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Visit to Duqesne University regarding the FY 2004 Budget, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Talking Points for Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

February 4, 2003

Thank you, Ms. (Tine) Hansen-Turton, for that introduction. I also want to thank Dr. (Charles) Dougherty and Dr. (Eileen) Zungolo for being with us.

It = s also a pleasure to meet members of your nursing faculty and student body.

There is a great demand for nurses in America today and you are doing an important job in helping to send out into our communities well trained, dedicated and caring nurses B professionals who truly are the backbone of our health care system.

At the EPA, our mission is to safeguard the environment and protect human health B and those aren = t separate missions, they = re two sides of the same coin.

So while we may not provide health care directly to patients, as you do, we are helping to protect the health of the people in the United States.

That = s why I wanted to be here today to highlight several important parts of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2004 that President Bush sent up to Congress yesterday B proposals that will help protect the health of the people we both serve.

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 and healthier 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.

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 are several far-reaching proposals to make America= s air cleaner and healthier.

This Budget supports those proposals with real investments that will produce real improvement in the quality of the air we breathe.

For example, the President = s budget request included $7.7 million to begin implementing his Clear Skies initiative.

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 Pennsylvania, once Clear Skies is fully implemented, emissions of sulfur dioxide will be reduced by 83 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions will be cut by 66 percent, and mercury emissions will be reduced by 86 percent from current levels.

Clear Skies will also deliver clear public health benefits.

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 Pennsylvania, Clear Skies will mean 1,000 fewer premature deaths every year, and more than 22,000 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 B and the policies this budget supports demonstrate our commitment to cleaner and healthier air for all Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us, our children. Thank you.