A coalition of all the major national environmental organizations has released a massive policy guidance report to help focus the Obama administration’s initial environmental protection efforts. The report, Transition to Green – Environmental Transition Recommendations for the Obama Administration, recommends policy reforms on broad issues such as climate change and energy, then comprehensively details priorities for the Obama transition by federal agency.
Overall, the Transition to Green report offers a thoughtful and pragmatic “to-do” list for Obama’s transition and first 100 days. I’m impressed by its breadth (391 pages), depth (offering important legal details while remaining accessible to a more general audience), and focus on the most important issues and opportunities for the next administration. The environmental groups should also be commended for coming together to speak with one voice so quickly. While they often stood together in opposition to President Bush’s terrible environmental policies, they could have squabbled over the details of what to recommend to President-elect Obama. Instead they recognized the short window of opportunity to offer meaningful and practical advice for the transition.
Most of the recommendations regarding water protection are directed to the EPA. The first priority issue for the EPA is to “Protect, restore, and enhance natural resources that provide Americans’ water supply and protect and clean the nation’s waters”:
Given their importance to clean water supplies, flood control and other public benefits, the Administration should take immediate action to stop the loss of headwater streams, wetlands and other waters due to uncertainty over their legal status. It is also necessary to enhance to use of green infrastructure to reduce runoff pollution and sewer overflows in many urban areas, and to work to restore natural aquatic ecosystems, like coastal and other wetland systems, that protect people, wildlife and our economic interests.
The specific administrative recommendations (beginning at page 323/14-3 of the report) include reversing the ridiculous recent agency interpretation of the Clean Water Act that allows tons of pollution to be dumped into lakes and rivers as fill (the subject of a pending Supreme Court case), providing new guidance on the scope of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction over non-navigable waters, emphasizing green infrastructure to reduce stormwater pollution, and accounting for climate change in water decisions. These are solid, reasonable recommendations that the new administration can do with minimal cost and resources. Good advice for the Obama transition.