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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Greater Houston Partnership Conference for Technological Innovations and Regulatory Flexibility, Arlington, Virginia

03/13/2003
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

at the

Greater Houston Partnership Conference for

Technological Innovations and Regulatory Flexibility

Arlington, Virginia

March 13, 2003


Thank you, Jim (Kollaer) for that introduction. I = m pleased to be with you today.

This conference is exactly what I mean when I talk about the need to build successful partnerships to promote shared environmental goals. In June 2001, I visited Texas and learned first hand about the good work that the Greater Houston Partnership was doing to improve the quality of the air in and around that city.

I was so impressed with what I heard that I thought it would be useful for leaders from other cities around the country to hear about what Houston was doing and adapt their ideas for their own particular use. This conference, which EPA is jointly sponsoring with the Greater Houston Partnership and other organizations, is the result. It shows what can happen when we work together.

As I have traveled around the country over the past two years B visiting more than 40 states and scores more cities B I have seen some truly innovative work underway in the ongoing effort to make America= s air cleaner. Time and again I have seen local leaders from business, government, and the environmental community coming together to find creative solutions to advance common goals.

One of the most pressing challenges facing you and your counterparts across the country is the need to meet the eight-hour air quality standard for ozone which was issued in 1997. This standard will help improve the health of millions of Americans, especially those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It will help ensure that the air we breathe will no longer pose a threat to the well-being of any American. It will mean fewer lost school days, missed work days, and hospital admissions, as well as greater health for the American people.

The good news for you is that you = re not in this alone. EPA is now implementing some major national measures that will assist state, tribal, and local governments as they develop plans for meeting the eight-hour standard. These include the NOx SIP call, the Tier II standards for cars and light trucks, and the heavy-duty diesel rule for trucks and buses. I should point out that the diesel-rule will achieve large, cost-effective reductions in NOx that were not anticipated at the time the eight-hour standard was issued.

These and other existing controls will dramatically reduce the number of areas with unhealthy ozone levels, from more than 120 today to about 50 in 2007 and then to just 30 in 2010. That's real progress B but it = s just a beginning.

President Bush = s proposed Clear Skies Act of 2002, which has recently been introduced in both the House and Senate, will make significant cuts in ozone-forming and other emissions from power plants.

In addition, later this spring we expect to propose a rule that will begin to reduce the large quantities of Nox emissions that non-road engines in construction, agricultural, and industrial equipment belch into our air.

Like the diesel rule, neither Clear Skies nor our nonroad emissions proposal were expected at the time the eight-hour standard was issued. That = s another way of saying that this Administration is doing its part to help you achieve and maintain clean and healthy air.

But even with our best efforts, action on the national level is not enough. Many areas will have to take steps beyond what we are doing to bring their communities into attainment. This conference is designed to help foster an atmosphere in which the best ideas, solutions, and technologies from around the nation can be shared. Let me highlight just a few of these ideas, to give you a taste of what you= ll be hearing about in greater detail over the next day-and-a-half.

As I mentioned a few minutes ago, the idea for the conference was hatched when I heard about what was happening in Houston. Their plan for meeting the one-hour ozone standard was the product of a true partnership B one that included the mayor, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, and the EPA.

Houston = s plan makes extensive use of voluntary measures, such as negotiating Nox reduction agreements with owners and operators of tugs and towboats, ferry boats, locomotives, and airlines and airports. They also agreed to use certain emerging technologies to cut NOx emissions from diesel engines at the Port of Houston.

Coupled with these voluntary measures are some powerful economic incentives, including credits for the purchase of cleaner vehicles and for upgrading diesel engines with improved pollution control technology. Now, when it comes to meeting the one-hour ozone standard, Houston is well on its way.

Houston = s successful effort, by the way, drew on some of the pioneering efforts made in the State of California to reduce air pollution in the areas of voluntary measures and economic incentives. In Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Joaquin, to name just three, the California Air Resources Board has partnered with the local districts to promote cleaner burning engines and vehicles.

In Atlanta, their Clean Air Campaign is including another approach B encouraging employers to develop smog reduction plans that encourage their employees to find alternatives to solo driving, including van pooling, public transit, and tele-commuting.

In addition, Atlanta = s Clean Air Campaign enlists public participation by broadcasting smog alerts on days when forecasters predict the eight-hour standard will be exceeded. When the public knows there = s an immediate problem, they can help contribute to the solution.

I would be remiss if I didn = t also provide an example of what EPA is doing to promote voluntary efforts. To date, we have received more than 130,000 commitments from fleet owners nationwide to retrofit trucks, buses, and construction equipment. These retrofits will remove more than 30,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 15,000 tons of particulate matter from the air we breathe.

We have also recently launched the Smartway Transport Program. This voluntary partnership between EPA and industry leaders will develop a comprehensive strategy to improve environmental performance of the freight sector by reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality.

SmartWay began with 13 charter partners, and our goal is to achieve by 2012 annual reductions of up to 18 million metric tons of carbon, and up to 200,000 tons of NOx, which will save 150 million barrels of oil a year and is equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road.

One of the common denominators in these examples B and in most others you will hear about today B is a willingness to seek out and promote new technologies that work. Over the course of its history, the Clean Air Act has created market opportunities for technological innovations and improvements.

From finding alternatives to ozone-depleting chemicals to developing new super- performing catalysts for automobile emissions, innovative companies and academic research centers have helped lead the way to cleaner air. If you want to see for yourselves just how much progress is being made, you might want to look over the list of new and emerging technologies developed for EPA by the University of California-Riverside = s Center for Environmental Research and Technology. I commend it to your attention.

There = s no doubt that by continuing to work together, exchange good ideas and best practices, and strengthen existing partnerships while building new ones, we can reach the goal I know we all share B leaving America = s air cleaner than we found it.

Thank you.