Speeches By EPA Administrator
Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, Washington, D.C.03/28/2001
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at a meeting of the
Clean Air Act Advisory Committee
March 28, 2001
Thank you, Rob (Brenner), for that introduction. It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.
Before I say anything else I want to say to each of you here: “Thank you.” Thank you for serving on the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. Thank you for your willingness to give us the benefit of your expertise and experience, and thank you for your service to the country.
Since this committee was formed more than a decade ago by President George H.W. Bush, it has been a valuable and important resource to the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the years, you have helped provide the Agency with what some have described as a “reality check.” Believe me, that comes in handy here in Washington.
I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead. I want your candid advice. I want your honest assessments. And I want you, and those you represent, to be among the many partnerships I build as we work to achieve the goal we all share – cleaner air in every American community for every American family.
Since this is the first opportunity we’ve had to meet together, I thought it would be useful for me to lay out what my main goal is as administrator and how I expect to proceed in my work to meet that goal.
I have found during my years in public life that setting clear, concise goals is one of the keys of successful leadership. So here’s my main goal: I want to leave America’s environment cleaner when I leave than it was when I arrived. I want our air to be cleaner, our water purer, and our land better protected. That’s my goal.
Those of you who have spent any time in the outdoors probably know where this goal originates. It comes from that age-old advice given anyone who ventures into the outdoors – leave anyplace you go cleaner than you found it.
If you’re hiking, that means pick-up the litter someone else left behind. If your kayaking, that means don’t float by that empty bottle you see bobbing in the water. And if you’re EPA administrator, that means spending every day doing all you can to improve the health of America’s environment.
During last year’s campaign, President Bush laid out a very clear philosophy of how we accomplish that goal. He said, and I quote, “Government should be citizen-centered, results- oriented, and, wherever possible, market-based. Government should be guided not by process but by performance.”
Let me tell you what I think that means for EPA. But first, a little background.
It’s been more than 30 years now since the EPA was created. And as we consider the past three decades, I think we can all agree that the work done by the EPA has helped transform the state of America’s environment. By nearly every measure, our environment is healthier today than it was in 1970.
Over that same time, we have also seen a transformation in the way millions of Americans and thousands of American businesses approach their own environmental responsibilities.
Where we once took our environmental and natural resources for granted, we now instinctively understand how precious they are and how important they are to our future. That means we are ready for a new approach – an approach centered on building partnerships – partnerships focused on a common goal.
I am convinced that we have reached a point in our national life where we can move beyond the command and control model that has long-defined Washington’s relationship with the rest of the country on environmental policy. The time truly is ripe for partnership-building.
That’s what I want to do, build new partnerships that make EPA more citizen-centered, more results-oriented, and more market-based. Here’s how I believe we can accomplish that.
First, we need to build stronger partnerships with state and local governments. As a former governor, I know that some of the most creative, innovative, and effective ideas of the future are being devised right now in state capitals and county seats in every corner of America. We need to do a better job of tapping into that.
The partnerships I envision include giving state and local governments the flexibility they need to meet our mutual goals. There are times when it is appropriate for Washington to say, “We are not as concerned with how you meet our goals, so long as you meet them.” The philosopher who said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” didn’t have Washington looking over his shoulder every step of the way. If he had, he probably would have stayed home.
Next, we need to build stronger partnerships with businesses. In my home state, I found many business leaders were willing to work with us in meeting our environmental goals. But, like the states do, they also wanted flexibility in how they went about achieving the results we wanted. As I said at my confirmation hearing, this administration is going to offer the carrot, but it won’t retire the stick.
By partnering with business, we can help foster the creation of many of the new technologies we will need to meet our environmental goals. We need to make sure we are giving business the opportunity to try new methods and practices. Washington’s role, as a partner, should be to encourage innovation, not stifle it.
We also need to build stronger partnerships with environmental groups. I want to work with those environmental groups who want to work with us. These groups bring a sense of passion and dedication that is unsurpassed by any other community. Too often, however, we have allowed ourselves to become polarized, buying into the zero sum game mentality that says victory only comes with an all or nothing conclusion.
I believe we can make more progress if we cast aside that old way of viewing one another and instead seek common ground. Let me give you one, practical, real-world example.
I believe we have the best opportunity we’ve had in years to do something constructive about emissions from older power plants, using market-based incentives to achieve reductions over a reasonable period of time in the emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury. We can do this, if we are willing to build partnerships to get it done.
Let’s keep our eye on our common goal: cleaner air. No one questions that reducing the emissions of NOx, SOx and mercury will lead to cleaner air. So let’s work together, as partners, to try to make this happen.
Now I know there will be some who will say, “Three pollutants – that’s not enough.” To them I say, it’s a whole lot better than nothing. If we succeed in reducing these three pollutants, the undeniable result will be cleaner air. That’s our goal – we should pursue it.
And let me be clear, because I know that you will be talking quite a bit today about our energy needs. I believe we can meet America’s energy needs without having to sacrifice our environment. As President Bush has said, economic prosperity and environmental protection can go hand in hand – and that includes energy production.
Finally, I think we need to build and strengthen our partnership with the American people. I firmly believe that every American wants to honor the duty we have to leave our children with a cleaner America. Yet, too often, things that happen in Washington seem disconnected from the day-to-day reality of most Americans. We need to do better. We need to let every American know that we can be partners together and that we share responsibility for improving our environment.
These are the partnerships I hope to build as administrator of the EPA – and I hope you will help me. I hope you will let your organizations know that the Bush Administration wants to work with them to achieve the goals we all share. As a former governor, President Bush knows – and so do I – that all wisdom does not reside exclusively in Washington. We want to tap the vast resources, ideas, and energy that is out there beyond the Beltway. You can help us do that.
I wish my schedule allowed me to spend more time with you today, but I’m sure we’ll have that opportunity before too long. So let me conclude the way I began, by thanking you for your interest and participation on this advisory committee. I look forward to hearing from you and working with you, as partners, as we pursue our common goal – cleaner air in every American community for every American family.