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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Wharton Club of New Jersey, Florham Park, New Jersey

02/20/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Wharton Club of New Jersey
Florham Park, New Jersey

February 20, 2003


Thank you Bob (Stein) for that introduction.

As Penn founder Benjamin Franklin was fond of saying, A In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. @ So, though the political winds may change, I can be absolutely sure that I = ll still get to see Bob every April. Not that I = m complaining.

I want to thank Bob for extending the invitation to address this distinguished group of Wharton alumni. I understand that Dean Harker has recognized this club as an outstanding organization, for which all of you should be congratulated. Considering all that you have done in one year of existence, I = m sure this club will only continue to grow and provide excellent opportunities for alumni in this area.

Tonight, I= d like to talk about two of the domestic priorities President Bush focused on in his State of the Union address B economic revitalization and environmental protection. For too long, economic prosperity and environmental preservation have been seen as mutually exclusive goals. However, this Administration believes that a strong economy and a strong environment can and must go hand in hand in order to achieve a greater quality of life for all Americans.

First, in addressing our economy, it = s important to note that though the American economy is in its second year of consecutive growth B it is not growing fast enough, or strongly enough. Too many people cannot find work, many family budgets are strained, and many companies are holding back on new investments and on hiring new people.

President Bush has proposed a plan that will boost the economy by providing tax relief for every American who pays federal income taxes. Under the President= s plan, 92 million Americans would receive, on average, a tax cut of $1,083 this year.

The President = s plan includes across the board tax rate reductions, accelerated relief from the marriage penalty, and an increase in the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000 per child. If you have any questions about how this plan will affect you, just do what I do B ask Bob.

This is tax relief that Republicans and Democrats in Congress passed in 2001 and promised for future years. The President believes the time to deliver it is now when it can do the most good for families and businesses. If tax relief is good for Americans three, or five, or seven years from now, it is even better for Americans today.

The President= s plan also calls for abolishing the unfair double-taxation of dividends. It = s fair to tax a company = s profits; but it = s unfair to tax that dollar twice when it is paid out to shareholders. It has been argued that abolishing the dividend tax would only benefit the wealthy B an argument that is not only inaccurate, but reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how our society has changed.

Today, half of all American households own stock. Who will benefit from ending the double tax on dividends? Seniors will. They receive more than half of all dividend income. And, families will. They will benefit financially as more companies agree to pay dividends.

Of course, as we work to spark economic growth in the months ahead, we must not forget those men and women who are struggling today. The President =s plan would help the unemployed by creating Personal Re-employment Accounts. These accounts would provide unemployed workers with up to $3,000 to use for job training, child care, transportation and other expenses associated with finding a new job. A person who finds a job within 13 weeks will be able to keep the leftover funds from their account.

This Administration will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one; until every business has a chance to grow; and until we turn our economic recovery into lasting prosperity that reaches every corner of America.

We are not only strengthening our economic foundation, but we are also working to build a significant environmental record. I believe all Americans share the goals of this Administration B to leave America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected than it was when we took office. I= d like to share with you some of our accomplishments and some of the work we still need to do in these three areas.

First, cleaner air. A year ago President Bush proposed the most significant improvement to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. His Clear Skies Initiative will achieve mandatory reductions of 70 percent in three of the most noxious air pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Clear Skies moves us away from 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 how it meets those reductions.

By using this market-based approach to reducing the emissions of NOx, SO2, and mercury, we will remove 35 million more tons of those pollutants from the air than the Clean Air ACt would achieve in the next ten years.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people, annually reducing premature deaths by 12,000 and preventing 15 million days of bad air quality when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses find their symptoms exacerbated.

From coast to coast, Clear Skies will result in measurable improvements to the environment. Right here in New Jersey, Clear Skies would provide annual benefits of 500 fewer premature deaths, more than 12,000 fewer days with asthma attacks, and 85,000 fewer days of work lost due to respiratory symptoms.

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.

In addition, President Bush in his State of the Union address 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, these two initiatives and many more hold great promise for the present and the future.

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 21 st 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 thirty 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, 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 a pipe off and declare the problem solved. I believe 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 an active partner in our effort to leave America = s waters cleaner for generations to come.

The President = s proposed budget for the second year in a row includes funding for a watershed initiative that builds partnerships for cleaner water in at least 20 of America = s most threatened watersheds. The watershed initiative helps us craft solutions for each watershed based on its unique needs and challenges.

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 partnership effort right here in New Jersey to protect the Spruce Run Reservoir 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.

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.

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

The environment is an integral part of all our lives. Whether it = s clean lakes to enjoy on hot summer days, community renewal to enrich our neighborhoods, or better air for our children to breathe, all of us benefit from a healthy environment and all of us have a responsibility to ensure that we have one.

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

As Benjamin Franklin would say, A Well done is better than well said, @ and knowing the truth of that statement B we redouble our efforts, we seek out new ideas, and we work diligently everyday to ensure that this Administration = s legacy is one of deeds and not just of words.

Thank you. Now I would be happy to take any questions.