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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Out of State Practitioners Division of the Florida Bar Washington DC

03/09/1998
Carol M. Browner Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Out of State Practitioners Division of the Florida
Bar Washington DC
   
                     March 9, 1998


     Thank you Mr. Davies. I am delighted to be here among my fellow members of the Florida Bar. It is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk to you about the progress this country has made -- and what more we need to do -- to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we all share.

     This nation had made great strides in the 25 years since we passed our major environmental laws -- the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act -- our laws to protect our health and to protect our environment.

     Rivers are no longer catching fire. We have prevented billions of pounds of toxic pollution from entering our waterways. Nearly two-thirds of our waters are now safe for swimming and fishing.

     We've banned the most dangerous pesticides -- DDT, chlordane, and others -- and brought safer substitutes to the market.

     Our air is cleaner and healthier. Two-thirds of Americans now live in areas that meet EPA's standards for healthful air.

     In Florida, we've seen some great success stories: cleaner air over Miami, Jacksonville, all the major cities; the comeback of Tampa Bay where sea grasses and marine life are on the rebound; the protection and conservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive land; and a new plan to lead the Everglades to recovery.

     All this environmental progress at the same time our nation's gross domestic product has grown almost 100 percent. A healthier environment has not come at the cost of economic progress. This is good news, and this country has much to be proud of.

     But our work is not done. Far from it. We all know this.     A third of our waters are still too polluted for swimming and fishing. We lose wetlands and topsoil every year. And soot and smog hangs heavy over many of our cities -- too many of our children still suffer with asthma from breathing unhealthy air.

     We have made great strides cleaning up the nation's worst toxic waste sites -- more than 500 cleaned up to date -- but hundreds of communities are still held back by toxic waste. No child should have to grow up, walk to school, or play next to one of these hazardous sites.

     While we have the safest water and food supplies in the world, outbreaks of dangerous micro-organisms are not unheard of, reminding us that we cannot let down our guard until every community, every American can rest assured that the food they eat and the water they drink is safe and healthy.

     Five years ago, when I left Florida to head the Environmental Protection Agency,
President Clinton and Vice President Gore charged me with a small task: Rethink everything EPA does -- usher in a new generation of environmental and public health protection that will finish the job of providing clean air, clean water and safe land for the American people.  

     That is what we've been doing. Over the course of President Clinton's first administration, and now into the second, we have worked hard to build that new generation of protection -- and
we have premised it on three guiding principles:

     We believe -- we know -- that our best efforts are those done in partnership -- where businesses, communities and all levels of government join together, to work together to seek common ground in solving the nation's most urgent environmental and public health challenges.

     We believe the economy and the environment go hand in hand. In fact, we've proven this time and time again, that we can find ways to save jobs, create jobs, and still take bold steps to safeguard our communities.

     We believe that if you give people clear, accurate, consistent information, they can build more effective partnerships and together make better, more informed decisions about the health and safety of their families and the places where they live and work and play.

     These guiding principles are born of necessity. Yes, our laws have led us to a much healthier country. But they are imperfect. Lawyers, policymakers, industry, citizens -- we must all be even more creative, even more innovative in our problem-solving to fully address the complexity of our remaining environmental and public health challenges.

     Consider the Everglades -- a vast sea of grass once untroubled, once free from pollution, once pulsing with life. Over the past few decades, it has slowly started to die, struggling under
many threats: wetlands drainage, encroaching development, and one of the most serious facing many of the nation's waters -- polluted urban and agricultural runoff.     It wasn't enough to designate this as a national park. Nor was the Clean Water Act enough. The problems come from many corners, and we realize now that so, too, must our solutions.

     We built a partnership -- industry, agriculture, tribes, environmentalists, all levels of government -- together devising a plan to save the Everglades. We are pooling our dollars and resources, coordinating our laws, and drawing upon the energy of the grassroots and the voluntary efforts from industry and agriculture.

     Together we can do what we can't do alone. We can change development patterns, restore habitat, control pollution -- tackle the toughest issues and save this vital natural resource. We're so convinced of this, that the Everglades effort serves as a model for one much larger -- the President's Clean Water Action plan -- our national blueprint to clean up and restore the nation's waters.

     This plan for clean water will confront today's greatest threats coast to coast -- $2.3 billion to address polluted runoff from agriculture and urban areas, the loss of wetlands, and the restoration of our waterways.

     It will give Americans the flexible tools and resources they need to clean up their waters community by community and watershed by watershed -- tools like internet access to information about each community's watershed and about toxic releases to local rivers, lakes, and streams.

     This plan will build on this administration's philosophy of bringing people together to find solutions, so that together we can take action, and together we can finish cleaning up and restoring our nation's waters.

     Partnership, economic and environmental progress, better information -- you'll find these principles applied not just to our efforts to clean up our water, but to almost everything we're doing.

     Take our Brownfields program -- we have removed obstacles to the cleanup and redevelopment of hundreds of abandoned industrial properties -- properties that so often act as barriers to the economic and environmental renewal of our urban centers.

     Our first pilot project, started three years ago, has been a rousing success -- more than 180 permanent jobs, more than a $1 million boost to the local tax base, reuse of an old, abandoned property, pristine land spared from bulldozers, and most importantly, a collaborative, local-based partnership that, to this day, remains a model for brownfields renewal across the country.

    Today, we have nearly 130 brownfields pilot projects coast to coast, with about 30 more to be announced in the next few months, including several efforts underway in Florida. All across the country, people from all backgrounds are joining together to turn this blight in their neighborhoods into clean, safe, thriving places of commerce.

     Look at our efforts to clean up the nation's air -- you'll see our new principles applied there as well. Last summer we announced tough new air standards for soot and smog, the toughest public health air standards we've set in a decade. Again, we know the key to success is finding ways, in partnership, to meet this challenge by growing our economy, building our competitiveness -- not tearing them down.

     Just a few weeks ago, Vice President Gore announced a public-private partnership that will make cleaner cars a reality for the nation -- much cleaner cars, 70 percent cleaner -- one of the biggest steps we can take to meet this challenge for clean air.

     Nearly every automaker -- foreign and domestic -- is participating in our program for cleaner cars. And by the year 2000, we'll be seeing these cars in almost every showroom in the country.

     We still have far to go to make clean air a reality for every American, and every community -- but partnerships are forming on every front -- between government, industry, environmentalists, public health groups -- to find together innovative, cost-effective answers to the nation's air quality problems.

     The mood in this country has begun to shift from we can't, to, yes, we can -- a great wave of optimism that will make it possible for this new generation of environmental and public health protection to work -- even for our toughest of challenges.

     I'm talking about global climate change, which our President has called our overriding environmental challenge -- one of the most serious threats we'll be facing together as a nation. That is why he has committed this country to lead the nations of the world in making real, significant cuts in the pollution that contributes to global warming.

     To that end, he has committed $6 billion in tax cuts and research and development to encourage innovation, to encourage renewable energy and energy-efficient homes and offices.

      And again, our goal is to spur more partnerships, more creative technologies to bring us to a new level of effectiveness -- and a new level of economic competitiveness.

     We've already made a good start. EPA and other federal agencies have formed more than 5,000 partnerships with other organizations   many of them businesses   to find ways to use energy more efficiently. To date, these partnerships have catalyzed more than $1 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.     We can only build on this. And we are certain that we can, as a country, unite to do what we need to do to reverse the trend of global warming.

     Indeed, look at everything we're doing, and you will see that we have a different way of doing business these days at EPA. What this means is a new way of doing business for everyone who's a part of efforts to safeguard the nation's health and environment.

     I'm talking about citizens getting more involved. I'm talking about industry taking real action. I'm talking about public interest groups coming to the table and policymakers willing to listen. And I'm talking about lawyers working more creatively because they understand that today it's not enough just to comply with the law -- but that a client's long-term interests are best served by going beyond compliance.

     We believe this new way of doing business is what will clean up our air and clean up our water. It is what will breathe new life into our urban environments and reverse the trend of global warming. It will save the Everglades -- and it will keep our communities safe, healthy, economically vibrant places to live all across the country. Together, America can finish the job of protecting our communities for our children, our children's children, and all the generations to come.

     Thank you.