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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Pew Center for Climate Change, As Prepared

06/25/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I had a chance to speak at this forum last year as a panelist, and it is great to be back again this year.

Throughout my career, state and federal coordination has been a big part of my work.

Last time I was here, I was representing the state of New Jersey as the Director of the state Department of Environmental Protection. I’ve worked on these issues in state government.

Right now, I’m working on them in Washington, as part of the federal government.

And before all that, I was with EPA in Region 2 – working for the federal government on local, state and regional issues.

So, this is something I have a lot of experience with. I’ve seen the difference we can make on urgent, environmental issues when we coordinate effectively. And I’ve seen what can go wrong – how it can affect the lives of families and communities – if that coordination isn’t there.

As you all know, the House of Representatives is likely to vote Friday on historic legislation that seeks to transform the way we produce and use energy in America.

The bill includes within it provisions designed to establish a true state-federal partnership to achieve large energy savings, strong growth in clean-energy businesses and technologies, and responsible cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution.

I am pleased to see that the bill has earned the endorsement of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, an organization that has consistently urged Congress to recognize the key role that states’ innovative efforts play in building a nation-wide clean energy economy.

We of course will have a lot more work to do to ensure effective and efficient state-federal coordination on energy and climate policy. A successful vote in the House this Friday will allow us to continue that work.

So I sincerely hope that the members of the House will come together and pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

We know how important state-federal interactions are going to be in that effort. It’s a lesson we’re learning right now with existing laws in the Clean Water Act.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions have created confusion about where, under the Clean Water Act, state and federal actions begin and end.

During the transition, I remember hearing an alarming figure that EPA staff spends almost half and sometimes more of their time working with states to determine whether they have jurisdiction to issue a permit or to take an enforcement action.

These are cases where there is a visible impact to water quality, or where a well-planned development is being held up. But there is little clarity on whether or not “water” means water, or what wetlands are, or are not, regulated.

That confusion stalls necessary action. We want to make sure that is not the norm as we work to confront not only water issues, but climate change and the host of environmental issues ahead of us.

We want to partner with you, and help you partner with each other on this and other initiatives. I’m glad to be here today as a first step in that rebuilding process.

Things have changed considerably since I attended this forum last year. For one, if you had told me that I would be here in this role, I would never have believed you.

Second, there has been considerable change in the engagement of the Administration. This year, we sent representatives from the Offices of Air and Radiation and Transportation and Air Quality, as well as someone from the Department of Labor.

But of course, the most important change is in the challenges we face, and the approaches that we’re taking towards them.

This is a unique moment. On the one the one hand, we have the most significant economic challenges that we’ve seen in generations. On the other hand, we have no time to lose in confronting the rapid escalation of climate change.

I’ve spent my career working on environmental protection issues. I’ve seen countless situations where action on environmental challenges was put on hold because of the economic concerns. Today, we’re seeing a long-overdue shift in that attitude.

President Obama has made clear that we don’t have to choose between a green economy and a green environment. We’re moving forward with environmental priorities specifically because of our economic challenges – not in spite of them.

Our recently passed Recovery Act contains more than $80 billion for sustainable, innovative clean energy. We’re working to double renewable energy use in the next three years, and have a goal to cut more than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. And we plan to invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development.

We’re investing in energy conservation techniques that cut costs and create jobs where they’re needed most. Efficiency measures included in the American Clean Energy and Security Act would lower consumer spending on utility bills by roughly 7 percent in 2020. Along with legislation, the House of Representatives is undertaking an effort to green the capital building. That will save tax payer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and offer a powerful symbol that the United States wants to lead these efforts.

We see some pretty incredible possibilities there. In London, they recently replaced the exterior lights at Buckingham Palace with LED lighting. Today, lighting the entire fašade of Buckingham Palace requires less energy than it takes to run an electric teakettle.

Investments are taking hold at the local level as well. A central initiative of the Recovery Act provides billions of dollars to weatherize low-income housing. That will put more than 80,000 Americans to work – while it saves families hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills. We also get a good cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the bargain. It helps communities that stand to benefit the most from higher employment, lower electricity bills, and cleaner air – all in one policy.

We’re also putting people to work by refocusing on core priorities – our “meat and potatoes” issues like air pollution, water quality, and toxic cleanups. EPA is currently investing more than $7 billion in “shovel ready” projects – 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.

Finally, as we look down the road, the need for environmental and economically coordinated choices becomes even greater. We see clear evidence for what President Obama meant earlier this week when he said, “The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.”

Over the next 30 years, the global population is expected to grow by 2.2 billion people.

The vast majority will be born in cities, and will need new, energy-intensive urban infrastructure, energy-intensive water processing, and energy-intensive food production.

According to the UN Industrial Development Organization, industrial energy use in developing countries already equals that of developed countries – and it’s growing eight times faster. In the ever expanding global market, enormous amounts of energy are used to move everything from raw materials and finished products to information and labor.

So, looking at this from a strictly economic point of view – without even considering the climate or environmental impacts – we know that we won’t be able to meet our needs with a business-as-usual approach. If you factor in the cost to our planet – which I know you will – it’s clear that a sustainable future isn’t possible without protecting our environment as we create economic opportunities.

Another major change is the need to integrate federal efforts with the abundance of state and regional actions already in place. In recent years, the absence of significant leadership at the national level has led many of you to take matters into your own hands. As we step up our role and develop federal strategies to fight climate change and create a clean energy economy, there is a broad patchwork of local issues to contend with.

We see the growing prospect for offshore wind farms in Massachusetts, and growing concerns about offshore drilling in Florida and Virginia.

We have a burgeoning clean energy industry taking root in states like Nevada, Texas, and Colorado. And we see concerns about rising energy costs in rust belt communities that rely on coal to power their homes and businesses.

We have a tremendous amount of political will emerging from the West coast. We have agricultural interests in rural areas who are eager to grow renewable fuel for the country, but concerned that EPA is going to force family farms to count every cow burp.

We have the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative, the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, an individual cap-and-trade system in Florida.

All of these factors affect our decision making.

It’s what we must confront to as we take on national projects – like the creation of a smart-grid that crosses a local, state, and federal jurisdictions. It’s what we continue to work through with the climate legislation moving through Congress right now. But let me assure you: whatever the challenges, we’re not going to hide behind these concerns as an excuse for inaction.

In certain cases, we can even leverage those concerns to move an issue forward – like we did with the recent announcement on improved auto emissions standards. President Obama brought all the stakeholders to the table. He was able to transform a debate about an inconsistent and costly patchwork of standards into a coalition supporting clear, uniform, and progressive changes.

Let me close on something of a personal note.

Around this room there is a tremendous collection of talent, expertise, and dedication to the important work of protecting our health and the environment.

That goes for everyone from the leaders of our state environmental agencies to the elected officials to the NGOs that are with us today. Our hosts at Pew have some of the most talented and committed people in the field, from President Claussen to the Regional Policy Coordinators doing the work on the ground.

It is this wealth of talent and expertise that I remember in the times when the responsibilities of this work seems overwhelming.

I speak for EPA when I say that we’re counting on your partnership to help us advance the urgent environmental issues of the day, particularly climate change.

But I speak for myself when I say I’m counting on your help – on your counsel, your hard work, and your understanding.

We are at a moment when we have greater opportunities to protect human health and the environment than any other time. It’s inspiring to know that across the nation, you are all part of that effort.

The EPA is once again guided by an ambitious vision of public health protection and environmental preservation. And as partners you are essential to that vision.

I can’t think of a higher calling then coming back here to work with you to address the urgent, ongoing and – in many cases – long overdue environmental issues our nation faces. Thank you very much.