Gretchen Goldman is the Chair of the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee (ACPAC), which provides input on air quality, climate, and energy issues to the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality and Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy committees. ACPAC members represent a diverse community, with individuals whose backgrounds range from business to education. Goldman works as a Research Director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In this Q&A, Goldman discusses her role as ACPAC chair and how the committee is working to improve regional air quality.
How did you get involved with ACPAC?
I first got involved with ACPAC because I was looking for ways to use my scientific expertise and inform decisions that happen at a more regional scale. I have studied air quality from an academic perspective and I really wanted to make sure that I could use that knowledge in a way that would help improve air quality.
What do you think are some of the region’s biggest challenges when it comes to the environment?
The metropolitan Washington region has some unique challenges. We have to coordinate across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. It is really important that ACPAC and COG play a strong role in improving our air quality and climate. In all this, federal funding is important to ensure that the region can do this work.
How does citizen engagement through ACPAC benefit the public, region, and COG?
It is hugely beneficial for the public to be involved in COG’s decision-making. The public can provide different kinds of perspectives on issues, creative ideas, and expert knowledge. This also benefits COG and the region by making sure that all kinds of issues and opinions are considered. Ultimately, this will make policies better.
As chair of ACPAC, you’re working to improve the region’s air quality, and working on climate and energy issues. What are some of the projects that the committee is working on this year?
This year, ACPAC is working on several exciting projects. We are finishing our fourth year of the Climate and Energy Leadership Awards, which we give out to nonprofits, government entities, and businesses around the region. This has had a lot of potential to highlight those who are doing great work on air quality improvements and climate action in the region. Another project is our Environmental Justice Toolkit, which will help COG jurisdictions consider justice and equity issues into their decisions around air quality and climate.
Why is the Environmental Justice Toolkit important? How can it be used?
The Environmental Justice Toolkit is an exciting new initiative that ACPAC has been working on for more than a year. COG jurisdictions can use the toolkit to help them navigate how to consider environmental justice in the decisions that they make every day. ACPAC believes that it is important to think about how to alleviate some of the potential inequities in clean air and climate policies. Our hope is that the toolkit can provide new resources for jurisdictions to use when thinking about these issues.
As a Research Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, what does that experience bring to your role on ACPAC?
My day job is thinking about science and policy at a big scale, looking at federal policy and thinking about how to improve the role of science in our democracy. I think of ACPAC as my local counterpart to that by thinking about how it plays out when we are talking about real policies and real people. I am very excited to be involved in ACPAC and apply some of that skillset and knowledge to the local scale and to improve policies in the region where I live.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
As a mom and as a scientist, I think a lot about the air that my child breathes and how healthy it is. I think about how tremendously important it is that we continue to improve air quality and that we try to leave a region and planet that is healthy for the next generation. That is what motivates me to be on ACPAC and stay engaged on these issues.