EPA Local Government Advisory Committee Bridging Local-Federal Partnership
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with members of the Local Government Advisory Committee
Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) met in Washington, D.C. to discuss key issues at the forefront of local governments such as new water and air regulations, climate change and resiliency, and environmental justice with officials from EPA headquarters, as well as the regional administrators.
At a time when so many environmental issues are at the center of policy discussions and have practical impacts on communities and the nation, the LGAC serves as a sounding board for EPA on rules and regulations, as well as policies and programs, such as the Agency's Clean Water Rule (also known as the "Waters of the U.S." rule) and the Clean Power Plan.
"For a lot of communities, the thought of EPA regulation equals potential increased cost. I think the EPA recognizes this issue and has been proactive in their engagement with local governments of all sizes. The dual goal of service delivery and environmental protection can work together but it takes dialogue, understanding and compromise. I think the LGAC helps achieve that," said LGAC member Dave Richins, Council Member from Mesa, Ariz.
Over the course of the day and a half meeting, committee members had conversations with Administrator Gina McCarthy, Deputy Administrator Stan Melburg, regional administrators, and other officials about the importance of intergovernmental collaboration and cooperation on environmental issues.
Administrator McCarthy spoke about how the agency can provide local governments with flexibility and support, particularly in the area of financing infrastructure needs, remarking, "We understand there is a lot for us to do, cities and communities need our help."
As evident by the roundtable discussion with each of the ten regional administrators, many local leaders have positive working relationships EPA regional offices who value the local-federal partnership. The regional administrators shared how they work with their local governments to achieve regional priorities around water quality and green infrastructure, solid waste and climate change.
LGAC members also dove into specifics on the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan, and has been charged with offering guidance toward the Agency's implementation strategy for these rules, focusing on the best way to get information out to communities. With regard to the Clean Water Rule, committee members and state regulators emphasized the need for clear and consistent implementation across the country. As the rule goes into effect on Aug. 28, EPA will release an implementation Q&A that will address remaining questions that local officials have. EPA is also looking at how to simplify the permit process and make it more transparent, accountable and predictable.
With regard to the Clean Power Plan, LGAC members expressed the need for local governments to have a seat at the table as states develop strategies to comply with the carbon emissions reductions. Local governments have a particular role to play in the energy efficiency and renewable energy realms to aid compliance, as city leaders have been taking action on their own to improve energy efficiency, adopt renewable energy programs and improve the resiliency of their communities.
"Many of the issues that the LGAC will tackle tie in directly to the work NLC is doing on the Clean Water Rule and the Clean Power Plan in making sure that the local voice is heard," said LGAC member Brad Pierce, Council Member from Aurora, Colorado. "I'm impressed with the variety of knowledge, dedication and expertise of LGAC members."
Other NLC members on the committee include Johnny Dupree, mayor, Hattiesburg, Miss., Jill Duson, councilmember, Portland, Maine, and Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor, Gary, Ind.