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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National Audubon Society Convention

06/10/1996
                         Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Audubon Society Convention

                      Prepared for Delivery
                         June 10, 1996


I want to thank John Flicker for the opportunity to join you here tonight. What a wonderful person you have in John. I can
think of no finer person to head this distinguished organization. All of us in this country owe a debt to the Audubon Societies
for your commitment, your hard work, and for the passion you bring to what you do.


I am especially glad to be able to address you now -- at 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 made a great deal of
progress -- progress of which we can all be proud. We no longer have rivers catching on fire. Our skies are cleaner.


When President Clinton and I came to Washington, we called on environmental leaders, on business leaders, on citizens
across this country, to help continue that progress. And today, real people in real communities are reaping the benefits of
what we have done together.


In the Clinton Administration's new generation of environmental protection, protecting our environment means protecting
public health. It means protecting where we live and how we live. It means providing Americans with real everyday benefits
-- fresh air to breathe, safe water to drink, land that is safe to live on.


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


Today, thanks to tough enforcement of the Clean Air Act, 50 million Americans in 55 cities are breathing cleaner air.

We put in place new standards to protect the public from incinerator emissions; new standards to cut toxic air pollution from
chemical plants by 90


In three years, we cleaned up more toxic waste sites than had been cleaned up in the previous 12 years.

We accelerated the cleanup of urban properties that have long lain contaminated or abandoned -- returning them to
productive use, creating jobs, creating hope. By redeveloping our urban areas, we also protect the pristine green areas
outside our cities.


We expanded the public's right to know about toxic chemicals in their communities, nearly doubling the number of chemicals
that industry must report to the public.


And we have taken aggressive action to ensure the preservation of our nation's wetlands -- from rejection of the
Congressional effort to deny EPA its veto authority, to enforcement of the Clean Water Act wetlands protections. What
more important resource is there than our wetlands -- crucial to the diversity of the species, the plants and animals, crucial as
a natural system for filtering pollution out of our water, for keeping wildlife healthy and our homes safe from erosion and
flooding.


We proposed the first-ever comprehensive federal action plan to restore the Everglades. A plan which will allow us to save
the heart of the Everglades -- to see it once again pulse with water.


Two weeks ago, EPA announced a settlement in the Iroquois Pipeline case -- where a natural gas distribution company
allowed contamination to damage 30 wetlands and streams in New York State -- we collected one of the largest
environmental penalties in history -- second only to the penalty in the Exxon Valdez case -- $22 million in criminal and civil
fines.


Some of you may remember a very famous exercise of our veto authority. Last week, in the Two Forks case, a federal court
upheld EPA's action to block the construction of a dam in Colorado, that would have destroyed one of the West's most
valuable trout fisheries and recreation areas. The judge recognized we were right to exercise our veto authority to preserve
the biological integrity of the system and the experience of a free-flowing river. Now that valuable treasure will be saved.


The Clinton Administration's progress in protecting our wetlands, in protecting public health and our environment -- all of this
progress has been made in the face of a severe Congressional assault on environmental protection -- the most severe in 25
years.


Last year, the House of Representatives passed an extreme rewrite of the Clean Water Act -- a bill that would have
systematically weakened each and every one of the tools we have used to clean up our water over the past two decades.


Their bill would have increased the amount of sewage and toxic waste pouring into our rivers and streams. It would have
provided more protection to wealthy polluters than to Americans who want clean, safe water to drink, fish from, swim in,
boat on, or live near. And it would have allowed the loss of over half of this nation's wetlands.


As you who worked with us on this issue know, the Congressional leadership's budget also contained a measure targeting
EPA's authority to protect wetlands.


In the battle over the budget, in the battle over the Clean Water Act, the President stood firm for public health and
environmental protection. He promised to use his veto pen, and he did. He stopped the rollback of the Clean Water Act. He
rejected the EPA budget and the rollback of wetlands protection put forward by the Congressional leadership.


As a result of the President's leadership, vital protections are in place and will remain in place.

Now, President Clinton has called on all Americans to come together, to meet America's challenge on the environment, to
restore the bipartisan commitment to the environment that served this nation so well for the past generation.


The price of a clean, safe environment is that we must always be vigilant.

And much remains to be done. With all the progress we've made, we have not finished the job.

One American in three still lives in an area where the air is too polluted to meet federal health standards.

One American in four still lives near a toxic waste dump.

More than 45 million Americans are served by drinking water systems that violated public health standards in the past two
years.


Each year, thousands of beaches are closed because of contamination. Signs are posted on the banks of our rivers, lakes and
streams -- warning that children and other vulnerable groups should limit the amount of fish they eat from those waters.


And while the Congressional leadership's rhetoric may have changed, the reality has not. We have not yet seen what
Congress will do this year about Superfund, about safe drinking water, about clean water, about wetlands.


At a Congressional hearing last week, Senator Kit Bond indicated his intention once again to pursue limiting EPA's authority
to reject permits which would destroy wetlands. Why deny this authority to the agency whose job it is to protect water
quality in this country? Why force us to do our job with our hands tied behind our back?


If there is one message I want to convey to you today, it is that your work is more important than ever -- because the
American people continue to want strong, effective public health and environmental protection.


The environmental issues of today are vitally important for people who catch fish from the rivers. People who want to breathe
clean air. People who want to send their kids outside to play in a safe back yard. People who want safe, clean water coming
out of their tap. And people who like to tramp through fields at the crack of dawn looking for birds.


Thank you for the opportunity to be here and for all that you do. It does make a tremendous difference.

Let us continue work together to protect our health, the air, the water, and the land we all must share -- so that all of us, our
children, and our grandchildren can enjoy a safe, secure, and healthy future.


Thank you.