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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Economic Club of Florida Tallahassee, Florida

05/28/1998
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Economic Club of Florida
Tallahassee, Florida

                         May 28, 1998

     Thank you Fran. And thanks to the Economic Club of Florida for inviting me to speak
today. It is wonderful to be here. And I must say, I'm always delighted to be back home in Florida
and with so many friends.


     I congratulate the Club for its 20 plus years of educating and informing Florida's business,
government, and academic communities about the pressing issues of the day.


     A lot has happened in the life of this club. The end of the Cold War. The start of the
Information Age. The largest and longest economic expansion in U.S. history. The near
elimination of our 30-year-old deficit. And who would have thought 20 years ago that a baseball
team from Florida would win the World Series?


     During that time, we also have passed some of the nation's toughest environmental and
public health protections. And we can say, by any measure, that we have made great progress in
cleaning up our environment.


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


     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 also have had our successes: 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 recovery plan for the Everglades.     All this environmental progress over the past 25 years -- and at the same time our nation's
gross domestic product has grown almost 100 percent. Despite what some have said, a healthier
environment has not come at the cost of economic progress. In fact, the Clinton/Gore
Administration has proven that the two go hand in hand. Today, we have robust economic growth
and some of the strongest environmental and public health protections in history.


     The Clinton Administration's comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Florida
Everglades is one of the nation's best examples of the inextricable link between the health of our
environment and the health of our economy.


     The fresh water that is so critical to the survival of the Everglades ecosystem also supports
some six million south Florida residents and many thousands of businesses.  It sustains a huge,
productive agriculture industry.  It is essential for the fish, wildlife, and recreational areas that are
so important to south Florida's 13 billion-dollar annual tourism economy.


     And it is absolutely critical to south Florida's quality of life. I, as many of you know, am a
native of south Florida. I was raised on its fresh air, fresh water, and its spectacular natural
heritage. And I often wonder -- will the fabulous quality of life I enjoyed be there for our children
and grandchildren?


     In the 1960s, when I was growing up in Miami,  I lived on 71st Street SW -- right on the
edge of the historical Everglades.  Today, you can go west another 100 blocks. More than a half
century of building canals and levees, massive pumping stations, and manipulating water levels has
allowed relentless development to eat away at the natural areas, to suck the water from the heart
of our Everglades, to destroy the water-purifying wetlands.


     And like it or not, South Florida's population will continue to grow.  Ten years from now,
more than another half million people will be living in the area. That's more people needing water
to drink and homes in which to live.  


     The Miami Herald has just published a series on the rapid disappearance of Florida's
water -- page after page of true and troubling stories: The loss of 46 percent of the state's
wetlands, and half the Everglades.  Near Tampa, salt water intruding on fresh water at the rate of
five inches a day. New homes equipped with mini water purification plants to filter salt and
minerals from groundwater. "Water wars" between counties. Algal blooms from polluted
agricultural runoff.     We cannot wait a minute longer to act. Some people say it's even too late. To them, I
reply in the words of the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Everglades' most passionate and
effective protector: "There is a balance in man... One which has set against his greed and his
inertia and his foolishness; his courage, his will, his ability slowly and painfully to learn, and to
work together."


     That is the kind of determined optimism that must continue to drive all of us as we work
together to restore our Everglades. The only Everglades.


     The Clinton Administration plan recognizes that the Everglades' problems come from
many corners -- and so, too, must our solutions. It recognizes that if we are to make progress at
all -- industry, agriculture, tribes, environmentalists, and every level of government must all
participating in the Everglades' survival.


     With unprecedented federal resources -- 1.5 billion dollars over seven years -- the plan
calls for strategic land acquisitions to protect and restore the heart of the Everglades. In the next
few weeks, we will be taking another step to complete the historic acquisition of the Talisman
property originally announced by Vice President Gore last December. Another step to heal the
ailing River of Grass.


     While we are today, in fact, discussing appropriate trades for Talisman lands that should
remain in farming, if we should fail to reach agreement for appropriate trades, we remain
committed to purchase all of the Talisman property outright.


     The Clinton plan expands and accelerates restoration projects and much-needed research.
We already are nearing the final stages of our study to replumb the Everglades, a plan that when
completed will allow the heart of the Everglades to once again pulse with water.


     We've taken our first steps. I have stood on a levy outside Everglades National Park and
helped break ground on the first major project to redirect water to the Everglades and Florida
Bay.  We are on our way. We have the will, we have the commitment, we have the technology to
reverse the harmful water management practices of the past half century.


     The Everglades restoration plan is the right approach. We are so convinced of this, that it
now serves as a model for a much larger effort -- the President's Clean Water Action Plan. This is
our national blueprint to clean up and restore the nation's waters.


     We have made great progress cleaning up the nation's waters from point sources of
pollution -- the pollution that comes from the end of a pipe. But today -- as we have seen in the
Everglades, the Applachicola, the Gulf of Mexico -- the biggest source of water pollution is not
factories but runoff from cropland, parking lots, construction sites, and other urban and rural
areas.     This plan for clean water will provide $2.3 billion to address polluted runoff from
agriculture and urban areas, as well as the loss of wetlands, and the restoration of our waterways.


     One-third of our country's waters is still polluted.

     Micro-organisms such as pfiesteria and cryptosporidium contaminate our waters and
threaten our health. In the Gulf of Mexico, at the mouth of the Mississippi, there is literally a
6,000 mile dead zone -- no shrimp, go grasses, no vegetation.


     One out of every three freshwater fish species is threatened with extinction.

     This plan is needed now if we are to fulfill the Clean Water Act's promise of cleaner,
healthier, safer water for the nation.


     The Clean Water Action Plan will give Americans the tools, flexibility, and resources they
need to clean up their waters community by community and watershed by watershed.


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


     To make progress on clean water -- and all the difficult environmental and public health
challenges that face us in the coming century -- we are counting on what has long made this
country great -- our creativity, innovation, our ingenuity.


     We are rewarding those willing to do more than just an adequate job -- to go further, to
push the envelope, and to create new technologies and new ways to prevent pollution.  And we
are forging partnerships -- between industries, governments and communities -- partnerships that
get the job done.


     This is a new generation of environmental and public health protection. And it is what we
need to meet one of the greatest challenges in history -- global warming. If we don't meet this
challenge, if we don't pass this test, all our efforts to restore the Everglades and provide
Americans with clean water will be in vain.


     More than 2,000 of the world's experts on the global environment have told us that
climate change could mean many things, including sea level rise and more severe weather. The
oceans will rise, perhaps by several feet over the next century -- swamping many coastal areas.


     Right here in Florida, the sea is expected to rise 18 to 20 inches by the year 2100. This
would flood cities and cropland, and threaten supplies of drinking water with the intrusion of
saltwater. It could cost up to $9 billion just to replenish the sand eroded away by the rising seas
along Florida's coasts. Nine billion to recreate our beautiful white sand beaches.     We've heard many people in the U.S. -- and around the world -- say we can't fight global
warming. It will harm our economies. It will be all pain and no gain. But we know the opposite to
be true. We know we can meet this challenge in ways that will grow our economy and
competitiveness -- not tear them down.


     Right here in Tallahassee, the city government is doing something to prevent emissions of
nearly 15 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.  How?  By upgrading
the light bulbs on city property.  And the taxpayers here will save some $325,000 in electricity
costs -- each year and every year.


     That's just one city.  The state of Florida will be reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 800
million pounds a year -- and its annual utility costs by $17 million -- when it finishes upgrading the
lighting at state facilities.


     Across the country, we have developed partnerships with more than 5,000 U.S.
organizations and businesses -- some of the biggest companies in the country -- to use energy
more efficiently.


     Just in 1997, these partnership programs together prevented the release of more than 60
million tons of carbon dioxide. At the same time, these measures saved businesses and consumers
more than $1 billion.


     Unfortunately, on two fronts, the naysayers are on the march. Some in industry are
developing a strategy to discredit the immense body of science and confuse the American people
about the very real need for timely, sensible action -- all of this in an effort to preserve the status
quo and some might say their profits.


     On another front, a budget resolution has passed in the Senate that slashes funding for our
efforts to address global warming, the Clean Water Action Plan, and most of the nation's other
urgent public health and environmental challenges.


     Some in Congress also would rather try to discredit sound science and scare the public
with dire predictions of economic calamity than take responsible, common sense steps to protect
public health and the environment. We have seen this with our updated public health clean air
standards for soot and smog. We have seen this with tobacco. Time and time again, the claims
proved false, the attacks failed -- but the costs have been high: delayed public health and
environmental protections, higher costs, and unnecessary political rancor.


     Now we see it again with global warming.

     These people are on the wrong path.     Addressing the challenge of global warming is not about ratcheting down our economy. It
is about investing in new technologies that make our industries more efficient, more profitable --
and cleaner in the process. It is about developing America's technological leadership.


     If we have proven anything in the last five years of environmental and public health
protection, it is this. We have some of the strongest protections in the world, and our economy is
soaring.


     But is our work done? Can we rest? Certainly not. Just last week, smog settled in over
much of Florida, creating a state-wide ozone red alert day -- the first ever.  We must remain ever-vigilant. This is a time to work together so we can ensure that the world we pass on to our
children is safe, healthy, and economically vibrant. We must not rest until the job is finished, until
all our children and their children and the generations to come have the opportunity to grow up
with water that is safe to drink, air that is clean, and here in Florida, with the Everglades once
again pulsing with life.


     Thank you.