Job announcements: Two EPA internships available

GIS Analyses of Wetlands and Streams–Research Participation Program (Post-MS internship)

A postgraduate participant project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), Region 4 office in Atlanta, GA. The research participant will serve in the Ocean, Wetlands and Streams Protection Branch (OWSPB) of the Water Protection Division.

The OWSPB manages and conducts key wetlands, coastal, and ocean activities under the Clean Water Act Section 404, the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) Sections 102 and 103 and the Ocean Dumping Program, the Section 403 Ocean Discharge Program and the Section 312 Marine Sanitation Device Program. The OWSPB provides regional expertise in stream and wetland restoration and mitigation, manages and implements marine and wetlands regulatory and restoration related issues and grants associated with numerous interagency/stakeholder workgroups, committees, and task forces.

This project will provide the participant with training and experience in: GIS analyses of wetlands and streams based on landscape position, ecosystem processes, ecological significance, wetness, soils, and physical disturbance; development of a searchable index of the Wetland Program Development Grants database that improves the ability of EPA programs to locate grant products; perform specific geospatial analysis for certain locations where ground-truth data exists for validation; and complete field work to obtain ground truth data.

Water Quality Standards Uses, Antidegradation and Variances Research  Participation Program, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Post-Bachelor’s internship)


A postgraduate internship project is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water in Washington, DC. The internship will be served with the Office   of Science and Technology (OST) in the Standards & Health Protection Division.

The Standards and Health Protection Division directs the national water programs for water quality standards and advisories for safe fishing and swimming.  The intern will be trained in the Division’s National Branch (NB), one of the two branches that work on water quality standards.

This project will involve science, policy, and analysis on water quality standards program issues that have national implications, particularly those pertaining to uses for surface waters, antidegradation and Water Quality Standard (WQS) variances. This would include research and development of pertinent technical and policy materials.

House panel approves bill cutting EPA funding

Read the full story in The Hill.

Appropriators teed up the latest congressional fight over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday when a House panel approved a bill with deep spending cuts for the agency and provisions blocking its rule-making.

The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill would cut EPA funding by $718 million, or 9 percent, next year and block a handful of environmental rules the agency is looking to put out this summer.

Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee said they wouldn’t support the bill or deep cuts to the EPA, which has sustained a 20 percent decrease in funding since Republicans took the House in 2011.

EPA Science Advisory Panels: Preliminary Observations on the Processes for Providing Scientific Advice

EPA Science Advisory Panels: Preliminary Observations on the Processes for Providing Scientific Advice, by J. Alfredo Gomez, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, Senate Committee Environment and Public Works. GAO-15-636T, May 20.
Highlights –

What GAO Found

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) procedures for processing congressional requests for scientific advice from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) do not ensure compliance with the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 (ERDDAA) because these procedures are incomplete. For example, they do not clearly outline how the EPA Administrator, the SAB staff office, and others are to handle a congressional committee’s request. While the procedures reflect EPA’s responsibility to exercise general management controls over the SAB and all its federal advisory committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), including keeping such committees free from outside influence, they do not fully account for the specific access that designated congressional committees have to the SAB under ERDDAA. For example, EPA’s policy documents do not establish how EPA will determine which questions would be taken up by the SAB. EPA officials told GAO that, in responding to congressional requests, EPA follows the same process that it would apply to internal requests for questions to the SAB, including considering whether the questions are science or policy driven or are important to science and the agency. However, EPA has not documented these criteria. Under the federal standards of internal control, agencies are to clearly document internal controls. Moreover, under ERDDAA, the SAB is required to provide requested scientific advice to select committees. By clearly documenting how to process congressional requests received under ERDDAA, including which criteria to use, EPA can provide reasonable assurance that its staff process responses consistently and in accordance with law. Furthermore, EPA’s charter states that, when scientific advice is requested by one of the committees specified in ERDDAA, the Administrator will, when appropriate forward the SAB’s advice to the requesting congressional committee. EPA policy does not specify when it would be “appropriate” for the EPA Administrator to take this action. Such specificity would be consistent with clearly documenting internal controls. GAO will continue to monitor these issues and plans to issue a report with its final results in June 2015.

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has provided certain types of advice related to the review of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), but has not provided advice on adverse social, economic, or energy effects related to NAAQs. Under the Clean Air Act, CASAC is to review air quality criteria and existing NAAQS every 5 years and advise EPA of any adverse public health, welfare, social, economic, or energy effects that may result from various strategies for attainment and maintenance of NAAQS. An EPA official stated that CASAC has carried out its role in reviewing the air quality criteria and the NAAQS, but CASAC has never provided advice on adverse social, economic, or energy effects related to NAAQS because EPA has never asked CASAC to do so. In a June 2014 letter to the EPA Administrator, CASAC indicated it would review such effects at the agency’s request. According to a senior EPA official, the agency has no plans to ask CASAC to provide advice on such adverse effects.

Why GAO Did This Study

EPA formulates rules to protect the environment and public health. To enhance the quality and credibility of such rules, EPA obtains advice and recommendations from the SAB and CASAC—two federal advisory committees that review the scientific and technical basis for EPA decision making. ERDDAA requires the SAB to provide both the EPA Administrator and designated congressional committees with scientific advice as requested. Amendments to the Clean Air Act established CASAC to, among other things, provide advice to the Administrator on NAAQS.

This testimony reflects GAO’s preliminary observations from its ongoing review that examines (1) the extent to which EPA procedures for processing congressional requests to the SAB ensure compliance with ERDDAA and (2) the extent to which CASAC has provided advice related to NAAQS.

GAO reviewed relevant federal regulations and agency documents, and interviewed EPA, SAB, and other relevant officials.

GAO is not making any recommendations in this testimony, but as it finalizes its work in this area, GAO will consider making recommendations, as appropriate.

For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or

Despite FOIA, EPA Press Policy Remains a Puzzle Palace

Read the full story from the SEJ WatchDog.

In response to the WatchDog‘s request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s press policy, EPA seems to be saying that it doesn’t have one. Or that paradoxically EPA staff can talk to reporters but are forbidden to talk to reporters. Or that EPA does not respond to requests for information.

The WatchDog finally got a partial response to its June 10, 2014, Freedom of Information Act request for EPA policies on news media access to EPA employees on April 29, 2015. But nothing was revealed. EPA offered two documents, one of which was 32 years old and both of which were already publicly available. The upshot seems to be that EPA has no agency-wide policy governing whether and when all employees can talk to news media, or that it has one but does not intend to disclose it.

Got an Environmental Science Question? Ask an EPA Scientist!

Read the full post from U.S. EPA. Note that if you have a sustainability question, you can ask your regional P2Rx Center.

Have you ever had a question about something you saw and wished you had an expert you could ask? This happens to me all the time, so I decided to take advantage of working at EPA and start a new blog series called ‘Ask an EPA Scientist.’

I’m kicking off the series with a question that’s been on my mind recently.

Walking in a winter wonderland can be magical – but what about driving in one? Not so great. As I was driving (very slowly) through a snowstorm last week, I started wondering: What happens to all that road salt after the snow melts? Is it bad for the environment?

To find out, I asked EPA ecologist Paul Mayer, Ph.D. who conducts research on riparian zones and stream restoration. He and two Agency colleagues recently published a paper (Cooper et al. 2014) looking at the effects of road salt on a local stream.

EPA Designates Mahomet Aquifer as “Sole Source” of Drinking Water in East-Central Illinois

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a decision to designate a portion of the Mahomet Aquifer system as a sole source aquifer. More than half of the population in east-central Illinois relies on the Mahomet Aquifer system as a source of drinking water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act gives EPA authority to designate all or part of an aquifer as a “sole source” if contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health and there are no physically available or economically feasible alternative sources of drinking water to serve the population that relies on the aquifer. The designation authorizes EPA review of projects that receive Federal financial assistance to assess potential for contamination of the aquifer system that would create a significant hazard to public health.

The Mahomet Aquifer system is an underground layer of water-bearing sand and gravel that fills a wide bedrock valley in an area that includes 14 east-central Illinois counties. The aquifer system provides about 58 million gallons of drinking water each day for 120 public water systems and thousands of rural wells that serve about a half million people in Illinois.

EPA’s public comment period on the designation began on March 13, 2014, and closed on June 12, 2014. EPA held public hearings on May 13 in Champaign and on May 14 in Morton. Following a review of public comments, EPA prepared a Responsiveness Summary which addresses comments and answers questions. The decision goes into effect when it is published in the Federal Register.

The Responsiveness Summary and other relevant documents will be available to the public at EPA’s regional office, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago; Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Champaign; Bloomington Public Library, 205 E. Olive St., Bloomington; Pekin Public Library, 301 S. Fourth St., Pekin; Havana Public Library, 201 W. Adams St., Havana; and Watseka Public Library, 201 S. 4th St., Watseka.

For further information, go to

Our Commitment to Scientific Integrity at EPA

Read the full post at EPA Connect.

As someone who has devoted her career to the advancement of strong, independent science, I am thrilled to announce the release of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report. In the report, we highlight accomplishments and identify areas for improvement and action, exemplifying the Agency’s unwavering commitment to setting and upholding the highest standards of scientific integrity in an open, transparent way.