A few weeks ago, the Foundation was fortunate to bring to town Ruth Greenspan Bell, the President of the Environmental Protection Network (EPN), to talk to members of our community, our board, and our Fellows about her work. The Jackson Foundation also partnered with the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation to draw in other area funders to learn about her organization. EPN harnesses the expertise of former career EPA staff – spanning both Republican and Democratic Administrations – to defend against the degradation of over 50 years of environmental legislation spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency. These experts are volunteering their time to serve as resources for reporters, Congressional staffers, and the community.
What do they do, exactly? Well, they answer questions on everything from environmental science to legal concerns, seeking to counter the drumbeat of anti-environmental regulation that has characterized this political period. They monitor developments and provide information based on the collective body of experience and institutional knowledge of the EPA; track EPA and Executive Branch regulatory and enforcement actions to ensure that they do not impair air, water, land, and public health protections; and monitor EPA’s legal obligations to state and federal enforcement of existing protections.
Ruth Bell has been the prime mover in setting up this network. Simply stated, her goal and that of EPN’s is to continue to advance our nation’s bipartisan legacy of progress toward clean air, water, and land and climate protection. She explained, “We are not a shadow EPA, but we can be a voice for EPA because EPN is not muzzled . . . no one is answering the phone at EPA anymore. EPN helps fill that void.”
The Jackson Foundation, in learning of the broad spectrum of career environmental staffers engaged in this endeavor, saw this as commensurate with the Jackson legacy: first, with Jackson as one of the principal authors of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and second, with Jackson’s long record of environmental legislation.
Why now? There has been alarm at the pace of efforts to diminish and in some cases destroy decades of environmental protection that is underway in Washington, DC. The environmental community – and the public as well – have raised concerns. EPN fights for the values that Americans hold dear, including the clean air and water that we have come to rely on locally and nationally.
We applaud EPN’s efforts to draw attention to the important legislative achievements of the last several decades. It was instructive to have Ruth here to shine a light on the national efforts of career federal employees of the EPA who care enough about their work to continue to do it on a volunteer basis even after they have left the agency they served. Our Jackson Fellows, in particular, were inspired by Ruth’s commitment to continuing the environmental work she started in her many years at the EPA. Given this, the Jackson Foundation’s Board just approved a grant to EPN in the amount of $20,000 to help bolster its efforts to protect the environment.