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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Clean Air Excellence Awards, Washington, D.C.

03/20/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Clean Air Excellence Awards
Washington, D.C.

March 20, 2003


Thank you Jeff (Holmstead) for that introduction.

I want to welcome all of you to EPA = s third annual Clean Air Excellence Awards ceremony. It = s an honor to be here tonight to recognize the important work both individuals and organizations are doing to improve the quality of our 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 still 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more often than not, we are finding that the tools which served us well in the past are becoming inefficient and outdated.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 a classic 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 best way to achieve environmental progress.

Indeed, 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.

The success of policies such as the Acid Rain program are proving what this Administration believes B that it is time to move beyond command and control and to embrace new and innovative policy.

That is why President Bush has introduced the landmark Clear Skies Act of 2002. His Clear Skies Act 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 command and control toward using the power of the market to achieve results. 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 our Clear Skies Act than what the current Clean Air Act would achieve is that time frame.

What this means is cleaner air to breathe for all Americans B preventing asthma attacks in children, other respiratory ailments in adults, and saving lives. Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people. It will improve our air, protect public health, and increase energy security.

Our environment isn= t static, so our policy shouldn = t be either. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to move against the status quo B to take a risk on a new idea, invest in a new invention. That = s why the winners we honor tonight are so important to our environmental success.

As has so often been the case in the past, environmental progress is driven from the bottom- up. EPA itself came into existence as the result of strong grassroots efforts. Over the years, that's remained true; the federal government depends on states, localities, organizations, and citizens as a proving ground for innovation.

This awards program helps us identify the best examples of creative programs and projects that can be used by other states, tribes, cities, and individuals to help make our air cleaner. The 21 winners represent a broad range of programs and activities.

From educating the public about reducing the emissions of lawn equipment to educating teens about inexpensive transportation choices that reduce air pollution to promoting bicycling as an alternative transportation method, all of our honorees have provided a foundation of programs that we at EPA can build upon.

Your hard work, sacrifice, and leadership have set a strong example for future clean air efforts, and we look forward to continuing to work with you in support of our shared goal to reduce air pollution and provide clean, healthy air for all Americans.

Before closing, I also want to recognize the winner of this year = s Thomas W. Zosel Outstanding Individual Achievement Award B John Elston. John served as my Administrator of Air Quality when I was Governor of New Jersey, so I am especially pleased that he has won this well- deserved award. With 33 years of service, working to reduce air pollution in New Jersey and around the country, he has built a lasting legacy of environmental leadership and I congratulate him on this award.

I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the work of our agency and for taking action to improve America = s environment and provide cleaner air for future generations.

Thank you and Congratulations.