Climate Change at the US EPA Region 2 Conference

By Yeein Lee, Summer Legal InternEPA-logo

On Thursday May 29th, the eleventh biennial conference on key and emerging environmental issues in the EPA Region 2 area was held at Columbia Law School. This teeming conference consisted of four panels, each on separate yet correlated environmental topics around New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: climate and air pollution, crosscutting issues, contaminated site cleanup and redevelopment, and water issues. This post will focus on the first panel on climate and air pollution in the EPA region 2 area.

The conference was opened by Professor Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law, and chair of the conference. The first panel talk was a discussion of climate change regulation and adaptation by Joseph A. Siegel, senior attorney for EPA Region 2. President Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan outlined a broad policy agenda against the challenges posed by the changing climate, aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. In order to be firmly committed to achieve that goal, EPA Region 2 has worked on intensifying investment on green energy buildings, reducing HFCs and methane emissions, and improving resilience of communities and economic sectors. Mr. Siegel especially noted the importance of focusing on emissions from trucks; while medium and heavy trucks only represent 4% of registered vehicles, they emit near 20% of vehicular pollution. While the current first phase of truck emissions regulations (2014-2018) is showing some positive results, the need for more aggressive rules for the years to come was emphasized. Mr. Siegel also noted that proposals for existing power plant greenhouse gas emissions regulations are expected soon. He closed his talk with an assertion that these could be bolstered by better greenhouse gas emissions reporting rules, extra technological breakthroughs that would make those reporting processes easier, and collaboration among diverse stakeholders and sectors.

In addition to Mr. Siegel’s talk on climate change, Ms. Liliana Villatora, Chief of the Air Branch of the EPA Region 2, gave a talk on EPA’s efforts to protect public health from the air pollutants, especially about asthma that threatens the health of many children. Ms. Jane Kozinski from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection shared her experience of debris cleanup after Hurricane Sandy.

Comprehensive information on current and future efforts of EPA Region 2 and NY/NJ Departments of Environmental Protection was discussed and questioned by enthusiastic attendeess throughout the day. A video of the conference will be posted on the Center for Climate Change Law’s website.

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