Contact Us

Newsroom

Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, As Prepared

02/17/2010
As prepared for delivery.

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. Let me begin by reminding you that I grew up and went to college in New Orleans. I don’t say that just to remind everyone that the Saints won the Superbowl – though I’m more than happy to do that. I say it to remind you that yesterday was Fat Tuesday – the last day of Mardi Gras. I hope you will take it as a measure of my commitment to our work together that I have come here this early in the morning on the day after Mardi Gras.

That’s because we have a lot to talk about – and even more to do. Building strong, working partnerships with the states is one of my top priorities for this EPA. It’s time for us to hit the reset button. For years, states have led the way on critical environmental issues. In some cases you formed broad coalitions and regional partnerships. But all too often you had to go it alone – typically without federal partnership, and sometimes with aggressive federal opposition. I remember from my own time in New Jersey how challenging that was. But I also know that it sparked creativity and leadership – and we need every bit of that today.

Right now investors and business owners are asking for reliable water infrastructure and steady utility prices to grow local economies. Communities are demanding stronger efforts to protect them and their children from environmental health risks – and rightfully so. Last month I was in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of us here probably remember the days when the southwest was famous for its clean air. When an uncle of mine was having respiratory issues, his doctor advised him to move to the southwest because the air would improve his health. Today, the region is looking for ways to deal with some of the nation’s highest levels of smog. Rapid growth at the local level and a rapid decline in federal attention to environmental issues has led to new and costly health threats. And let me be clear – Phoenix is not being singled out. The American Lung Association found last year that 60 percent of Americans live with dangerously high levels of air pollution. That’s more than 186 million people – people all across the country – who are counting on all of us to work harder and work together.

One of our first steps at EPA was to build a team that understands how things happen at regional, state and local levels. Gina McCarthy, who heads up EPA’s Air office was the Commissioner of the Connecticut DEP and before that worked at state and local levels in Massachusetts. The head of our Water Office, Pete Silva, came to us from his work with the state of California. Cynthia Giles, our Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance has worked for EPA Region 3 and the Massachusetts state government. There are many more. This is a team that understands the special challenges you face day-in and day-out, and is ready to work with you.

That understanding will be critical to building a clean energy infrastructure. The work ahead engages the utilities you regulate and the ratepayers you work for. It will involve the allocation of shared resources as we lay out investments in clean energy. And it will require that you implement new standards for a cleaner, more efficient economy. We will need your help to protect our environment and provide regulatory certainty that clean energy innovators and entrepreneurs need. This work has already begun.

The last year saw unprecedented investments in clean energy: new solar projects in Florida and California; increased funding for energy efficiency; progress on a nationwide smart grid and strong support for advanced battery technology. Funding in the Recovery Act helped American wind power grow by 39 percent in 2009. At EPA, we joined the Department of Transportation to propose a groundbreaking clean cars program – the first federally-mandated reduction of greenhouse gases. We put in place a world-leading, nationwide greenhouse gas emissions reporting system. And in a long, long overdue step forward, we announced an Endangerment Finding on greenhouse gases.

That was 2009. A little over six weeks into 2010, EPA has already proposed science-based standards for reducing harmful smog pollution. We’re implementing the first new NO2 standard in 35 years. And we’re boosting the production and use of biofuels in the US. EPA and DOE formed a State Energy Efficiency Action Network, which will help states achieve maximum cost-effective energy efficiency improvements in homes, offices, buildings and industry. As many of you heard during this week’s NARUC sessions, state utility regulators are working with other state agencies – and being supported by a ramp-up in federal technical assistance – to establish the long-term policy framework to ensure energy efficiency activity persists – even after stimulus.

In April, EPA will propose a new Clean Air Interstate Rule to address air pollution that crosses state lines. Later this year we will also propose a new Utility Maximum Available Control Technology Rule, which will include efforts on mercury. Working together will set a strong foundation for achieving the reductions that a new MACT and CAIR Rules will require. It will help us put our resources to the best use, and allow us to make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in this country. Which brings me back to where I started: the importance of strong partnerships.

The days ahead are not going to be without their challenges or their disagreements. But the benefits of getting this right are unprecedented. Today, our communities are facing dangerous air pollution from dirty-burning energy. We’re losing vital waterbodies to chemicals and industrial waste. Climate change is the result of our carbon-based economy.

A lot of us go to work everyday to protect our citizens from these threats. They are the negative externalities of our business as usual. Of all the potential paths forward, the clean energy economy presents the most numerous and significant opportunities for positive externalities. A clean energy economy is the only one that offers not only new jobs, but cost savings, health benefits, and stronger national security.

Take for example, energy efficiency. A McKinsey study estimates that $520 billion invested in energy efficiency today would net $1.2 trillion dollars in energy cost savings through 2020. $2 in savings for every dollar invested – a very positive externality. Consider the health benefits of a clean energy economy. Heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness are three of the top four most fatal health threats in America. They account for more than half of the deaths in the nation. All three have been linked to environmental causes. A clean energy economy would substantially reduce the pollution linked to these deadly health issues. A clean energy economy will also reduce the economic burdens of hospital visits, medical bills and lost work and school days – more positive externalities.

So: clean energy helps reduce health threats – positive externality. After the initial investments in wind turbines, solar fields and a smart grid – and the development of state policies to promote energy efficiency – clean energy can be supplied from low-cost sources at steady prices – positive externality. Finally, clean, American-made energy can free us from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil – one that threatens our economy and our national security. We can keep billions of dollars circulating in our own economy, rather than sending them to parts of the world that don’t always have our best interests at heart – very positive externality.

No other investment we can make has such far-reaching benefits – for our economy, for our health, for our environment, for our wallets, and for our security. With these and other reasons in mind, we have taken the first steps forward. But there is a long way to go. I look forward to working with you. Thank you very much.