It’s been about five months since H. Curtis “Curt” Spalding was named head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency New England. He can often be found taking the train up from Rhode Island where he lives - and where he had previously served for almost 20 years as executive director of Save the Bay in Rhode Island, a 20,000-member environmental advocacy and education organization. Here is a link to his bio at EPA. We recently caught up with him on his busy schedule to ask a few questions.
What are your top three priorities in the first two years as New England EPA chief?
My overarching priority is to connect EPA’s mission with work ahead to renew prosperity in New England. Restoring New England’s green capital – cleaning up the land and water is a cornerstone for building healthy communities and an economy grounded in innovation and resilience.
My three most immediate concerns are:
1. Contributing to economic recovery by spending ARRA funding responsibly towards improving wastewater treatment and drinking water quality, and Brownfield cleanups.
2. Moving forward with Region 1’s strategy for reducing pollution from stormwater runoff.
3. Accelerate progress on energy efficiency by using our clean air authorities to advance sustainability goals and strategies that reduce green house gas emissions.
Why do you think President Obama chose you?
I am energized about the opportunity to serve President Obama, Administrator Jackson and the citizens of New England. The President has demonstrated that he intends to stand behind the commitments he made during the campaign. It is the commitment he made to addressing climate change and the environment that drew me to seeking the Regional Administrator appointment. The President’s decision to appoint me was undoubtedly guided by the input he received from the New England Congressional Delegation—especially the Rhode Island delegation. I believe that support was grounded in my effectiveness as an advocate for restoring Narragansett Bay, and a demonstrated ability to work with all segments of the community. The letters of support from the business community suggested that I have the skills to genuinely listen to concerns on all sides of environmental issues.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at Save the Bay that you bring to the new job?
At Save The Bay we were especially effective in framing the restoration of Narragansett Bay as something the whole community should be concerned about. The experience I gained on connecting environmental issues to a vision of greater community well-being will be a cornerstone for my efforts as Region 1 Administrator.
What environmental lesson can Rhode Island teach the rest of New England?
I think Rhode Island, despite its economic challenges, understands that its future is connected to the health of its natural resources – especially Narragansett Bay. This commitment is demonstrated by Rhode Island’s pro-active efforts on meeting with wastewater and drinking water requirements. Last legislative session Rhode Island overhauled its drinking water program and the State took full advantage of ARRA funding to advance the most substantial nitrogen reduction program in New England. Rhode Island can teach New England that benefits come from a pro-active mindset demonstrated by long-term facility planning and a shared vision for environmental restoration.
What role can EPA New England play in responding to climate change?
To address Administrator Jackson’s priority on reducing greenhouse gases, we can learn how to reduce the carbon footprint of our transportation sector, which represents a large portion of the green house gas emissions in our region. Our states have shown great leadership in this area with the Regional Green House Gas Initiative and their commitment on moving forward with a low carbon vehicle fuel standard. Region 1 can aggressively support this effort and strive to lead the nation on using the Clean Air Act to reward efficiency efforts and other strategies that reduce green house gas emissions from dispersed sources.
Why are you posting your daily schedule online?
Simply put—posting my schedule is a small part of President Obama’s commitment for more transparency about what government does. We want the public to see what we do day-to-day, and we want them to understand what our priorities are. I’m also on Twitter, you should check it out (twitter.com/curtspalding).
About the green blog
Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
Doug Struck covers environmental issues from Boston.
Glenn Yoder produces Boston.com's Lifestyle pages.
Eric Bauer is site architect of Boston.com.
Bennie DiNardo is the Boston Globe's deputy managing editor/multimedia.
Dara Olmsted is a local sustainability professional focusing on green living.