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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Governors’ Institute Sustainable Communities Summit, As Prepared

10/27/2009
As prepared for delivery.

It is great to be back among my fellow state environmental officials. As you all know, I spent more than 20 years working on environmental issues at the regional and state level. That was a great education for the role I’m in today.

I’ve seen how what we do touches people’s lives – and I know what’s possible when we step up and work together. And it is truly time for all of us to step up. For too long, states, cities and towns concerned about environmental degradation, clean energy and climate change have had to go it alone – typically without federal partnership, and sometimes with aggressive federal opposition.

I know from my time as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection exactly how challenging it has been. But I also know that it sparked incredible creativity and leadership. While many federal efforts lagged, states were out front on energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, transportation innovation, sustainability and so much more.

These first few months at EPA have often felt like we’re just catching up with the leadership states have already shown.

You’ve been our national laboratories.

Today, we’re taking the experiments that worked and using them to serve the entire country.

For example – not long ago I visited the White House with the Secretary of Transportation. Together, we signed a proposal setting new fuel economy standards and taking the first ever national action to significantly control greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

The proposed 35.5 MPG in 2016 would reduce oil consumption by an estimated 1.8 billion barrels, prevent greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 950 million metric tons – the equivalent of about 42 million cars – and save consumers more than $3000 in fuel costs.

It’s win-win-win: for our health, for our environment, and for our economy.

And that breakthrough had its roots in the California waiver, which President Obama directed EPA to reconsider almost as soon as we stepped into office.

I remember signing on to the states’ lawsuit as Commissioner of the DEP in New Jersey back in 2007. Two years later, as EPA Administrator, I was proud to be able to bring the California waiver back to life.

Speaking of California, I recently spoke at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, where I announced a set of core principles to reform the way we manage chemicals in the United States.

The public is understandably anxious and confused about chemicals that are ubiquitous in our economy and products – as well as our environment and our bodies. We are stepping up to provide them with assurance.

Our core principles will guide action that is already taking place in Congress to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.

And one of the forces driving that reform is the action taken by individual states.

We plan to take the momentum that has been building in the states and turn it into an effective national law on chemical management.

We’ve also taken aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases throughout our economy.

We finalized a rule to require our nation’s largest facilities to report their emissions, allowing us to more accurately track almost 85 percent of all US greenhouse gases.

That will only require a small percentage of facilities – about 10,000 out of tens of millions of American businesses – to report.

We also announced a proposed rule to begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse sources.

Under the rule, large facilities would be required to adopt the best, most efficient technologies available when they’re constructed or upgraded.

This is a common-sense measure, tailored to emitters of more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and it would help significantly reduce greenhouse gases from sectors that account for nearly 70 percent of non-vehicle emissions.

Along with emissions cuts, it will accelerate the use of innovative, efficient, clean technologies across the entire economy.

In short, we can do what the Clean Air Act does best – reduce emissions for better health, drive technology innovation for a better economy, and protect the environment for a better future – all without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the better part of our economy.

I announced that rule at Governor Schwarzenegger’s Global Climate Summit, where I was also joined by Harrison Ford – which was very exciting.

If you had told me when I started at EPA – which was back in 1987 – that I would end up here, I'm not sure what would have surprised me more: that I would one day become Administrator of the EPA, or that as Administrator I would work with Han Solo and the Terminator.

I was worried that I would be the only one on stage without my own action figure.

Another exciting thing about the Governors’ Summit is how it brings together state and local efforts to confront a global climate challenge.

Initiatives like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Western Climate Initiative, the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, and the cap-and-trade system in Florida.

Later today, I will go before the Senate to testify on the need for strong clean energy and climate legislation.
We know that any effective bill is going to use the lessons learned from regional approaches.

This is change.

And for anyone concerned about the pace of change, let me say this: all of the things I just talked about have happened since September 1. Every single one of them.

We intend to keep this pace rolling. And to do that, we need you.

That is especially true when it comes to building sustainable communities.

This is by nature a state and local issue – but in this new Administration is has become a Federal priority. And that’s because we know how effective these communities can be.

Not long ago I visited a sustainable community in Denver that has put Smart Growth into practice for more than a decade.

The homes are only a short walk from the grocery store, the gym, the post office, the hardware store, or any one of a dozen restaurants.

Residents can hop on a bus or ride a bike and get downtown in minutes, and their kids walk to school. Transportation choices cut fuel consumption and keep harmful pollution out of the air.

They’re also using innovation and conservation, to make the most out of all their energy sources.

One of their markets has been certified as LEED Gold – one of the highest sustainability ratings for green buildings. Solar awnings on a fitness center help power the street lights.

And energy-efficiency keeps prices down. One resident said that his monthly utility bill for a 1,600 foot townhouse unit has yet to exceed $80. Even in the coldest months of the Denver winter.

I also learned that, in recent years, as the rest of the country felt the effects of the worst economic downturn in generations, this Smart Growth community continued to grow.

It has added new business in the last two years – some of the worst years we’ve had in recent memory.

This is the vision we have for all American communities. A vision of neighborhoods that are clean, healthy, environmentally responsible and economically resilient.

To help realize that vision, we’re coordinating the efforts of the Federal Agencies responsible for sustainability.

Earlier this year, EPA joined with the Departments of Transportation and Housing in a Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Our housing, transportation and environmental investments will be coordinated to meet the sustainability needs of local communities, and mobilize our resources for the maximum benefit.

But we also need unprecedented partnerships with the states. In fact, we’re seeing an important example of that today.

You may have seen in the news this morning that President Obama is announcing a $3.4 billion investment of Recovery Act funds for a nationwide Smart Grid.

These investments are expected to create tens of thousands of new job opportunities.

They will provide a significant leap forward in building the infrastructure needed to get America running on clean, low-cost energy.

And they will be an important part of creating sustainable, energy-efficient communities all over the country.

But it’s going to require broad coordination to get it right. The Smart Grid is going to modernize the nation’s electricity grid, enhance reliability, promote efficiency and allow for the integration of clean, renewable energy — all while helping consumers save money.

We have to make sure that we’re working together on this and other critical projects. And this is just one of the many opportunities we’re looking at in the years ahead.

We see the growing prospect for offshore wind farms in Massachusetts, and growing concerns about offshore drilling in Florida and Virginia.

We have a burgeoning clean energy industry taking root in states like Nevada, Texas, and Colorado. And we see concerns about rising energy costs in rust belt communities that rely on coal to power their homes and businesses.

We have a tremendous amount of political will emerging from the West coast. We have agricultural interests in rural areas who are eager to grow renewable fuel for the country, but concerned that EPA is going to force family farms to count every cow burp – which we are not, I should add.

All of these factors affect our decision making.

These are issues we must address as we take on national projects – like the creation of a smart-grid, or the formation of a national plan to reduce greenhouse gases and create clean energy jobs.

But let me assure you: whatever the challenges, we’re not going to hide behind them as an excuse for inaction.

This is an important moment. We’re facing the greatest economic downturn in generations, and at the same time, what may be the greatest environmental challenge of all time.

We have the talent and the technology to confront both challenges and emerge a stronger, better nation. It’s time for the Federal government to match the efforts that the states have been putting in for so many years. It’s time to take what you have taught us, and lead the way into a sustainable future as a nation. I look forward to working with you all. Thank you very much.