The EPA's Odd Choice for a New Regional HQ

In defiance of the environmental values it supposedly stands for, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is moving its regional headquarters from a walkable, transit-rich, downtown Kansas City (Kansas) neighborhood to one of the worst examples of suburban sprawl it could have possibly found, some 20 miles from downtown. The result could nearly triple transportation carbon emissions associated with the facility. 

In addition, around 600 federal and associated civilian employees will abandon a central city at a time when the agency’s own staff is writing reports suggesting that central cities in the US are making a comeback. Kansas City, Kansas (population 145,786) is much smaller than neighboring Kansas City, Missouri; the loss of 600 downtown jobs is a major blow to the city's efforts to strengthen its core.

This decision is horrible in so many ways that it's hard to know where to start. How the hell did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson sign off on this?

  location of current EPA Reg 7 HQ (via Google Earth)

Let’s look at the facts. The satellite image above shows the location of the current Region 7 headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. It’s not perfect when viewed through a smart growth and sustainable communities lens, but it’s not bad.

  location of new EPA Reg 7 HQ (via Google Earth)

Now consider the new location (just above), a low-rise “landscraper” of a building fronted by large parking lots outside of a suburb called Lenexa, Kansas and across the road from, among other things, a wheatfield.

Let's look at some analytical maps and data:

  amenities near current EPA Reg 7 HQ (via Walk Score)

  Abogo map of current EPA Reg 7 HQ (via Abogo)

I ran the addresses for the current and new facilities through Walk Score and Abogo, the calculator developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology that estimates carbon emissions (and household costs) from transportation by location. Above, EPA’s current headquarters location gets a Walk Score of 62, better than 81 percent of Kansas City as a whole (see top map of the two just above). You can see the locations of nearby amenities on the Walk Score map, which also identifies six bus transit lines within a quarter mile walk of the facility.

Abogo (the second map, just above) calculates that an average resident in the vicinity of the current EPA Region 7 headquarters emits 0.39 metric tons of carbon dioxide per month, slightly more than half the regional average of 0.74 tons per month.