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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

EPA Science Forum, Washington, D.C.

05/01/2002
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman

Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

at the

EPA Science Forum

Washington, DC

May 1, 2002


Thank you for that introduction. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. My sincere appreciation to Paul (Gilman) and everyone who worked so hard to make this event such a huge success.

For the first time in more than 30 years, this Forum brings together EPA = s scientific community and our partners to showcase the broad spectrum of cutting-edge research currently underway at EPA.

Science has long played a vital role in improving America = s environment B from targeting priority chemical concerns, to better identifying sources of pollution, to designing strategies to control it. Yet we are embarking on a new era at EPA B one where our commitment to the quality and relevance of science is greater than ever before.

Sound science is the foundation of EPA = s work. We rely upon science and technology to help us determine which environmental problems pose important risks to our natural environment, human health, and our quality of life. Throughout EPA = s history, our greatest successes have occurred when policies, regulations, and decisions are based on the results of sound and relevant scientific research.

I firmly believe the credibility of our decisions depends on the science underlying them. The quality of the science behind those decisions largely determines how well environmental programs actually work B whether they achieve our health and environmental goals.

Last year, I asked a group of senior EPA mangers to examine the process by which we develop regulations and recommend ways to improve it. After an extensive evaluation process, the group found that the existing system for writing regulations is basically sound.

They did, however, provide me with a number of recommendations for improvement that I have endorsed. These actions range from steps to revitalize our procedures, to developing an inventory of regulatory actions, to changes in several organizations B including the Office of Research and Development and the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation.

These actions will reinvigorate EPA = s regulatory process, enhance the quality of our decisions, and lead to more effective and sustainable environmental protection.

In addition to the recommendations for improving EPA = s regulations, there are many aspects of EPA = s ongoing research program that highlight our commitment to scientific excellence. I would like to briefly touch upon a few here.

We are steering our research program in new directions that encourage cutting-edge scientific innovations, such as computational toxicology. In layman= s terms, this method uses computer models to evaluate the effects of substances on the human body. It has the potential to greatly reduce the world = s reliance on animal testing and to provide quicker feedback on the possible effects of harmful substances.

Our rigorous peer review process validates and strengthens our ability to identify the most critical issues and develop innovative and scientifically sound solutions. Peer review helps us ensure that science used by EPA is sound from its conception, through implementation, to evaluation. This is a key step in our process toward sound decision-making.

EPA = s dedication to innovation in research extends to our administrative areas as well. The development of a proposal to make EPA research salaries and positions more competitive with the private sector is but one example. Our strong support of the new Post-Doctoral program is another means by which we attract future leaders in the fields of science and engineering.

Finally, EPA = s significant and enthusiastic support of academic research, particularly through our Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program, makes us an important partner and leader in developing new solutions to the Nation = s complex environmental problems.

As a result of these efforts, you will see improvements across the board in the science and economics that support our regulations. It is absolutely essential that EPA managers have the best possible scientific and economic information to consider when making decisions. Only a strong commitment to science can define the environmental challenges of the future and determine the best methods to address these challenges.

This is especially true today, as we are working on far more complex environmental problems than we did 20 or 30 years ago. Today, the definitions of environmental problems are often far less certain, possible solutions are more difficult to identify, and the costs of dealing with them are likely to be much greater.

To make decisions based on sound science, policymakers need information that reflects the latest findings in high quality research and analyses, usually spanning a variety of scientific disciplines. This information must be presented in a form that non-scientists, or even the EPA Administrator, can understand and use correctly.

Communicating the results of our work in a clear manner will lead to a better understanding of environmental risks and how best to manage those risks. As citizens become better acquainted with the scientific basis for EPA = s actions, they can make more informed decisions concerning the environment, their health, and the health of their families.

EPA = s mission touches many facets of the lives of the American people, from the cars we drive and the food we eat, to the water we drink and the air we breathe. But while our mission is complex, my goal for my tenure at EPA is simple. When I leave office, I want to be able to say that America = s air is cleaner, its water is purer, and its land better protected than it was when I arrived.

As we seek to achieve this goal, EPA needs to be accountable for our stewardship. We are in the process of developing EPA = s first-ever State of the Environment Report , which is targeted for release this fall.

This report will use measurable indicators to describe the state of the Nation = s environment and impacts on ecological and human health. It is our responsibility to manage and be held accountable for improved environmental results B it is an issue not only of public trust, but of the future health of our global environment. In a few minutes, Kim Nelson, from our Office of Environmental Information, will provide you with more details about this exciting new approach to environmental protection at the EPA.

In addition to Kim = s presentation, the Forum = s agenda includes plenary sessions on such issues as susceptible populations, safe water, and air quality. These panels will present interesting discussions of the complex challenges we face from the research, regulatory, and policy perspectives. I also encourage you to visit our exhibits where you will find some of the Agency= s top scientists and engineers eager to engage you in conversation.

And finally, please take a moment during the day to stop by our Children = s Science Room to pick up some educational B and entertaining B items for the younger members of your family. I hear the Science Magic Show that is being presented by our National Environmental Investigations Center is not to be missed! In fact, I = m on my way there now.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy your next two days with us.