- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday announced the creation of the city’s Department of the Environment.

“It’s time that the nation’s capital has a Department of the Environment to help ensure that our natural environment is clean and healthy for our residents and for the millions of visitors we host every year,” Mr. Williams said.

“A new department would enable us to focus our efforts on critical issues such as improving the city’s air quality, cleaning up our local rivers and streams, and developing our parks and open spaces.”

Elizabeth Berry, the mayor’s senior adviser for environmental affairs, said she has been offered the job of heading the new agency but still wants city officials to conduct a national search.

“The department will consolidate the various environmental programs that are spread throughout about a dozen city agencies,” Miss Berry said.

The environmental agency will hire between 300 and 500 workers, Miss Berry said, adding that 217 positions will be shifted from the Environmental Health Administration, which is housed in the city’s Department of Health.

The city has earmarked $350,000 for salaries and startup costs, she added.

But Steve Coleman, director of the nonprofit group Washington Parks & People, said the new Department of the Environment is doomed if it lacks “some real teeth.”

“We are a beautiful city that has let itself be trashed for decades, and I think it is a fantastic idea, but it’s long overdue,” said Mr. Coleman, who was a co-chairman of the mayor’s committee on parks and recreation in the late 1990s. “We want to make sure this moves forward.”

Washington Parks & People is an alliance of grass-roots community partnerships that rehabilitate neglected parks.

Mr. Williams also pledged his support for ensuring that all new government buildings are environmentally healthy and clean.

What’s more, he requested employers doing business in the city help make the District a “green city” by cutting in half the paper they use, committing to follow the District’s commercial recycling laws and reducing water usage.

Mr. Williams, who planted a willow oak in front of the John A. Wilson Building, made the announcements as a kickoff to GreenDC Week.

GreenDC Week includes: Environment and Community Day, Holistic Energy Day, Take a Breath of Fresh Air Day, Water Day, Earth Day and E-Cycling.

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