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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Brownfields '99 Conference- Dallas, Texas

12/06/1999
Remarks Prepared for Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Brownfields '99 Conference
                         Dallas, Texas
                        December 6, 1999

     Good afternoon. I want to thank Mayor Kirk for that introduction. It is a pleasure to be in Dallas.
     The Mayor and I just visited one of his brownfield sites. Wow! A new sports arena literally rising up out of a brownfield. Congratulations to the Mayor and all the people of Dallas.
     Let me also welcome the many mayors who have taken the time to be here today. Thank you all for coming.
     I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge Tim Fields and commend his 27 years with EPA. One of my greatest honors was to recommend to the President his appointment as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
     We're gathered here at an exciting time. A new millennium is just over the horizon. And with the new age comes new challenges.
     But it also gives us a chance to look back and see where we came from.
     EPA was born almost 30 ago years when rivers caught fire and dark, yellow smoke from industrial pollution was choking our cities. The public demanded action and the progress we have made since our founding is remarkable.
     Our air and waters are dramatically cleaner and this administration has proposed new initiatives that will make them cleaner still.
     The Food Quality Protection Act -- proposed and signed by President Clinton -- is helping to protect our families, especially our vulnerable children, from pesticides in the foods we eat.
     To ensure that our families have healthy, clean tap water, the President proposed and signed into law legislation strengthening the Safe Drinking Water Act.
     And we are improving the public's right to know about their environment. Already we have doubled the number of chemicals that must be reported under the Toxic Release Inventory -- and increased by 30 percent the number of facilities that have to report.
     The EPA web site now receives 52 million visits a month. When people become informed and involved they can take charge of safeguarding their environment.
     This Administration has clearly demonstrated that we can have both a thriving economy and a healthy environment. One does not come -- must not come -- at the expense of the other. These are national needs that work in concert, not conflict.
     This Administration has pledged to continue its leadership by proposing innovative ways to spur job creation, revitalize our inner cities and suburban areas, and still protect our vast open spaces and every American's right to clean water and clear skies.
     And reclaiming and revitalizing Brownfields is a huge component in all these things.
     Why is this so important? Let's just look at the numbers.
     According to the American Farmland Trust, more than 30 million acres of farmland have been lost since 1970. Thirty million acres! That's like bulldozing a state the size of Pennsylvania.
     This loss of land has environmental consequences. Consider this: A one acre parking lot generates 16 times more runoff than a meadow. This runoff washes toxic chemicals and other pollutants into our waters, lakes and coastal areas, making them unfit for the wildlife that depend on them and unsafe for the families who want to enjoy them.
     But while that land was being swallowed up, hundreds of thousands of acres of brownfields sat idle, according to a report by The U.S. Conference of Mayors. It was estimated that developing that land could bring in almost $1 billion to nearly $3 billion in tax revenue annually, create nearly 700,000 new jobs and take some of the development pressure off of our forests and farms.
     In May 1997, the Vice President announced the Brownfields National Partnership Action Agenda, which offered our communities both financial commitments and technical advice from more than 25 Federal agencies and partners.
     Today we are releasing the Brownfields National Partnership Action Agenda Accomplishments Report, which shows how far we have come in a relatively short time. So far, local communities have been provided with more than $385 million for brownfields redevelopment, with another $141 million in loan guarantees.
     As part of the Action Agenda, 16 Brownfields Showcase Communities were selected to serve as models of what can happen when all levels of government   working in partnership with business and community leaders   can accomplish when they focus their efforts.
     Dallas -- one of those showcase communities -- has received more than $1.9 million in financial and technical support from EPA and other agencies. It has been money well spent. That money helped attract another $109 million in private investment. In fact, just before coming here today, Mayor Kirk and I toured a former brownfield site where an arena is now being built.
     I see that kind of progress everywhere I go. Another model city   Stamford, Connecticut -- this fall became the first city in the nation to issue a development loan from EPA's Brownfield revolving loan program as part of its goal to redevelop and revitalize its waterfront area. Since then Las Vegas has made a loan, Stamford is preparing to make another one and more are in the works.
     So much work in progress and all going in the right direction, according to a study released in October by the Council for Urban and Economic Development. That study reviewed 107 completed brownfield sites from around the country.
     And the numbers are astounding.
     For every dollar the federal, state and local governments put into revitalizing brownfields, almost $2.50 in private investment was attracted.
     More than 8,300 construction jobs were created. Once the work was done, another 22,000 jobs were either created or retained.
     And where is much of this happening? In areas that need it the most -- lower income and minority neighborhoods.
     Today I am happy to announce that this Administration will continue to build on our Brownfields successes.
     Specifically, 10 new Showcase Communities will be awarded through a competitive process that will begin in the year 2000.
     We will add 50 new Brownfield demonstration pilots and give further funding to 50 of the existing pilots to create parks, trails, gardens and habitat restoration.
     We will also expand the Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund program by adding 60 new projects this fiscal year.
     Last summer, President Clinton toured some of our most struggling urban communities to announce his New Markets Initiative.  This Initiative -- with its combination of grants, loans, and tax incentives -- can help restore these communities by encouraging business to invest in these areas and create the kind of jobs, commerce and attractions that are the anchors of a rich civic life.
     We want to ensure that every family in every community has the chance to share in our nation's new prosperity.
     The President and the Vice President have also proposed a program called Better America Bonds that would allow states and local governments to issue nearly $10 billion in bonds they could use to clean up brownfields, preserve open space, protect water quality -- or all those things together.
     And we will continue to fight for Brownfield's legislation.
     I have personally spent more time on comprehensive Superfund reform legislation than any other environmental legislation during my tenure at EPA. But you know what? It's time to admit that comprehensive legislation is not going to happen.
     So why not take we can all agree to   Brownfields legislation   and get that passed.
      However, we need to pass a Brownfields bill next year. We should simply take the best parts of the existing Brownfields bills -- the Dingell bill in the House and the Lautenberg bill in the Senate, and the proposal by the National Association of Homebuilders   and pass legislation.
     In many ways, passing Brownfields legislation may well be the most important thing we can do to dramatically expand the brownfields cleanup and redevelopment we all believe in.
     While community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, we all continue our good work to cleanup and redevelop brownfields, we at EPA are also continuing our important work on national programs and efforts to protect our communities, our health and our environment.
     Most important in those efforts are our current proposals to dramatically lower the air pollution caused by cars, SUVs and big trucks.
     In 10 to 12 years we will overtake all the gains we have made in reducing tailpipe pollution over the past 30 years.
     To address this clean air problem, this Administration has proposed a three-part strategy. And when completed this will mean new pollution requirements for cars and SUVS, gasoline, diesel engines and diesel fuel.
     In an effort we will complete by the end of the year, we are proposing to hold sport utility vehicles and light-duty trucks to the same national tailpipe pollution standard as cars.
     Second, for the first time ever we are treating tailpipe emissions and gasoline as a single system. Not only will manufacturers build cleaner cars but refiners will be producing cleaner fuels that contain less sulfur.
     In developing these proposals, we worked with the refining and the automotive industries, the states, environmental groups and public health experts.
     When these proposals are fully implemented, Americans will still be able to drive as much as they like in the vehicle of their choice.
     But we'll also have cut air pollution from cars and trucks by 80 percent of what they are today. Eighty percent! That's like eliminating the pollution of 166 million cars.
     Is this an ambitious agenda? You bet! But it's what our families   our communities   deserve. And it's the leadership the rest of the world has come to expect from us.
     The new millennium is now just 25 days away. But we are already writing its history.
     We have at hand the chance to put in place the tools that will make our communities thrive and our families prosper, while still preserving our forests and open spaces and providing clean air and pure water.
     By doing this we can create a future where our great natural wonders are still standing and still inspiring the awe they did in all the generations past.
     I thank you all for joining us.