EPA wants to change how it analyzes problems and makes decisions in a way that will give it expanded power to regulate businesses, communities, and ecosystems in the name of “sustainable development,” according to a news report. Much of the thought behind this idea comes from a study, “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” that EPA commissioned last year from the National Academies of Science (NAS) and published in August.

The study’s panel declares part of its job to be “providing guidance to EPA on how it might implement its existing statutory authority to contribute more fully to a more sustainable-development trajectory for the United States”, that is, how to use existing laws to new ends. According to NAS, the sustainability study “both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s.”

According to the study, the adoption of the new “sustainability framework” will make the EPA more “anticipatory” in its approach to environmental issues, broaden its focus to include both social and economic as well as environmental “pillars,” and “strengthen EPA as an organization and a leader in the nation’s progress toward a sustainable future.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that sustainability is “the next phase of environmental protection” and “fundamental to the future of the EPA.” She described the new approach as “the difference between treating disease and pursuing wellness.”

The study urges EPA to “create a new culture among all EPA employees,” and hire an array of new experts in order to bring the sustainability focus to every corner of the agency and its operations. Changes will move faster “as EPA’s intentions and goals in sustainability become clear to employees,” the study says.

The NAS and EPA held a meeting last week in Washington to begin public discussion of the study.