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Visit to Annapolis regarding the FY 2004 Budget, Annapolis, MD

Talking Points for Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the

Maryland Statehouse
Annapolis, MD

February 4, 2003

Thank you, Governor (Bob) Ehrlich and congratulations.

Congratulations, also, to Lynn Buhl, on your nomination to be Maryland = s Secretary of the Environment. Good luck, Lynn B I look forward to working together.

Being here with the Governor reminds me of my own first days as New Jersey = s governor back in 1994. It is a time filled with optimism, enthusiasm, and great excitement about the futureB and for seven years, that feeling never went away, no matter what challenges came my way.

I have always said that being governor is probably the best job in America B and I haven = t seen anything since to change my mind. So, Bob, you have some great days ahead, and so do the people of the State of Maryland.

And let me say on behalf of the Bush Administration, we want to work with you and your Administration and with the Legislature to help ensure a bright future for the people of this state.

Yesterday, President Bush sent up to the Congress his proposed budget for fiscal year 2004. I have often said over the years that a budget is much more than just a spending plan; it truly is a policy document.

The proposed budget for FY 2004 reflects this Administration = s commitment to leaving America = s environment cleaner than we found it. It strongly supports our determination to build partnerships that get real, measurable improvements in environmental quality.

The President = s proposed budget fully reflects the obligation we all have B government, industry, indeed every American B to be good, faithful stewards of the natural environment which has been entrusted to us.

Not far from where we are meeting today is one of America = s greatest natural treasures B the Chesapeake Bay. As the largest estuary in the country, it = s environmental health is important to millions of people, from those who make their living harvesting its bounty to those who enjoy its boundless recreational opportunities.

During his years in Congress, Governor Ehrlich was a strong advocate for the Bay. Now that he= s governor, I know the Bay is in good hands.

Of course, at the EPA, we = ve also taken a long-term interest in the health of the Bay and have worked as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the nation = s premier watershed protection partnership, to be good stewards of this truly national treasure.

That is why I am pleased that the proposed budget President Bush submitted to the Congress yesterday included a request for more than $20.75 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program B the largest such request in a decade. This money will help strengthen the good work this partnership is undertaking on behalf of the Bay.

But more money isn = t the only thing we are doing to make a difference for the Bay. Last week in his State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to, A protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined.@ Among the measures he called on Congress to enact his Clear Skies initiative, the broadest improvement to the Clean Air Act in a generation..

Overall, Clear Skies would reduce by 35 million tons the emission of three pollutants from power plants B nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury B over and above what would be accomplished under the current Clean Air Act.

Here in Maryland, once Clear Skies is fully implemented, emissions of sulfur dioxide will be reduced by 92 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions will be cut by 80 percent, and mercury emissions will be reduced by 85 percent over current levels.

That is especially important to the health of the Bay. Under Clear Skies, nitrogen deposition into Maryland = s coastal waters B including the Chesapeake, would be reduced between 15 to 30 percent.

What this means over the long run is simple B a significant decrease in one of the biggest problems faced in preserving the bay, which will lead to healthier fish and marine life and a healthier ecosystem.

I should also mention that Clear Skies will deliver clear public health benefits, as well.

Nationwide, Clear Skies will save thousands of lives and help millions of people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses breathe a bit easier. Here in Maryland, Clear Skies will mean 400 fewer premature deaths every year, and more than 11,000 fewer asthma attacks for the people of this state.

As many of you know, there has been a growing incidence of asthma in this country, especially among children. Today, nearly one in 13 school-aged children have asthma. And it = s not just outdoor air quality that can trigger asthma attacks, so can unhealthy indoor air.

We have found that about one in every five public schools in the United States has unsatisfactory indoor air quality, while one in four lacks proper ventilation. That translates to 11 million students in classrooms with unsatisfactory air quality and about 14 million students in schools with inadequate ventilation.

Through our Tools for Schools program, EPA has been working with schools all across America to help them assess and improve the quality of the air their students breathe. We have also been conducting research into this problem, so we can do a better job addressing it.

But there = s more to do B and thanks to the President = s proposed budget, we will get the resources we need to do the job right.

The President has called on Congress to provide nearly $24 million for children = s asthma programs in the next fiscal year B a $3 million increase over last year = s request. These additional funds, if approved, will allow us to expand the reach of our Tools for Schools effort. They will also fund new research into how certain pollutants present in the environment may trigger asthma in children, as outlined in the Asthma Research Strategy we released last fall.

As I said earlier, a budget is really a policy document. This budget reflects the fact that it is the policy of this Administration to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay and all those who enjoy it, not just for our time, but for the generations to come.

Thank you.