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New Hampshire Wildlife Federation Forum: Federal Government's Role in Protecting Our Environment

Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency New Hampshire Wildlife Federation Forum: Federal Government's Role in Protecting Our Environment

                            Nashua, NH

                         January 26, 1996

I want to thank Mary Shriver for that introduction. I want to thank the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation and the other organizations here tonight for your hard work on behalf of public health and environmental protection.

Twenty-five years ago, the people of this country -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents, joined together to say: "We must stop the pollution. We must save our natural heritage."

They asked their government to protect what we all share -- the air, the water, the land that we hold in common trust. And their government responded.

The progress we have made in the last 25 years stems in large part from the firm belief of the Congress -- and the recognition by six presidents, beginning with Richard Nixon -- that government does have a responsibility to protect those things which we all share.

Today we no longer have rivers catching on fire. Our skies are cleaner. Hundreds of toxic dump sites have been cleaned up. We've banned DDT. We've protected millions of children from lead poisoning. We cut toxic emissions from factories in half.

Tuesday night, in his State of the Union address, President Clinton challenged all Americans to continue the progress we have made as a nation and to work together to meet the challenges we face.

The President spoke of our economic progress. In New Hampshire, under this Administration, the unemployment rate is down and 30,000 new jobs have been created. Forty thousand New Hampshire working families have received a tax cut to help make ends meet. And more than 180,000 workers are protected by family and medical leave.

The President spoke of our progress in protecting public health and our environment over the past three years. Working with many of you, we have taken cost-effective, common-sense actions to protect our air, our water, our land.

Under the President's leadership, in this Administration we can point to the biggest drop in toxic air pollution in U.S. history.

Fifty million more Americans in 55 cities today are breathing cleaner air -- air that meets public health standards.

Under the President's leadership, this Administration has cleaned up more toxic waste sites than in the previous 12 years of the program.

We have expanded the public's right to know about toxic chemicals released in their neighborhoods.

We have moved aggressively to control hazardous waste incineration and improve the safety of our drinking water.

Under the President's leadership, we have challenged business to find creative new ways to exceed existing pollution standards. We have cut red tape for honest business owners -- but we have vigorously pursued those who ignore environmental standards, polluting the public's air and water. We have collected the biggest fines in history.

The President's budget plan will allow us to continue the job of public health and environmental protection. Under the President's leadership, we can both balance the budget in seven years and protect public health and our environment.

Last spring, President Clinton said he would not be a party to a rollback of public health and environmental protection. And he has stood by that commitment. He promised to use his veto pen, and he has done so. He rejected the EPA budget put forward by the Congressional leadership because it would not allow us to protect the health of the American people.

Their budget would cut environmental protection. Their budget allocates 23 2.121996e-313ss than the President requested for environmental protection. They would cut standard-setting, enforcement, toxic waste cleanup, and funding to protect drinking water and keep raw sewage out of our rivers and off our beaches.

These are not abstract effects -- problems that can be overcome in the future. They are now. They are real.

This year, EPA had planned to propose 42 new toxic air pollution standards. More than half have been delayed because of the reduced funding put forward by the Republican leadership. We had planned to adopt six new water pollution controls that would result in a reduction of one billion pounds of water pollutants per year. At least four of these have been delayed. Make no mistake about it: the Republican budget means less clean air, dirty water, and environmental protection by triage.

President Clinton believes, as I do, that we cannot go back. Our commitment cannot waver. The responsibility is still ours -- and will always be -- to manage responsibly the natural resources upon which life depends.

When we hear that an elderly person cannot take her daily walk around the block because the air pollution is so bad that she might get sick -- we say, Not in America. Yet right here in America, one in three people lives in an area where the air does not meet federal health standards.

The President's plan keeps the environmental cop on the beat and make sure our air is protected. In 1994, EPA and the State of New Hampshire carried out nearly 400 health and safety inspections of facilities.

With all the problems people have to worry about, a mother should not have to worry about her child climbing over a fence into toxic waste that was dumped there 20 years ago. Not in America. Yet one in four Americans still lives near a toxic waste dump.

In New Hampshire, 17 Superfund sites need to be cleaned up. The Clinton Administration is accelerating the cleanup of these sites and returning them to productive community use. We are strengthening Superfund to make it work faster, fairer, and more efficiently. President Clinton is ensuring that it is the polluter, not the taxpayer, who pays to clean up these toxic waste dumps.

When we hear that people have fallen sick from drinking the water that comes out of their tap, we think -- Not in America. But it did happen in America. In Milwaukee in 1992, hundreds of thousands fell sick from contaminated drinking water, and 100 died.

In New Hampshire, 200,000 people are served by drinking water systems that violated public health standards in the past year. And 2/3 of all shellfish beds in New Hampshire are closed or restricted because our waters are contaminated.

The President's plan will provide money to local communities to help improve drinking water systems and keep pollution out of our rivers and beaches. New Hampshire communities need that funding.

If there is one message I want to convey to you today, it is that your work is more necessary now than ever before.

Today we are engaged in the most important environmental debate in 25 years. The outcome of that debate will affect every family, every community. It will affect those who like to wander through fields looking for birds, and people who want to send their kids outside to play in a safe back yard. People who catch fish from the rivers, and people who want to breathe clean air. People who want safe food on the dinner table, and people who want safe, clean water coming out of their tap.

I would ask all of us to remember that protecting our environment is about protecting where we live and how we live. Let us join together to protect our health, our economy, and our communities -- so all of us and our children and our grandchildren can enjoy a healthy and a prosperous life.

I thank you for all that you do.