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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) Subcommittee on Promoting Environmental Stewardship, As Prepared

07/01/2009
As prepared for delivery.

I want to thank you for sharing your time, your experiences, and your creative thinking with us here at EPA. Many of you know that this is a return home for me. I started with EPA as a staff-level scientist in 1987, and spent 16 years with the Agency. Which means that almost all of my career at EPA has coincided with NACEPT which started the year after – and so far, so good.

For the last 21 years, this organization has offered valuable perspectives, coming from a variety of stakeholders, on the most important decisions made by this agency. That has enriched our work and strengthened our mission. And it has improved our understanding of how our work affects the lives of families, businesses and communities. NACEPT has evolved to meet the changing needs of 21st century environmental protection, and has helped shape EPA into the agency it is today. I hope it will continue to be a part of shaping the EPA that we envision for the years to come.

Part of that evolution is the formation of this Subcommittee on Promoting Environmental Stewardship. This group represents all the elements of our stakeholder community: states, academia, NGOs, industry, and environmental leaders. To help lead your efforts, we have appointed two highly-qualified individuals to serve as our co-chairs. I want to thank David Paylor and Lee Paddock for agreeing to take on that responsibility. As the Director of Virginia’s DEQ, David brings to the table a vital understanding of confronting environmental challenges at the state and local level. Having spent my own time working at the state level, I know how important that understanding can be. I know he has a very full plate and I appreciate his willingness to serve as part of the committee. I’m also proud to recognize Lee Paddock, the Associate Dean for Environmental Law Studies at George Washington University Law School and our other co-chair. Lee is a manager, an innovator, a researcher, and a publisher. It’s because of his success in those many areas that we value his presence on this committee.

All of you are here because EPA recognizes the wealth of wisdom and expertise that you bring to the table. This is a unique moment – a crossroads for our agency and our country. For the last few months, we have been making critical decisions at a very fast pace and on a range of different issues. And we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. It’s at times like these that independent and objective guidance is most needed.

Obviously, one of our most significant challenges comes in the form of our current economic crisis. I’ve spent my career working on environmental protection issues. I’ve seen countless situations where action on environmental challenges was put on hold because of questions about how it might affect the economy. Today, we’re seeing a long-overdue shift in that attitude. President Obama has made clear that we don’t have to choose between a green economy and a green environment. We’re moving forward with environmental priorities specifically because of our economic challenges – not in spite of them.

Our recently passed Recovery Act contains more than $80 billion for sustainable, innovative clean energy. We’re working to double renewable energy use in the next three years, and have a goal to cut more than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. And we plan to invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development. Far from costing us money and jobs, this is a plan to create millions of jobs, rebuild a consumer base, and make renewable and clean energy affordable to everyone.

Efficiency measures included in the American Clean Energy and Security Act that just passed the House would lower consumer spending on utility bills by roughly 7 percent in 2020.

And the Department of Energy just issued new standards to boost efficiency in fluorescent tube lights. Those standards are expected to save Americans in the neighborhood of $4 billion per year.

The House of Representatives is undertaking an effort to green the capitol building, which will save tax payer dollars with lower energy bills. We see some pretty incredible possibilities there. In London, they recently replaced the exterior lights at Buckingham Palace with LED lighting. Today, lighting the entire fašade of Buckingham Palace requires less energy than it takes to run an electric teakettle.

Investments are taking hold at the local level as well. A central initiative of the Recovery Act provides billions of dollars to weatherize low-income housing. That will put more than 80,000 Americans to work – while it saves families hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills. We also get a good cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the bargain

EPA is part of the solution as well. We’re putting people to work by refocusing on core priorities – our “meat and potatoes” issues like air pollution, water quality, and toxic cleanups. We’re currently investing more than $7 billion in “shovel ready” projects – things like refurbished water infrastructure, cleanup of Brownfield and Superfund sites, projects to cut emissions in diesel engines, and repair work on leaking underground storage tanks.

One of the key messages we’ve been sending is that environmental stewardship is major part of building a new foundation for prosperity. A clean environment creates a community where people want to live. And it attracts businesses that are looking to set up shop and create jobs.

I recently made a visit to Denver to tour a Smart Growth community called Highlands’ Garden Village. This is a community that has been developed on principles of sustainability, energy efficiency and versatile transportation options. In the last two years – two of the hardest years for our economy in generations – Highlands’ Garden Village has opened up a thriving supermarket, a new gym, and a number of other businesses. Because of efficiency measures taken in the development, they’ve managed to keep energy prices down. Even with the fluctuations in cost over recent years, one of the residents here said that his monthly utility bill for a 1,600 foot townhouse unit has yet to exceed $80. That’s even in the coldest of months.

We also see benefits for including environmental stewardship efforts in our business models. Private companies can see real gains through good corporate citizenship. Often times, acting to avoid the negative impact on local habitats, employees, and communities, can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

One great example is our Energy Star program. For 17 years, Energy Star has been a leader in bringing together energy efficiency, smart economics, and environmental stewardship. Last year alone, Americans used Energy Star to save more than $19 billion on their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 29 million cars. More than 6,300 facilities, from offices, schools and hotels to manufacturing plants have earned Energy Star designations for high efficiency – saving 35 to 40 percent over average buildings. And since 2000, Americans have purchased more than 2.5 billion Energy Star products, making it one of the most recognizable “brands” in the marketplace.

For those of you here representing the private sector, I encourage you to help us build on this kind of success. Help us develop new, creative strategies to make environmental stewardship part of business-as-usual.

We need each and every one of you to be part of an expanding environmental stewardship movement – one that touches business and institutions, and most importantly, everyday citizens. Let me close with a story about why that is so important.

It’s about something that happened recently in Spokane, Washington. Spokane has put in place a near-total ban on dishwasher detergents containing phosphates. The city took action because the chemicals from the detergent were reaching the Spokane River and leeching oxygen, killing the fish and other life. But some of the residents of Spokane – people who no doubt care about the environment – began driving 45 minutes and crossing into Idaho to buy bootleg detergent – the kind with phosphates. They believe it works better. And they don’t see the immediate connections between cleaner dishes and a dirtier river.

Now, we know we aren’t going to be able to step in and regulate every dishwasher. Nor would we want to, even if we had the resources. This is about moving beyond traditional roles. We have to do a better job of educating people, of facilitating communication and collaboration between individuals, communities and businesses.

We have to help put environmental protection in the hands of the people. To help them help themselves. And that’s where you come in. Tell us what environmental stewardship looks like across our country and in other nations. What have we learned from past and current state, national, and international stewardship and leadership initiatives? What do we still need to know, and where can we look for that knowledge?

The EPA is once again guided by an ambitious vision of public health protection and environmental preservation. And as partners you are essential to that vision. I can’t think of a higher calling then coming back here to work with you to address the urgent, ongoing and – in many cases – long overdue environmental issues our nation faces. I’m open to your thoughts, suggestions, and counsel. And I look forward to working with you. Thank you very much.