Speeches By EPA Administrator
National Environmental Monitoring Conference, Washington, DC07/26/2005
It is a pleasure to be with you at the 21 st annual National Environmental Monitoring Conference.
As most of you probably know, I have been a scientist and manager at EPA for most of my professional career. During those nearly 25 years, I have been proud to be a part of many of the Agency’s environmental accomplishments.
Since EPA’s creation in 1970, our experiences have taught us that sound science is the basis of our achievements and the genesis of our future successes.
We have also found that quality, accurate environmental monitoring data is essential in making good, quality decisions.
I have taken part in every phase of EPA’s decision-making process – from my time at the Office of Research and Development and the Office of Toxic Substances – to now, when I sign a rule into law.
Although I have traded in my lab coat, goggles and booties for a suit and tie – I can tell you that my experiences have placed me in a unique position.
Earlier this year, I received a call from the President of the United States, asking me to become the Administrator of EPA. I don’t care who you are, or what your party affiliation is – if the President calls to ask to you lead the Agency you have worked for, for the past 24 years, your reaction would be the same as mine was --- wow!
One of the reasons why President Bush appointed me Administrator was because I fully appreciate the necessity of good information in order for EPA to continue to provide the American people with the environmental results they expect.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve under President Bush. Over the last four years, our nation has experienced tremendous environmental success. Airborne pollutants have declined by 10 percent. 12-hundred abandoned industrial sites have been restored through the Brownfields program. From 2002 to 2003, toxic chemicals released into the environment have declined by 6 percent. And in 2004 alone, 800,000 acres of wetlands were enhanced.
This is what the American people care about. They care about results. When my daughters call me, they don’t ask about the latest monitoring method – they ask me if I am doing my job and cleaning my grandchildren’s air, land and water.
In order to continue to produce environmental results for my children and grandchildren, I have laid out 4 Priorities to focus on as Administrator.
The first is to accelerate the pace of environmental progress.
We have learned that when EPA acts alone, mandating rules and regulations, our progress is incremental. It is when we work in cooperation with our partners – when we gather everyone involved into a room like this one and participate in honest discussions and develop lasting relationships – our environmental progress accelerates at a remarkable pace.
Another way to accelerate progress is to focus on results over processes.
This also translates to the Agency’s measurement and monitoring programs. We should define the goals, and then allow the regulated community to meet the goals, in a cost-effective manner.
The Agency is committed to implementing the performance approach in our regulatory monitoring programs.
EPA’s Forum on Environmental Measurements -- or the FEM, as we call it -- has identified this issue as one of its highest priorities and has initiated a major push to speed up its implementation.
For those who may not know, the FEM is a group of senior officials from across the Agency, brought together to address environmental measurement issues in a consistent, cross-agency manner.
FEM’s performance approach also illustrates our focus on collaboration. Instead of mandating the performance approach, we are focusing on bringing all the parties together - EPA program offices, the Regions, the states, the regulated community and the laboratory community - in a collaborative effort. With the lessons learned through pilot programs, we not only want to demonstrate the benefits of using a performance approach, but develop a community of proponents in states and regions to sell the approach to others.
This leads to my second priority – promoting a culture of environmental stewardship.
Collaborative efforts, innovative programs, education and outreach are the proven tools for today and tomorrow. By involving more participants in the process, we promote a culture of environmental stewardship – both in this country and in others throughout the world.
Because of our mutual objectives of improving environmental monitoring, EPA and the American Council of Independent Laboratories last year signed an agreement to work together to address issues affecting the monitoring community in the U.S.
Under this cooperative agreement, we are working together to promote the performance approach by ensuring that there are clear requirements for the quality of the monitoring data that is submitted to the Agency.
We are looking to improve the scientific expertise of the monitoring community by developing training for federal, state, and private sector scientists, engineers and technicians.
Collaboration can take many forms. Some are formal, like performance pilots and advisory boards. Others are more informal, such as the workshops and policy discussions that are held as part of the NEMC, which brings government and the private sector together to identify and address measurement and monitoring issues.
It is important that we provide a forum for the regulated community, regulators in federal and state government, and the laboratory, consulting and engineering sectors to come together in a spirit of cooperation and shared effort. By working together, we can develop better approaches to address our shared environmental challenges. I applaud the efforts of all of you who use this conference as a mechanism to support this approach.
The third priority for me is to take advantage of opportunities to use environmental protection to drive economic growth.
The old way of thinking would have us believe that you must choose between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth. It is just not true. Not only can the environment and the economy go hand-in-hand, we can leverage our environmental actions to create economic growth opportunities.
By helping to reduce the costs of compliance and other monitoring -- without reducing the quality of the data -- we can help to ensure our nation maintains its competitiveness. One way to accomplish this is to promote the development and use of innovative monitoring technologies.
EPA’s Office of Research and Development is taking steps to redesign its measurement science program to establish an applied measurement science program within our National Exposure Research Laboratory. The scientists within this program will work with academia, industry and their federal counterparts to identify and promote emerging measurement technologies that hold the promise for new environmental applications.
We will continue to foster the use of the new technologies by helping to break down the barriers to using new approaches.
EPA continues to actively support the ongoing efforts to establish a national environmental laboratory accreditation program. By streamlining the accreditation process and fostering reciprocal relations among the states, we can reduce the costs of accreditation to the states and the private sector.
The National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference is an example of a successful collaboration and partnerships between the laboratory community, the state, EPA and other stakeholders. This program has resulted in 12 states adopting a common set of accreditation requirements, which eliminated the need for laboratories to submit repetitive on-site audits when working in those states
Finally, my forth priority is to enthusiastically approach our new challenges while enforcing our existing laws and regulations.
Last year, our enforcement and compliance efforts led to record results in real-world environmental measures. For example, EPA obtained commitments to reduce pollution by 1 billion pounds per year.
We also look to increase compliance assistance, expand consent agreements and increase voluntary partnerships.
I believe these 4 Principles will provide EPA the framework to meet any environmental challenge, now and into the future.
One such challenge, unforeseen when the Agency was created, is our role in securing our homeland.
It has become critically important we have the capability to respond to the release of chemical or biological material – resulting from a terrorist incident, an accident or a natural disaster.
I want to emphasize the critical role that the states and the commercial laboratory industry have in ensuring our preparedness. Meeting these challenges will not just require a collaborative effort, but an actual partnership between the federal, state, and private sector.
A second aspect of our homeland security efforts deals with assisting the water supply community in responding to the monitoring requirements. The Agency is proud of the collaborative effort that has been established with the technology innovation community, the nation’s water suppliers, and the states to develop and evaluate new monitoring approaches that will allow real-time monitoring of water systems. Only by working together can we ensure the necessary action is taken to protect the public.
As our environmental challenges evolve, so must our solutions. By reinvesting in our scientific foundation and supporting evolving technologies, all of us here can do our part to ensure our environmental success.
I want to thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. It is by leaders, coming together and exchanging of ideas and solutions to environmental challenges, that we will be able to fulfill our mission of providing this and the next generation with a healthier, safer environment.
Thank you. I believe we have a few minutes for questions.