Speeches By EPA Administrator
Administrator Johnson, Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Conference, Ambridge, PA08/14/2006
As seen by the attendance here, as well as the increasing interest at the national conference, Brownfields cleanup and redevelopment has grown to become one of the greatest environmental and economic success stories of the past decade. It is an honor to be here today to kick off this three-day meeting dedicated to writing the next chapter of the Brownfields story in Western Pennsylvania and throughout our nation.
As we de-boarded the plane in Pittsburgh, and as I looked around to find myself in a sea of black and gold, I was immediately struck by the fact that the start of professional football’s regular season is just around the corner. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest football fan, so the NFL season always sneaks up on me. But looking back over my travels these past few weeks, I can say hands-down there is no other city in America that wears their pride on their sleeves … or for that matter, on their hats, their jackets and their billboards … like the city of Pittsburgh.
As we were driving here to Ambridge, I thought about how closely identified Pittsburgh is with their football team – much more so than any other city. When you think of New York, you don’t picture giants lurking under bridges. When someone says, “New England,” your mind doesn’t go to revolutionary soldiers wearing tri-cornered hats. And I’m no zoologist, but I doubt if bears ever roamed the streets of Chicago. But when you hear the name, “Pittsburgh,” most people immediately think of the 5-time Super Bowl Champion Steelers and a city, whose identity is entwined with the steel industry.
The residents of the Pittsburgh area are proud of their steel-working heritage – it goes beyond just rooting for the Steelers – it is an integral part of the region’s economy, infrastructure and character. And while the industry has left behind a legacy of older, obsolete mills throughout Western Pennsylvania, all of us are here today to help convert these environmental eyesores back into something of pride for their communities.
That’s what the Brownfields program is doing all across America. It is taking problem properties and turning them back into economic and environmental assets. And I’m pleased that the Environmental Protection Agency can be a partner in this effort.
You see, when President Bush asked me to become Administrator of EPA, he charged me with accelerating the pace of environmental progress, while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness. So, instead of being viewed by some as a source of conflict, my goal is for an EPA that is a source of cooperation. And, instead of being seen by some as a stumbling block to economic growth, my goal is for an EPA that upholds environmental standards while working with individuals and industry to find innovative solutions to our environmental challenges.
EPA’s commitment to the Brownfields Program reflects both of these goals. It is a collaborative model of environmental protection that forges strong public-private partnerships, and promotes innovative and creative solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing environmental challenges.
And the program is working. How would I know? Well, as Administrator, one of my priorities is to quantify the end results from all our programs … and results are exactly what our Brownfields program has consistently delivered.
By encouraging cleanup and redevelopment of America’s abandoned and contaminated waste sites, EPA’s Brownfields program has leveraged more than $8.2 billion in private investment … helped create more than 37,500 jobs … and resulted in the assessment of more than 8,300 properties.
These are impressive numbers. But the Brownfields program isn’t just about improving local environments and economies. Through our commitment to urban redevelopment, President Bush and EPA are putting both people and property back to work.
We are taking problem properties and transforming them back into community assets.
We are empowering people to work together to revitalize and rehabilitate their communities.
And, just like we are doing for the residents of Western Pennsylvania, President Bush, EPA and our partners are converting waste sites back into something of pride.
It gives people pride when they can turn a former industrial site into a source of 500 jobs and over $17 million in economic investment – just like EPA and our partners are doing at the First Sterling steel property in McKeesport.
It gives people pride when they transform a 238-acre slag heap into a vibrant community of beautiful homes – just like we have done at Nine Mile Run in Pittsburgh.
And it gives people pride when they turn a deteriorated industrial and office buildings into 100 food distribution jobs and return the property to the local tax rolls – like we have done at the former Lectromelt site near Carnegie-Mellon University.
As we continue to write additional chapters in the Brownfields success story, I look forward to hearing about how the revitalization plans underway will transform the nearby North Ambridge Redevelopment area into something of pride for this community.
So why all this effort to convert environmental eyesores into sources of pride? Well, when people are proud of their communities, they are invested in each other and in the future of their neighborhoods. And this is why I think all of us are here in this room today … we are all invested in the future environmental and economic health of Western Pennsylvania and our nation.
I have three grandchildren. They are all fairly young, but when they grow up, I want them to know that their grandfather did all he could to ensure their future. I want them to know that I did my best to hand them a country with cleaner air, water and land than when it was handed to me. I want them to know that I did all I could do to provide them a country with unlimited economic opportunities.
I believe we are here to provide the next generation with a future that is economically sound, and environmentally healthy … and President Bush understands that a successful Brownfields program will help fulfill our mission of putting both people and property back to work.
We have seen the fruits of this commitment to the next generation in communities across the nation – and I’m pleased that Congresswoman Hart and the entire state of Pennsylvania have been meeting this challenge head-on. In order to encourage your commitment to the renewal of urban pride, since 2003, EPA has awarded a total of $11.8 million in Brownfields grant funding to Pennsylvania communities.
Today, I’d like to encourage all of you to keep up the good work and continue to build the momentum for local redevelopment. It is enormous responsibility to turn environmental eyesores back into engines of economic rebirth, and the residents of Western Pennsylvania and the Steel City will retain their unparalleled pride in their communities because of your efforts.
Thanks and I hope you have a productive conference.