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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the P3 Sustainable Design Expo, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate the skills and ingenuity of our young scientists, engineers, lawyers, and economists. Some of you may know that I am not a politician by training – I got my start as a scientist. I studied chemical engineering in school.

Of all the things I get to do as administrator of the EPA, my favorites are always events like this one – where I get to see and talk about new ideas and innovations. These projects are not just about designing a building or a structure. They’re about designing a future. Coming here, I get to see your vision of the future. And I can tell you – it’s a vision we share.

We all share a vision of new prosperity created at the same time we cut harmful emissions and free ourselves from dependence on heavily polluting energy sources. We share a vision of clean, affordable energy that moves products, runs factories and keep business in motion. We share a vision of new jobs at all income and experience levels, from lab researchers, professors and designers, to construction crews, maintenance workers and service technicians. And we share a vision of a nation where environmental protection and economic development go hand in hand.

A lot of that is years down the road. But it is coming. In the next decade, we will see major changes in the way we live. No doubt some of them are on display here today. You are all way ahead of the curve. You are pioneering change, and helping us show that the environmentally sound thing to do is also the economically sound thing to do. That’s all the more exciting because of how young you are.

Standing in this room gives me a very good feeling about the years ahead. I’m proud of you and your creativity, your excitement, and your concern. It’s what we need at this exciting and important moment in our history.

As a nation we are facing the most serious economic downturn in generations. We’re all anxious about what that means – not just for ourselves but for the next generation. For you and your children. At the same time, there isn’t a moment to lose in protecting human health and confronting the rapid advance of climate change. We don’t have the luxury of a far-off day of reckoning. Leading scientists expect notable, if not drastic, changes within our lifetimes if we don’t get started right away.

Yesterday, EPA took an historic step by issuing a proposal that outlined the health and welfare threats that Americans face from green house gases and climate change. Climate change poses a very real danger to our economic stability. It jeopardizes the public health. And it raises serious concerns about our national security. The actions we take – or don’t take – today, will have profound impacts.

We’re in the crosshairs of two very urgent priorities. Everyone – from the President and Congress, to small businesses, to students like you – is looking for ways to save energy, to save money, and to save the planet.

That means we face great challenges – but even greater opportunities. We’ve rejected the false choice between a green economy and a green environment. We’re on an aggressive path to double our clean energy use in the next three years. And we’ve set an ambitious goal of cutting more that 80% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. We see unprecedented, bipartisan support for green jobs, smart growth, clean energy, and the long list of ideas and innovations that will grow the economy and improve our planet.

That’s where you come in. By being here today, you’re showing us that you have what it takes to be a leader tomorrow. Let me say that one of the best places to do that is at the EPA. When I finished graduate school there was only one place for young people who were talented, smart, and passionate about protecting the environment – and that was the EPA. We are working to return to that. I want to make sure we are recruiting the best, the brightest, and the most diverse EPA ever. A lot of you are going to be graduating soon and looking for jobs. Don’t for get about us.

We have a long way to go to transition to a low-carbon economy, to create new jobs and prosperity, and to confront global climate change. But our nation has faced serious environmental challenges before. And we rose to the occasion. 39 years ago, many American cities were blanketed with smog and air pollution from power plants, factories and cars. Chemicals in the water made it dangerous to fish or swim or drink the water in communities across the nation. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio was so polluted that it caught on fire and burned for almost half an hour. People wanted to put an end to those problems. They wanted to be sure that you and I, 39 years later, would have a safe, clean place to call home. So they got together for the very first Earth Day.

20 million Americans came out to show that protecting the Earth and the people that live on it is our responsibility. Now, it’s our turn. Just a few days from today, we expect more than a billion people to celebrate Earth Day in communities all over the world. That’s what can happen when individuals take action. I’m leaving you today with a personal challenge to stay engaged. To keep working for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Thank you for being part of this program, and for sharing your ideas and presenting them here. Good luck to all of you and I hope to hear more about your extraordinary efforts to help people, promote prosperity, and protect the environment.