binding and agonist/antagonist assays

The potential for chemicals to affect endocrine signaling is commonly evaluated via in vitro receptor binding and gene activation, but these assays, especially antagonism assays, have potential artifacts that must be addressed for accurate interpretation. Results are presented from screening 94 chemicals from 54 chemical groups for estrogen receptor (ER) activation in a competitive rainbow trout ER (rtER) binding assay and a trout liver slice vitellogenin mRNA expression assay. Results from true competitive agonists and antagonists, and inactive chemicals with little or no indication of ER binding or gene activation were easily interpreted. However, results for numerous industrial chemicals were more challenging to interpret, including chemicals with: (1) apparent competitive binding curves but no gene activation, (2) apparent binding and gene inhibition with evidence of either cytotoxicity or changes in assay media pH, (3) apparent binding but non-competitive gene inhibition of unknown cause, or (4) no rtER binding and gene inhibition not due to competitive ER interaction but due to toxicity, pH change, or some unknown cause. The use of endpoints such as toxicity, pH, precipitate formation, and determination of inhibitor dissociation constants (Ki) for interpreting the results of antagonism and binding assays for diverse chemicals is presented. Of the 94 chemicals tested for antagonism only two, tamoxifen and ICI-182,780, were found to be true competitive antagonists. This report highlights the use of two different concentrations of estradiol tested in combination with graded concentrations of test chemical to provide the confirmatory evidence to distinguish true competitive antagonism from apparent antagonism.

Characterizing light attenuation within Northwest Florida Estuaries: Implications for RESTORE Act water quality monitoring

Water Quality (WQ) condition is based on ecosystem stressor indicators (e.g. water clarity) which are biogeochemically important and critical when considering the Deepwater Horizon oil spill restoration efforts under the 2012 RESTORE Act. Nearly all of the proposed RESTORE projects list restoring WC as a goal, but 90% neglect water clarity. Here, dynamics of optical constituents impacting clarity are presented from a 2009-2011 study within Pensacola, Choctawhatchee, St. Andrew and St. Joseph estuaries (targeted RESTORE sites) in Northwest Florida. Phytoplankton were the smallest contribution to total absorption (at-wPAR) at 412 nm (5-11%), whereas colored dissolved organic matter was the largest (61-79%). Estuarine at-wPAR was significantly related to light attenuation (KdPAR), where individual contributors to clarity and the influence of climatic events were discerned. Provided are conversion equations demonstrating interoperability of clarity indicators between traditional State-measured WQ measures (e.g. secchi disc), optical constituents, and even satellite remote sensing for obtaining baseline assessments.

EnviroAtlas Connects Urban Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being

Ecosystem services in urban areas can improve public health and well-being by mitigating natural and anthropogenic pollution, and by promoting healthy lifestyles that include engagement with nature and enhanced opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. EPA’s EnviroAtlas online mapping tool identifies urban environmental features linked in the scientific and medical literature to specific aspects of public health and well-being. EnviroAtlas researchers have synthesized newly-generated one-meter resolution landcover data, downscaled census population data, and other existing datasets such as roads and parks. Resulting geospatial metrics represent health-related indicators of urban ecosystem services supply and demand by census block-group and finer scales. EnviroAtlas maps include percent of the population with limited window views of trees, tree cover along walkable roads, overall neighborhood green space, and proximity to parks. Demographic data can be overlaid to perform analyses of disproportionate distribution of urban ecosystem services across population groups. Together with the Eco-Health Relationship Browser, EnviroAtlas data can be linked to numerous aspects of public health and well-being including school performance, physical fitness, social capital, and longevity. EnviroAtlas maps have been developed using consistent methods to allow for comparisons between neighborhoods and across multiple U.S. communities.

Contrasting Decadal-Scale Changes in Elevation and Vegetation in Two Long Island Sound Salt Marshes

Northeastern US salt marshes face multiple co-stressors, including accelerating rates of relative sea level rise (RSLR), elevated nutrient inputs, and low sediment supplies. In order to evaluate how marsh surface elevations respond to such factors, we used surface elevation tables (SETs) and surface elevation pins to measure changes in marsh surface elevation in two eastern Long Island Sound salt marshes, Barn Island and Mamacoke marshes. We compare marsh elevation change at these two systems with recent rates of RSLR and find evidence of differences between the two sites; Barn Island is maintaining its historic rate of elevation gain (2.3 ± 0.24 mm year−1 from 2003 to 2013) and is no longer keeping pace with RSLR, while Mamacoke shows evidence of a recent increase in rates (4.2 ± 0.52 mm year−1 from 1994 to 2014) to maintain its elevation relative to sea level. In addition to data on short-term elevation responses at these marshes, both sites have unusually long and detailed data on historic vegetation species composition extending back more than half a century. Over this study period, vegetation patterns track elevation change relative to sea levels, with the Barn Island plant community shifting towards those plants that are found at lower elevations and the Mamacoke vegetation patterns showing little change in plant composition. We hypothesize that the apparent contrasting trend in marsh elevation at the sites is due to differences in sediment availability, salinity, and elevation capital. Together, these two systems provide critical insight into the relationships between marsh elevation, high marsh plant community, and changing hydroperiods. Our results highlight that not all marshes in Southern New England may be responding to accelerated rates of RSLR in the same manner.

2017/04/23 Service Academies Swarm Challenge Live-Fly Competition Begins

Image Caption: This data visualization portrays the swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles that flew today over Camp Roberts, Calif., while implementing autonomous swarm tactics designed by Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy for the DARPA Service Academies Swarm Challenge. U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force academy teams are competing in an education-focused experiment designed to pave the way for future offensive and defensive swarm tactics for warfighters. Click below for high-resolution image.

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other robots have become increasingly affordable, capable, and available to both the U.S. military and adversaries alike. Enabling UAVs and similar assets to perform useful tasks under human supervision-that is, carrying out swarm tactics in concert with human teammates-holds tremendous promise to extend the advantages U.S. warfighters have in field operations.

2017/04/21 World’s Most Powerful Emulator of Radio-Signal Traffic Opens for Business

Image Caption: In this photo illustration, a few dozen of the 256 software defined radio units, which comprise the heart of DARPA’s Colosseum—the world’s largest “channel emulator” for simulating electromagnetic communication in different peacetime and contested contexts—rise up from the original Roman Colosseum after which the electronic testbed is named. Click on image below for high-resolution.

Today is the grand opening of the Colosseum. We are not referring here to the storied concrete Colosseum in Rome, which was completed in 80 A.D. and remains famous for its ancient gladiatorial spectacles. We are talking here about DARPA’s Colosseum, a next-generation electronic emulator of the invisible electromagnetic world. Though it resides in a mere 30-foot by 20-foot server room on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, the Colosseum is capable of creating a much larger, and critically important wireless world.

A Framework for Assessing Health Risk of Environmental Exposures to Children (Final)

EPA released the final report entitled, A Framework for Assessing Health Risk of Environmental Exposures to Children, which examines the impact of potential exposures during developmental lifestages and subsequent lifestages, while emphasizing the iterative nature of the analysis phase with a multidisciplinary team.

Major findings and conclusions: This report outlines the framework in which mode of action(s) (MOA) can be considered across life stages. The framework is based upon existing approaches adopted in the Framework on Cumulative Risk Assessment and identifies existing guidance, guidelines and policy papers that relate to children’s health risk assessment. It emphasizes the importance of an iterative approach between hazard, dose response, and exposure analyses. In addition, it includes discussion of principles for weight of evidence consideration across life stages for the hazard characterization database.

Key science/assessment issues:This framework addresses the questions of why and how an improved children’s health risk assessment will strengthen the overall risk assessment process across the Agency. This approach improves the scientific explanation of children’s risk and will add value by: 1) providing for a more complete evaluation of the potential for vulnerability at different life stages, including a focus on the underlying biological events and critical developmental periods for incorporating MOA considerations; 2) evaluating of the potential for toxicity after exposure during all developmental life stages; and 3) integrating of adverse health effects and exposure information across life stages.

EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Research Program: Water Systems Research

Water systems challenged by limited resources, aging infrastructure, shifting demographics, climate change, and extreme weather events need transformative approaches to meet public health and environmental goals, while optimizing water treatment and maximizing resource recovery and system energy efficiency. EPA’s water systems research aims to push forward the next generation of technological, engineering, and process advances to maintain safe and sustainable water resources for humans and the environment, while also augmenting and improving water resources. EPA’s water system efforts focus on breaking down traditional barriers between drinking water and wastewater (now referred to as resource water) with an emphasis on research that encompasses the entire water cycle to improve the way we manage water.

Drought Resilience and Water Conservation – Agency-Wide Actions and Research

In many areas of the United States, the frequency and duration of drought events are increasing. This pattern is expected to continue and to shift outside of historical trends, making forecasting our water quality and supply more difficult. EPA is conducting research and working with stakeholders to better understand the impact of drought on water quality and availability, and to provide solutions to help communities conserve water.

Zero Waste is Within Our Reach, But….

By Sarah Levinson

I would have guessed that my fellow EPA employees would be leaders when it comes to recycling and reducing wastes. Turns out we are leaders, but not quite as far out front as I had hoped. In 2015, a presidential Executive Order on Sustainability directed federal agencies to do their best to divert at least half our non-hazardous wastes into recycling and composting, and to work our darnedest to reach zero waste. While we auditwaitiwaitposterat EPA’s New England office have indeed succeeded in diverting more than half our waste to recycling and compost,  our regional office has yet to achieve net-zero waste (defined as sending at least 90 percent of our waste to recycling or composting) despite our best efforts.  We, like many other organizations, face many of the same challenges when it comes to modifying our own behavior.

My job has been to help my colleagues make the “green choice” when managing wastes they generate in the office. By working with a small team of dedicated volunteers, the Green Team as we are known, instituted a composting program and we have done extensive education and outreach to promote both recycling and composting. We have put out recycling guides and compost guides, posted clear signage showing usual items for composting as well as recycling, held informational sessions, provided tips for preventing waste in the first place, and demonstrated the impact that compost amended soil can have on moisture retention and plant growth. We have also reduced paper communications and urged employees to carry reusable shopping bags, even providing the bags in our lobby. We tried to tap into the competitive spirt, running a contest between offices to see which office could divert the most from the trash stream.

Even with all of these activities and ever since we instituted composting which greatly boosted to our diversion rate, our diversion rate seems to have become stagnant. After some thought about this challenge, the Green Team decided that in order to keep improving, we needed to know what was being thrown into our trash. Specifically, we sought to identify “contaminants” that shouldn’t be in the trash.

Consequently, and timed to coincide with America Recycles Day Nov. 15, The Green Team undertook a messy, but

Most of the waste in our trash containers bound for the landfill should have been recycled or composted.

Most of the waste in our trash containers bound for the landfill should have been recycled or composted.

detailed one-day waste audit. Eight dedicated sorters separated 44 pounds of trash in about two hours. To our surprise, although staff had composted and recycled 75 percent of their unwanted materials, we found that two thirds of the material thrown in the trash could still have been recycled or composted. There were apple cores, banana and orange peels, paper bags, plastic containers and glass bottles all in the trash, when these things could have and should have been placed in recycling or the compost collection. It turned out that only a third of the material in the trash was truly trash and furthermore, we found that had staff properly sorted these items, we could have met the goal of zero waste for that day!

So while we didn’t attain our zero waste goal on Nov. 15, we now know that zero waste is well within our reach. Additionally, because we took many pictures of the “contamination” found in our trash, we now are using the photos to conduct targeted education and outreach. We hope that for many, “seeing” the poor choices that they made will turn them into “believing” the errors of their ways and modify their behavior accordingly. Additionally, by looking closely at was in our trash, we are able to strategize and discuss new ideas to implement to further reduce our waste.

I know that the Green Team will persevere with new ideas, and new efforts to guide and motivate behavioral change. I know that the Green Team won’t give up our quest and am confident that it is just a matter of time until we attain our zero waste goal, becoming true leaders in living a more sustainable lifestyle, especially because we have shown it to be possible.

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Sarah Levinson leads the Green Team at EPA’s New England office in Boston.

EPA Regulations and Court Victories Translate Directly into Wins for the American People

Over the past few years we have heard a pretty constant refrain about “EPA overreach” which is shorthand for saying EPA has gone beyond the authority given to it by Congress.   Even though as Administrator both Lisa Jackson and I pledged to follow two guiding principles – the rule of law and scientific integrity – it seemed with few exceptions that nearly every significant step EPA took to protect public health and the environment was met with criticisms of EPA overreach.   So I recently asked Avi Garbow, EPA’s General Counsel, to conduct an analysis of court decisions reviewing the actions taken by the Obama EPA under the Clean Air Act – which were the largest set of actions EPA took.  The purpose of this analysis was to determine whether in fact, the EPA followed these first principles of law and science.

Today I received the General Counsel’s memo summarizing the results of his analysis and in short, the record clearly shows that EPA followed the law and the science.  Overall, EPA won or mostly won, 81% of these D.C. Circuit cases and lost or mostly lost only 10% of the cases, with the rest resulting in mixed decisions.   And during the last two years, 2015-2016, EPA won 90% of the cases.  While we are concerned about any losses in court, we recognize that our rulemakings necessarily involve making judgments about matters on which the law is not settled, and as a result, some court losses are inevitable.

That said, ours is an excellent record on its face. And several other considerations make it even more impressive. About one-quarter of the losses resulted in remands without vacatur, meaning that the rule stayed in effect while EPA took additional action – in most cases, no more than providing additional explanation — to remedy the deficiency.  Furthermore, it should be noted that the judges on the D.C. Circuit are almost evenly split between those appointed by Democratic Presidents and those appointed by Republican Presidents, but Republican-appointed judges upheld EPA’s actions as often as Democratic-appointed judges.

Now as thorough and straightforward as this analysis is, I am sure it won’t quiet those who have claimed EPA overreach.  But, to the many hardworking, selfless EPA career staff who accomplished so much these past eight years, I am hoping they will read the memo and be filled with pride in so many jobs well done.  EPA not only followed science and the law, we identified reasonable, common sense steps forward that not only make our world cleaner and safer, but to support the amazing economic turn around and job growth that has taken place during this Administration.

But most importantly, I hope this analysis provides added comfort to the vast majority of Americans who support the work of EPA and want to know that the actions we have taken to deliver cleaner air, water and land – as well as a more stable planet – will be sustained.   EPA under President Obama’s leadership has a remarkable success story to tell.   My hope is that our record will remind people that government can and does work for them, and it will inspire young people everywhere to consider careers in public service because it is indeed the most noble profession.

Innovation in Government

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

EPA and other federal agencies are tasked with finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and complicated problems. These problems require innovative solutions, which EPA supports through use of crowdsourcing, citizen science, and public engagement.

Two of these efforts have advanced to the semifinalist stage of the 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards presented by the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. The award recognizes and promotes excellence and creativity in the public sector.

Here’s a quick look at the two EPA-connected projects.

CitizenScience.gov and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

In 2012, a small group of EPA and other federal agency officials recognized a surge of interest in citizen science and crowdsourcing. This informal group grew to the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, an organization with over 300 members representing over 60 agencies. As co-chair of this rapidly expanding and productive group, EPA participates in and aids high-level federal efforts to facilitate and implement crowdsourcing and citizen science.

One of these efforts is CitizenScience.gov, which was created in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Commons Lab at the Wilson Center, and the General Services Administration. The site includes a searchable catalog of federally-supported citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, a Toolkit to assist with designing and maintaining projects, and a gateway to the Federal Community of Practice. The resources this site provides helps the public and the federal community work together to address the complex problems our nation faces. The group continues to focus on increasing and enhancing in citizen science and crowdsourcing across the federal government.

The Village Green Project

Village Green station in Durham, NC

Village Green station in Durham, NC

The Village Green project is an EPA-led, community-based research effort to demonstrate real-time air monitoring technology, engage the public in learning about local air quality, and collect high-quality data for research.  Working with state and community partners, the Village Green team places park benches in cities across the US that provide local, real-time air pollution measurements using low-cost monitoring sensor technologies. Each solar- and wind-powered system continuously measures two common air pollutants (ozone and fine particulate matter), as well as wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity. The measurements are transmitted to a website every minute.

Beyond measuring the air and weather, the Village Green Project is also about engaging with neighbors in the immediate area about their environment and the public on the web. The station can be used as a community gathering place to learn about new technology, the environment, or simply to sit down and read a book. The stations are currently all located in public environments, including elementary schools, public libraries, the National Zoo, a national park historic site, and a public children’s garden. Learn more about the Village Green Project.

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Progress in Strengthening Our Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribal Nations

By: JoAnn Chase and Ethan Shenkman

EPA has long honored tribal rights to sovereignty, self-governance and self-determination. These principles are enshrined in EPA’s Indian Policy, signed by Administrator Ruckelshaus in 1984 and reaffirmed by every EPA Administrator since. Thanks to the unique partnership between our offices — EPA’s American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) and EPA’s Indian law team in the Office of General Counsel — we have made great strides in bringing these principles to life and weaving them into the very fabric of this agency.

One important example is our work to ensure tribal nations have the tools they need to protect waters on Indian lands. Under the Clean Water Act, tribes may apply to EPA for the ability to administer certain regulatory programs on their reservations, just as states do. To date, over 50 tribes have used this special status to issue their own water quality standards under the Act. We worked closely with the Office of Water to streamline and simplify the process for tribes wishing to apply for this status, so that more tribes can take advantage of these opportunities. In addition, we worked together to expand the scope of authorities that tribes can assume by providing a new pathway for tribes to engage in water quality restoration. Tribes who take advantage of these new authorities will be able to issue lists of impaired waters and develop “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for those waters – critical regulatory tools for ensuring the protection of their waters, and the ecosystems and communities who depend on them.

EPA has also made tremendous strides under this Administration in living up to the ideals of true government-to-government consultation with tribal nations. In 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum directing federal agencies to develop a plan for implementing the tribal consultation obligation in Executive Order 13175. In 2011, we issued the Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes, which sets a very high bar for ensuring meaningful, government-to-government consultation on EPA actions that affect tribal interests.

When we consulted with tribal leaders across the country, we listened, and we learned. It became clear that we needed to do more to ensure that we consistently consider tribal treaty rights when making decisions that may affect tribal natural resources. We recognize that treaties between the United States and tribal nations are the Supreme Law of the land, and that we have a solemn obligation to ensure that our decisions do not compromise those commitments. As a result, with terrific input from tribal nations, in February 2016, we issued a groundbreaking Treaty Rights Guidance as a supplement to our tribal consultation policy.

The new guidance ensures that EPA staff will engage in a critical inquiry with tribes about treaty rights (and similar federally-protected reserved rights) when the agency is making decisions focused on specific geographic areas where tribal hunting, fishing and gathering rights may exist. Under the guidance, EPA will “consider all relevant information obtained to help ensure that EPA’s actions do not conflict with treaty rights, and to help ensure that EPA is fully informed when it seeks to implement its programs and to further protect treaty rights and resources when it has discretion to do so.”

EPA’s treaty rights guidance was well received by our tribal partners. The White House Council on Native American Affairs was then asked by tribes to consider embracing the concept more broadly. As a result of conversations that we at EPA had with our federal partners, in September 2016 we signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination and collaboration in the protection of treaty rights and similar tribal rights. We are delighted that nine agencies have thus far signed on to the MOU, most at the Secretarial level, and EPA and the Department of Agriculture are co-chairing a working group to implement this commitment moving forward.

These are but a few examples of the tremendous progress we have made in strengthening EPA’s government-to-government relationship with tribal nations – progress that is owed to the outstanding dedication and talents of the employees of our respective offices, and to the steadfast support of EPA’s Administrator and senior leadership. Nor could this progress have occurred without the close collaboration and partnership of our tribal counterparts. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served our shared mission of protecting human health and the environment for the benefit of future generations.