April 2005 Oral Statement of Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson in front of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works for his Confirmation Hearing
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you today as the President’s nominee for the position of Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. I want to thank Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Jeffords for scheduling this hearing this morning, and I also want to thank many of you for the courtesy of meeting with me in the past several weeks to discuss my qualifications for this position. [If it pleases the Committee, I would ask that my full written statement be included in the hearing record.]
If I may, I’d like to take just a moment to introduce the members of my family who have accompanied me this morning. I am pleased to have my wife, Debbie, and son, Matthew, here with me. I regret that my daughters, Carrie and Allison, are not able to be here this morning. The are home watching our new grandchildren. I’m also pleased to have my father, Bill, and my wife’s parents, John and June Jones, attending as well. I’d like to say just one further word about my father. My father is retired after spending over 30 years working for the Department of the Navy. I have always been proud of his service in the Federal government. I am especially proud that he can be with me today. I also have three close friends with me today: Mrs. Zona Chapman of Boone, North Carolina; the Reverend R. Dallas Green, pastor of my church, and Mr. George Seldon, of Campus Crusade.
Mr. Chairman, I must begin by saying that I am enormously indebted to President Bush for the opportunity he has given me. I have had the privilege of serving in the EPA for more than 24 years. I was trained as a scientist, with a graduate degree in pathology, and I have served in a number of positions and capacities within the Agency. I was honored to be chosen by President Bush in 2001 to serve as Assistant Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. And I was honored again in 2004 to be selected by the President to serve as Deputy Administrator. But it is an unparalleled privilege to be selected to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and as the first career employee and trained scientist to be nominated, I am most grateful for the opportunity.
It is a fair question to ask how I would lead the Agency, if given the opportunity. During my more than two decades at the Agency, I’ve worked with eight of the nine EPA Administrators, and I understand that we build on the accomplishments of those who have preceded us. As former Administrator – now Secretary – Leavitt described it, we are running a generational relay race, passing the baton from one generation to the next, vowing to keep up the pace of environmental protection, and striving to accelerate the pace.
Mr. Chairman, as I consider the next leg of the race to be run, I see that we’ve made extraordinary progress in environmental protection over the past 30 years, and I’m proud to say that we’ve done so while maintaining an economy that continues to grow. We’ve developed an ethic of environmental protection in the United States, and the questions now are “How can we do this better, with more certainty, using better tools.”
I see two key challenges before the Environmental Protection Agency if we are to maintain the pace of environmental protection in a vibrant economy. First, we must manage the dynamic evolution of scientific discovery. Second, we must identify and formalize collaborative approaches to solving environmental problems.
Let me say a word first about managing science in the Environmental Protection Agency. As a scientist, I’m intrigued with the promise that new areas of technology and scientific discovery hold for improving the world we live in. But I also recognize that the process of scientific discovery is not always straightforward; there are times when we’re not sure what the science is telling us. So our challenge is to make sure that when we are required to make regulatory or policy decisions, we are using the best available scientific information, while continuing to pursue and encourage rigorous scientific inquiry.
I’d like to say a word here about the recent Clean Air Mercury Rule, because I think it’s an example of the kind of challenge presented by the dynamic nature of scientific inquiry. The issue of mercury emissions from coal-fired powerplants had languished in the Agency for too long; it was time to make some decisions about how to control these types of emissions from powerplants. But few of the scientific questions are easy: we faced questions about how quickly technology would develop, about the fate of various types of mercury in the environment, and about the sources of exposure. Using our best scientific judgment, we carefully reviewed many scientific studies and more than 500-thousand public comments in reaching our decisions in the rule. I am proud that this is the first regulation anywhere in the world to control mercury emissions from powerplants.
But we are not finished with the issue of mercury. We will continue to follow the science to better understand the risks to human health and the environment. And we will do our best, in an open and transparent way, to make decisions based on the best available science to continue to protect public health and the environment.
The second challenge we face is to identify and formalize collaborative approaches to solving environmental problems. The traditional methods of environmental protection are not as effective in the face of new realities. We have harder scientific questions to answer, sometimes fewer resources, and many times our environmental issues extend beyond the reach of our agencies and courts. We need to find new ways to identify common interests and solve pollution problems. The President’s Executive Order on the Great Lakes is one of the best, most recent examples of a successful collaboration. We need to recognize when environmental problems are amenable to collaborative approaches, and learn the skills necessary to lead such collaborations to successful completion.
Mr. Chairman, looking to the future, an essential ingredient for meeting these two challenges for the next leg of our generational race is a well-trained professional staff at EPA. We need people who are trained in the sciences, who are committed to an open and transparent process, and who are passionate about finding new and innovative ways to solving problems. As a veteran of the Agency, I would make it a priority to develop these qualities in the next generation of EPA professionals.
Mr. Chairman, I have dedicated my entire professional life to protecting public health and the environment. I’ve always believed that these goals are consistent with maintaining our economic competitiveness, and I am proud that our nation has prospered as we continue to achieve our environmental objectives. If confirmed, I will do everything I can as Administrator to continue to serve the American people by working to protect their health and the health of the environment.
At this time I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.