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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, Industry Partnership Hosted by FICCI, New Delhi, India

04/03/2007
It's a pleasure to be here today to speak with India’s business leaders. As our nations’ work to become better economic neighbors, it’s also important we work together to become better environmental neighbors. By encouraging our businesses to embrace their responsibility to become corporate stewards, we will continue to accelerate environmental progress in both our countries.

This time last year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency celebrated its 35th Anniversary. It was just 3 1/2 decades ago, that America awoke to the health and environmental impacts of rampant and highly visible pollution ... rivers so contaminated that they caught on fire, entire towns built upon sites so toxic that the only recourse was to abandon them, and air pollution so thick that in some cities people actually had to change their shirts twice a day.

But looking back, we at EPA see much to celebrate – our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected.

Our 35th anniversary was also an opportunity to reflect on the lessons we have learned from EPA’s efforts to improve our environment. Over that time we have shifted away from confrontation, instead embracing the ethic of collaboration with our industry partners. We have seen the command-and-control approach to environmental protection produce great – but increasingly limited – results.

As EPA Administrator, I appreciate that meeting today's environmental challenges requires new approaches to environmental stewardship. Good stewardship means managing our air, water and land in a way that accelerates the pace of environmental protection, while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness.

Today, I’d like to highlight some of the programs that have helped our corporate partners do what’s good for the environment, and good for their bottom lines.

In America, EPA and the industry sector are committed to moving from the opposite sides of the table to sit down together as environmental problem solvers. By working together with key stakeholders, we recently created a winning strategy for dramatically reducing mercury in our environment through the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program.

We estimate that almost 10 million metric tons per year of mercury is used in automobiles in lighting switches, anti-lock brake systems, and other parts of the vehicle. Most of this mercury is released into the environment when the automobiles are shredded for recycling and the scrap metal is melted in furnaces.

However, because of the collaborative National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, we are removing mercury-containing light switches from scrap vehicles before they are melted down to make new steel. Doing so will prevent around 75 tons of mercury air emissions over the next 15 years. That’s a lot of mercury … and by removing it we will reap a lot of environmental and human health benefits for generations of Americans.

The benefits of collaboration have been amazing. By promoting the recycling of scrapped automobiles, 12,000 companies have been created in the United States to dismantle cars. In addition to generating an estimated $8.2 billion in sales annually, this new industry is protecting our environment. When manufacturers use scrap metal during the manufacturing process, they reduce air and water pollution by more than half – once again proving that doing what’s good for the environment is good for the bottom line.

In the auto sector, the United States has traditionally focused on these type of voluntary efforts to leverage the free market. We set goals, and industry leaders innovate to achieve them.

By encouraging businesses to embrace their environmental responsibility, industry’s efforts in recycling are also reaching new heights.

EPA’s WasteWise program shares examples of effective waste management and cost savings techniques. This free, voluntary program helps organizations eliminate costly wastes, benefiting both the environment, and their bottom lines.

WasteWise is built on the principle that waste reduction makes good business sense because it saves organizations money through reduced purchasing and waste disposal costs. Since its inception in 1994, the program has grown to more than 1,900 corporations, government agencies, universities, hospitals, and other organizations – all of whom are committed to cutting costs and conserving natural resources through solid waste reduction.

And the results are significant. Our partners, which include some of the largest corporations in the United States, have collectively recycled more than 120 million tons of waste, and reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 7.5 million metric tons – equivalent to the emissions of 6 million cars.

At EPA, we’re proud to take the growing private sector interest in managing materials to another level. Through our Resource Conservation Challenge, EPA is working to increase the recycling and reuse of industrial wastes like coal combustion products, foundry sands, and construction and demolition debris. And we’re starting to see some impressive results.

One of the specific goals of the Resource Conservation Challenge is to achieve a 35 percent national recycling rate for municipal solid waste by 2008. The combined result will be equivalent to reducing emissions from over 45 million cars, and reducing energy usage by over 1 quadrillion BTUs.

At EPA, we look forward to a future where material and energy is used efficiently in every business, in every community, and every home. By encouraging our domestic partners to make smart use of our resources, we are continuing to accelerate environmental protection in America.

However, pollution knows no political boundaries, and in the U.S., we recognize our environmental responsibility doesn’t stop at our borders.

Internationally, President Bush and EPA are delivering global environmental results through innovative international collaborations. One collaborative program I would like to highlight is our effort to reduce methane emissions.

Through the Methane to Markets Partnership – of which India is a charter member – we are promoting the cost-effective recovery of methane – a potent greenhouse gas. By fostering relationships between countries and the private sector, we are capturing methane emissions from landfills, coal mines, and in the petroleum and natural gas sector, and turning it into sources of energy and wealth.

In India, about 55 percent of your electrical power is generated by coal – and that figure is increasing. As a greenhouse gas, methane is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and India is one of the seven largest emitters of methane in the world. Much of this methane can be economically recovered and sold as a clean, reliable, inexpensive source of energy. EPA and the U.S. Trade Development Agency are working with the government of India on projects to capture this energy source.

Just last month, EPA, FICCI, and the government of India organized a workshop on methane recovery and use project opportunities in India. We look forward to building on this productive partnership to develop real projects that reduce methane emissions while bringing more clean energy to markets.

Through collaboration, environmental progress in both our nations will continue to accelerate.

Here in India we are working directly with the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests under a Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU outlines four major areas of cooperation - air quality, water quality, environmental governance, and toxics and hazardous waste - and serves as the basis for EPA’s partnerships in India.

Together, with our international partners, the U.S. is working to address a number of environmental challenges to our world. Just as we live in a global economy, we also live in a global environment. Issues like global climate change, regional and long-range transport of air pollutants, the protection of our international waters, and the safe disposal of hazardous waste cannot be addressed by one or even a hand-full of nations.

EPA wants to add to our record of success by developing partnerships that are good for the environment and good for the economy.

Building upon this spirit of collaboration, I am pleased to propose a joint initiative between EPA and FICCI to reduce the use of mercury in hospitals. Health care is a rapidly growing sector of the Indian economy that uses approximately 155 million tons of imported mercury a year. EPA has worked to reduce mercury from hospitals in the United States and around the world, and we see this cooperative initiative as an opportunity to protect your residents from the threats of mercury.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you on the importance of corporate stewardship.

I look forward to working more closely with FICCI as we continue to work together to accelerate the pace of environmental progress.

Thank you.