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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Washington, D.C.

02/25/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Washington, D.C.

February 25, 2003


Thank you David (Svanda) for that introduction.

As a former President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and member of NARUC, I have great appreciation for the difficult jobs you hold. That is why I am honored to be here this morning and grateful for the opportunity to discuss the work this Administration is doing to improve our environment.

The 21st century holds an environmental landscape that has changed dramatically since the EPA was established over thirty years ago. Today, our air is cleaner, our water purer, and there is an ethos of environmental stewardship that now exists among businesses, government, and individuals that didn = t exist in the past.

Though there has been significant improvement, we are still confronted with difficult environmental challenges. In most cases, the tools we used thirty years ago are proving inefficient and unable to solve these problems B new ideas and approaches are required.

This Administration believes that the command and control model which has long dominated federal environmental policy making is no longer the best way to achieve environmental progress. We advocate a more inclusive approach to environmental policy- making B a approach that recognizes that after 30 years of progress, most Americans share certain fundamental environmental goals.

We also believe that the best way to gauge the success of environmental policy is to measure the results it brings to the environment. It = s not enough to measure process B how many fines were levied, how many law suits filed, how many new regulations were written B if you can = t also point to measurable improvement in the state of the environment.

It can be difficult to move against the status quo. But, in the area of environmental policy it= s absolutely necessary that we do so. Our environment isn = t static and our policy shouldn = t be either. A perfect example of our efforts to address environmental challenges with new ideas is in the area of clean air.

In the three decades since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, America = s air quality in this country has improved significantly. Over that time, the emissions of six key air pollutants has been cut by 30 percent, even as the economy has grown by nearly 150 percent.

This is laudable B but there is more to do. Poor air quality continues to threaten people = s health, shroud once-clear vistas in a murky haze, and damage the environment.

The Clean Air Act, which helped make much of this progress possible, is also, in many ways a classic example of command and control from Washington. It gives EPA substantial authority to proscribe very specific actions to reduce air pollution in very specific ways and relies on the threat of punishment to promote compliance.

Certainly, the Clean Air Act has done what it was designed to do. But over the years, it has brought diminishing returns. If we are going to achieve the next generation of environmental progress, we need to amend the Clean Air Act to meet the challenges of this generation.

The President proposes to do just that with Clear Skies B the most significant improvement to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. His proposed Clear Skies Act will achieve mandatory reductions of 70 percent in three of the most noxious air pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Clear Skies moves us away from command and control toward using the power of the market to achieve results. Rather than setting individual targets on particular smokestacks, it sets mandatory reductions on the industry as a whole B and gives facilities flexibility in determining how to meet those reductions.

This approach is not untried. It is modeled on the acid rain program that was part of the Clean Air Act amendments passed in 1990. That program has had enormous success in reducing the threat of acid rain. It has achieved significant reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions B the pollutant that leads to acid rain B with near-universal compliance and at lower costs than anticipated.

Clear Skies will set a clear, objective standard for mandatory reductions, and while it sets the goal, Clear Skies does not regulate the path to meeting that goal. This flexibility enables states and facilities to pursue the most cost effective approach to cleaner air and helps ensure our ability as a nation to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the energy marketplace.

As a result, Clear Skies will help maintain energy diversity and continue the trend of lower electricity prices.

The Clean Air Act has gone far in improving the quality of the air we breathe, but Clear Skies will go even further.

By using this market-based approach, we will remove 35 million more tons of NOx, SO2 , and mercury from the air over the first ten years of our Clear Skies Act than what the current Clean Air Act would achieve.

And, we will do it without inviting endless, costly litigation and without sending energy costs through the roof.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people every year, including saving 12,000 lives and preventing15 million fewer days when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are unable to work, go to school, or carry out their normal day to day activities.

Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people. It will improve our air, protect public health, and increase energy security.

While new environmental challenges require new approaches, they also require new tools. And, all across America, we see the potential non-traditional partnerships hold as a powerful tool for environmental progress.

No longer is the federal government all alone on the leading edge of environmental progress. We have plenty of company in our state and local partners, and even among leading businesses, who recognize that good environmental stewardship is also a good business practice.

This belief is the foundation of the work we are doing to address global climate change.

Last February, President Bush announced an aggressive climate change policy designed to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy by 18% over the next ten years.

When the President made this commitment, he knew it would take building strong partnerships to achieve our aim.

So, over the past year, EPA has launched two new partnership programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions B Climate Leaders and Smartway Transport.

Through Climate Leaders, companies commit to working with EPA in order to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions, set aggressive reduction goals, and report their progress.

To date, 37 companies have signed on and nine of them have already announced their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

For example, Miller Brewing Company has pledged to reduce emissions by 18% per barrel of production by 2006 and General Motors pledged to reduce their total emissions by 10% for all of their North American facilities by 2005. This is the sort of leadership we should expect B and encourage B from the corporate sector.

We have seen similar leadership in the transportation sector with our SmartWay Transport program. SmartWay is also a voluntary partnership between EPA and industry leaders designed to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve environmental performance of the freight sector by reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality.

SmartWay was launched a month ago with 13 charter partners and the goal to achieve by 2012 annual reductions of up to 18 million metric tons of carbon, and up to 200,000 tons of NOX, which will save 150 million barrels of oil a year and is equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road.

For too long, business and industry were looked on as the enemy of environmental progress, but we have seen first hand the success that can be gained when we see them in the new light of ally and partner.

Partnership, voluntary programs, and innovative initiatives, such as Clear Skies, are the tools and means by which this Administration is shaping environmental policy. Changing the approach does not mean that we are changing our ultimate goal.

I like to think about it this way. In ancient times, mariners did not have the benefit of radar or satellite technology, they charted their course by the stars.

Most often, the safest and smoothest sailing was not straight ahead. Treacherous waters and other unforeseen obstacles made course adjustments inevitable, but the star they relied on to guide them remained fixed.

The same is true of our environmental efforts. We may make adjustments in course, but our goal is constant and unwavering B cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land for this and future generations.

In the area of environmental policy, I = m not sure I = ll ever have the benefit of A smooth sailing@ but I do believe that by staying focused on our goal, working together, and encouraging new ideas we can achieve lasting and beneficial change for our environment and for the American people.

Thank you.