Contact Us

Newsroom

Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National Association of Attorneys General

05/15/1996
                         Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Association of Attorneys General

                       Environmental Summit
                        Albuquerque, NM


                      Prepared for Delivery
                          May 15, 1996


I want to thank Tom Udall for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon. The Attorneys-General of this nation play a vital
role in protecting public health and the environment in communities across this country, and so I am very pleased to be able
to join you.


I am especially glad to be able to address you now -- at a time when we have been engaged in the most important
environmental debate in two and a half decades.


Twenty-six years ago, this nation joined together -- citizens, businesses, government, Democrats and Republicans -- in a
bipartisan commitment to protect our health, the air, the water, the land we all share.


And together we made a great deal of progress -- progress of which we can all be proud. We no longer have rivers catching
on fire. Our skies are cleaner.


Three years ago, when President Clinton and I came to Washington, we called on leaders of business, communities, and all
levels of government to continue the progress -- to build a new generation of environmental protection. One that can build on
the successes of the past and meet the challenges of the next century. One that can provide real benefits for real people --
fresh air to breathe, safe water to drink, land that is safe to live on. One that protects where we live and how we live.


Over the past three years, the Clinton Administration and the states have worked together to build a strong partnership, in
which each level of government can do what it does best, to protect public health and our environment.


We have worked hard to find common-sense, cost-effective solutions that recognize the strengths that each level of
government brings to the responsibility we share.


And we are seeing results.

Today, thanks to what we have done together to implement and enforce the Clean Air Act, 50 million Americans in 55 cities
are breathing cleaner air.


Together, we have accelerated the cleanup of urban properties that have long lain contaminated or abandoned -- returning
them to productive use, creating jobs, creating hope.


In the past three years, we have cleaned up more toxic waste sites than in the previous 12 years of the Superfund program.

The Clinton Administration's regulatory reinvention is cutting red tape, to save 20 million hours a year for business, for states,
for communities.


And together, we have reinvented the environmental grant process -- to give the states the flexibility to shift resources to
address your needs, your priorities.


Under this year's budget, states have the flexibility to combine categorical grants into a single Performance Partnership Grant
-- allowing states to set priorities for meeting environmental needs as you see fit.


Through Performance Partnership Grants and through the Environmental Performance Agreements signed by states and the
federal government, we work together to focus on environmental results. Together, we encourage flexibility. We encourage
innovation. We tailor our efforts to reflect the different capabilities, the different needs of each individual state.


Strong enforcement is a vital part of our partnership. In all that we do, we recognize that it is the responsibility of state and
federal government to ensure for the American people fair, consistent, and effective enforcement of environmental laws.


We recognize that without an unwavering commitment to aggressive enforcement of environmental laws, the progress of the
past 25 years would not have been possible. Under the Clinton Administration, that commitment continues.


Three years ago, when I came to EPA, we reorganized what had been a fragmented enforcement effort and launched a new
program, combining a strong civil and criminal program with compliance incentives and compliance tools that help small
businesses and communities comply with public health protections.


Our Common Sense Compliance incentives for small business will waive or reduce penalties for first-time violators who
agree to fix the problems. We would rather see the money spent to solve the problems, prevent the pollution. And our
Compliance Assistance Centers are helping them do it.


Our flexible compliance policy for small communities helps these communities target their resources to address their most
pressing environmental needs.


Our Environmental Leadership Program, our incentives for self-policing, and Project XL are all exciting new approaches to
help companies go beyond compliance and get the very best environmental results.


Many state AG's helped to develop our new audit policy, which provides incentives for companies to come forward and
disclose and correct violations, while still protecting the public's right to know and government's ability to protect public
health and the environment. I want to thank you for your help, especially those of you who have gone on record in support of
our final policy.


Now, the debate has passed to the state legislatures. The AG's and the state environmental commissioners are now on the
front lines to make sure that state audit programs include those same safeguards, protecting the public's right to know, the
government's ability to protect public health and the environment.


New and creative approaches are essential for boosting compliance with environmental laws. But make no mistake: New
compliance initiatives do not in any way replace strong, effective enforcement actions. On the federal level and on the state
level alike, their role is to complement enforcement -- not to take the place of enforcement.


For polluters, for those who irresponsibly disregard their obligation to protect our air and water, the public has every right to
demand that their government take swift, aggressive enforcement action. This Administration has collected the biggest
environmental fines in history. And we will continue to vigorously pursue those who ignore environmental standards.


If the environmental cop is not on the beat, we will not maintain the gains of the past 26 years. Strong, vigorous enforcement
is essential to protect the American people.


Over the past two years we have experienced the most severe assault on public health and environmental protection in
decades.
In the battle over the budget, in the battle over the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws, President Clinton stood
firm for public health and environmental protection. As a result, vital protections are in place and will remain in place.


Now, the President has called on all Americans to come together, to restore the bipartisan commitment to the environment
that served this nation so well for the past generation.


The price of a clean, safe environment is that we must always be vigilant. The responsibility will always be ours to protect our
health, our natural resources, our children's future.


The American people continue to want strong, effective protection of public health and our environment -- because the job is
not done.


One in three Americans still lives an in area where the air is too polluted to meet federal health standards. Asthma is on the
rise. One in four Americans lives near a toxic waste dump. Forty percent of our rivers, lakes, and streams are too polluted
for fishing or swimming.


Those of us in government -- whether in state government or in the federal government -- have an obligation to our citizens,
to protect our air, our water, our land, the health of our children. The job can only be done if we work in partnership. We
have a tightly interwoven relationship. The whole cloth is achieved only when each of us brings what we can uniquely
contribute.


A clean environment. Safer streets. Healthy families. Strong communities. These are the values that we as Americans hold
dear. Let us continue to work together to protect our health, our neighborhoods, our cities, our economy -- so that all of us
and our children and our grandchildren can enjoy a healthy and a prosperous life. Together, we can meet any challenge,
achieve any goal.


Thank you.