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Administrator Lisa Jackson, Remarks to Rachel’s Network, As Prepared

03/24/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I want to thank you all for inviting me. I’m honored that you have asked me to be here – and to join you in the midst of women’s history month.

I also want to thank you for forming this group, and carrying on the important legacy of Rachel Carson and so many other women over the years.

It’s comforting to know that I have this “good ol’ girls” network fighting for these issues.

You are part of a long line of women who have stood up to advance the important causes of conservation and public health.

Year after year, through the ongoing struggles for basic rights, respect, and equality, the women of this country have taken on more and more leadership in the great challenges of our time.

I don’t just mean the women who made it into the history books.

We owe more than we can say to mothers and grandmothers, female scientists and engineers, women business and education leaders and so many others who stood up to protect human health and the environment.

A great example of that – and something very dear to my heart as a native of New Orleans – came after Hurricane Katrina.

Some of the most vocal advocates for rebuilding and reform have been the women of the city. Especially women from the poorest neighborhoods, who lost everything in the storm and have had to struggle just to get a little recognition of their situation.

That is the kind of strength that cannot be underestimated.

In environmental protection, there is no doubt about the contributions of extraordinary, groundbreaking work of amazing women.

In the 1930s, Rosalie Edge took on the established notions of environmental conservation. Her work taught the nation on the importance of preservation and environmental protection.

She did that at a time when it was not expected that women would raise their voices on these issues.

It was by standing on the shoulders of women like Rosalie Edge that others like Sylvia Earle, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Jane Goodall were able to emerge as leading advocates for protecting public health and the environment.

And of course, Rachel Carson, who you honor with this coalition, was a transformative figure.

Silent Spring changed environmentalism forever. It launched the modern-day movement. It’s not a coincidence that her book was published in the early 60s, and by 1970 we had a federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Obviously, these women played an important role in my own life.

Some of you know that I started at the EPA a little over twenty years ago, working as a staff level engineer.

It was a time when you didn’t see very many women going to school in those fields and working in those roles. I was one of only two women in my graduating class at Princeton.

But I felt, as many women often do, a call to service, a call to issues of health, to using my technical degree to make a difference in the world around me.

At the EPA, I worked my way up the ranks. And in the time it took me to get from there to here, I witnessed first-hand the changes that took place and the doors that opened – not just to me but to all women.

It’s why I’m able to be with you here today. It’s why I have the chance to work with the many amazing women cabinet members and the growing number of women leading the way in Congress.

It’s easy to see that progress has been made. But we still have plenty of work to do.

We are meeting today at a crossroads in our country’s history.

As a nation, we face the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Every American is anxious about what that means – not just for their future but for the next generation as well.

I can reassure you that we are all working around the clock to get the economy moving again.

At the same time that we face this economic crisis, there isn’t a moment to lose in protecting the public health and confronting the rapid advance of climate change.

This is not an academic discussion anymore. We don’t have the luxury of a far-off day of reckoning.

The world’s leading scientists predict notable, if not drastic, changes within our lifetimes if we don’t get started right away.

Those changes pose very real threats to our economic stability. They jeopardize the public health. And they raise serious concerns about our national security.

For those reasons and more, we are embarking immediately on an aggressive environmental agenda.

The President has committed to double our clean energy use in the next three years. And we’ve set an ambitious goal of cutting more than 80% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

Now, let me say: I am a mother of two young boys. Any parents here know that makes me an active American consumer.

I also want my sons to go to college and get jobs when they get older.

So both the short- and long-term strength of the economy are not only professional, but personal concerns of mine.

I know what it’s like for people who are struggling to make ends meet, especially in these times.

The last thing EPA wants to do – and the last place we want to position the environmental movement or the climate change debate – is somehow standing in the way of the nation’s economic recovery.
Thankfully, we have in President Obama a leader who has denounced the false choice between a green economy and a green environment.

President Obama and many others have stood up to say that our economic future and our environmental future are inextricably linked. They, of course, are right.

When I was in New Jersey, I was fond of saying that every time I saw a plant with emissions controls, or a Superfund cleanup, those were good-paying jobs.

The same can be true all across the country. The way out of our economic challenges is through a clean energy transition, and the creation of millions of jobs in green sectors.

That is abundantly clear in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. One newspaper wrote that standing alone, the clean energy measures in the stimulus plan represented “the biggest energy bill in history.”

For EPA, the stimulus means an investment of more than $7 billion in “shovel ready” projects that protect human health and safeguard the environment.

New investments in water infrastructure, cleanup of Brownfield and Superfund sites, projects to cut emissions in diesel engines, and repairs to leaking underground storage tanks will be rolling out in the coming months.

They will bring with them new jobs and stronger protection of human health and the environment across the country.

Along with the ARRA, the President also proposed in his first budget the highest level of funding support that EPA has seen in our 39 year history.

Let’s be clear: this all means that we have the highest level of expectation that we have seen in our 39 year history.

Right now, we have greater opportunities to protect public health and the environment than any other time in the history of the EPA.

Today in the congress and throughout the nation, there is tremendous, bipartisan support for green jobs, smart growth, clean energy, and the long list of ideas and innovations that will grow the economy and improve our planet.

So when I’ve spoken to reporters, industry leaders, community members, or other stakeholders, I’ve tried to send a very clear, consistent message. It’s one of the messages that I’m here to give you, and that I hope you will join with me in carrying it.

And it’s that EPA is back on the job.

We are once again guided by an ambitious vision of public health protection and environmental preservation.

To bring that vision to life, we need your partnership and your leadership.

Today, we need new advocates striving to protect the health of their communities.

We have to energize new groups of people to preserve the environment and stop climate change.

We need to bring forward new leaders to save our planet.

In the same way you and I were inspired by the women who came before us, I hope that we can inspire the next generation to stand up and lend their voices to this movement.

We can strengthen environmental protection in every community and ensure that the work of Rachel Carson and so many other women lives on.

I’m look forward to working with all of you. Thank you again.