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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the National League of Cities General Session, As Prepared

03/16/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I want to thank all of you for traveling to DC today. And for inviting me to be with you.

This is one of the most important places to have a discussion about the environmental issues we face.

Environmental protection is not often something that people associate with urban issues. When you say EPA or raise the issue of climate change, people tend to think more about wildlife and wilderness than they do about cities and suburbs.

It’s essential for our environment and our economy that we begin to change and expand the perception of cities and the environment – right now.

Environmental protection is about human protection. It’s about community protection. It’s about family protection.

It’s about safeguarding public health in the places where people live, work, play and learn.

Our nation’s cities and towns should be leading our work on major issues like climate change, clean energy – even green space preservation. We can not only improve our planet, but the quality of life of everyone living on it.

It can’t be overstated that we are meeting today at a crossroads in our country’s history.

As a nation, we face the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Every American is anxious about what that means – not just for their future but for the next generation as well. I certainly don’t have to remind any of you who see that every single day.

I can reassure you that we are all working around the clock to get the economy moving again.

At the same time that we face this economic crisis, there isn’t a moment to lose in protecting the public health and confronting the rapid advance of climate change.

This is not an academic discussion anymore. We don’t have the luxury of a far-off day of reckoning.

The world’s leading scientists predict notable, if not drastic, changes within our lifetimes if we don’t get started right away.

Climate change poses very real threats to our economic stability. It jeopardizes the public health. And it raises serious concerns about our national security.

For those reasons and more, we are embarking immediately on an aggressive environmental agenda.

The President has committed to double our clean energy use in the next three years. And we’ve set an ambitious goal of cutting more than 80% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

Now, let me say: I am a mother of two young boys. Any of the parents in here know very well: that makes me an active American consumer.

I also want my sons to go to college and get jobs when they get older, so both the short- and long-term strength of the economy are not only professional, but personal concerns of mine.

I know what it’s like for people who are struggling to make ends meet, especially in these times.

The last thing EPA wants to do – and the last place we want to position the environmental movement or the climate change debate – is somehow standing in the way of the nation’s economic recovery.

Thankfully, we have in President Obama a leader who has denounced the false choice between a green economy and a green environment.

President Obama and many others have stood up to say that our economic future and our environmental future are inextricably linked. They, of course, are right.

When I was in New Jersey, I was fond of saying that every time I saw a plant with emissions controls, or a Superfund cleanup, those were good-paying jobs.

The same can be true all across the country. The way out of our economic challenges is through a clean energy transition, and the creation of millions of jobs in green sectors.

That is abundantly clear in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The New York Times wrote that standing alone, the clean energy measures in the stimulus plan represented “the biggest energy bill in history.”

At Recovery.gov, the emblem they have designed is divided into a red portion, a blue portion, and a green portion – representing those billions of dollars invested in growing the green economy.

For EPA, that means an investment of more than $7 billion in “shovel ready” projects that protect human health and safeguard the environment.

That includes things like refurbished water infrastructure, cleanup of Brownfield and Superfund sites, projects to cut emissions in diesel engines, and repair work on leaking underground storage tanks that are polluting land and groundwater supplies.

All of those projects are going to be bringing new jobs to your cities, and all of them will protect the health of the people who live and work there.


Today in the congress and throughout the nation, there is tremendous, bipartisan support for green jobs, smart growth, clean energy, and the long list of ideas and innovations that will grow the economy and improve our planet.

Right now, we have greater opportunities to protect public health and the environment than any other time in the history of the EPA.

So when I’ve spoken to reporters, industry leaders, community members, or other stakeholders, I’ve sent a very clear, consistent message. It’s one of the messages that I’m here to give you, and that I hope you will join with me in carrying it.

And it’s that EPA is back on the job.

The great news is that we have plenty of support.

In the budget he sent to congress last month, President Obama gave the EPA the highest level of funding that we have seen in our 39 year history.

That also means that we have the highest level of expectation that we have seen in our 39 year history.

So we are already getting started.

In less than 50 days, we’ve already announced plans to review the California waiver on auto emissions and make a long-overdue determination on endangerment from greenhouse gases.

We're focusing resources on monitoring toxic air pollution around certain schools, to ensure that our nation's children are not exposed to harmful toxins in the place where they go to learn.

Last week, we proposed comprehensive reporting requirements on greenhouse gas emissions. And we did that in a way that ensures that we are getting the best possible information without putting undue burden on small businesses.

Those reporting requirements will apply to companies with emissions equal to about 4,500 cars on the road.

It’s an important threshold, because it exempts the vast majority of small businesses and still allows us to track 85 to 90 percent of the greenhouse emissions being produced – again proving that we don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy.

You are on the frontlines of this work.

Your commercial buildings and manufacturing plants account for nearly half of the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the country – and they cost nearly $200 billion a year in utility bills.

The drinking water and waste water management that goes on in every single one of your municipalities across the country falls under the purview of the EPA.

And when it comes to addressing the public health threats of hazardous materials, ground-level ozone, waste disposal and more, cities face the most daunting challenges.

This means that we have tremendous opportunities to work together.

First and foremost, we can strengthen the work we already do. I will be looking to you for guidance and counsel on where we can do better or be more efficient.

One improvement we must make is in the expansion of environmental protection to every single community.

In many places, the burden of pollution and environmental degradation falls disproportionately on low-income and minority communities – and most often, on the children in those communities. That puts up one more barrier and many more expenses for some of our most vulnerable populations.

I won’t stand by and accept that disparity any longer. It’s my mission to show all Americans that this EPA works for them, and I hope you will join me.

Second, you can be incubators of innovation for the next phase of green job growth and environmental protection.

We’ve seen everything from traditional practices like recycling and industrial site remediation and redevelopment, all the way to zero-energy homes and green alleys, taking hold in cities across the nation.

I’m asking you to keep pushing. I’m daring you to out-green each other.

Any one of your cities could lead the way in clean energy, in implementing the smart grid technology the President has called for, and in growing the green jobs that will lead to our national economic recovery.

One of the great successes we should build on is the Energy Star program.

In 2008 alone, more than 3,300 commercial buildings and manufacturing plants earned the Energy Star designation. They cut more than $1 billion in utility bills and more than 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the air.

To show a little hometown pride: the DC-metro area is right now saving more than $42 million each year in lower energy bills, and preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 30,000 homes.

These are the great things we can accomplish, and I’m here to pledge my commitment to continued partnerships.

As I said, you are on the frontlines. You represent more that 218 million Americans. You know when they are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, when they seek to protect a vital ecosystem, or when they want to make sure their children can breathe easy.

Your partnership – and your leadership – is absolutely essential to making sure we do all we can to protect the public health and preserve our environment, while we spark a robust economic recovery with green jobs and clean energy.

Thank you again for being here. I look forward to working with all of you.