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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Johnson, WasteWise and NPEP Awards Ceremony, Washington, D.C.

11/14/2007
Thank you, Susan (Bodine), for that introduction. It’s a pleasure to join you at this year’s WasteWise and National Partnership for Environmental Priorities conference, as we recognize our partners’ impressive commitments to environmental stewardship.

Over my 27 years as a public servant, I’ve witnessed what can be achieved when passionate people unite to face environmental challenges. And it’s a pleasure to work with our partners – including our important partners here in this room – to continue accelerating the pace of environmental progress.

As we explore innovative approaches to our nation’s evolving environmental challenges, together we are not only building on our nation’s environmental accomplishments, we are creating a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Part of this legacy is our work to shift America into a “green” culture.

From newspaper headlines to the covers of Fortune 500 reports, we are reading about more and more companies, communities and individuals working to outdo each other in going “green.”

Today, instead of having only 17,000 EPA employees working to protect the environment, we now have over 300 million Americans as environmental partners. Americans from all sectors of society – communities, businesses and individuals – have begun to embrace the fact that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of EPA.

At my Agency, we continue to do our part. By focusing on cooperation over conflict, and by encouraging the growing army of environmental stewards through recognition ceremonies like this one here today, EPA is helping America shift into this green culture.

Consider just a few signs of this new green culture.

The first, the demand for, and supply of, “green” buildings is exploding.

By “green” buildings, I mean buildings that are designed, built and operated in efficient, environmentally responsible ways – be it using recycled materials in their construction or incorporating high-efficiency water and energy systems, among other things.

The truth is, our built environment has a vast impact on our natural environment, our economy, and our well-being. But I’m proud that we at EPA are not just talking the talk – we are walking the walk and leading by example – installing green building practices in our EPA buildings nationwide.

Fortunately, it’s not just the federal government that’s catching on. Realizing the environmental and economic benefits of “going green,” communities and companies across the country are keeping this green momentum going.

But you don’t have to look far to find this type of leadership. Right here in Washington, the Nationals baseball team is building a new, “green” ballpark.

The second sign that we’ve entered a green era, is that “going green” has now become news-worthy.

Just two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published a special report on why and how to invest in a “greener” future. As you probably know, the Journal’s editorial board has traditionally been skeptical of the benefits of environmental regulation. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that our economic and environmental message was being echoed by their editors.

In one article in particular, the chief executive of PPG Industries – a member of NPEP – was quoted as saying that it’s time for business to take the lead on environmental issues. When the head of a major chemicals and industrial coatings producer like PPG Industries says something like that, you know more and more businesses are realizing what EPA has known for years – that doing what’s good for the environment can also be good for the bottom line. If he were in this room with us today, he’d see that many businesses are already taking the lead on this issue by reducing waste and recycling.

Finally, the third sign that we’re entering a green culture is that even senior citizens – in fact a former president – are looking to protect future generations while saving money through improved energy performance.

Last summer, former President George H.W. Bush began testing the possibility of using wind to power his summer residence in Maine. For those of you familiar with Kennebunkport, you know almost every day is a windy day – so the wind seemed like a great renewable resource to tap into. I’m pleased to report that as of yesterday, the President’s wind generators are up and running – converting the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy, and then into electricity. And when not in use by the Bush family, any electricity generated at their residents will be pumped back into the grid.

So it doesn’t matter who you are … you could be the head of a major corporation … a former president of the United States … or just a homeowner who wants to save money on your energy bills. It seems that everyone is catching the green fever – being part of the effort to improve the quality of life and the quality of the environment for all Americans.

I’m pleased this year’s NPEP and WasteWise honorees are among the leaders in the race to “go green.” They are taking voluntary actions that not only enhance environmental quality and human health, but set an example for others to follow.

Six years ago, when we created the NPEP program, we hoped to encourage public and private organizations to work with us to reduce the use or release of priority and hazardous chemicals. And today, our NPEP partners are proving they are not only leaders in their respective industries, but also leaders in corporate environmental stewardship.

In fact, this year’s NPEP award winners kept 185,000 pounds of priority chemicals and almost four million pounds of other hazardous chemicals from entering the environment.

Our winners include:
Motiva Enterprises, from Houston, Texas, who committed to recycling over 3.5 million of pounds of hazardous chemicals …

R3 Environmental Management of Elgin, Illinois, who removed over 2300 pounds of mercury for safe recycling from homes, schools and industrial facilities …

and PolyOne Corporation’s Lehigh Valley site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who cut out 14,000 pounds of lead by eliminating it from polymers used to color industrial and consumer products.

And we’re seeing this same sort of commitment to environmental stewardship from our WasteWise partners. Since the program’s inception, our WasteWise partners have reported reducing their waste streams by well over 100 million tons – most of which was accomplished through recycling.

This year, we’re recognizing two companies in particular for their many years of conscientious waste reduction.

The first is Verizon Communications. Just last year, Verizon added to its strong record of waste reduction by collecting, refurbishing, and reselling 660,000 used cell phones … and donating the money generated to several local domestic violence prevention organizations. In addition, they reduced their use of paper through on-line billing services – eliminating tons of paper waste, while avoiding millions of dollars in purchasing costs.

The second company we’re recognizing today is Pitney-Bowes, who last year alone salvaged and reused nearly 6,000 tons of office products. They even recycled while renovating their headquarters facility in Stamford, Connecticut, using recovered building material to make their new carpets and furniture.

I want to congratulate both Verizon and Pitney-Bowes on their induction into the WasteWise Hall of Fame … and for demonstrating once again, that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.

Now before my time is up, I want to describe the achievements of one last worthy WasteWise award winner – and that’s our University Partner of the Year, Rutgers University.

Like many of our partners, Rutgers has demonstrated that today’s recycling targets go well beyond paper, glass and aluminum. Last year, simply by recovering food waste, the University avoided paying thousands of dollars in landfill costs. And I should add, Rutgers also took initiative and transformed their fleet to bio-diesel fueled vehicles.

Once again, I appreciate this opportunity to recognize this year’s NPEP and WasteWise award winners who are helping set a high environmental bar for industry and joining EPA in this drive to “go green.”

One of the things I’ve learned during my time at EPA, is that when we work alone, our nation’s environmental progress can be limited. However, when we work together with our partners, our environmental successes can accelerate at a remarkable pace.

I encourage you to keep up the great work in promoting the environmental, energy and economic benefits of “going green.”

Once again, congratulations.