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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Town Hall Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California

03/26/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Los Angeles Town Hall
Los Angeles, California

March 26, 2003


Thank you James (McNulty) for that introduction.

For more than 60 years, this organization has supported a free-flowing and open exchange of ideas, helping to engage the Southern California community in the issues that affect your region and our nation. As someone who has long been involved in public policy-I thank you.

Perhaps the issue uppermost in our minds right now is the conflict in Iraq. During this time of war, our thoughts are with the men and women overseas who are fighting in Iraq and Afganhistan.

While we are fully engaged in this international struggle, the President has made it clear that our domestic responsibilities have not changed. Strengthening our economy, increasing our energy security, and protecting the environment remain important priorities for President Bush and this Administration.

That = s why I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today and to talk about the work this Administration is doing on behalf of the environment. Here in Southern California, you understand both the importance of a healthy environment and the challenges that are inherent in fostering economic and metropolitan growth without sacrificing environmental goals.

Indeed, the need to support our economy and provide jobs, while at the same time protecting our environment, is a guiding principle of this Administration = s environmental policy.

Just as the ability to earn a paycheck, provide for our families, and see our children well- educated are integral to a strong quality of life B enjoying clean beaches on hot summer days, taking a family hike to discover the pristine beauty of the West, and breathing clean air when we take that afternoon jog are just as important.

At EPA, we are diligently pursuing an environmental strategy that will support such a quality of life. At the center of that strategy is our clear and guiding goal B to make America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected.

I = d like to share with you some of the accomplishments and some of the work we still need to do in these three areas.

First, cleaner air. Since the creation of the EPA more than thirty years ago, our air has become significantly cleaner. Legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, has gone a long way in reversing the environmental damage decades of unchecked pollution had inflicted on our environment.

Despite this progress, there is still more that needs to be done. Children suffer from asthma at alarmingly high rates, many of our national parks are shrouded in a murky haze, and our environment continues to endure damage from poor air quality.

However, as we work to address this situation, more often than not, we are finding that the tools which served us well in the past are becoming inefficient and outdated. The Clean Air Act is an example of the command and control model which has long dominated federal environmental policy making B a model that this Administration believes is no longer the only way to achieve environmental progress.

Indeed, it= s important to note that the most successful program in over a decade to address air quality has been the Acid Rain program, which had it = s genesis in the innovative idea that harnessing the power of the market could reap impressive environmental gains. Created in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments, the Acid Rain program utilized a pioneering A cap and trade @ strategy.

The Acid Rain Program has achieved nearly universal compliance, has cost far less to implement than traditional regulatory approaches, and has already reduced emissions to levels even lower than the government established.

The success of policies such as the Acid Rain program are proving what this Administration believes B that we can move beyond command and control and embrace new and innovative approaches. Our environment isn't static-how we improve it shouldn't be either.

That is why President Bush has introduced the landmark Clear Skies Act of 2003. Clear Skies will achieve mandatory reductions of 70% of three of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Clear Skies moves us away from simple 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.

Clear Skies will set a clear, objective standard for mandatory reductions, and, although 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.

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 the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that same time frame.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people every year, including 12,000 fewer premature deaths and reducing by 15 million the 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 because of bad air quality.

Right here in California, we estimate that the combined economic value of the health and environmental benefits of Clear Skies will be $100 million a year beginning in 2020. Every year 4,000 fewer days of work will be missed due to respiratory illness and there will be 24,000 fewer days with respiratory-related symptoms.

California has always been on the front lines of air quality issues and indeed the entire western region has taken a proactive approach to addressing air quality challenges. Through the Western Regional Air Partnership, of which California is a part, efforts to improve visibility and reduce regional haze have been underway for over five years now. Clear Skies seeks to build upon these efforts.

Signing Clear Skies into law is one of the President = s top domestic goals for the year, because Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people. It will clean up our air, increase energy security, improve public health, and protect our lakes rivers, and streams.

Clear Skies complements our other clean air initiatives, such as EPA = s work with our industry partners to produce cleaner running vehicles, important because of the significant pollution from mobile sources. By setting new tail pipe standards and utilizing low sulphur gasoline, emissions from cars, SUV = s, minivans, and pickup trucks will be dramatically reduced.

We have already worked to reduce diesel pollution from large trucks and buses, and we are now developing a proposed a rule to curb the harmful health effects of pollution from diesel- powered non-road vehicles B such as large construction and farm equipment.

In addition, President Bush has committed America to developing hydrogen-powered vehicles through the use of fuel cell technology. Fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen produce absolutely no pollution, emitting only water vapor, and as such hold great promise for the future of our environment.

Indeed, the President = s fuel cell initiatives have the potential to reduce America = s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation alone by more than 500 million metric tons of carbon equivalent each year by 2040.

While hydrogen-powered vehicles are still in the future, the day when they will be the standard mode of transportation is no longer a distant dream but a reachable reality.

Taken together, we are on our way to achieving cleaner air in the years ahead.

Water is another area of major concern for us, in fact, I believe strongly that water quality and quantity issues will likely pose the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century.

Since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we have solved many of the problems resulting from the direct discharge of pollutants into America = s waterways through improved sewage treatment and industrial wastewater management. As a result, many of America = s waters are once again safe for drinking, swimming, and fishing.

However, the challenges we face in 2003 are not as clearly defined as those we faced 30 years ago. It was pretty obvious back then that the direct dumping of waste into our rivers had to stop, but today the major contributor to water pollution nationwide is much more difficult to address B nonpoint source pollution.

Nonpoint source pollution is pollution that is created miles away from where it ends up. The runoff from city streets and rural farms, from parking lots and suburban lawns, are all nonpoint sources of water pollution.

Countless small acts, such as changing your oil in your driveway without cleaning up leaks or over-fertilizing your yard can add up to big problems. In fact, every eight months, non- point sources discharge as much oil into coastal waters as did the Exxon Valdez spill.

Nonpoint source pollution is a serious problem, and unfortunately we can = t just turn off a pipe and declare the problem solved. Achieving the next generation of environmental progress in water will demand the adoption of a watershed-based approach.

Our focus on watersheds will help transform the way Americans think about how they can make a difference for cleaner water. As people learn more about the ways even small, individual actions can add up to big environmental consequences, they will become active partners in our effort to leave America = s waters cleaner for generations to come.

The President = s proposed budget includes for the second year in a row, funding for a watershed initiative that builds partnerships for cleaner water. The watershed initiative helps us craft solutions for each watershed based on its unique needs and challenges. We will again be choosing as many as 20 of America = s most threatened watersheds to receive this funding.

All around our country communities and individuals are already taking the initiative to restore watersheds and protect rivers and lakes. In fact, many creative and innovative methods for dealing with our water quality issues are being put into action at the local level. That is why EPA created the Clean Water Partners program to recognize the remarkable work that is being done to enhance the health of our nation = s waters.

From a community-based effort in Washington, D.C. to restore the Anacostia River basin to a program to address elevated bacterial levels at the beaches along Orange County, California, our Clean Water Partners are setting an important example for other communities to follow.

Focusing on the importance of watershed-based planning and working in partnership with communities and local governments are the new tools we must use to ensure purer water in the years ahead.

Finally, let me touch on how we are working to better protect the land.

The most significant accomplishment in this area is the passage of historic brownfields legislation. As many of you know, a brownfield is a parcel of land that is polluted and unused B

a blight on the landscape and a drain on the vitality of the community in which it is located.

Last year, we saw the results of nearly a decade worth of effort when President Bush signed into law brownfields legislation that will help communities all across America transform

neighborhood eyesores into community assets.

Restoring a brownfield brings enormous benefits to a local community. Experience has shown that every dollar of federal money spent on brownfields leverages about two-and-a-half dollars in private investment. In addition, restoring a brownfield helps preserve open space. Every acre of brownfields that is restored saves more than 4.5 acres of greenspace.

Brownfields restoration is a win-win for everyone B from the children who have new places to play when a brownfield is turned into a ballfield, to the parents who have new jobs, when a brownfield becomes the site of a new office building or retail store.

We are also working to protect the land through continued support of superfund clean up efforts around the country. I know that is of particular concern here in Southern California, where superfund sites have led to groundwater contamination in some areas.

I want to assure you that the Bush Administration embraces the principle that the A polluter pays, @ when it comes to cleaning up Superfund sites. The Superfund law puts the burden of paying for the cleanup of polluted sites where it belongs B on those responsible for creating the mess.

Through aggressive action by the EPA, more than 70 percent of all Superfund cleanups have been paid by the responsible parties. Only in those cases where such parties cannot be determined or have long-since gone out of business are appropriated monies used.

For those instances, the President has proposed to increase spending for superfund clean ups by $150 million in his FY > 04 budget. This will fund 10 - 15 additional Superfund construction projects in the coming year.

From Clear Skies to watersheds to brownfields, the environmental policies we are pursuing reflect a deep understanding that our environmental quality is closely linked to our quality of life.

The President has laid out his vision for the future of our environment, and as an Administration we have a responsibility to the American people to pursue these goals and accomplish lasting and beneficial change.

If we are to succeed and A protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined@ as the President called for in his State of the Union, then Congress, this Administration, states, and citizens must all rise to meet that challenge.

Only by working together can we ensure that the environment we leave our children and grandchildren is a healthy and strong inheritance.

Thank you and I = d be happy to take any questions.