This week people in D.C. and all over the world are celebrating Earth Day. The Earth Day Network’s theme this year is “It’s Our Turn to Lead,” and it provides guides for local advocates to push for change. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked “Americans and concerned citizens everywhere to crank up the volume. Educate others in your community.” At DC Appleseed we’ve been taking the lead on local environmental policy for years.
Many credit the first Earth Day in 1970 with spurring the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That first Earth Day was inspired by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. In D.C., the creation of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) was inspired by a similar environmental crisis and DC Appleseed’s advocacy.
In January 2004, the Washington Post reported that levels of lead in many D.C. households’ drinking water exceeded EPA limits. D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz, then the chair of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, invited DC Appleseed to examine existing District law and make recommendations to improve drinking water quality. By the end of the year, DC Appleseed, with pro bono assistance from the law firms Weil, Gotschal & Manges and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, issued a report that included a recommendation to create a Department of Environmental Protection that would take the lead on all environmental issues. In 2005, thanks to continued advocacy by DC Appleseed and our pro bono partners, the D.C. Council passed legislation creating DDOE. Today we are working closely with DDOE and other local experts to make the Anacostia River a uniting—rather than dividing—force in the District.
We hope that you will take inspiration from the Earth Day Network’s theme and find ways to lead on environmental protection in D.C. Follow us on Twitter so that you can stay up to date on our work. Browse our reports so that you can follow Secretary Kerry’s advice to educate others in your community. And please consider supporting our work.