Speeches By EPA Administrator
National Pork Producers Council, Washington, D.C.04/10/2001
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,
National Pork Producers Council
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
April 10, 2001
Thank you for that introduction.
It’s good to be with America’s pork producers today. As someone who really enjoys your products – whether it’s bacon in the morning or a good, thick juicy pork chop for dinner – I am pleased to be with the folks who have made many memorable family meals possible. So the next time I cut into a nice pork tenderloin, I’ll think of you.
But that’s not the only time I’ll be thinking of America’s pork producers. As the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, I’d also like to think of you as partners – partners in a common mission toward a common goal – making America’s air cleaner, water purer, and land better protected for America’s families and their futures.
During the campaign last year, President Bush talked about building partnerships between the federal government and the people it serves. He’s already putting that talk into action.
The President’s budget is Exhibit A. He wants to cut the income tax, and let people keep more of what they earn. He also wants to eliminate the death tax – and with last week’s vote in the House, we’re half-way there. It’s time to put the death tax six feet under before it kills any more small businesses and family farms.
I am also proud to be serving the President with my colleagues, Secretary Ann Veneman at USDA and Secretary Gail Norton at Interior. The three of us are working very closely together on a whole host of issues, including ensuring that natural resources management, economic development, and environmental protection are balanced for the good of all. This is a personal and a professional partnership that I trust will serve you and the environment well.
Building partnerships with groups such as yours is how I intend for EPA to meet the President’s commitment to reconnect Washington with the rest of the country. Some might suggest that a partnership between EPA and America’s pork producers would be like buying a pig in a poke – for both sides. But I believe that you have long known how important it is to properly care for the natural environment. And I want you to know this Administration is serious about partnership- building with you and the rest of the ag community.
People who depend on the land know how important it is to care for it. I looked at your web site, yesterday, a read a little bit about your Environmental Steward Award. In the overview, it said: “Stewardship is hard work and the knowledge gained may help others become better caretakers. Environmental stewardship requires constant work and a serious commitment.”
That’s certainly true – but I am confident that America’s pork producers stand ready to do the hard work and make the commitment required of good stewards. That’s why I believe America’s pork producers and the EPA can be good partners. We share many of the same goals. We both want to honor our responsibilities to the environment, not just because it’s our job, but because it’s our obligation.
It’s been more than 30 years now since the EPA was created. 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.
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 is ripe for building partnerships – partnerships centered on a common goal.
That’s what I want to do with you, build a strong partnership. To that end, I want to discuss a few areas where I think we can work together in the coming months and years to get things done.
The first concerns an area in which I know we can make progress – private land conservation. Last month, the National Governors’ Association held a daylong symposium on the question, “Private Lands, Public Benefits.” I had the honor of giving opening remarks at that event.
I know that if we can work successfully with America’s private landowners, if we can find ways to preserve farm and ranch land, limit sprawl, and reward responsible land practices, the entire country will benefit. Government doesn’t have a monopoly on responsible land stewardship.
Every acre of privately owned land provides enormous environmental benefits. These lands help protect watersheds, improve air quality, provide wildlife habitat, and maintain an important part of the American economy and way of life.
Of course, in recent years we’ve seen increasing amounts of open lands lost to housing developments, mega-malls, and industrial parks. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against progress and I understand that people have the right to use their land appropriately. I do believe, however, that government can do more to provide incentives and rewards for private landowners who want to resist the pressures of development.
In my home state, voters in 1998 passed a referendum to provide the funds needed to preserve one million acres of open space and farmland. In the seven years I was governor, we preserved more land than had been saved under the previous five governors – and helped keep thousands of acres of family farms in production. New Jersey is hardly alone in these efforts.
All across America, people are supporting land preservation in their communities. Each election cycle, 80 percent of the open space ballot questions pass, generating about $7 billion for open space preservation. There’s a great deal of support for this approach. It’s truly a public-private partnership that works.
Another area where I know we can work together is closely linked to responsible private land stewardship. It’s what I see as the greatest clean water challenge in America – nonpoint source pollution of our rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
Nonpoint source pollution is the main reason that about one-third of surveyed lakes, rivers, and estuaries aren’t clean enough for fishing swimming, or drinking. That’s better than things were, but it’s not good enough
There is much that can be done to improve the health of our waters, but I believe the key to success lies in taking a watershed protection approach to controlling nonpoint source pollution, the leading uncontrolled source of water pollution in the United States today.
In New Jersey, we adopted watershed management as the cornerstone of our clean water program. In my last year as governor, I proposed a far-reaching water management rule designed to protect our watersheds by ensuring that development and other activity occurred in ways that our watersheds could handle. And again, New Jersey is not alone.
In North Carolina, for example, local governments are required to implement water supply watershed protection programs that control development and address agricultural impacts to protect drinking water reservoirs.
These approaches, designed at the state and local level to meet unique local needs, show the value of working together to achieve the goals on which we all agree. It’s doubtful that Washington could have designed a “one size fits all” solution to runoff on a farm in North Carolina. But as long as we’re all agreed on the goal – cleaner watersheds, in this case – what’s wrong with finding local solutions to local challenges?
Of course, partners don’t always agree on everything. But they should always hear one another out. That is why, in response to numerous requests, I have asked our program office to go back and see if we can provide more flexibility to the states with respect to TMDLs.
I also heard the ag community’s request about extending the comment period on the CAFOs rule. But, as you already know, I didn’t just hear you, I also listened. That’s why I decided to extend the comment period on the proposed CAFOs rule by 75 days. As you know, we are up against a court-ordered deadline, so this extension is going to create a crunch. But all that means is that we are going to have to work togther on this. But that is, after all, what good partners do.
In the coming months and years, I hope you will keep me apprised of your views on important issues facing my Agency, as well as your ideas and suggestions on how we can build an even more effective partnership.
Together, we can do so much for this great country of ours. I look forward to working with you to reach our shared goals – goals that reflect the values we share as concerned citizens and as stewards of our environment.