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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New regional EPA chief sees green

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jared Blumenthal said the Southwest region, which includes Hawai'i, stands to benefit hugely from environmentally sensitive business travel, tourism and conventions.

Environmental Protection Agency photo

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The Environmental Protection Agency's new administrator for the region that includes Hawai'i wants to see "green" business travel, tourism and conventions, he said yesterday.

Tourism plays a large role in the Southwest region, which includes California, Arizona, Hawai'i, Nevada, the Pacific islands and more than 140 tribal nations, said Jared Blumenfeld, who has been on the job for three weeks.

Tourists to places such as Hawai'i "expect the environment to be clean or cleaner from where they are at home," Blumenfeld said yesterday in a telephone conference call that included journalists from throughout the region. "How do we take advantage of green tourism? ... How do we green those conventions? ... We need to work collectively on green business travel and green tourism."

He praised Hawai'i leadership in several areas, including photovoltaic energy and "wave power and tidal power," and said that same kind of leadership needs to be replicated on the Mainland.

"Ocean resources are key, and Hawai'i will play an absolute role in that," Blumenfeld said. "Photovoltaic (in Hawai'i) is huge, off the charts, compared to the rest of the United States."

But critical issues for the Islands still need improvement, he said, such as Honolulu's continuing wastewater problems, solid- waste disposal and the exportation of trash.

The EPA previously ordered upgrades to Honolulu's two main sewage treatment plants, which likely will cost more than $1 billion and could lead to sewer fee increases for Honolulu customers.

Before joining the EPA, Blumenfeld spent eight years as director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment. He also managed San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department and was a founder of the Business Council on Climate Change.

He has law degrees from the University of London and the University of California.

In a wide-ranging discussion yesterday, Blumenfeld addressed issues specific to cities and areas within the EPA's Region 9, such as offshore oil drilling, water quality on Indian reservations, emission levels in Southern California and toxic exposures in California's Central Valley.

Overall, Blumenfeld said, "we've lost the American public on the environment. The issues are too complex and too difficult to deal with, so Americans switch off."

Blumenfeld wants Region 9 to "lead by example" by meeting goals of "zero waste and carbon neutrality by 2012."

"When talking to businesses in the region, I want to be able to say that we Region 9 as an entity will achieve zero waste. Nothing goes to landfills or incineration . Everything is reused or recycled."

He hopes to attain carbon neutrality by purchasing carbon offsets from sources within the region.

"For too long, we've told other people what to do but haven't done it ourselves," Blumenfeld said.

He also wants to emphasize "environmental justice."

"I'm really tired of hearing about what people say needs to be done with environmental justice and not enough action," Blumenfeld said. In the past, "we've over-promised and underdelivered. If we can't deliver, then we shouldn't be promising."