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Sustainable Skylines

Program Overview

Information provided for informational purposes onlyNote: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

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Program Summary

The Sustainable Skylines Initiative (SSI) is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program designed to use air quality regulatory needs, climate action goals and other local environmental priorities as the catalyst for integrated sustainability actions.  These actions can provide communities with a range of complementary benefits for their people, their prosperity and the planet.

The SSI is a collaborative effort that brings together the resources of the EPA, other government agencies, nonprofit and private organizations to support individual communities.  Initial SSI programs are underway in Dallas, Texas; Kansas City Kansas and Missouri; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  SSI programs are designed to meet the local circumstances of participating communities.  Each program can also provide lessons that will be shared through and beyond the national SSI program network. 

Under the SSI, an area can choose to perform projects from seven categories: renewing community livability, climate change and energy efficiency, land use and transportation strategies, fossil-fueled engine and motor sources, green buildings development, facilities and businesses and innovative and sustainable  practices.  While the primary focus of SSI is air, communities are encouraged to select activities which will result in synergistic reductions from all medias such as water, hazardous/solid waste, and energy.  It should be stressed that the SSI is not a regulatory program nor is it an in-lieu of regulatory program.  A strong performance accountability mechanism is incorporated into the framework for both the community and all participating partners.  This framework can help communities achieve measurable emissions reductions within 3 years.

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How it Worked

The key to SSI is the process of forming and sustaining community partnerships at both the private and public level.  To achieve success, it is important that the local project team seek community-participation and increase community-awareness.  It is important to connect with communities who have been historically underrepresented in decision making, including the disenfranchised in cities and rural areas, communities of color, Native Americans, people disproportionately impacted by pollution, and small businesses. 

The Sustainable Skylines Initiative (SSI) creates a structure that brings together EPA, other government, and private resources to a city.  The SSI assists a city to:

  • Evaluate their issues and goals, and develop projects which synergistically address multiple issues in ways to create complementary benefits, such as using energy efficiency measures to address ozone nonattainment, climate action targets and stewardship of government operating funds;
  • Effectively target available federal, state, regional, and local resources for projects which provide tangible cross-cutting results.
  • Create an economy of scale to amplify media attention, level of support, and outreach ability for specific projects while showcasing a larger sustainability effort;
  • Bridge community and regional sustainability efforts to re-energize existing programs and developing key emerging priorities.

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Categories and Examples

The SSI program provides SSI communities with a single point of contact for all SSI projects. While the primary focus of SSI is air, communities are encouraged to select activities which will result in synergistic multimedia reductions including water, hazardous/solid waste, and energy.  In addition, SSI projects may address and mitigate environmental justice issues.

The activities selected by a SSI city do not have to be completed within three years.  However, they must be able to quantify initial benefits within a three year period.  To develop an integrated plan to promote a culture change, communities must select at least one activity in five of the following seven categories:

  1. Renewing community livability (e.g., decrease amount of heated surfaces, increase permeable surfaces, revitalization, addressing environmental justice issues, as well as children’s health concerns)
  2. Climate change and energy efficiency  (e.g., enhancing energy efficiency in public buildings, incentive programs to increase power generation from renewable energy)
  3. Land use and transportation strategies (e.g., increased public transportation, reduction in vehicle miles traveled, converting parking lots to parks)
  4. Fossil-fueled engine and motor sources – on and off-road/gas and diesel (e.g., reduction in idling, retrofits, small off-road equipment replacement programs)
  5. Green buildings and development (e.g., link green building techniques with affordable housing initiatives)
  6. Facilities and businesses (e.g., conduct pollution prevention audits for small business to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts)
  7. Innovative and sustainable practices (e.g., education and outreach programs)

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Tools and Resources

This section will help EPA convey resources that will be helpful in developing and launching a successful SSI program.  This page is still under development and will be revised as new information is collected and resources are developed.  Currently, you will find the draft Sustainable Skylines Building Blocks for Success – A Step-by-Step Implementation Guide (PDF) (22pp, 1.1 MB) on how to get started.  This guide contains the SSI framework which includes a four step process:

Step 1 – Building the Foundation
Step 2 – Making Project Plans
Step 3 – Implementing and Feedback Loops
Step 4 – Evaluating and Recognizing Program Success

EPA will serve as a facilitator to help communities identify local issues, build partnerships within the community, and provide a framework of technical expertise and resources to help achieve project objectives. 

In addition, EPA will make available to all SSI cities a resource pool including:

  • Technical Support
  • Training
  • Communication and Coordination
  • Technical Support Network
  • Funding

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