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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

The City Club of Cleveland

08/16/1996
  Carol M. Browner



Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


                    The City Club of Cleveland
                         Cleveland, OH
                               
                        August 16, 1996






It is a pleasure to be here in Cleveland today. I am especially glad to be able to join all of you at this important time -- a time when we have been engaged in the most important environmental debate in two and a half decades.

Twenty-six years ago, this nation joined together -- citizens, business, government, Democrats and Republicans -- in a bipartisan commitment to protect our health, the air, the water, the land we all share. And together we have made a great deal of progress.

Three-and-a-half years ago, when President Clinton and I came to Washington, we called on businesses, communities, and all levels of government to help us continue that progress -- to build a new generation of environmental protection -- one that can build on the successes of the past and meet the challenges of the next century. A new generation of environmental protection that is about protecting the health of our families, our communities, and our economy. It means providing real benefits for real people -- fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, safe food to eat, land that we are not afraid to live on.

A new generation of environmental protection means reinventing the process, the system of regulations, so that we can provide better protection than ever before, in the most cost-effective manner.

With the leadership of President Clinton, this Administration initiated a series of common-sense, high-priority actions to change our system of environmental regulation -- to move beyond mere regulation to achieve true protection of the American people and the world we live in.

And today, real people in real communities are reaping real, everyday benefits:

The single largest reduction in toxic air pollution. Fifty million Americans in 55 cities now breathe cleaner air that meets public health standards.

Tough new standards for toxic and hazardous waste disposal -- community after community protected.

The cleanup of more toxic dumpsites in just three years than in the first 12 years of the Superfund program. Allowing thousands of children the right to play in a neighborhood free of toxics -- something every child should have the right to do.

Earlier this month, this country took a major step into the future when the President signed two very important new environmental laws.

The new food safety law just signed by President Clinton embodies the principles of food safety reform that the President proposed three years ago. It replaces a fragmented system with a single, more protective, comprehensive health-based standard for all pesticides on all foods.

No longer does the law limit our ability to reject dangerous pesticides solely because of cancer risks. Now we can reject a pesticide because of risks of birth defects, reproductive problems, impact on the immune system, and cancer. All health risks -- all foods.

The new law gives the consumer a right to know about pesticides on the food we eat. And perhaps most important to me as the mother of a young child, the new law requires a specific finding that the health of children will be protected. Very simple. If a pesticide poses a danger to our children, it won't be in our food.

The Safe Drinking Water Act signed by the President two weeks ago also embodies principles put forth by the President and this Administration three years ago.

Unfortunately, we cannot continue to take for granted the safety of our drinking water. We need to bring to bear the science, tools, and dollars to once again guarantee that every glass we fill with water is safe to drink.

The new law strengthens the standards that protect the public from the most significant threats to safe drinking water, such as cryptosporidium, the microbial contaminant. It sets high standards that consider the special needs of children and other vulnerable people.

The new law gives the American people the right to know about contaminants in our tap water: direct, simple information, sent to your home in your water bill, about local water quality, contaminants, water sources, and whether the water poses a health risk.

And, President Clinton called for the creation -- for the first time ever -- of a revolving loan fund to provide money to communities to upgrade our drinking water systems. Under this new law, nearly $10 billion in loan funds would go straight to the states to upgrade drinking water treatment systems in communities across this country. Ohio will be eligible for up to $42 million in funds beginning in 1997.

Finally, the new law provides a flexible, common-sense framework for protecting the sources of our drinking water -- the rivers, lakes, streams, the groundwater. Along with the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative, this new legislation will help to provide the people of Cleveland, the people of so many other communities, with safe, clean water -- the first line of defense for public health.

From the day he took office, President Clinton has worked hard to meet a fundamental promise to the American people. That people should know that the food they eat and the water they drink will not make them sick. Today, those principles are the law of the land.

Nearly three years ago, I came to Cleveland to announce the launching of the Brownfields Redevelopment Project here in Cuyahoga County. We provided $200,000 in seed money, to address the urban properties that have long lain contaminated or abandoned -- to begin to clean them up and return them to productive use. To help save the green, open spaces outside the city. To create jobs, to create hope.

We provided $300,000 to help Cuyahoga Community College train students to do the environmental job, to ensure that Cleveland will have the trained workforce necessary to revitalize these contaminated properties.

Richard Manfredi can tell you the program is working. He now runs a warehouse and trucking company on Grant Street in downtown Cleveland, on a site that had long been abandoned.

All in all, here in Cleveland, as a result of our brownfields partnership, we've seen 170 new jobs, a $1 million increase in local payroll taxes, and $4.5 million in new private investment. And through our brownfields programs, we're repeating that kind of success story in communities across this country.

Right from the start, President Clinton has recognized that when we trust honest business people as partners, not adversaries, we all make progress. And so, under the President's leadership, we challenged business to find creative new ways to exceed existing pollution standards.

Last November, President Clinton launched a cutting-edge program called Project XL -- excellence and leadership. Working in partnership, business, cities, states, environmentalists, and community activists are designing ways not just to meet environmental requirements, not just to comply with environmental standards, but to go further, to exceed the bare minimum, in the most flexible, cost-effective ways.

Our Common Sense Initiative works industry-by-industry, to develop creative, new, industry-wide strategies for controlling pollution -- in auto, steel, electronics.

We cut red tape for honest business owners by eliminating 15 million hours of paperwork. By the end of this year, we expect to eliminate another 10 million hours of paperwork -- time that will no longer be spent filling out forms, time that will now be available to ensure that the clean air and clean water standards are met, the toxic waste sites cleaned up.

We're saying to the small businesses of this country, "If you do not understand the requirements, if you think you have violated the regulations, come forward voluntarily and we will work together to solve the problems. If you have made a mistake and are committed to fixing that mistake, we can waive the fine." We would rather see the money spent to solve the problem, prevent the pollution, protect the environment.

But for those intransigent polluters, those who irresponsibly disregard the law, the public has every right to expect their government to take swift, effective action. Those in the private sector who do make the investment necessary to meet public health and environmental standards have every right to demand that they not find themselves subject to unfair competition from a competitor who disregards environmental laws and pollutes the public's resources.

And so we have vigorously pursued those who ignore environmental standards, polluting the public's air and water, collecting the biggest environmental fines in the history of EPA.

At the heart of all these actions is a fundamental principle that President Clinton has always believed -- that environmental protection and economic progress go hand in hand. We do not have to choose between our health and our jobs. In fact, the two are inextricably linked.

Today, unemployment is at its lowest level in 6 years. Inflation is in check. Under the Clinton Administration, we have 10 million new jobs, 2 million new businesses, 4.4 million new homeowners. In Ohio, nearly 300,000 new jobs -- nearly three times as many as in the previous four years.

During the same period, toxic pollution from industry has steadily declined. From 1992 to 1994 alone, toxic pollution was down by 19

A healthy economy begets a healthier environment; a healthy environment -- a stronger economy.

The important new environmental legislation that the President signed this month is a sign that we can come together. That under the President's leadership, we can restore the bipartisan commitment to public health and environmental protection that has served this country so well for a generation.

Unfortunately, there are still those who suggest that we must choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. That we must deny the citizens of this country strong public health and environmental protections. Some argue that the air is clean enough, the water safe, the job done -- that we have completed our work, that our commitment can waver.

Over the course of the past two and a half years, we witnessed an unprecedented assault by the Congress on public health and environmental protections. In the battle over the budget, in the battle over the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws, President Clinton stood firm for public health and environmental protection. And today, vital public health and environmental protections are in place and will remain in place.

The people of Ohio need those protections. More than 4012f Ohio's surveyed rivers and streams are too polluted for swimming, and 35are too polluted for fishing. And more than a million Ohio residents receive their drinking water from water systems that violated health standards during the past year.

The job is not done. To secure a clean, safe environment, we must remain ever-vigilant.

As I look toward the 21st Century, I see significant public health and environmental challenges facing this country -- challenges that can and must be met with the kind of common-sense, cost-effective strategies that this Administration has worked hard to implement.

We must continue to expand the right to know, to give every American access to information about our air, our water, our land, our food. Already this Administration has have put new tools in the hands of communities -- greatly expanding the public's right to know about toxic pollution in their neighborhoods, nearly doubling the number of chemicals that must be reported and expanding the types of facilities that must report to the public. There is no doubt in my mind that an informed, involved community will always make far better decisions than some distant bureaucracy. We must continue to expand the right to know.

We must continue to clean up and redevelop our brownfields -- to revitalize our urban neighborhoods -- and the people of Cleveland are leading the way.

We must meet the challenge of emerging public health threats -- the very real threat of toxics in our air, on our land; the threat of contamination in our drinking water. The new Safe Drinking Water Act signed by the President this month will take us a long way. But there is much more we must do to protect the water we drink, the rivers, lakes, and beaches where we fish and swim.

We must continue to reinvent our regulatory system -- to make that system as affordable as it is effective. The Clinton Administration's programs like Project XL are proving that we can meet tough environmental standards by using creative, innovative new strategies. Let's put those innovative strategies to work throughout our system of environmental regulation.

Finally, in facing the complex public health and environmental challenges that lie ahead, we must be guided by the very best science. At EPA, we have fundamentally changed our regulatory program to guarantee that our decisions are informed by the soundest and most up-to-date scientific findings. As we move forward into the 21st Century, we must continue to reach out to the best and the brightest in the scientific community, to analyze the most serious risks to public health and our environment, and to take action where it will do the most good for the American people -- so that we may truly meet the fundamental promise to which President Clinton is committed -- the promise of fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, safe food to eat, land that is safe to live on.

Thank you.