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DC Environmental Agenda

Establishing a Strong Environmental Agenda for Our Nation’s Capital City

The Opportunity

The DC Environmental Agenda is a unique opportunity, every few years, for the broader environmental community to highlight the most pressing issues facing the DC Metro environment. It is also an opportunity for over 30 DC based environmental organizations to come together and make recommendations to decision makers and others regarding which policies should be taken on behalf of our urban environments. Bringing together environmental organizations and citizen activists, the Agenda is a roadmap for how to protect our drinking water, clean our rivers, improve air quality, and strengthen our economy. In light of the upcoming elections, the Agenda will allow the DC metro community to collaborate in this new term – whether first or second – to effectively protect our environment and public health. The DC environmental community will work with the administration, District agencies, and citizens in order to protect our precious environment and turn our nation’s capital into a national leader.

The Challenge

With the upcoming elections in DC and across the region, it can be easy to lose sight of how important the environment is to the health and well being of District residents. The Environmental Agenda can help refocus the direction of a newly elected Council and Mayor towards environmental restoration. The Network must ensure that the Agenda, which is intimately intertwined with our public health and social welfare, is at the forefront of the debate. Our community must address air pollution from congested traffic, the degradation of the Anacostia River and contaminated drinking water, and the increasing impacts of climate change. We must act now and collaboratively if we are going to enact effective solutions to improve our community and environmental wellbeing.

DCEN Agenda Priorities

  1. Continually Evolve the Agenda – Address the changing needs of the DC metro area by updating the current agenda. Work intimately with Network members to assess and prioritize the environmental and social welfare issues facing the region. Collaborate with policymakers to institute effective solutions.
  2. Lead by Example – Establish best practices throughout the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region (as well as nationally and internationally) to protect our public health, environment, and social welfare. Collaborate with other regions to share best practices and learn from their challenges and successes. And, because it is our nation’s capital city, use innovative policy recommendations from academia and others to lead the nation by implementing policies never before attempted in the global urban context.
  3. Educate Ourselves and the Broader Community – Share and collect information about the most important environmental issues facing the community and how they can participate. Connect residents with Network members to support regional campaigns. Educate local policymakers about the degradation issues and work closely to develop solutions.

DCEN Accomplishments

Some of our DC Environmental Achievements initiated by our 2006 DCEN Agenda include (partial):

“The DC Environmental Agenda is an important tool to bring the many health and environmental concerns of dozens of groups throughout the city to the attention of elected officials. The Agenda helps define the environmental challenges facing the city in the form of energy, transportation, air and water pollution, toxic substances, parkland, green schools, and the like. The Agenda puts political power behind the goal of a clean and healthy city and the thoughtful recommendations that could achieve this goal.”
Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus, Friends of the Earth and DCEN Founder
  • Clean Rivers – The District continues to increase, albeit slowly, its use of technologies and practices to reduce stormwater run-off. The Environmental Protection Agency will soon promulgate what may be the strongest stormwater permit in the history of the Clean Water Act which may positively impact the Anacostia River’s water quality. As recommended in our 2006 Agenda the District introduced and passed legislation to increase resources available to the District’s stormwater program in the form of a fee based on impervious surface area. The growing number of green roofs within the District – the 2nd highest square footage in the nation – also helps in decreasing the number of impervious surfaces. Additionally, the District passed a ban on coal tar, a toxic pollution that enters the river carried by stormwater. All of these improvements were recommendations in the 2006 DC Environmental Agenda.
  • Trees – Our 2006 recommendation requires a long term commitment to a healthy tree canopy. It was advanced by Mayor Fenty’s commitment (2010) to a 40% tree canopy goal in the next 15 years. There has also been increased enforcement of the Tree Bill to protect street trees.
  • Climate Change – The District Council and Mayor signed numerous policy changes to help the District fulfill the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, including increasing access to wind and solar power and creating the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) to promote energy efficiency in commercial, residential, and public buildings. The District also adopted, as recommended, the Clean Cars Act to bring California emission standards for all new cars sold in DC.
  • Farm to School – The Network’s Agenda recommended bringing fresh, locally grown, pesticide free food to the District’s school cafeterias. The Healthy Schools Act passed by the District in 2010 will help do precisely that.

What Can I Do?