Press Release

Gillibrand, Polis, Castle Introduce National Environmental Education Act Reauthorization

Sep 23, 2010

Washington, DC — Working to create jobs and grow the new energy economy, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Mike Castle (R-DE) today introduced bipartisan legislation that will help ensure that our young people and all Americans receive the educational foundation needed to better understand complex issues impacting the health of our fragile planet.  The National Environmental Education Reauthorization Act (S. 3833, H.R. 6194) would update and modernize the National Environmental Education Act (NEEA), an act that has advanced environmental literacy in the United States for the last 20 years.

“In order to tackle the tough challenges we as a nation face; from global climate change, to energy independence, it is critical that we provide our children with every opportunity to lead in a clean energy economy,” said Senator Gillibrand a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. “This modernization of the National Environmental Education Act provides the guidance and resources to advance environmental education programs in New York and across the country to give our children the tools to become the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

“Whether we’re tackling global challenges like the Gulf Oil Spill or Climate Change, or working locally to create green jobs and design municipal transportation projects we need a country well versed in environmental and science education,” said Rep. Polis.  “It is time we update the National Environmental Education Act to address the growing needs of our country to face new environmental challenges and maintain competitiveness with other countries.  This act ensures citizens will have access to the knowledge they need to make informed, scientifically sound decisions to achieve a sustainable environment and keep America competitive.”

“Never before has it been more imperative that we educate not only the next generation of scientists, but also the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Rep. Castle.  “Environmental education fosters greater appreciation among Americans, beginning in the classroom and extending throughout their adult lives, for the role we all play, collectively and as individuals, in addressing energy challenges, protecting American’s health, and maintaining US leadership in innovation.  I am pleased to be working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on this important reauthorization, and I sincerely hope this measure is taken up soon.”

This reauthorization will also build on a 20-year investment started by the NEEA that laid the foundation for progress in environmental literacy across the country, from K-12 programs to graduate courses, from employee sustainability education at businesses to a greater emphasis on greener jobs and products.

Signed into law by the 101st Congress in 1990, the NEEA has led to measurable improvement in the quality of environmental education around the country, in schools, businesses, in the media and in many other ways that touch all Americans’ lives.

Environmental education encourages critical thinking, saves money, conserves resources and positions America to be a leader in the green economy. Studies show that environmentally literate students perform better on standardized tests and are more likely to overcome classroom challenges. Surveys indicate hiring managers value environmentally educated employees. 

The Reauthorization Act contains a number of revisions that would strengthen and modernize the NEEA and build on environmental literacy efforts. The revised NEEA would:

  • Make available strategically targeted grants to achieve national environmental goals and increase environmental literacy by educating and training citizens in fields that promote the sustainability of natural resources.
  • Refocus the Office of Environmental Education, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to prepare Americans for employment in environmentally friendly fields, such as energy efficiency, green building design, commercial-scale renewable energy, low-emission vehicles and the production of environmentally friendly products.
  • Clarify the definition of environmental education to focus on formal and non-formal education, conveying knowledge and skills to equip the general public to work collectively and individually toward solutions to current environmental problems and prevention of new ones.

“Support of environmental literacy is a critical piece of our nation’s education and conservation infrastructure. Enhanced knowledge, provided by the National Environmental Education Act, can be used to better protect the natural resources we rely on for survival.  The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico only highlights our need to bolster an informed, ecologically literate generation of conservation stewards,” said Kevin Coyle, Vice President of Education and Training at the National Wildlife Federation

The NEEA Reauthorization is supported by the National Wildlife Federation, National Environmental Education Foundation, National Audubon Society, American Forest Foundation / Project Learning Tree, and the North American Association for Environmental Education.