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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at EPA’s National Beyond Translation Forum, As Prepared

10/26/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I’m proud to welcome you to Washington, DC and to the 2nd National Beyond Translation Forum. I’m excited to be here in the beginning years of Beyond Translation. I hope that in the years to come, this initiative will be seen as a leader in the crucial effort to expand our conversation on environmentalism.

This is a time for changing the way that we look at environmental issues in America. The inauguration of the first African American president, and my subsequent confirmation as the first African American Administrator of this Agency, has begun the process of changing the face of environmentalism. It sends a clear signal that environmentalism does not come in any one shape, any one size, or any one look. Or from any one region. We have to meet people where they are, and talk to them about environmental issues in language that they understand and that they can respond to. Last week, we saw an example of why that is so important.

As you have probably heard, just after 12 a.m. Friday morning, several tanks at a gasoline warehouse and distribution center in Catano, Puerto Rico exploded. One of EPA’s communications staff members in Puerto Rico lives about two miles from the facility. She felt the rumble from the blast in her house. She was up all night making calls, and working through the next day – working from home because the roads around her house were closed. In Region Two – which covers Puerto Rico – EPA was immediately able to offer communications assistance through several Spanish-speaking press officers and community involvement coordinators. That ability to communicate means that, in our emergency response as well as our ongoing work, EPA can stay engaged with local officials and residents. We want to give them assurance that this Agency is on the job, and that we are doing everything we can to safeguard their health and their environment. We want them to know that their issues are our issues; that their work is our work; and that their struggles are our struggles.

That is what Beyond Translation is all about. It’s not just in these emergency situations where our ability to engage is essential. This has to be part of the work we do every day. Over the years, EPA has made more and more of its materials available in translation. Our news releases, fact sheets, environmental health information and more are now published in Spanish. We even have a Twitter feed in Spanish. But we know we have to do more. We want to communicate with diverse Hispanic communities across the nation. We don’t want to just say “Here are our issues translated into Spanish.” We want to ask, “What are your issues? How can we help out in your community? How can we work together?” Especially when we are working on so many issues that affect so many people. Let me name just a few of those.

I recently visited the White House, where the Secretary of Transportation and I signed a proposal setting new fuel economy standards and taking the first ever national action to significantly control greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The proposed standards would require an average fuel economy of 35.5 MPG in 2016 – a level that would reduce oil consumption by an estimated 1.8 billion barrels, prevent greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 950 million metric tons (the equivalent of about 42 million cars) and save consumers more than $3000 in fuel costs.

This is win-win for our health, for our environment, and for our economy, and essential to reducing harmful air pollution in our communities. It will help the nearly 30 million Latinos – 72 percent of the US Latino population – who live in places that don’t meet US air pollution standards. As well as the many millions who suffer from asthma.

Not long ago I traveled to Chicago, Dubuque and Denver on a Sustainable Communities tour with the Secretary of Transportation; the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Adolfo Carrion, the President’s Urban Affairs Director. While we were in Denver we spoke to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce about why keeping our communities environmentally green is a good way to help them generate a lot of economic green. We want Hispanic businesses to be a part of sustainable communities that are economically and environmentally resilient – and creating good jobs for the local residents.

On a trip to California, I announced core principles for chemicals reform in our country. Everything from our cars, to the cell phones we all have in our pockets are constructed with plastics and chemical additives. Chemicals are ubiquitous in our economy and products – as well as our environment and our bodies. The public is understandably anxious and confused – so we are stepping up to provide them with assurance. Our core principles will guide action that is already taking place in Congress to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. That way, EPA will have the tools it needs to do the job the public expects.

We’ve taken aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases throughout our economy – something that has importance for all of us, and our children. We finalized a rule to require our nation’s largest facilities to report greenhouse gas emissions, allowing us to more accurately track almost 85 percent of all US emissions. And that will only require a small percentage of facilities – about 10,000 out of tens of millions of American businesses – to report.

We also announced a proposed rule to begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse sources. Under the rule, large facilities would be required to adopt the best, most efficient technologies available when they’re constructed or upgraded. This is a common-sense measure, tailored to emitters of more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. It would help significantly reduce greenhouse gases from sectors that account for nearly 70 percent of non-vehicle emissions. Along with emissions cuts, it will accelerate the use of innovative, efficient, clean technologies across the entire economy. In short, we can do what the Clean Air Act does best – reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future – all without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.

I announced that proposed rule in Los Angeles, home of Mayor Villaraigosa, who has been a national leader on local environmental issues. On that same trip, I joined the Mayor at the Port of Los Angeles, where we awarded more than $26 million in Recovery Act funding to clean up diesel emissions throughout Southern California. Those awards will help build on all that Mayor Villaraigosa has done to protect the health and environment of the people of Los Angeles – not to mention create and save good jobs.

Finally, I recently testified before Congress, where I pledged that EPA would retool and revitalize our enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The safety of the water that we use in our homes – the water we drink and give to our children – is of paramount importance. We’re working to promote innovative solutions for 21st century water challenges…to build stronger ties between EPA, state, and local actions…and to provide the transparency the public rightfully expects. And an overall focus of our work on clean water is to give all communities equal access to safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

This is change. And for anyone concerned about the pace of change, let me say this: all of the things I just talked about have happened since September 1. We intend to keep this pace rolling. And to do that, we need the engagement of every community. We know that Latinos are ready to stand up on these issues.

Last year, the Pew Center on Hispanics asked Latinos across America about the top agenda items for the Obama administration. More than 90 percent said that the environment was a priority, and more than 85 percent named energy policy. According to a separate survey by The Sierra Club, more than 80 percent of Hispanic voters believe that environmental issues impact their quality of life. 8 in 10 Latinos believe our nation’s energy supply and costs have a substantial impact on the environment – and a majority believe in the potential for millions of jobs through a clean energy economy.

Finally more than 70 percent of Latinos surveyed said they would be willing to take political action on the environment.

Through Beyond Translation, we are tapping into that concern. We’re creating meaningful dialogue with community leaders, small business owners, representatives from faith-based organizations and academia. We’re not just providing information, but helping communities use information to spark action.

I’m pleased to announce today that we will be strengthening the work of Beyond Translation by establishing four working groups to deal with critical issues. Those groups will focus on improving communications with the Hispanic community; increasing environmental health awareness; creating the education pipeline for young Hispanics; and educating Hispanic leaders on community involvement issues to effectively partner in the Agency’s decision-making. These will be one part of our sustained engagement effort after this forum has concluded.

They are part of the broader effort that is ahead of us. We need new advocates striving to protect the health of their communities. We have to bring forward new leaders to save our planet. And we need this community to play a role in the debate our nation is having right now.

We want to ensure that Latinos are leading the energy revolution. We want Latinos to secure the green jobs of today and tomorrow. And we want Latino communities to be heard when they call for cleaner land, air, and water, and the protections they need to safeguard the health of their children. I’m asking you to carry the banner with us. There are powerful voices calling for change in our immigration policy, our health care system, and our economy. Help us raise those voices to call for change in our nation's environmental and energy future.

Help us broaden the idea of environmentalism to welcome and engage Latinos. Use the influence you have to shed light on the devastating health and environmental threats in your communities.

Latinos in America are increasingly concerned and disproportionately impacted by these issues. On this and so many other issues, we’re asking for your partnership, and counting on your leadership. Thank you for being here today. I look forward to working with you all in the years ahead.

Thank you very much.