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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Global Chemical Regulation Conference, Baltimore, MD

04/01/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Global Chemical Regulation Conference
Baltimore, MD

April 1, 2003


Thank you Greg (Lubedev) for that introduction.

While we continue to press ahead with the war in Iraq, we are also moving forward here at home with a domestic agenda that includes priorities such as strengthening our economy, securing our homeland, and protecting our environment.

EPA = s work with the chemical industry plays a valuable role in both our homeland security work and our efforts to safeguard public health. As such, I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today and to discuss some of the important work that EPA and the chemical industry are engaged in at this moment.

First, I want to reaffirm that this Administration remains committed to the ratification of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) Treaty, which I signed in May of 2001.

As you know, the POPs Treaty addresses the production, use, and release of 12 of the most toxic substances B a group that includes pesticides, industrial chemicals, and unintentional industrial by-products. Here in the U.S. we have cancelled registrations for all nine pesticides, banned manufacture of PCBs and imposed stringent controls on releases of dioxins and furans.

We have also worked with other countries to address these substances, providing over 22 million dollars in POPs related assistance. From identifying POPs pesticide and PCB stockpiles in Russia to measuring sources of dioxins in Asia to developing better POPs management strategies in Central America and the Caribbean, we are committed to protecting the environment and public health from these harmful pollutants.

Despite the extensive steps that we have taken, we recognize that we can not address the impact of the A Dirty Dozen @ alone. That is why we have joined with the rest of the world through the POPs treaty to phase out or severely reduce these 12 pollutants B protecting the health of Americans and citizens all over the world.

So far, 151 countries have joined together to sign this treaty, and this Administration will work closely with Congress in the coming months to secure ratification.

As I know Steve (Johnson) mentioned earlier, ensuring global chemical safety is an important priority within EPA. It is one that we are pursuing not only through treaty= s such as POPs, but through trade agreements, collection of chemical hazard information internationally, and our work with the European Union to achieve greater harmonization between our chemical regulatory systems.

In addition, we are also currently working on an international A toolbox @ that would assist developing countries in establishing or updating their own chemical management programs. The A toolbox @ will provide these countries with much of the same diagnostic and regulatory information we use in our own chemical programs. In the next few weeks, we will have the A toolbox @ completed for stakeholders = review, and we look forward to your input.

These efforts represent how important it is that we join together in pursuit of common environmental goals, especially when you consider that environmental threats don= t recognize geographical borders. Indeed, working together and building strong partnerships across international lines is critical to ultimately achieving improved environmental health and public safety.

This is a philosophy that underscores much of the environmental work of this Administration. President Bush and I believe that building strong voluntary partnerships between government, industry, and communities plays an integral role in meeting our goals and achieving lasting environmental results.

We have seen the success of these type of partnerships across a broad spectrum of environmental issues B from water quality improvement to land clean-up and redevelopment to our work with the chemical industry.

Currently, EPA is working in partnership with your industry on a wide variety of voluntary efforts, including the High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge Program and the Voluntary Children = s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP).

Through the HPV Challenge Program, your industry has committed to providing basic health effects information on 2,146 of the chemicals that are produced in the greatest volume. At this time, 332 companies and 95 consortia are in the process of researching these chemicals and passing along their findings.

To date, we have received health effects information on 985 chemicals from the large number of companies who have risen to meet this challenge. Making this information available to the public is an important service and I want to applaud you for your efforts in this area.

Another successful partnership effort has been our work together through the Voluntary Children= s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP). This initiative is designed to provide information on the chemicals to which children are most frequently exposed.

From a list of 23 chemicals, EPA is working with industry to help the public understand the potential health risks to children associated with these substances. We have asked companies who manufacture or import any of these chemicals to volunteer to evaluate them for this program. Currently, 20 of the 23 chemicals are being researched and sponsored by a company.

Our next challenge for both of these programs is to work together to ensure that the information we are gathering is as accessible and understandable as possible. As we learned from the Toxics Release Inventory, the strength of the information is not in its collection, but in its use and application.

Of course, there are other areas where EPA and the chemical industry have the opportunity to work together for the benefit of public health. This includes our mutual homeland security responsibilities of reducing the vulnerability of chemical facilities and protecting the American people from a terrorist attack on these facilities.

Under the President= s Homeland Security strategy, EPA is designated as the lead agency responsible for chemical site security. Now that the new Department of Homeland Security is up and running, EPA is working closely with the Department on legislation that will set clear requirements for the chemical industry.

I know that several associations within your industry have already developed chemical site security guidelines. However, the ramifications of a possible attack on any significant chemical facility is far too great for the federal government not to do its part to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

In the coming months, we hope you will work with us on legislation that will help ensure that your facilities and ultimately our homeland are protected from future terrorist threats.

Whether homeland security or chemical regulation and testing, our work together is yielding important results for the American people. As we continue these efforts and look for new ways to meet our mutual commitments to public health, I have confidence that we will accomplish our shared goal of a healthier and safer environment for this and future generations.

Thank you.