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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, Washington, D.C.

04/17/2002
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

to the

Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies

Washington, D.C.

April 17, 2002


Thank you. I= m delighted to be with you today.

I came here today straight from a workshop on risk communications B a topic no EPA official can afford to ignore. I have to admit, in my job, there are days when just getting out of bed seems overly risky.

Today, of course, is not one of those days, because I = ve been looking forward to the opportunity to speak with you about how we can work together to advance this Administration's belief that environmental protection and economic prosperity can and must go hand in hand.

Over the past 30 years, we have seen a growing awareness that responsible corporate environmental stewardship is also smart business practice. The corporate landscape is filled with examples of positive environmental action yielding positive results on the bottom line.

I = m pleased to note that there is a strong connection between the commitment of your members to managing and reporting on environmental performance and EPA = s new focus on environmental results. That = s why we are developing tools to actually measure the condition of the air, water, and land in America B so people can see whether things are getting better or not.

The true measure of environmental success is not how many fines we = ve levied or law suits we = ve filed, although enforcement has its role. It = s being able to answer A yes @ when a mother says, A I = m worried about my child = s asthma B is the air getting cleaner? @ It = s being able to give assurance when someone wants to know, A Do I have to worry about what my family drinks, or is our water getting purer? @ And it = s being able to tell a father, A Yes, there will still be places to take your kids camping, because we are doing a better job protecting our land. @

Of course, achieving these results requires us to rethink the approaches of the past. The environmental challenges we face today are more difficult to fix. For example, we= re no longer just looking at stopping direct discharges into rivers from the end of a pipe. Now we also have to address the pollution that is carried into our waterways by run-off from farms and parking lots and front lawns.

In addition, the enormous growth in the widespread availability of information B coupled with the ways in which globalization has made the world smaller B presents a much broader set of challenges. Since pollution doesn = t recognize political boundaries B and laws made in one country can = t be enforced in another B the need for broad-based environmental cooperation B and innovative new approaches B is becoming greater every day.

This is something this organizations knows very well. That is why I have chosen this forum to talk about a new strategy we = ve been working on at EPA to help address the challenges we face. It = s called Innovating for Better Environmental Results, and it is the result of over a year of ongoing collaboration between us and our outside stakeholders.

The basic underpinnings of this strategy are straightforward:

- Focus on environmental performance and results,

- Emphasize greater environmental responsibility, not just pollution control,

- Integrate environmental management across facilities, problems and media,

- Use market-based incentives and other tools to achieve environmental goals, and

- Emphasize partnership with others who share our goals.

Of course, putting this strategy into place B taking it from concept to reality B will require that we make some changes and refinements in how we approach our mission at EPA.

First, it will involve strengthening our innovation partnerships with States and Tribes. That means giving our partners latitude to try new methods and techniques without constantly looking over their shoulders.

Next, it will require us to focus on priority environmental problems, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and smog, restoring water quality, and revitalizing our water and wastewater infrastructure.

Third, it will necessitate the use of diversified tools, including information and environmental technology, market based incentives, environmental management systems, and measurable performance goals.

And finally, it will require a more innovative Agency culture B one that encourages broader application of successful experiments, more A innovation-friendly @ planning and budgeting, more rewards for innovation leaders, and planning strategically for the future.

Let me give you a few real world examples of work now underway to make the strategy a reality.

This month we launched two important new initiatives related to a focus area of the strategy -- the air we breathe and the atmosphere that protects our planet. I= d like to begin by telling you about Clear Skies.

President Bush = s Clear Skies Initiative will dramatically cut air pollution from power plants, bringing America much closer to reaching the National Ambient Air Quality Standards over the next decade than the current Clean Air Act.

Clear Skies will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide nitrogen oxides, and mercury by 70 percent over today = s levels. It will achieve these reductions more quickly and with greater certainty than would occur under the Clean Air Act and will do it using a proven, market-based approach.

In addition, Clear Skies= stringent caps will improve air quality in every region affected by pollution from power plants, preventing tens of thousands of asthma attacks, save thousands of lives, and it will again reveal the scenic vistas in our national parks.

Coupled with Clear Skies is EPA = s new Climate Leaders program. The President has announced an aggressive new climate change policy that will reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy by 18% in the next 10 years.

We will lower our rate of emissions from an estimated 183 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2002, to 151 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2012. We will achieve this goal through a combination of current and new efforts.

Meeting this commitment will prevent over 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere over the next ten years B the equivalent of taking 70 million (or 1 out of 3) cars off the road.

I am pleased that nineteen major companies from a variety of industrial sectors have joined with EPA as Climate Leaders. But I believe we can do better B and I hope you = ll help us.

Your support and involvement could help convince companies to make even stronger commitments to greenhouse gas reductions in the Climate Leaders program. You can persuade a greater number of companies to do even more than we are asking of them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I hope you will consider doing that with us.

On another front, next Wednesday we will announce the third round of new members to our National Environmental Performance Track. The idea is that strong environmental performance and management should be recognized and rewarded.

Facilities that qualify for the Performance Track program work with their communities and manage their environmental activities responsibly. They commit to improve their environmental performance in measurable ways and to explain to the public how well they are meeting their goals.

Some 280 facilities, public and private, have qualified for the Performance Track program. Like the companies that endorse the CERES principles, they are doing more than just meeting their legal obligations. They are demonstrating leadership -- by improving energy efficiency, producing less waste, using less water, and reducing the adverse environmental impacts from their products, among other efforts.

It is clear that both the interest in and the exercise of corporate environmental responsibility worldwide have increased over the last twenty five years. Fortunately many companies B particularly many American companies B have not only responded to this but set even higher goals and standards.

Accompanying this increase in good corporate citizenship has been an increased expectation that corporations, governments, investors, and civil society groups be more open and transparent about their operations and impacts. We believe that improving the quality and availability of information is key to strong markets and strong democracy.

EPA believes strongly in the principles of reporting contained in your Global Reporting Initiative and is working to make sure that the information the Agency collects and disseminates is in line with those criteria. Some direct spinoffs of this effort include developing a common set of data standards, and leveraging information technology for better information exchange between facilities and regulatory agencies.

As we look back over the past 10 to 15 years, I think it = s clear that we have come a long way from the time when business thought that environmental measures were simply a cost. Most now recognize that there are many financial, economic, and environmental benefits to cutting waste and pollution.

So as we face the next generation of environmental challenges, we must do so together. We must engage the many minds and listen to the many voices that share our determination to discover the best solutions to our complex problems. We must ensure that every passing year extends the benefits of environmental protection and economic prosperity to more of our nation and of the world.

This is something that CERES has been pursuing for a long time, and I look forward to exploring ways that we can work with you to advance toward our common goals.

Thank you.