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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

HUD Bridging the Divide Conference - Washington, D.C.

12/14/1999
Remarks Prepared for Carol M. Browner, Administrator
 Environmental Protection Agency
                               
               HUD Bridging the Divide Conference
                        Washington, D.C.
                       December 14, 1999

     Thank you for that introduction Deputy Secretary Ramirez.
     Good afternoon and thank you all for coming to this conference dedicated to helping us work together to find regional solutions and strategies to balance economic growth with the environmental health of our communities.
     But before I talk about that future, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the past, for
today is a historical date: The 200th anniversary of the death of George Washington. This date would be worth noting regardless of the topic as we meet here in the city that bears his name.
     But it is especially worth noting because Washington was a conservationist who understood the importance of managing our resources.
     He experimented with a variety of innovative land and forest conservation methods on the grounds of his home at Mount Vernon. And he would share his discoveries and successes with neighboring landowners.
     Washington firmly believed that the  wise use of our lands would be crucial to our prosperity as a nation. And he worried -- even back then -- that we were squandering our great natural resources.
     He once wrote: "Nothing in my opinion would contribute more to the welfare of                   these States than the proper management of our lands. And nothing . . . seems to be less understood."
     In many ways the challenges we face now are the same as they were in the earliest days of our nation. What can we do to be good stewards of our land -- our environment -- while still ensuring healthy economic growth?
     And that's why this conference is an important one and I thank Secretary Cuomo for bringing us together. To meet the challenges of conserving our land, while not stifling our growth, we need to build bridges that link towns to cities, cities to counties, counties to states, and states to neighboring states.
     The federal government must set an example itself by building bridges across its many agencies and departments so that together -- at all levels of government -- we can effectively and efficiently target regional problems and find regional solutions.
     This Administration has already taken several important steps to build these kinds of partnerships by proposing innovative ways to spur job creation, and revitalize our inner cities and suburban areas. Yet we can do this and still protect our vast open spaces and every American's right to clean water and clear skies.
     One of the most important steps is to reclaim and revitalize those abandoned industrial sites we call brownfields.
     Why? Let's just look at the numbers.
     Earlier this month, Vice President Gore released new figures showing that the loss of farmland and other open spaces to development more than doubled in recent years.
     The new figures, contained in the Department of Agriculture's National Resources Inventory, show that between 1992 and 1997, nearly 16 million acres of forests, farmlands and open spaces were converted to other uses. At this rate, in a decade we will have bulldozed the land equivalent of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia or Mississippi.
     But while all that land was being swallowed up, hundreds of thousands of acres of brownfields sat idle, according to a report by The U.S. Conference of Mayors. It was estimated that developing that land could bring in almost $1 billion to nearly $3 billion in tax revenue annually, create nearly 700,000 new jobs and take some of the development pressure off of our forests and farms.
     In May 1997, the Vice President announced the Brownfields National Partnership Action Agenda, which offered our communities both financial commitments and technical advice from more than 25 Federal agencies and partners.
     In just a few years, local communities have been provided with more than $385 million for brownfields redevelopment, with another $141 million in loan guarantees.
     Dallas, Texas, is one of those communities. Dallas has received more than $1.9 million in financial and technical support from EPA and other agencies. It has been money well spent. That money helped attract another $109 million in private investment.
     I visited the city last week and was amazed to see a brand-new arena rising on the site of what had been an abandoned brownfield.
     I see that kind of progress everywhere I go. Another model city   Stamford, Connecticut -- this fall became the first city in the nation to issue a loan from EPA's Brownfields revolving loan program to help finance the redevelopment and revitalization of its waterfront area.
     As we've seen in places like Baltimore and St. Louis, revitalizing these waterfront areas can be crucial for both economic redevelopment and environmental enhancement because it reconnects us with our waterways.
     According to a study released in October by the Council for Urban and Economic Development, for every dollar the federal, state and local governments put into revitalizing brownfields, almost $2.50 in private investment was attracted.
     More than 8,300 construction jobs were created. Once the work was done, another 22,000 jobs were either created or retained.
     And where is much of this happening? In areas that need it the most -- lower income and minority neighborhoods.
     This Administration will continue to build on its Brownfields successes.
     Specifically, 10 new communities will be added to the Brownfields program through a competitive process that will begin in the year 2000.
     We will add 50 new Brownfields demonstration pilots and give further funding to 50 of the existing pilots to create parks, trails, gardens and habitat restoration.
     We will also expand the Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund program by adding 60 new projects this fiscal year.
     I know Secretary Cuomo talked to you yesterday about President Clinton's New Markets Initiatives. But I wanted to reiterate how important it is in our plans to give our communities regional tools to solve these problems.
     This Initiative -- with its combination of grants, loans, and tax incentives -- can help restore our older metropolitan and suburban communities. It encourages business to invest in these areas and create the kind of jobs, commerce and attractions that are the anchors of a rich civic life.
     We want to ensure that every family in every community has the chance to share in our nation's new prosperity.
     The President and the Vice President have also proposed a program called Better America Bonds that would allow states and local governments to issue nearly $10 billion in bonds they could use to clean up brownfields, preserve open space, protect water quality -- or all those things together.
     And under the Better America Bonds program, we will encourage regional approaches.
     But as we encourage these new partnerships across both regions and all levels of government, each of our federal agencies does have its own particular mission we must not lose sight of. At EPA, one of our most important goals is to dramatically lower the air pollution caused by cars, SUVs and big trucks.
     At the rate we are driving, in 10 to 12 years we will overtake all the gains we have made in reducing tailpipe pollution over the past 30 years.
     To address this clean air problem, this Administration has proposed a three-part strategy. And when completed this will mean new pollution requirements for cars and SUVS, gasoline, diesel engines and diesel fuel.
     In an effort we will complete by the end of the year, we are proposing to hold sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks to the same national tailpipe pollution standard as cars.
     And for the first time ever we are treating tailpipe emissions and gasoline as a single system. Not only will manufacturers build cleaner cars, but refiners will be producing cleaner fuels that contain less sulfur.
     When these proposals are fully implemented, Americans will still be able to drive as much as they like in the vehicle of their choice.
     But we'll also have cut air pollution from cars and trucks by 80 percent of what it is today. Eighty percent! That's like eliminating the pollution of 166 million cars.
     Is this an ambitious agenda? You bet! But it's what our families   our communities   deserve.
     Our nation has been fortunate to have had many great leaders on the environment. And not just Presidents -- like Washington and Theodore Roosevelt   but people like Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring, warned us about the dangers of pesticides like DDT.
     People like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas who made us all wake up and realize the Everglades -- that River of Grass in my home state -- was in danger and forced us into action.
     This Administration has worked in that tradition to protect and preserve the environment.
     The new millennium is now just 17 days away. But we have already been writing its history in places as small as a single revitalized neighborhood block to the restoration of the vast expanse of the Everglades.
     We have at hand the chance to put in place even more tools that will help our communities thrive and our families prosper. And we can do this while still preserving our forests and farmlands and guaranteeing clean air and pure water for every American.
     But we are already writing its history in places as small as a single neighborhood block to the vast expanse of the Everglades.
     We have at hand the chance to put in place the tools that will make our communities thrive and our families prosper. And we can do this while still preserving our forests and farmlands and guaranteeing clean air and pure water for every American.
     And by doing this, we are creating a future of economic, cultural and civic vitality for all our communities. Yet we will also leave preserved our great natural wonders to inspire the same awe in generations to come as they did for the generations past.
     Thank you for joining us today.