Speeches By EPA Administrator
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Aspen Environment Forum, As Prepared03/25/2009
|As prepared for delivery.|
This is a time for big ideas.
We’re here tonight as Republicans and Democrats, as scientists, government officials, educators, venture capitalists, environmental advocates, and business leaders.
We’re here to talk about clean energy and the environment.
But we’re also talking about international affairs, inner city poverty, food supplies, transportation, government policy, and economic possibilities.
We’ve come to this mountaintop to share our visions of the promised land.
We’ve come here to share our big ideas.
And we’ve come here at a crossroads in our country’s history.
As a nation, we face the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Every American is anxious about what that means – not just for their future but for the next generation as well.
At the same time that we face this economic crisis, there isn’t a moment to lose in protecting the public health and confronting the rapid advance of climate change.
This is not an academic discussion anymore. We don’t have the luxury of a far-off day of reckoning.
The world’s leading scientists predict notable, if not drastic, changes within our lifetimes if we don’t get started right away.
Those changes pose very real threats to our economic stability. They jeopardize the public health. And they raise serious concerns about our national security.
For those reasons and more, we are embarking immediately on an aggressive environmental agenda.
The President has committed to double our clean energy use in the next three years. And he has set an ambitious goal of cutting more than 80% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
Now, let me say: I am a mother of two young boys. Any parents here know that makes me an active American consumer.
I also want my sons to go to college and get jobs when they get older.
So both the short- and long-term strength of the economy are not only professional, but personal concerns of mine.
I know what it’s like for people who are struggling to make ends meet, especially in these times.
The last thing EPA wants to do – and the last place we want to position the environmental movement or the climate change debate – is somehow standing in the way of the nation’s economic recovery.
Thankfully, we have in President Obama a leader who has rejected the false choice between a green economy and a green environment.
President Obama and many others have stood up to say that our economic future and our environmental future are inextricably linked. They, of course, are right.
We also recognize connections to other key issues.
In health care, the people that get sick at two and three times the average rate because of pollution in their neighborhoods are the same people that predominantly seek treatment in emergency rooms.
That drives up costs for everyone and slows down much needed reform.
Or in education, when children repeatedly miss school with asthma, allergies, or complications from exposure to mercury and lead, they suffer in their educational outcomes as well as their long-term economic potential.
Not to mention the toll it takes on working parents that have to stay home to tend to their children. These are setbacks we can’t afford in this or any economy.
The way out of these challenges is through a clean energy transition, through a reduction of harmful emissions in our air, and through the creation of millions of green jobs across the country.
This is a time for big ideas.
I’m proud to be here as part of an administration that is taking action on big ideas – starting with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
One newspaper wrote that standing alone, the clean energy measures in the stimulus plan represented “the biggest energy bill in history.”
On Tuesday, the President met in Washington with researchers and entrepreneurs to explain how we’re using stimulus funds to create 300,000 green jobs and double our supply of renewable energy.
For the long term, the President proposed a 10-year, $150 billion dollar investment in clean energy.
For EPA, the stimulus means more than $7 billion invested in “shovel ready” projects that protect human health and safeguard the environment – 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 that are polluting land and groundwater supplies.
Along with the ARRA, the President also proposed in his first budget the highest level of funding support that EPA has seen in our 39 year history.
Let’s be clear: that means we have the highest level of expectation that we have seen in our 39 year history, too.
You’d better believe I’ve got some big ideas.
We are also at a critical moment of world leadership. Around the globe, other nations are looking to us for action.
We just saw a great example of that at the global environment summit in Nairobi.
For years, our official policy has been to oppose any binding international standards on Mercury levels. Last month, we agreed to join in the effort to lower the levels of mercury worldwide.
Once we changed that policy and committed our support, other countries like China and India came right to the table.
They were perfectly willing to follow our lead, but completely unwilling to act without us.
That is the power we have to make a difference, to be the standard-bearer and have a truly global impact.
The world is waiting for our big ideas.
Right now, we have greater opportunities to protect public health and the environment than ever before – and EPA wants to play a leading role.
That’s why, when I’ve spoken to reporters, industry leaders, community members, or other stakeholders, I’ve tried to send a very clear, consistent message. It’s one of the messages that I’m here to give you, and that I hope you will join with me in carrying it.
And it’s that EPA is back on the job.
That’s just a catchy slogan if we don’t make it into real, tangible change.
That’s why we’ve been hard at work.
We’ve already announced plans to review the California waiver on auto emissions and proposed standards for nationwide greenhouse gas reporting. And those standards are carefully tailored to get us the information we need without hurting small businesses.
We're focusing resources on monitoring toxic air pollution around certain schools, to ensure that our nation's children are not exposed to harmful toxins in the place where they go to learn.
Most recently, we submitted to the White House a proposed endangerment finding on carbon and other heat-trapping pollutants.
We have tried to make clear – as has the President and his staff – that the best solution is to work with congress to pass comprehensive legislation that would include a nation-wide cap and trade system. In constructing the system we have to make sure that we reward innovation and discourage pollution, make investments that create jobs, invest in renewable energy that encourage energy independence .
It’s important to remember that as we propose the endangerment finding, we don’t want to create a regulatory thicket that costs both government and businesses untold expenses in enforcement and compliance.
We’re not looking – as some alarmists have claimed – to run rampant and regulate every Dunkin' Donuts and every cow.
This is not a step towards a doomsday scenario that shuts down the American economy. This is a step towards proactive solutions.
This is a step towards innovation, investment and implementation of technologies that reduce harmful emissions.
It is a step towards green jobs, cleaner air, and a better future for our children.
We want every stakeholder at the table so that we can get our whole country moving forward on this important work.
For those concerned that this poses a threat to our economy, I’m asking you in particular to help us develop and put in place new solutions.
Share with us your big ideas.
Because if you think climate protection challenges economic growth, wait and see what climate change has in store.
We have long since passed the tipping point. One way or another, we have to bring our emissions down.
I’m asking everyone to take part in shaping that outcome.
I look forward to hearing your all of you big ideas.
Our challenge now is to take these big ideas and turn them into sustained action.
Even the best ideas aren’t enough if we don’t roll up our sleeves and push forward every single day.
When I was in New Jersey, I worked with the residents of the Ramapough Mountain community in Upper Ringwood.
Their community is a small cluster of neighborhoods set on top of the Ringwood Superfund site.
Ringwood had been used for years as disposal grounds for lead-based paint sludge.
It was the suspected cause of chronic illnesses for the people who called the area home. Many of them battled with asthma, cancer, and other diseases.
In 1994, after years of cleanup, Ringwood was removed from the Superfund site list. But the problems there persisted. After a long period of continued work, and the tremendous engagement of the Ramapough community, it was re-designated a Superfund site in 2006.
The good news is that the cleanup is moving forward today.
The bad news is that it didn’t happen before the harm had been done. Not before children had gotten sick. Not before families and businesses had decided to move out of the area. Not before parklands and drinking water had been polluted.
The story of that site and those people are vivid reminders that a big idea isn’t all that it takes.
Environmental protection is about human protection. It’s about community protection and family protection.
It’s about safeguarding public health in the places where people live, work, play and learn.
That’s not something we can put off for some other day.
I can’t think of a higher calling than coming back to the EPA at this important moment.
I’m honored to have the chance to work with all of you to address the urgent, ongoing and – in many cases – long overdue issues we face.
We have the support. We have the moment we need. Let’s make the most of it.
Thank you again, and I look forward to working with all of you.