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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Earth Day Community Cleanup, As Prepared

04/18/2009
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you all for coming out today – especially those of you who have travelled a long way to be here.

Since January, EPA has been hard at work to protect human health in the environment.

We’ve been taking action to get pollution and toxic chemicals out of our air, land, and water.

We’ve been investing in communities across the nation to create new green jobs, and help keep the environment clean and safe for everyone.

And we’ve been making sure that our work on environmental protection is squarely focused on getting us some environmental justice.

In too many places in this country, the burdens of pollution and environmental degradation fall disproportionately on low-income and minority communities – and most often, on the children in those communities.

It means that people get sick. It means that businesses won’t set up shop in those neighborhoods. And it sends the absolute wrong message that these people and these neighborhoods aren’t as valuable as some other neighborhoods.

We won’t stand by and accept the disparities any longer. I see it as part of my mission to show all Americans that this EPA works for them.

EPA is back on the job – and working to protect human health and the environment in every community.

But the simple fact is, we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Earlier this week I was in New Bedford, Massachusetts where I met with a group of environmental activists from the community.

One of the people there was a man named Buddy. Buddy was an older African-American man that has been active on environmental justice issues for his community.

When I got there, they told me about Buddy. He was well known – and got that way by being a strong and demanding advocate.

And he was. He came to the meeting with his remarks prepared and letters from people he knew and charts and figures to make his point. And he brought his expectations, too.

He stood up and he told us about his community – which he loved and was proud of. But which needed some attention.

When the meeting was over I walked over to two people who had attended but not spoken. I asked them why they had stayed quiet the whole time. One of them was on older woman. Without blinking she looked up at me and said, “Buddy speaks for us.”

It made me realize just how valuable Buddy is. And how much we need him in communities all across America, doing the great work that he does.

It’s not always an older African American man. It’s not always a long-time resident of the community. Sometimes “Buddy” is a young student. Sometimes “Buddy” is a parent concerned about the health of her children. Sometimes “Buddy” comes from the church. Sometimes, from the chamber of commerce.

But our communities suffer when they don’t have someone like Buddy to speak for them.

To protect the planet, we need engaged and active citizens to protect the environment in our communities – especially in the places where the challenges seem the greatest.

It’s through the action of people like Buddy – who see a problem and decide to make a difference – that we are going to protect and preserve our environment for generations to come.

The commitment to environmental action we see here is something we want in every community, during Earth Month and every month of the year.

I’m happy to be working with all of you, and thank you so much for being here today to help this community and our planet.