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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Sulgrave Club, Washington, D.C.

03/31/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Sulgrave Club
Washington, D.C.

March 31, 2003


Thank you Jane (Sloat) for that introduction.

Your work here at the Sulgrave Club to foster dialogue on the important policy and social issues of our time is an important service for both the D.C. community and our country. Indeed, at a time like this, when our country is engaged in war, we gain a new appreciation for the freedom to have this kind of political dialogue.

While we are fully engaged in the war in Iraq, our domestic priorities such as providing a quality education for our children, strengthening our economy, and protecting our environment retain their importance.

That = s why I appreciate the chance to discuss with you the work this Administration is doing on behalf of the environment, beyond our responsibilities in homeland security. Since the last time I met with you my job may have changed, but my passion for the environment and my dedication to preserving our natural resources and improving public health remains the same.

From the beginning of my tenure as Administrator of the EPA, my goal has been clear and simple B to leave America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected than when I took office.

Though we have faced challenges, we have made real progress towards achieving this aim, and I= d like to share with you some of our accomplishments and some of the work we still need to do.

First, cleaner air. Since the creation of the EPA more than thirty years ago, our air has become significantly cleaner. Legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, has gone a long way in reversing the environmental damage decades of unchecked pollution had inflicted on our environment.

Despite this progress, there is still more that needs to be done. Children suffer from asthma at alarmingly high rates, many of our national parks are shrouded in a murky haze, and our environment continues to endure damage from poor air quality.

However, as we work to address this situation, more often than not, we are finding that the tools which served us well in the past are becoming inefficient and outdated. The Clean Air Act is an example of the command and control model which has long dominated federal environmental policy making B a model that this Administration believes is no longer the only way to achieve environmental progress.

While the Clean Air Act has made a difference, it = s important to note that the most successful program in over a decade to address air quality has been the Acid Rain program, which had it = s genesis in the innovative idea that harnessing the power of the market could reap impressive environmental gains. Created in 1990 as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments, the Acid Rain program utilized a pioneering A cap and trade @ strategy.

The Acid Rain program has achieved nearly universal compliance, has cost far less to implement than traditional regulatory approaches, and has already reduced emissions to levels even lower than the government established.

The success of policies such as the Acid Rain program are proving what this Administration believes B that we can move beyond command and control and embrace new and innovative approaches.

That is why President Bush has introduced the landmark Clear Skies Act of 2003. This legislation will achieve mandatory reductions of 70% of three of the most dangerous pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Clear Skies moves us away from simple 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 determining how to meet those reductions.

Clear Skies will set a clear, objective standard for mandatory reductions, and, although it sets the goal, Clear Skies does not regulate the path to meeting that goal. This flexibility enables states and facilities to pursue the most cost effective approach to cleaner air and helps ensure our ability as a nation to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the energy marketplace.

By using this market-based approach, we will remove 35 million more tons of NOx, SO2 , and mercury from the air over the first ten years of the Clear Skies Act than the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that same time frame.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people every year, including preventing 12,000 premature deaths and reducing by 15 million the days when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are unable to work, go to school, or carry out their normal day to day activities because of bad air quality.

Signing Clear Skies into law is one of the President = s top domestic goals for the year, because 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.

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 21st 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 30 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 or over-fertilizing your yard 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 off a pipe and declare the problem solved. 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 active partners in our effort to leave America = s waters cleaner for generations to come.

The President = s proposed budget includes for the second year in a row, funding for a watershed initiative that builds partnerships for cleaner water. The watershed initiative helps us craft solutions for each watershed based on its unique needs and challenges. We will again be choosing as many as 20 of America = s most threatened watersheds to receive this funding.

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 community-based effort right here in Washington, D.C. to restore the Anacostia River basin 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.

Restoring a brownfield brings enormous benefits to a local community. Experience has shown that every dollar of federal money spent on brownfields leverages about two-and-a-half dollars in private investment. In addition, restoring a brownfield helps preserve open space. Every acre of brownfields that is restored saves more than 4.5 acres of greenspace.

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.

We are also working to protect the land through continued support of superfund clean up efforts around the country.

The Bush Administration fully embraces the principle that the A polluter pays, @ when it comes to cleaning up Superfund sites. The Superfund law puts the burden of paying for the cleanup of polluted sites where it belongs B on those responsible for creating the mess.

Through aggressive action by the EPA, more than 70 percent of all Superfund cleanups have been paid by the responsible parties. Only in those cases where such parties cannot be determined or have long-since gone out of business are appropriated monies used.

For those instances, the President has proposed to increase spending for superfund clean ups by $150 million in his FY > 04 budget. This will fund 10 - 15 additional Superfund construction projects in the coming year.

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

Why should we care about environmental protection? Because the environment is an integral part to all of 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 21 st century holds an environmental landscape that has changed dramatically since the EPA was established. Meeting the new challenges that the future holds will not only take commitment to building partnerships, but also the motivation to try new ideas.

As women leaders, we know first hand that it can be difficult to move against the status quo. Through the years we have done so successfully, and in the area of environmental policy it = s absolutely necessary that we do the same thing. Our environment isn = t static and our policy shouldn = t be either.

As we think about the future of environmental protection, whether it = s reducing harmful air emissions, cleaning up Superfund sites, or addressing global climate change, we need to seek out the big ideas B ideas that challenge conventional wisdom, inspire our imaginations, and leave a lasting mark of improvement on our environment and our quality of life.

By working together, pursuing new ideas, and not getting trapped in the status quo, we can work to ensure a future of environmental health B a future of cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land B for this and many generations to come.

Thank you.