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Office of Strategic Environmental Management

Environmental Innovation Portfolio

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

Designing Targeted Geographic Solutions

Certain environmental challenges are strongly linked to place. They require integrated, multidimensional solutions that balance competing pressures for preserving or enhancing quality of life, economic development, public health, ecosystem integrity, and environmental quality. Innovative practices are helping public environmental agencies coordinate or participate in effective responses to such complex challenges as open space protection, land redevelopment, and maintenance of watershed and airshed quality.

photo of a mountain and streamLand Conservation and Growth Management

Public agencies are using innovative practices to conserve land and manage growth. Managing quality of life and ecosystem integrity is increasingly challenging as development encroaches on farmland, rural areas, and open space. Public agencies are responding by: 1) implementing open space preservation initiatives; and 2) promoting high density, low impact development. For example, states are purchasing land rights, negotiating conservation easements, and working with landowners to place lands in trust. Agencies are also developing increasingly sophisticated modeling tools to support managed growth without sacrificing traditional development goals. Education and outreach efforts are raising awareness of the costs of sprawl and loss of open space. Public environmental agency managers can play an important role-in collaboration with other partners-in mitigating land use patterns that undermine aspects of environmental quality that are critical to public health, economic development, quality of life, and ecosystem integrity.

Smart Growth Network—States and U.S. EPA
Promotes economic development that simultaneously fosters healthy communities, strong neighborhoods, and transportation choices by providing tools, resources, and information sharing. (http://www.smartgrowth.org exit EPA)
Livable Communities Program—Minnesota
Creates a fund through the state legislature to invest in local communities to encourage affordable housing opportunities, investment in brownfields redevelopment, and promotion of efficient and connected development. (http://www.metrocouncil.org/services/livcomm.htm exit EPA)
Quality Growth Efficiency Tools—Utah
Provides technical support for regional planners to analyze different quality growth scenarios with respect to transportation, air quality, land use, and water availability impacts. (http://governor.utah.gov/gopb exit EPA)
Home Town Maine—Maine
Provides support to the state Planning Office to educate developers, builders, homebuyers, and municipalities to encourage walkable communities to combat sprawl and meet demand for alternative housing options to large lot subdivisions. (http://www.maine.gov/dep/index.shtml exit EPA)
Rolling Easements—East Coast States
Rolling easements are tailored to the special conditions in the coastal environment (e.g., threatened coastal ecosystems, large-scale cumulative loss of coastal intertidal habitats). This program motivates the private sector to purchase rolling easements to ensure that wetlands survive sea level rise and increasing development.

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Numerous initiatives are underway to speed the redevelopment of vacant, underused, and potentially contaminated properties in urban and rural areas. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these "brownfields" properties both improves environmental quality and relieves development pressures on undeveloped, "greenfields" land. Agencies are improving their brownfields and voluntary cleanup programs to reduce factors that constrain contaminated site cleanup and reuse, such as uncertainty around liability and complexity of cleanup and redevelopment requirements. Agencies also use various economic tools, such as loan and tax incentives, usually supported by state and federal appropriations, to encourage contaminated site reuse by lowering the cost relative to greenfields development. Agency managers can use innovative practices in this area to expedite cleanup of contaminated sites and to rapidly return properties to productive use.

The Independent Cleanup Pathway—Oregon
Assists parties in cleaning up low and medium priority contaminated sites, under the State’s Voluntary Cleanup Program, without full agency oversight, but with state approval and issuance of No Further Action determination upon completion. (http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/cu/cupathway/independent.htm exit EPA)
Tax Increment Financing—Multiple States
Uses the incremental difference in tax revenues anticipated from growth in property taxes generated by cleanup and reuse to finance brownfields redevelopment. (http://www.nemw.org/images/stories/documents/TaxIncrementFinancingOct2008.pdf exit EPA)
Redesigned Cleanup and Brownfields Program—Massachusetts
Encourages faster assessment and cleanup of contaminated sites without compromising environmental standards by giving property owners and other potentially responsible parties (PRPs) more flexibility using Licensed Site Professionals for relatively simple cleanups while focusing DEP on complex or high-priority sites. (http://www.mass.gov/dep/cleanup/brownfie.htm exit EPA)
Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund—Illinois
Provides a maximum of $1 million in low interest loans for site investigation and site remediation at brownfield sites; instituted and funded by the state legislature and administered by Illinois EPA. (http://www.epa.gov/swerosps/bf/rlflst.htm)

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Airshed Quality

Addressing airshed quality and the associated public health impacts, particularly in urban nonattainment areas, requires innovative approaches to meet guidelines while maintaining flexibility and promoting economic growth. Federal mandates for air quality, particularly ground-level ozone, have set challenging limits for many cities, especially those in nonattainment. To balance growth and support business, states are turning to innovative practices that reduce ozone creating pollutants. Incentives for business action promote emission reductions and mitigate urban heat island effects. In addition, offset programs can enable continued economic development while ensuring overall pollution reductions are achieved. Further state-federal cooperative efforts provide flexibility in managing airsheds.

Atlantic Station—Georgia and U.S. EPA Region 4
Classifies a brownfields redevelopment on the former Atlantic Steel site for its myriad of design and development strategies to reduce transportation emissions as a Transportation Control Measure (TCM) within the State Implementation Plan (SIP). (http://www.atlanticstation.com exit EPA)
Ozone Flex Program—U.S. EPA Region 6 and States in Region 6
Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) to outline specific, voluntary, locally tailored pollution control plans to reduce or maintain ozone levels below the one-hour standard, providing flexibility to meet federal mandates in areas that currently exceed the eight-hour standard. (http://www.epa.gov/earth1r6/6pd/air/pd-l/index.htm)
Clean Air Counts—Illinois
Supports five campaigns focused on systematic, voluntary changes to improve air quality, specifically for ozone creating pollutants to address Chicago's ozone nonattainment problems. (http://www.cleanaircounts.org/ exit EPA)
Dioxin Reduction Strategy—New Hampshire
Addresses public health concerns of dioxins by identifying the impacts and routes of dioxin exposure, making an inventory of sources of dioxin, and recommending multi-media action to reduce anthropogenic dioxin emissions. (http://www.c2p2online.com/documents/NewHampshire.pdf exit EPA)

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Watershed Quality

Whereas water quality management has traditionally focused on permitted point sources and their discharges, innovative practices are taking a broader view by considering total watershed quality and examining solutions that simultaneously address water quality, water quantity, and habitat conditions. These efforts are supplementing point source, end-of-pipe regulatory activity by: 1) targeting nonpoint water pollution sources; 2) enabling pollution controls to be established where the most cost effective improvements can be achieved; and 3) building partnerships with a full range of interested parties. States are turning to market mechanisms such as upstream prevention measures to reduce or eliminate the need for plant site water treatment and wetlands mitigation banks to increase water quality and habitat preservation cost effectively. Agencies simultaneously are targeting diffuse, nonpoint sources such as stormwater, animal feedlots, and septic systems with voluntary incentive programs and encouraging more effective and widespread use of treated wastewater through targeted water recycling efforts.

New York City Watershed Protection—New York
Establishes watershed microbial contamination protection measures through land acquisition, land use alteration, and stringent watershed rules to avoid building a costly filtration plant for its drinking water. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/watershed_protection exit EPA)
Western Iowa Livestock External Stewardship Pilot Project—Iowa
Brings together livestock producers and processors, federal and state regulators, and academics to implement voluntary, comprehensive nutrient management plans to reduce soil erosion and manure runoff. (http://www.epa.gov/ispd/pdf/wilespp.pdf)
Wetlands Mitigation Banking—Nebraska
Organizes mitigation banks to offset negative wetlands impacts from development with wetlands improvement; maintains the proximity of the offsets by setting up banks within watershed boundaries administered by Natural Resource Districts. (http://www.dor.state.ne.us/environment/wetlands.htmexit EPA)

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