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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at a National Press Club Forum with the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, As Prepared

10/21/2010
As prepared for delivery.

I want to say how excited I am to be here representing EPA and all the good people working as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

It’s a testament to the leadership of this administration that – in very tough times, when it would have been easy to tell EPA to sit back and wait – we were instead mobilized to do things that we know will benefit local economies and create good, green jobs. EPA is very proud to be part of the solution in these tough times for so many American communities. And we’re very proud of what this Partnership with HUD and DOT has accomplished in just a short time.

This collaboration is one of the creative steps this administration has taken to accelerate job growth and rebuild the foundations for prosperity – and at first blush it is a very novel idea. As I understand it, this is the first time that HUD and DOT have made sustainability an agency-wide priority. I commend Secretaries LaHood and Donovan on the excellent work they and their agencies have done to integrate that into the work they do each day. But this seemingly novel initiative really does a very simple thing: it brings our efforts into one place. Our resources can have more impact, and the expertise that each agency brings to the table can be combined to meet the housing, transportation and environmental needs that are essential to the success of any community. These are commonsense changes – and we believe they are going to deliver exceptional results.

As one part of this collaboration, we’re working with HUD and DOT to clean up and reuse brownfields sites, eliminating health and environmental threats and restoring those lands to productive use. Last week, Secretary Donovan joined EPA to announce $4 million in grants for the development of area-wide re-use plans at brownfields sites across the country. Because of the success of the Brownfields program, we’ve found that those grants tend to act a sort of “seal of approval” for these projects. Where EPA’s investment typically totals $175,000 or $200,000, they are often able to leverage additional millions of dollars for expanding redevelopment projects. Those projects almost always include the transportation and housing investments my colleagues here oversee. I feel confident that the involvement of additional federal agencies through this Partnership serves to strengthen the “seal of approval,” and could help bring even more partners to the table.

This week EPA also announced the 2010 recipients of our Smart Growth Implementation Assistance. That program is helping communities across the country find the best tools and resources to grow in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable. These projects span the range from rural and suburban communities to cities. One of the recipients is the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), the regional planning agency for the cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural communities here in the DC area. EPA along with HUD and DOT will work with MWCOG to assess climate change risks to the DC region, identify smart growth strategies that could improve the region's adaptability – and share that knowledge with local decision makers. It’s just one example of a project that not only makes a difference locally, but also builds the knowledge we need to address challenges in communities across the country.

I am also happy that our partners at HUD and DOT have helped make environmental justice a priority of our Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In too many places across the country, poor and minority communities are suffering disproportionately from the impacts of pollution and environmental degradation. These are the places where we see – in the starkest possible terms – that environmental problems are also economic problems. Poison in the ground means poison in the economy. A weak environment means a weak consumer base. And unhealthy air means an unhealthy atmosphere for investments. But a clean, green healthy community is a better place to buy a home and raise a family, it’s more competitive in the race to attract new businesses, and it has the foundations it needs for prosperity. And it’s even better when the housing and transportation pieces of the puzzle are in place as well. Through this Partnership, we have been able to coordinate one of EPA’s Environmental Justice Showcase Community Pilots with HUD’s Sustainable Communities Signature Projects in Jacksonville, Florida. By moving on both of those fronts, we expect to see some very positive results and learn how we continue those results in the future.

Ultimately, this Partnership for Sustainable Communities makes clear that the Obama administration is using every tool at our disposal to rebuild the foundation for prosperity and create new opportunities for lasting economic growth. We formed this partnership to target our resources where they will have a complementary and expanding impact, and combine our expertise to make the best decisions. That is already helping to create healthier, more sustainable communities, and opening up better opportunities to attract new jobs and investments. I look forward to continuing that work. Thank you very much.