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EPA Administrator Concludes Visit to Tampa Bay

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Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler concluded a four-day swing through Florida with a final stop in Tampa Bay where he highlighted Florida’s improvement in air quality during the Trump Administration, promoted EPA’s Brownfields grant success story in Tampa Bay, and participated in a tour of the The Florida Aquarium's Coral Conservation Center and their restoration work.

“The Trump Administration EPA is helping Tampa Bay communities clean up their air, land and water,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The agency has had important roles to play in the recent redesignation of air quality standards in several Florida counties, helped fund a tremendous environmental jobs training program in Tampa Bay, and directly supports the Florida Aquarium’s coral restoration project. These programs help the region improve its environment and expand its skilled workforce.”

EPA Administrator Wheeler began his day visiting the Simmons Park in Ruskin, FL where he met with local environment and health officials. He was joined by EPA Region 4 Administration Mary Walker, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) Chairperson Mariella Smith, EPC Executive Director Janet Dougherty, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Deputy Secretary of Regulatory Programs John Truitt, and Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County Director Douglas Holt.

“Working in partnership with the state, we have achieved significant improvements in air quality in Hillsborough County,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “The air quality improvements mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunity for Floridians.”

“Floridians are keenly aware of the importance of protecting our natural resources.  I am proud that our uniquely sensitive and pristine coastline continues to be well-protected under this Administration, and that we are harnessing the power of innovation and science to solve the environmental challenges we face through investments in preservation projects and clean air and water sources," said U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12). "Our shared goal is to ensure future generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy our many natural treasures."

“Considering our increased population, coupled with heavy industrial activity and greater travel demands, we have often times stretched our natural resources. But despite this growth, we have been able to maintain good air quality for our residents, which makes Tampa Bay a great place to live and work,” said Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Division Executive Director Janet L. Dougherty. “Now, for the first time in nearly 30 years, Hillsborough County is meeting all of the federal health-based air pollution standards.” 

“This clean air achievement highlights the importance of maintaining strong public and private partnerships to protect Florida’s environment,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs John Truitt. “The work that DEP, along with EPA, has done with industry members in Hillsborough County has resulted in improved air quality, better protecting public health and the quality of life of our residents.”

During his visit, Administrator Wheeler highlighted the agency’s final action taken in March to approve the State of Florida’s requests to redesignate both Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough-Polk Areas from nonattainment to attainment for the 2010 1-Hour Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) standard. With these redesignation actions, the entire State of Florida is in attainment for all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  EPA has worked closely with the  FDEP to redesignate three areas from nonattainment to attainment for the SO2 standard – Nassau County, Hillsborough County, and Hillsborough-Polk.

Administrator Wheeler also announced that the agency is proposing to cancel certain uses of irgarol in order to better protect coral and other aquatic life. Irgarol is most often used in antifoulant paint that is applied to protect boat hulls.

Administrator Wheeler then attended an event with the Corporation to Develop Communities (CDC) of Tampa where he touted the success CDC of Tampa’s job training program, which EPA has supported through multiple grants cycles. At the event he was joined by CDC of Tampa Workforce Development President and CEO Ernest Coney, Jr. State Representative Dianne Hart (FL-61), and FDEP Deputy Secretary John Truitt.

"The EPA Environmental Workforce Job Development and Training grants have allowed us to prepare our residents for careers in the Environmental Industry, by providing certifications in Green Construction, Wastewater, Compressed Natural Gas, and Environmental Remediation,” said CDC President and CEO Ernest Coney, Jr.  “It is truly transformative witnessing a student learning the skills and then putting them to use in the field.  Ultimately, the EPA grant is helping to create productive citizens and healthy communities."

CDC of Tampa was awarded $200K in job training funds to train 60 students in environmental job skills, and place at least 54 graduates in environmental jobs. Participants in the five-week course will earn one state and twelve federal certifications. CDC of Tampa is targeting the underserved East Tampa neighborhood. Brownfields Job Training Grants are provided to nonprofit organizations and other eligible entities to recruit and train unemployed and underemployed residents from solid and hazardous waste-impacted communities and place them in environmental jobs. To date, EPA has funded 305 job training grants totaling over $63 million through the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program.

Following his meeting with the CDC of Tampa, Administrator Wheeler participated in a tour of the The Florida Aquarium's Coral Conservation Center where he saw first-hand the coral reef restoration work of the aquarium. He was joined by Florida Aquarium CEO Roger Germann, and Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker.

Since 2017, EPA has provided $2.3 million for coral research on the Florida Reef Tract.  EPA South Florida projects are investigating the characteristics of stony coral tissue loss disease; the genetics of corals that exhibit a natural resistance to coral disease; and the water quality and environmental conditions most promising for coral reef restoration. This year, EPA will once again be providing an additional $1M in grants to support coral health.

Administrator Wheeler at Simmons Park in Ruskin, FL meeting with local health officials. 

Administrator Wheeler highlights Florida’s improvement in air quality during the Trump Administration.

Administrator Wheeler announcing Brownfield Job Training grants at the Corporation to Develop Communities (CDC). 

Administrator Wheeler touring The Florida Aquarium's Coral Conservation Center with Florida Aquarium CEO Roger Germann and Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker.