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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks on Green City Clean Waters Partnership Agreement in Philadelphia, As Prepared

04/10/2012
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As prepared for delivery.

Last April just before Earth Day I joined Mayor Nutter on the city’s “Big Green Block” to showcase Philadelphia’s leadership on green infrastructure. Today, I’m glad to be here to help announce the new Green City, Clean Waters Partnership and show the EPA’s support as the Mayor and his team take that leadership to the next level.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. But even after 40 years of progress, we face a range of new challenges. And those new challenges require new solutions – solutions like Green infrastructure that can address issues facing not only Philadelphia, but cities and communities across our nation. First and foremost, this is about securing and improving upon the progress we’ve made. After four decades of clean water protection, the American people do not want to see us falling back. A Gallup poll recently showed that at least 75 percent of Americans “worry a great deal or a fair amount” about pollution in their rivers, lakes, reservoirs and drinking water.

Clean water is something people expect and deserve – and we have a responsibility to meet their expectations. To do that, we have to tackle 21st century water challenges. Right now, clean water is threatened by aging infrastructure and stormwater runoff – which many people consider to be the greatest challenge we face in clean water today. But absent a single source of pollution to cap, or the obvious impacts of raw sewage in our waters, we have to be more creative in our approaches. The techniques under this program will work with Mother Nature, and use natural environments to filter runoff and relieve pressure from the city’s 3,000 miles of traditional sewer infrastructure.

It is our hope that lessons from Green City, Clean Waters will translate to other cities as well. We want to see the benefits of green infrastructure taking hold in other large metropolitan areas like Philadelphia. At the same time, what we learn about treating urban runoff may also help smaller, rural communities deal with their runoff challenges. But even where stormwater runoff may not be a major issue – or where techniques used here aren’t directly translatable – we hope this initiative will inspire new and innovative thinking on water issues.

We certainly recognize this as a valuable opportunity for the EPA to partner with local stakeholders, and learn how to best implement green infrastructure in a way that meets local needs. Through the agreement that Shawn Garvin and I are here to sign today along with the Mayor, EPA commits to work with the city to address regulatory barriers to the innovative greening approaches, and will allow us to evaluate and verify the effectiveness of new green techniques. EPA will also work with Philadelphia to ensure the plan is successfully achieving the desired water quality benefits and over time will meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and other national standards. And because we know this is not a task for government alone, we will be partnering on an upcoming Green Design Challenge to engage private companies, NGOs, colleges and universities and others who can be part of this effort. We will be challenging them to come up with plans to achieve greater, more cost-effective storm water management techniques that fit into the Green City, Clean Waters program.

Finally, let me say a word about the economic benefits. The president has made clear that the economy is the defining issue of our time in office. And I know that Mayor Nutter and Representative Schwartz, who hear from their constituents each day, know we must all be working urgently to create jobs and foster new opportunities for the American people. I want to make clear that this effort – and our focus on clean water generally – are not disconnected from the urgency of that economic mission. As a start, adding green infrastructure will relieve pressure from traditional water infrastructure. With so many cities and towns facing increased maintenance costs and reduced budgets, innovative green techniques give us an alternative solution – a more cost-effective, sustainable path to clean water. One of the signature elements of Green Infrastructure – green roofs – is also a great way to cut energy use and save money. We’ve seen cases where green roofs reduce a building's energy costs by about 15 percent.

There are also direct job creation opportunities that will arise out of this $1.2 billion investment in green techniques, and in the industries tapped to make this vision a reality. Finally, we also know that green spaces and clean water can be a foundation for lasting economic growth. Green spaces with bike baths, walkable neighborhoods, recreational opportunities and vibrant waterfronts are places where people want to spend their time… where they want to buy homes and raise kids…and where businesses want to set up shop. As a result, they are spaces where a city can develop an economic engine.

Cleaner water, lower costs and greater economic growth: that is what we look forward to seeing here in Philadelphia, and what we hope to bring to other cities through the model of Green City, Clean Waters Plan and our Partnership today. I know I speak for my EPA colleagues when I say how excited we are to be engaged in this partnership, and how much we look forward to working with everyone here. Thank you very much.