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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

05/01/2001
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

May 1, 2001



Thank you, Ken (Lawrence), for that introduction.

When I received your letter inviting me to speak to you this evening, I knew I wanted to be here. The reason is simple. Your organization has long-embraced what you call “A Unique Approach to Problem Solving: Partnerships.”

Since I began my work at the EPA 3 months ago, I have been on a nationwide search for partners - partners with whom the EPA can work in pursuit of shared goals - namely, preserving, protecting, and improving our environment for our families, and their futures.

During last year’s campaign, President Bush called for building new partnerships between the federal government and those it governs. He spoke clearly about environmental policy within the context of those new partnerships. He also made a point that environmental protection and economic prosperity can go hand in hand.

There are, of course, those who doubt our ability to make further environmental progress by building partnerships. They wonder if we can put aside old turf battles to come together on common ground. They believe a Washington-based command and control model is the only way to proceed.

I understand their perspective. After all, for the past 30 years, Washington has called the tune and everyone else danced to it - or else. And it is true, the results are impressive. Today our air is cleaner, our water purer, and our land better protected than it was 30 years ago.

But it is also true that our attitudes about the environment have changed as well. Environmental protection is no longer viewed as an unnecessary impediment to economic prosperity. Instead it is seen as a necessary component of economic growth. I believe we are ready in America to move from command and control to cooperation behind common goals.

It’s been more than 30 years since the EPA was founded. Over that time, our mission has remained constant: to preserve and protect the environment and the public health. But while our mission is the same, it’s time for the way we carry out that mission to change. It’s time for a new approach.

President Bush has made clear what he believes the role of the federal government in this new approach should be. Washington should use its authority to set high standards – tough standards – for environmental protection. We should use strong science and solid analysis to set standards that will result in cleaner air, purer water, and better protected land.
But then, once those standards are set, Washington must relax its grip over the ways in which those standards are met. We need to acknowledge that not all wisdom resides in Washington, D.C. We need to do more to encourage the development of new methods and technologies to meet the tough standards we set.

State and local governments, for example, are in the forefront of some of the most creative, innovative, and effective efforts to improve the condition of the environment in their local communities.

The restoration of brownfields in America’s communities is a prime example of this. The states have really taken the lead in rehabilitating these neighborhood eyesores into community assets. The federal government is only just catching up, and, in some cases, has even been slowing things up.

During the campaign last year, President Bush called for federal legislation that would remove federal roadblocks to brownfields redevelopment and would provide state and local governments with more tools and resources to help them meet the brownfields challenge in ways that made sense in their communities.

Last week, the Senate unanimously passed a landmark bill that reflects the President’s goals for brownfields reform. I am hopeful that the House will soon move similar legislation, so that the President can sign comprehensive brownfields legislation this year.

Responsible American business leaders are also helping forge a new path to environmental progress. It’s truly amazing what American companies can accomplish for environmental protection when they know what’s expected of them.

For example, the Vanguard Group, headquartered in Malvern, is one of nearly 500 Pennsylvania companies that has signed on as a voluntary participant in the Energy Star Buildings Program. Earlier this year, Vanguard formally committed to make energy efficient upgrades at their nearly 2 million square feet of office space. These upgrades will save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the roads. This commitment earned Vanguard an EPA Region 3 Certificate of Appreciation. I want to add my own thanks to Vanguard and all the Pennsylvania companies that are participating in the Energy Star Buildings Program.

Of course, organized environmental groups, already important contributors to environmental progress, have become increasingly effective. Today, they not only advocate sound environmental policy, they also help create sound environmental practices in partnership with government, business, and individuals.

Clearly, there’s no better example of this than the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. You have never been content to just sit on the sidelines and tell others what needs to be done; you’ve gone and done it. And you’ve forged productive partnerships among business, environmentalists, and government to achieve these goals.
And individuals, today more than ever before, are making a real contribution. As I have traveled across America, I have met numerous environmental heros, individual citizens who are making a real difference in their neighborhoods and communities.

I recently met a young man, Lewis Gorman IV, from Cherry Hill, right across the river in New Jersey. He had learned about the danger used household batteries can cause to the water and land when they are not disposed of properly and he decided to do something about it. He started a battery recycling program in Camden County, using a variety of creative and innovative ways to promote his program.

Like PEC, Lewis knows the wisdom of partnerships – he reached out to his church, his town’s recreation program, and his county government, and asked for their help. As a result of his efforts, more than 3,500 batteries have been collected an recycled.

All of this activity is taking place because Americans are committed to the protection of our environment, and in typical American spirit, they want to do their part.

Of course, this doesn’t mean Washington can diminish its efforts to protect the environment. And if you look at the first one hundred days of the Bush Administration, you can see that the President believes the federal government has an important role to play. I believe the record shows that this Administration is off to a strong start. Let me share with you several of the highlights.

The President has acted to make the air cleaner by requiring diesel buses and trucks to cleanup their emissions and use cleaner burning fuel. This will literally save lives – more than 8,300 a year. It will also help hundreds of thousands of kids with asthma breathe easier.

The President has moved to protect America’s families from exposure to lead by significantly increasing the reporting requirements of companies that use lead in their business. This should result in decreases in the use of lead in various industrial applications, further safeguarding our children from the dangerous effects of lead poisoning.

The President has extended greater protection to America’s precious wetlands by more closely regulating construction activities in those fragile yet indispensable areas. This will ensure that America preserves it wetlands, areas that are so important to a healthy environment.

And the President is serious about addressing America’s coming energy crisis. His task force on energy, on which I serve, will be releasing its report later this month. I can assure you that it will provide a comprehensive policy prescription that will address our energy needs while respecting our environmental priorities.

Now, I know some of you are wondering, “That’s all good, but what about arsenic, what about global climate change?” I want to take just a few moments to clarify exactly what the Administration is doing in these areas.

First regarding arsenic, although you’ve heard that we killed a proposal to lower the acceptable limit of arsenic in drinking water, that’s simply not the case. What we did do was ask for some additional study of the proposed new arsenic standard. I wanted to be sure that it protected public health and could be successfully implemented, especially by those small water companies in the Southwest, where arsenic is a prevalent, naturally occurring problem.

To perform this analysis, I have asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake an expedited review of a range of 3 to 20 parts per billion (ppb)of arsenic for the new drinking water standard. I have also asked the National Drinking Water Advisory Council to review the economic issues associated with a new standard.

I want to make clear that the Bush Administration is going to increase the protection of public health by lowering the acceptable limits of arsenic in drinking water from the current level of 50 parts per billion. In addition, the new standard will be in place in sufficient time to meet the 2006 implementation date set in the original proposal.

With respect to global climate change, I want to make sure everyone here understands that the President knows that global climate change is a serious matter that deserves the attention of the United States government. He is fully committed to reducing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions through the promotion of market-based incentives, the development of new technologies, and the transfer of technology from the developed world to the developing countries.

To those who believe such an approach unworkable or unrealistic, the most recent data shows that the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions has actually begun to decline, even during a time of enormous economic growth. This reduction has been accomplished because government and business have joined hands to effect these reductions. That’s another indication of the success partnerships can achieve.

Last week at the White House I heard the President tell a group of young environmentalists that every day should be Earth Day, and that’s so true. We each have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. We each have an obligation to leave our air cleaner, our water purer, and our land better protected than it was. And we each have the duty to make every day Earth Day, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of our communities, our states, our nation, and the world.

I am glad I can say, not just that I have a friend in Pennsylvania, but that I also have a partner in the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. I look forward to working with you to leave a legacy of environmental progress and economic prosperity unmatched in any previous time. I hope you will continue to keep me advised of your concerns and your ideas on how we can move forward together in pursuit of our shared goals.

Thank you.