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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks to the National Association of Remedial Project Managers, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

Many of you know that joining the EPA as Administrator is a return home for me. I started my career as a staff level scientist in the late 80s and worked with the agency for 16 years.

Of those 16 years, 13 of them were at the regional level. And many of those years were spent working as a Remedial Project Manager.

My experience has shown me over and over again how valuable your work is. Of course, I saw it first hand working in your position.

I also saw it at the DEP in New Jersey, where I worked closely with a community living on the Ringwood Superfund site. At the time, they were fighting to get their community back on the national priorities list because the work wasn’t done, and people there were still feeling the effects of the pollution.

It was an uphill fight, but they eventually won. And it was extraordinarily important victory to the people there. It changed their lives.

And I still see your work today as Administrator. I recently visited the New Bedford Harbor site in Massachusetts to announce the investment of Recovery Act funds in that cleanup.

Like so many other sites across the country, the people there have been waiting years for more action. The most hopeful timeline they had been given for completion was 38 years.

38 years is not fast enough for me. It’s not fast enough for President Obama. And it’s certainly not fast enough for the people of New Bedford. There was a tremendous amount of support for the effort to revitalize that cleanup effort.

Superfund has come a long way. And it continues to evolve.

Today there are nearly 1,600 sites on the National Priorities List. We have construction completion at over 1,060 sites, human exposure under control at over 1,300 sites, and contaminated groundwater under control at approximately 1,000 sites.

More than 500 sites have some form of reuse occurring, making formerly dangerous properties places that benefit surrounding communities.

Still, there are remaining sites that will take decades to effectively decontaminate. In addition, new and challenging sites have been added to the NPL.

The great news is that we have a lot of support.

Through the Recovery Act passed earlier this year, EPA is investing over $7 billion in “shovel ready” – or as is often the case with Superfund, “dredge ready” – projects that protect human health, safeguard the environment, and create jobs.

On April 15, 2009, EPA announced $600 million in Recovery Act funds for Superfund activities around the country. We are initiating new cleanup projects, accelerating cleanup projects already underway, supplementing the number of workers and activities at cleanup projects, and returning sites across the country to productive use.

We're getting harmful pollutants and dangerous chemicals out of these communities and putting jobs and investment back in.

We also have a new budget for the 2010 fiscal year that takes significant strides to ensure that our air, land, and water are safe and clean.

It’s a statement of strong support for EPA – but also of high expectations for the year ahead.

That includes $1.3 billion for Superfund to support post-construction activities and fund ongoing projects, as well as $175 million for assessment, clean-up, and job-training grants at Brownfields sites.

Another important change is a proposal to re-instate the “Polluter pays” policy that expired in 1995. Beginning in FY 2011, a provision to hold polluters responsible should generate $1 billion a year and rise to $2 billion a year by 2019.

Along with that budget support, there are two Superfund-related initiatives that are expanding and improving our remediation efforts: Repowering America’s Land Initiative and Green Remediation.

Under the Repowering America’s Land Initiative, identifying currently and formerly contaminated lands and mining sites that present opportunities for renewable energy development.

This is part of a comprehensive effort to move our nation into a clean energy economy, and win the global race to lead the way in clean energy.

The President has committed to doubling our use of clean energy in the next three years. We need you to be a part of that through the Repowering America’s Land Initiative.

To facilitate the development of these energy projects, the Agency has created user friendly maps using Google Earth that identify the locations of thousands of potential sites that could host solar, wind or biomass energy generation facilities.

In addition to the maps, we are reaching out to renewable energy associations, states and other stakeholders. We want to get the word out about the possibilities these lands offer.

Not only can we enhance the environmental impacts associated with “green field” development, but we can help communities adopt clean, affordable energy and create green jobs.

Another exciting initiative is the Superfund program’s development of a Green Remediation Strategy.

The strategy will outline steps to promote greener Superfund cleanups by expanding the assessment of environmental effects in remedy implementation. That will allow us to incorporate options that maximize the net environmental benefit of cleanup actions.

This will help to make Superfund cleanups greener, while also supporting aggressive goals for energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energies to power site clean ups.

This is a new era for Superfund. This year we’re recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative, and next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the CERCLA or Superfund law passed by Congress.

For the past decades, EPA has helped communities across the country return some of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive uses.

As we reach this milestone, we should be thinking about the next ten, twenty and thirty years. We should be asking ourselves how we can be proactive and creative. How can we implement new technologies to make cleanups faster and better? How do we engage fully with the communities that we are working for?

Whether it’s through a new wind or solar farm, a rebuilt industrial park, or a nature preserve, we have an opportunity to address both the public health and economic burdens of contaminated sites while fostering innovation and flexibility, and promoting greater efficiency and cost savings.

The EPA is once again guided by an ambitious vision of public health protection and environmental preservation. You are essential to that vision.

I expect the years ahead to be some of the busiest that we have ever seen. I can’t think of a higher calling then coming back to work with you to address the urgent and – in many cases – long overdue environmental issues our nation faces.

We have the support. We have the moment we need. Let’s make the most of it.

Thank you very much.