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Office of Strategic Environmental Management

Featured Innovation

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Look to this space for a quarterly update of highlighted innovations across the EPA. Many of the brief vignettes you will see here are works in progress, promising approaches, and important milestones. From cutting-edge technological advancements to the latest successes in partnering and regulatory development, we can track together the evolution of innovation throughout the Agency.

Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE)

A Voluntary Partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In its 35 year history, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made significant progress in controlling and preventing the emissions of toxic pollutants into our air, water, and land. We have cut air pollution in half, improved the quality our lakes and our streams, and restored or enhanced wetlands - benefits which were largely achieved through our regulatory programs.

While regulatory programs are the essential core of our environmental system, EPA has been developing innovative programs that will provide communities with tools to meet current and future environmental needs. One of these exciting new initiatives is EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment, or CARE. CARE is designed to help communities address the issue of multiple toxics in their environment.

Launched with the spirit of community involvement in mind, CARE represents a new approach at EPA - the use of community-based, locally-driven strategies for addressing exposure to toxic pollutants from all sources. With the help of EPA funding and technical assistance, CARE communities will form collaborative partnerships, develop a comprehensive understanding of all sources of risk from toxics, set priorities, and identify and implement projects to reduce risks through collaborative action at the local level.

CARE is designed with the idea that communities can craft and implement meaningful solutions to their toxic problems and EPA's role is to assist them. In the long-term, CARE will help communities build self-sustaining, community-based partnerships that will improve local environments into the future. M ore than 100 staff from multiple EPA offices are working together to help implement CARE.

The 4 Steps of the CARE Process

An important - and innovative - aspect of CARE is that it will leverage new and existing resources to produce results. CARE will mobilize communities to take action, encourage the business community to use collaborative approaches and invest in environmental improvements, engage local foundations that have experience supporting environmental initiatives and provide the opportunity for colleges and universities to expand partnerships with communities.

However, CARE is not designed to replace the regulatory programs that have provided significant benefits for more than three decades. Instead, CARE augments regulation with the use of voluntary initiatives to achieve additional reductions that are not immediately achievable through the regulatory process. Four aspects of CARE make it an innovative approach for dealing with toxic substances. The combination of all four creates a powerful new model for environmental protection - a departure from what EPA has utilized in the past. The important aspects of CARE are:

  • Local: Community-based, community-driven
  • Multi-Media: Identifies/reduces toxic risks from many different sources
  • Collaborative: Built upon a broad based collaborative partnership in the community including EPA
  • Institutionalized: Becomes self sustaining and continues beyond EPA involvement.

From the onset, the clear goal of CARE is to foster projects that will become self-sustaining and use CARE funding as seed money. The CARE Process is designed to encourage communities to enlist the support of project partners that will enable the project to continue even without EPA resources. Rather than supporting one time projects, CARE will support community partnerships that will endure and provide environmental benefits long into the future.

In addition to providing tangible community benefits, EPA will gain valuable feedback on its programs and their effectiveness. This will allow EPA to develop and use tools to further enhance and develop the next generation of community-based and voluntary programs.

The first set of EPA-funded CARE cooperative agreements have been selected and will be awarded this fall to 12 communities across all 10 EPA regions, for a total of nearly $2 million. There are two types of CARE cooperative agreements. The smaller, Level I cooperative agreements are approximately $85,000 each and will help communities organize and create collaborative partnerships dedicated to reducing toxics in their local environments. Level II awards are larger - approximately $300,000 - and are for communities that have already established broad-based partnerships, identified the priority toxic risks in the community, and are prepared to implement the risk reduction activities, measure results, and become self-sustaining.

While CARE involves some EPA funding, it is about much more than distributing money. EPA will work directly with communities throughout the CARE process by providing technical support and helping to identify voluntary programs to help address community concerns. In addition, EPA will facilitate networking among communities to share learning and commit agency resources to ensure we get it right.

Through CARE, EPA is creating a network of communities that can help each other achieve results. This national CARE network will routinely share information, experiences and tools. Communities can remain a part of the CARE network after their grant is completed and continue to collaborate with other communities. Over time, through both EPA-supported CARE projects and community shared learning, we collectively will be able to accomplish toxic risk reductions in hundreds of communities.

Further, EPA is providing training support. A training Workshop for CARE Communities is scheduled for November. EPA is prepared to offer technical support and assistance in a number of areas like measuring results, project management, and risk screening. EPA's Web site ( www.epa.gov/care ) provides additional information tailored to community needs and is being updated in response to CARE communities' input. The CARE Community Resource Guide , a compendium EPA and other government materials relevant to communities, is already available. The CARE Guide to Voluntary Programs, providing information and examples of voluntary programs communities could adopt, will be available soon.

We invite you to learn more and work with us as we continue to implement this exciting, innovative initiative at EPA. For information about CARE visit the program website or call the CARE hotline at 1-877-CARE909.

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