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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the Assistant Regional Administrators for Management, As Prepared

03/10/2009
As prepared for delivery.

Welcome. Thank you all for joining us today, and for traveling from your regions to be here.

It is important that we have a chance this early on to meet and talk about all the work we have ahead of us. I’ll just say a few words and then I’d like us to have a conversation and get to some of your questions.

Many of you know that this is a return to the EPA for me. I started my career here as a staff level scientist in the late 80s and worked with the agency for 16 years.

Of those 16 years, 13 of them were spent at the regional level. I’m very familiar with the essential administrative management roles that OARM, OEI, OCFO and you play in the agency’s mission.

I still have a strong understanding of the many responsibilities that fall on your shoulders – from ensuring the safety and security of our employees, to keeping the phones and computers running, to working on green buildings and operations.

You are essential to the vision we have for this agency. And I can’t think of a higher calling then coming back here to work with all of you and address the urgent, ongoing and – in many cases – long overdue issues of environmental protection.

Right now, we have greater opportunities to protect public health and the environment than any other time in the history of the EPA.

We’ve moved beyond the false choice between having a green economy or having a green environment. And we have risen above the past divides that have slowed down environmental protection and set us back for years.

Today in the congress and throughout the nation, there is tremendous, bipartisan support for green jobs, smart growth, clean energy, and the long list of ideas and innovations that will grow the economy and improve our planet.

So, when I’ve spoken to reporters, industry leaders, community members, or other stakeholders, I’ve tried to send a very clear, consistent message. It’s a message that I need you to carry as well – back to your regions, to the offices where you work, and the people that you serve.

That message is that the EPA is back on the job.

We have much to do in restoring the country’s faith in our ability to protect the air, water, and land – now and for future generations.

We have much to do to ensure that communities directly impacted by environmental degradation have not only a voice, but a seat at the decision-making table.

And we have much to do to revitalize ourselves and the future of the agency.

When I finished graduate school, there was only one place for people who were talented, smart, and passionate about protecting the environment – and that was the EPA.

It’s why a lot of you are here right now. We must return to that.

The country changed considerably since the EPA was formed in 1970. The people who own the issue of the environment have to be a broad coalition, representing what the country is like today and tomorrow.

We have to make sure that this agency reflects the population that we serve. That we hear from all stakeholders, that they see themselves in the work that we do. I want to make sure we are building the best, the brightest, and the most diverse EPA ever.

The great news is that we have plenty of support. The President has put an extraordinary amount of trust in us to advance EPA’s mission.

In the budget he sent to congress last month, President Obama gave the EPA the highest level of funding that we have seen in our 39 year history.

That also means that we have the highest level of expectation that we have seen in our 39 year history.

On that same point, we have tremendous and more immediate responsibilities for handling the allocations of the American Reinvestment and Recover Act.

In a very short period of time, we will invest over $7 billion in the creation of a green economy and a green environment.

I have designated OARM’s Acting Assistant Administrator, Craig Hooks, as the Agency’s Senior Responsible Official. But the management and oversight of these projects requires the assistance of both Headquarters and regional staff.

You and your colleagues at the regional level will play a huge role in awarding and managing the grants, contracts, and inter-agency agreements. I can’t stress enough about the importance of performance, transparency, and oversight of these projects.

Finally, we have a responsibility to represent the United States as the global leader in the protection of human health and the environment. The rest of the world is now looking to us for action.

We just saw a great example of that. For years, official policy had been to oppose any binding international standards on Mercury levels. Last month, our representatives at a global environment summit in Nairobi agreed to join an international treaty to lower the levels of mercury worldwide.

Once we changed that policy and committed our support, other countries like China and India came to the table. They were perfectly willing to follow our lead, but completely unwilling to act without us.

That is the power we have to make a difference, to be the standard-bearer and have a truly global impact.

This is a transitional moment for environmental protection – for the work that you do every single day. And that is happening here and all round the world.

What we do now is going to set the course for generations to come.

Most of the climate debate today is focused on where we'll be in 2050 – about 40 years from now.

This year, the EPA enters its 40th year, so we're exactly halfway to that point as an agency. How do we make sure we're in front of the environmental challenges of the next 40 years?

I want all of you to be asking yourselves and your colleagues not only, “What are our immediate challenges?” but, “What should we be looking at long-term? How do we respond and make sure we're not always reacting?”

EPA’s strength has always been our ability to adapt to the constantly changing face of environmental protection as our economy and society evolve and science teaches us more about how humans interact with and affect the natural world.

Now, more than ever, EPA must be innovative and forward looking because the environmental challenges faced by Americans all across our country are unprecedented.

These challenges are indeed immense in scale and urgency. But they will be met.

We have the support. We have the moment we need. Let’s make the most of it.

Thank you very much.