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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society Conference on Pollution Prevention and Control Orlando, Florida

01/26/1998
Carol M. Browner
 Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
 Remarks Prepared for Delivery
 American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society
 Conference on Pollution Prevention and Control
 Orlando, Florida
 January 26, 1998


     Thank you, B.J. Mason, for that introduction.  I am delighted to be here today for this important conference.  And I want to thank you, Ken Gatchel, Ted Witt and everyone else who had a hand in providing me this opportunity to join this group and extend my deepest thanks for all you are doing to promote environmental stewardship in your industry.

     I want to extend a special thanks, as well, to David Marsh.  His work on the CSI Council and across the metal finishing industry has been instrumental in the success of this partnership effort.  He and B.J. have really made a difference -- and I want everyone to know how much I appreciate their efforts.

     I know that it takes the concerted efforts of more than just a few people to make the Strategic Goals Program the huge success that it is.  Many of you are here today -- entrepreneurs, CEO's and other top managers, scientists, engineers, process experts -- men and women who are taking a leadership role in moving this industry toward a whole new level of environmental stewardship and responsibility.  It's a team effort, to be sure.  And I wish only that there was some way I could personally thank each and every one of you for the contributions you are making to a cleaner environment and healthier future for generations to come.

     There is, however, one person I would like to single out for a special mention -- someone who has had a profound impact on the metal finishing industry and its commitment to improving environmental performance -- not just over the past few years, but over the past quarter-century.

     I'm talking, of course, about Herb Tilton.  I understand that Herb recently suffered a serious health problem.  And I join you in wishing him a speedy recovery.

     Since the day we took office more than four-and-a-half years ago, the Clinton Administration has constantly strived, under Vice President Gore's leadership, to "reinvent" our system of environmental regulation.

     Our foremost goal, of course, is to protect the public health.  That always comes first.  But we believe that by working in partnership with businesses and their surrounding communities, we can achieve better environmental results while, at the same time, reducing red tape and bringing more common sense and cost-effectiveness to the system.

     Our efforts have focused primarily on moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approaches of the past, and seeking to work with industries and challenge them to go beyond what the law requires -- to encourage them to innovate and to try out new approaches -- and to give them the flexibility they need to protect the environment it in an affordable way.

     In addition, we want people in our communities to have greater opportunities to become more fully involved in the process.
     
     The metal finishing industry's Strategic Goals Program is part of the very first agreement that has been reached by any industry under the Common Sense Initiative -- EPA's flagship program to bring business, government and community representatives together to develop new, innovative, more flexible ways to protect the environment.

     CSI is based on a very simple proposition.  We believe that you know better than anyone else how to improve environmental performance in your industry.  You know metal finishing through-and-through.  You know how to reduce pollution, and to do it in ways that will ensure the future success of your companies.  You have the best ideas on how to build a culture of environmental performance throughout your industry.

     CSI is intended to give us a framework for a partnership that will bring out the best in your industry -- and other industries -- so that we can not only meet but exceed the environmental and public health standards that are so important to the American people.

     Metal finishing was a natural to be one of the first six industries selected for CSI.  Many of you had been working for years -- and making considerable progress -- to move this industry into an entirely new era, in which a reputation for pollution would be a thing of the past.  

     With this agreement, you have committed this industry to do more than simply comply with environmental requirements.  You have committed to a new level of environmental stewardship -- to take responsibility -- to improve processes through new technologies, to conserve resources, and to pollute less.

     How much less?  We expect that, under this agreement, the metal finishing industry nationwide will cut its toxic chemical emissions to air and water by three-fourths over the next five years.  Releases of toxic metals and disposal of hazardous sludge are projected to fall by 40 percent.

     With some 3,000 independent metal finishing shops located across the country -- and another 8,000 metal finishing operations located within larger factories -- these reductions are going to give a major boost to environmental and public health protection in this country.

     Perhaps most importantly, this industry is going to be a trailblazer.  You are going to be leading the nation toward an entirely new approach to environmental and public health protection in this country.

     And, in return for your commitment, EPA and our other partners in the states and local publicly-owned treatment works will be delivering on commitments of our own.  We will be taking concrete actions to help you meet your ambitious environmental goals.

     Let me give you just one promising example -- one involving the regulation of Clean Water Act treatment sludge -- otherwise known as F006.

     Based on the actions of the CSI subcommittee, the EPA Office of Solid Waste is considering regulatory changes to make this material easier to recycle and manage -- especially for the many small firms in your industry.

     We can do this because the metal finishing industry has taken so many steps over the years to reduce the toxicity of this substance.

     Everyone benefits.  Companies are able to undertake better and more sensible environmental management.  Communities see less pollution and a cleaner environment.

     This is the kind of change we're talking about.

     Change of this magnitude is never easy, to be sure.  I'm sure you'll agree that sometimes it can seem like swimming through peanut butter.

     It requires perseverance.  It requires a lot of hard work.  And perhaps the biggest challenge is that it requires a lot of open-mindedness -- a lot of give-and-take -- and a lot of compromise.  Each of us has to step back from time to time and really contemplate and try to understand the positions of the people across the table.
     But this agreement shows how much change we can accomplish if we really roll up our sleeves and work very hard.  I'm talking about everyone involved in the process -- EPA, companies, industry representatives, state and local governments, workers and environmentalists.  Your efforts make us very proud indeed.

     Let me commend you for the initial success of the Strategic Goals Program -- and especially for not only meeting your goal of 100 charter members -- but for doubling that goal.

     You are showing the world that environmental protection and economic progress do go hand-in-hand -- that we do not have to choose between our health and our jobs.

     That is a vital part of the Clinton/Gore Administration's approach to protecting public health and the environment.
     
     Under the Vice President's leadership on "reinventing" government, we have cut red tape.  We have brought greater flexibility to the system.  And we have sought to bring everyone to the table -- government, businesses, community leaders, labor and environmentalists -- everyone -- to find mutually-acceptable ways to make industries cleaner and more competitive, to make our communities safer and to make our country a better place for future generations.

     Under CSI, we have sought to implement this approach on an industrywide basis.  Many of you, I'm sure, are also familiar with another reinvention initiative -- Project XL, for "excellence and leadership" -- whereby EPA is extending the hand of partnership to individual companies with a proven track record of environmental performance the opportunity to find cleaner, cheaper, smarter ways of protecting the environment.

     We are saying to companies: If you have an idea that promises something superior to what could be achieved under the current regulatory system, and if you involve stakeholders in the community, then we will work with you to get you the flexibility needed to put your idea to the test.

     This has generated enormous interest in the business community.  We are very excited about it.

     CSI and Project XL are the foundation of what we hope will be many great things to come -- a comprehensive approach to environmental protection that will go beyond what the law requires and -- importantly -- is bolstered by the full support of all stakeholders.

     Cleaner for the environment.  Cheaper for industry and the taxpayers.  Smarter for America's future.

    That's the beauty of what EPA and the metal finishing industry have accomplished with our partnership.

     And we hope it will be a model for other industries to follow.

     That may be our toughest challenge.  All eyes are going to be on us.  We have to make this agreement work.

     But, based on what I've seen thus far, I believe we're up to that challenge.

     I believe this initiative is going to huge dividends in the years to come -- more competitive industries, a more effective and more sensible system of environmental regulation, and cleaner, healthier communities for future generations of Americans.

     And all of America will know that the metal finishing industry is about more than adding luster to the products we use.  Rather, they'll know of this industry's shining commitment to a better future for us all.

     Thank you, and best of luck.