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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Johnson, New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, Los Angeles, C.A.

02/09/2007
Thank you, Wayne (Nastri), for that introduction.

It’s a pleasure to be here to speak at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference.

I would like to thank the great city of Los Angeles for being our host … and the Local Government Commission for organizing today’s event.

I would also like to thank all the cosponsors of this conference. It is a long list – and always growing – and it illustrates the broad commitment and collaborative nature that is necessary to responsibly build toward a healthier, brighter future.

Over my 26 years as a public servant, I’ve witnessed what can be achieved when partners come together to address our nation’s environmental challenges. And today, we see those amazing results all around us. Our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected than just a generation ago.

As we move forward and advance environmental ethics like smart growth, together we are not only building on our nation’s environmental accomplishments, we are creating a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Part of this legacy is our work to shift America into a “green” culture.

Today, instead of having only 17,000 EPA employees working to protect the environment, we now have over 300 million Americans as environmental partners. Americans from all sectors of society – communities, businesses and individuals – have begun to embrace the fact that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility … not just the responsibility of EPA.

At my Agency, we continue to do our part. By focusing on cooperation over conflict … education over regulation … and by equipping this growing army of environmental stewards with the tools they need to meet today’s environmental challenges, EPA is helping America shift into this green culture.

For most of our Agency’s history – now well into our fourth decade – we have focused on regulatory approaches to improve the environment. This has created solid, yet increasingly incremental gains in environmental protection.

However, we all know that the environmental challenges of the 21stt Century – such as polluted runoff from streets and farms, and loss of habitat and biodiversity – cannot be addressed by federal regulations alone. That is why EPA is committed to working in collaboration with our state and local partners to hand down to the next generation a healthier, safer, more prosperous world.

I believe the escalating interest in smart growth is part of this shift into this greener culture. And I look forward to working with you to help America’s communities responsibly build toward a healthier, brighter future.

This is especially important when you consider how fast the U.S. is growing. The 2000 census showed that the population increase between 1990 and 2000 was the largest in U.S. history. And we’re not slowing down. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050 our population will reach 420 million.

Clearly, we need smart strategies for managing that kind of growth. We know that how we develop our cities, towns, and transportation systems today will have an impact on the environment tomorrow.

When I think about the environmental challenges our nation faces, I am struck by how many of them are related to growth and development. The quality of our air, water, and land all are linked to how and where we grow.

Take air quality. Development patterns shape how people get around, which affects the quality of our air.

Or take energy use. We now understand how much our development patterns affect our energy use. As President Bush noted in his State of the Union address last month, we are too dependent on foreign oil. In order to jump off this treadmill of dependency, the President set a goal of reducing gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. Renewable energy and innovative technologies are important factors in meeting that ambitious goal. And so are smart growth strategies. By providing people smart transportation choices, they are able to drive less, save money, and help reduce our nation's consumption of oil.

President Bush and EPA see smart growth as smart for our environment, smart for our economy and smart for our quality-of-life. And I’m committed to supporting communities like you that want to provide their residents the environmental, economic, and social benefits smart growth can bring.

I’d like to highlight some of the ways EPA is working with California communities to responsibly build toward a healthier, brighter future.

Take the city of Sacramento. In light of tremendous population growth and increased traffic congestion, concerned citizens gathered to discuss what the region should look like in the future. The outcome was an innovative plan that promotes compact, mixed-use development and offers more transit choices – a plan that Sacramento’s residents can rely on for the next 50 years.

The Sacramento example has led communities throughout California to adopt similar smart growth programs. In rapidly developing areas like the San Joaquin Valley, they’ve adopted smart growth strategies to help reach their goals of increasing economic progress, while sustaining the valley’s agricultural heritage and natural environment.

Smart growth is a delicate balance. But it’s encouraging to see so many people here at this conference who understand that the quality of the environment has a lot to do with your residents’ quality-of-life.

At EPA, we are accelerating America’s shift to a green culture by reviewing our own rules and policies. We want to be sure we are increasing access to smarter development, and we also want to recognize the environmental benefits of smart growth approaches.

Across the country, EPA is working with communities to responsibly build toward a healthier, brighter future.

We’ve documented some of these success stories in our new publication, “This Is Smart Growth.” The booklet is full of inspiring examples of how communities, perhaps like your own, who realized that the quality of their environment has a lot to do with their residents’ quality-of-life.

The need for good models has never been greater. As America shifts into the green culture, our citizens have shown a desire for better, smarter growth and development in their communities. Residents want the jobs, tax base, revitalization, and opportunities that growth can bring. But, they want it without the increased traffic congestion, the environmental impacts and the loss of green space.

When I think about smart growth, I’m reminded of a famous speech by President Teddy Roosevelt. In it he said that, “Conservation means development as much as it means protection.” Throughout his life, Roosevelt preached the moral value of conservation – to not waste the natural riches this great nation is blessed to have – to not rob the next generation of these resources. But he also recognized that in order to pass down the prosperity we have all enjoyed, we cannot just stop progress. We cannot halt growth. President Roosevelt believed we have a moral duty to both protect our resources while responsibly developing our future.

I’m pleased that communities are turning to smart growth in order to pass down the healthier, brighter future Roosevelt envisioned.

While EPA has no interest in regulating development, we want to encourage communities to achieve their responsible development goals. Through EPA’s smart growth program, we have identified a constructive, collaborative role for the federal government – a commitment to removing unintended obstacles and providing communities with new tools and resources.

That is why I am here today. I know there is no better place than this national gathering to share smart growth successes and learn about smart growth needs and challenges. EPA is committed to helping communities improve the quality of development, while achieving important environmental goals like reducing air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, preserving natural lands, and reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

Once again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to address this conference.

President Bush and EPA see smart growth as smart for our environment, smart for our economy and smart for our quality-of-life. Together, with our community partners, America can responsibly build toward that healthier, brighter future.

Thank you, and I hope you have a great conference.