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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

I know I share everyone’s excitement about the Executive Order for the Chesapeake Bay signed today by President Obama.

This is a strong signal of the president’s commitment to restoring this national treasure which is so vital to the environment, the local economies, and the way of life for millions of people.

This is the beginning. Restoring the Bay and its tributary rivers will not be easy and it will not happen overnight.

But, we should be able to look back at this as a turning point – the time when we did what was necessary to fulfill all the promises of action that have been made over the years.

We must begin by recognizing that the challenges we face are evolving.

Today, the portfolio of pollution and other threats is different. We’re working to confront non-point sources of pollution like stormwater and household wastes, and pharmaceuticals.

Resolving these issues without single major sources, and without single visible effects, is a new challenge.

Putting more money into the same infrastructure and the same programs is not going to get us where we need to be.

If we’re going to lead the way, it’s going to take creativity, innovation and foresight.

We are bringing the full weight of this partnership to bear on this challenge, and I am extraordinarily hopeful about what we can accomplish working together.

EPA looks forward to guiding the Federal Leadership Committee and strengthening the federal focus on Bay restoration.

We’ll be working with our colleagues at the departments of Commerce and Interior on plans to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Department of Agriculture will target priority areas that most efficiently reduce nutrients and sediment in the Bay.

And the order also features a directive to reduce water pollution from federal lands and expand public access to the Bay.

I’m expecting all the federal agencies involved to challenge themselves and think creatively about our actions – all of which will be reflected in the reports they’ll submit to the committee this summer.

At the same time, we’re identifying actions to make full use of existing regulations and laws to improve protection of the Bay and its rivers.

For the Clean Water Act that means potentially strengthening existing permit programs and extending coverage where necessary.

Advancements in Clean Air rules, meanwhile, will provide sharp reductions of nitrogen and other pollutants that fall on the watershed and wash into the Bay. That will, include about 10 million pounds of nitrogen annually from a new Clean Air Interstate Rule.

EPA will also implement a Chesapeake Bay compliance and enforcement strategy to ensure that there is clear guidance on the laws of the land.

We intend to use the Chesapeake Bay Program as a laboratory or testing ground for measures we can put in place in other priority areas.

The work done here can provide answers to apply around the nation – in places like Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, and San Francisco Bay.

The President’s Executive Order is just one piece of a larger, ongoing commitment to restoring the Bay and its rivers.

The Recovery Act provides tremendous opportunities for the watershed. Our partners in the states and Commonwealths are putting stimulus money to work on wastewater treatment plant upgrades and green infrastructure projects.

We’re working towards environmental recovery and economic recovery for struggling Bay communities.

We’ve already seen extraordinary drops in productivity from these waters – and the job losses have been significant.

If we come up short, this may be the last generation of watermen on the Chesapeake Bay.

The Recovery Act and the broader commitments we’ve made give us a chance to put people in these communities to work.

Cleaning up the Bay will be labor intensive. Developing innovative solutions and green technologies is going to require investment.

As we move towards a cleaner Bay, we can begin to restore the commercial fishing that is a way of life here. We can maintain and expand tourism. And we can help rebuild these local economies in harmony with their surrounding environments.

As we face the most challenging economic downturn in generations, we should keep these goals in our sights.

In addition to the Recovery Act clean funding, last week we announced a $35.1 million budget proposal for the Chesapeake Bay Program for FY 2010.

We’re also looking to Farm Bill funding targeted to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. That will provide the region’s farmers with $188 million over the next four years, and accelerate our work with that crucial industry to address significant challenges.

This year, $23 million of that will go towards implementing vital conservation practices to help clean the Bay.

We look forward to combining our efforts with those of our state and local partners.

I want to commend our chair, Governor Kaine for his success in preserving land that would otherwise be vulnerable to actions that could harm the Bay.

He managed those accomplishments in the face of an exceptionally difficult budget climate, which is a testament to his commitment.

Governor O’Malley’s leadership in developing BayStat has inspired work on a similar effort at the Chesapeake Bay Program to improve decision-making and convey important information to the public.

We’re looking forward to the creation of a similar program – something like a “ChesapeakeStat” – to guide the partnership’s work in the watershed.

And in Washington, DC, Mayor Fenty has taken strong actions to confront the urban components of the Chesapeake challenges – an exceedingly important and too often overlooked piece of this puzzle.

The mayor has taken on commitments to improve stormwater management, reduce combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia, and upgrade the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant.

That speaks to the importance of issues around our urban waters, especially in low-income areas. Environmental challenges that disproportionately affect urban, disadvantaged communities have an effect on all communities.

W all have significant work ahead of us – from setting strict pollution caps in the Chesapeake watershed under EPA’s Bay-wide TMDL to implementing the two-year milestones that will generate near-term results and accountability.

EPA has committed to complete the TMDL by the end of 2010. Our work will begin in earnest this summer when the total pollution limits are identified and divided among the states, and we hold the first round of public meetings.

Let me add one final point: one of the challenges we face is the need to move beyond traditional roles as regulators or enforcers. We have to communicate a sense of shared purpose and individual responsibility.

I heard a story recently about something that happened in Spokane, Washington. Spokane has put in place a near-total ban on dishwasher detergents containing phosphates.

The city took action because the chemicals in the detergents were reaching the Spokane River and leeching oxygen, which was killing the fish and other life.

But some of the residents of Spokane – people who no doubt care about the environment – began driving 45 minutes and crossing into Idaho to buy bootleg detergent – the kind with phosphates.

They believe it works better. And they don’t see the immediate connections between cleaner dishes and a dirtier river.

Water quality protection is no longer simply an issue of the Agency cracking down on big polluters.
We have to do a better job of educating people, of facilitating communication and collaboration between individuals, communities and businesses.

We have to put environmental protection in the hands of the people – help them help themselves, as the saying goes.

That will require more than just federal, state and local government assistance. We need the collaboration of advocacy groups, private industry, and the nearly 17 million residents in our watershed to help us reach our goals.

It’s going to require a determined and aggressive effort to move us from a Bay that is fulfilling its promise as one of the world’s most productive estuaries.

This meeting is the first step. But it’s a big step. I believe there are much better days ahead for the Chesapeake Bay, and I look forward to working with all of you.

Thank you very much.