EPA Region 3
Topic: Green Highways
Date: October 2008
Lena Kim: What's black and white and green all over? (Pause) Well, for the answer to this riddle just stay tuned.
Lena Kim: Hi. I'm Lena Kim of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters – our new series of podcasts.
If Dominique Lueckenhoff had her way, the answer to our riddle would be – U.S. highways. With nearly 4 million highway miles stretching across our nation, Lueckenhoff says getting these roadways to be good for the environment is no stretch of the imagination.
At EPA, she helps direct programs designed to clean up and protect watersheds throughout the mid-Atlantic region. She saw a need to focus on highways for a number of reasons, and steered EPA's attention to the transportation sector.
Dominique Lueckenhoff: In this case we are focused on sustainable transportation with regards to roads, highways. Roads and highways we know for many years tend to have multiple impacts on the environment everywhere from water quality to watershed habitat fragementation, to air, and we thought that in working through ways to solve problems as it relates to these impacts around transportation, in this case highways, we would ultimately develop models and solutions that could have more universal application. Roadways traditionally are impervious surfaces. And if we use a watershed as sort of a way to kind of focus this in terms of impact creates a lot of density. And in fact during storm events, for example, we tend to look at them as conveyors of water. That storm water being conveyed has increased volume and that increased volume is delivered to our stream systems. In which case we realize the scouring of those systems, ultimately resulting in more erosion and sedimation in poor water quality
Lena Kim: EPA's efforts to partner with the transportation sector for solutions paid off, and in the driver's seat now, is the Green Highways Partnership – a voluntary network of public and private partners that is revolutionizing our nation's transportation infrastructure.
Dominique Lueckenhoff: So, the ability to leverage has become very important. We leverage with transportation for solutions. We all want better stormwater solutions that we can share. They bring research to the table. They bring practical experience on the ground in terms of what works, and they tend to be a very major player in the community. So there is a lot that they help us leverage in being able to get quicker restoration and more sustainable results.
Lena Kim: There was a time when EPA relied on the carrot-and-stick approach to get companies to go above and beyond what environmental laws called for. Things have changed, and now, companies are coming to EPA wanting to know what they can do to make their organizations better for the environment. Take for instance, one Green Highways Partner -- the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, this forward thinking partner signed an agreement with EPA's mid-Atlantic office to help ready-mixed concrete plants across the country comply with Clean Water Act requirements.
Dominique Lueckenhoff: In March 2008, EPA Region III and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to work together to promote environmental management tools that would assist ready mix concrete plants across the country. Over five thousand plants are impacted by this agreement. And if you think about what a ready mix plant does, that is create and produce concrete. Concrete is everywhere and it constitutes much of the impervious cover throughout our communities. And across the landscape the results of this MOA: improved compliance rates reduce if not eliminated stormwater runoff, a thousand environmental managers certificated, a 20% increase in the use of green technology by ready mix plants, reduced fuels and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The list goes on.
Lena Kim: Turning zebras green is little far-fetched. But making the millions of miles of black-n-white asphalt roadways green isn't too hard to come by. With cooperation, ingenuity, and progressive leadership, the Green Highways initiative is moving things right along.
And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, our new series of podcasts.
Closing music – same as opening.