If you’ve been watching the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as long as I have, you have to be hopeful when you hear Administrator Lisa Jackson saying she’s going to increase transparency at the agency. And it’s good news that she seems to be hinting that the agency will be taking on a stronger role in regulating stormwater, our most widespread form of water pollution.
Jackson’s initiative, detailed in a piece by the pro-transparency group OMBWatch, is based on a July 2 memo from Jackson to agency employees regarding how they handle their duties under the Clean Water Act. OMBWatch notes:
The new memo from Jackson only addresses enforcement of and compliance with one statute, the Clean Water Act. No such memo or other instructions have been released regarding transparency in the enforcement of the numerous other environmental statutes under EPA’s jurisdiction. …
The memo continues an emerging trend at EPA of greater transparency – at least rhetorically. Shortly after her confirmation as head of EPA, Jackson released a memo to all employees calling for greater transparency, followed by a memo emphasizing a restoration of scientific integrity.
Will this lead to actual transparency? That’s one we’ll have to watch and see about. For instance, will Jackson order that responses to all Freedom of Information Act requests, once fullfilled, be posted online for all to see? Just think of the power of that information, and what citizens could do with it. It was one recommendation of many for opening up the government under the Obama administration by a coalition of groups advocating transparency.
Will Jackson put the needle to the campaign to control stormwater? The OMBWatch piece says:
Jackson’s memo also calls for raising the bar on performance of Clean Water Act enforcement. She pushed for putting resources into the highest-priority problems that will yield the largest impact on water quality, such as ‘wet weather pollution,’ which would include storm water runoff.
We’ll be waiting and watching on that one, too. As we’ve explained, ending stormwater pollution means rethinking how we build our cities. And the National Academy of Sciences called for “radical” changes to control stormwater.