Pollution Prevention Grant: Q&A with Mary Walker, EPA’S Southeast Regional Administrator

Pollution Prevention Grant: Q&A with Mary Walker, EPA’S Southeast Regional Administrator

KAM interviewed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeast Regional Administrator, Mary Walker, on the recent announcement of the anticipated Pollution Prevention grant to the Kentucky Department of Compliance Assistance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeast Region (Region 4) announced in late September that it intended to award the Kentucky Department of Compliance Assistance an $192,000 pollution prevention (P2) grant. The grant was part of a larger grant funding package the agency plans to award to 42 organizations across 39 states totaling $9.3 million that will support pollution prevention (P2) projects across the country. The Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, located at the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering, is a partner with DCA on this award. These grants will fund projects that provide businesses and other facilities with information, training, and tools to help them develop and adopt cost-effective changes in production, operation, and use of materials to reduce costs and the use of water, energy, and other natural resources. U.S. EPA Southeast Regional Administrator Mary S. Walker provided details on the history of the Pollution Prevention Act and how businesses are growing by preventing pollution.


QUESTION: This is the 30th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act. Has Region 4 been actively involved in P2 since its inception?

Mary S. Walker: Yes, the agency is recognizing 30 years of progress under the Pollution Prevention program. In fact, this recognition coincides with EPA’s celebration of our 50th Anniversary. This celebration reflects on the progress the agency has made increasing the safety of lakes and rivers, reducing smog, cleaning up contaminated lands, and guaranteeing the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.

Passage of the P2 Act created a grant program for state and tribal entities and a communication network to share best practices. At its core, the P2 Act was designed to help U.S. businesses reconcile how waste minimization can reduce manufacturing costs. EPA’s P2 Program has supported businesses and industry through information collection and sharing, assistance in technology transfer, and financial assistance to state P2 programs.

Region 4 has been lucky to have active P2 programs in every state for the past 30 years.


QUESTION: What are the current Region 4 P2 priorities?

Mary S. Walker: In Region 4, this year’s grants will fund over $1.2 million in projects across Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

EPA has national priorities in the following sectors: 1) automotive manufacturing and maintenance; 2) food and beverage manufacturing and processing; 3) aerospace products and parts manufacturing; 4) metal manufacturing and fabrication; and, 5) chemical manufacturing, processing and formulation. However, the overall priority is “sustainable manufacturing”.


QUESTION: Expound a bit on what sustainable manufacturing is exactly?

Mary S. Walker: Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing also enhances employee, community and product safety. A growing number of companies are realizing that sustainability is an important objective to increase growth and global competitiveness.


QUESTION: How do you measure success of the P2 Program?

Mary S. Walker: Nationally, EPA’s goals are to reduce hazardous waste, conserve water and energy as well as increasing businesses overall completeness by saving them money. As an example, our last round of grants leveraged over $530 Million in savings for Region 4 businesses, this included reducing water use by 2.5 billion gallons and over 1.5 billion kilowatts hours of energy.


QUESTION: That is interesting. What are some other benefits companies have achieved by participating or receiving assistance through one of these pollution prevention (P2) grants?

Mary S. Walker: Pollution prevention grants provide an infusion of resources both financial and technical to assist manufacturers in identifying areas of their processes where waste reduction, recycling or a reduction in raw materials can be achieved. In 2017 and 2018, members recycled 10 million pounds of metal and saved $8 million. Savings like these can have a direct impact on the four automotive assembly plants and 475 related facilities in the commonwealth.


QUESTION: Are these savings restricted to industrial sectors or can other business sectors benefit? As you may know, Kentucky has over 300 food and beverage companies in operation and produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply.

Mary S. Walker: Great question. Food and beverage industries are encouraged to engage in pollution prevention practices. Water is a big part of that industry. In Kentucky, participants helped save $8 million gallons of water and 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a two-year period.


QUESTION: What about energy costs? While Kentucky enjoys some of the lowest energy costs in the nation (ranked 15th in energy consumption per capita), industrial sources account for 35% of the energy used here.

Mary S. Walker: Reducing energy costs plays a big part in the sustainable manufacturing process. Earlier, I mentioned that the southeast saved over 1.5 billion kilowatts hours of energy. Kentucky’s portion of that energy savings was 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. With grants such as this, we can continue to support our state partners in their goal to lead innovative P2 strategies throughout the southeast.

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