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The Consumer Federation of America: Consumer Assembly EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner The Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington DC

Remarks Prepared for Delivery to The Consumer Federation of America: Consumer Assembly
EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner
The Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington DC
                March 19, 1998
     Thank you Mary Ellen Fise for those warm words of introduction. I salute your leadership and all your hard work in making it a little easier for Americans to breathe indoors. Your work has gone a long way to improving air quality inside our homes and offices -- and I thank you.

     For that matter, thank you to everyone here from C-F-A. I am delighted to be among so many people who believe as I do -- that there is little more important than protecting the health and safety of our nation. As a mother I believe this -- and as someone whose job it is to ensure a clean, safe, healthy environment for every American and every American community.

     You are committed, tireless advocates for consumer protection and public health -- and I am grateful for all that you do. Because of your efforts on the frontlines -- your research, your outreach, your consumer education -- EPA has been able to take bold steps to safeguard families from all sorts of threats.

     Together -- in partnership -- we've worked for cleaner air both outdoors and inside our buildings. We've warned people about second-hand tobacco smoke, about radon gas and lung cancer and we've told people what they can do to protect themselves and their children. We've worked together on making appliances more energy efficient -- so that we can clean up our air, and reverse the trend of global warming.

     At EPA, we take great comfort in knowing we walk on common ground with C-F-A: Protecting the environment means protecting the consumer -- and vice versa.

     Let me take stock for a moment of the progress this country has made.

     Certainly, rivers are no longer catching fire -- like they were when we passed the Clean Water Act more than 25 years ago. We have prevented billions of pounds of toxic pollution from entering our waterways and today we often boast that nearly two-thirds of our waters are now safe for swimming and fishing -- nearly double that in 1972.

     We've banned the most dangerous pesticides -- DDT, chlordane, and others -- and brought safer substitutes to the market.

     Our air is cleaner and healthier. Two-thirds of Americans now live in areas that meet EPA's standards for healthful air.
     All this environmental progress at the same time our nation's gross domestic product has grown almost 100 percent. A healthier environment has not come at the cost of economic growth. This is good news, and this country has much to be proud of.

     But the question this conference begs is how do we continue to make a difference. How do we continue to make positive change in a world that grows more complicated with each passing day? A world where pollution knows boundaries, where information, technology, and more and more of our goods and services are global commodities exchanged in a global marketplace? A world where just the letter of our laws might not be enough to finish the job of cleaning up the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we all share.

     A third of our waters are still too polluted for swimming and fishing. We lose wetlands and topsoil every year. And soot and smog hangs heavy over many of our cities -- too many of our children still suffer with asthma from breathing unhealthy air.

     We have made great strides cleaning up the nation's worst toxic waste sites -- more than 500 cleaned up to date -- but hundreds of communities are still held back by toxic waste. No child should have to grow up, walk to school, or play next to one of these hazardous sites.

     While we have the safest water and food supplies in the world, outbreaks of dangerous micro-organisms are not unheard of, reminding us that we cannot let down our guard until every community, every American can rest assured that the food they eat and the water they drink is safe and healthy.

     Five years ago, when I came to Washington to head the Environmental Protection Agency, President Clinton and Vice President Gore charged me with a small task: Rethink everything EPA does -- usher in a new generation of environmental and public health protection that will finish the job of providing clean air, clean water, and safe land for the American people.  

     That is what we've been doing. Over the course of President Clinton's first administration, and now into the second, we have worked hard to build that new generation of protection -- and we have premised it on three guiding principles:

     We believe -- we know -- that our best efforts are those done in partnership -- where businesses, communities and all levels of government join together, to work together to seek common ground in solving the nation's most urgent environmental and public health challenges.

     We believe the economy and the environment go hand in hand. In fact, we've proven this time and time again, that we can find ways to save jobs, create jobs, and still take bold steps to safeguard our communities.

     We believe that if you give people clear, accurate, consistent information, they can build more effective partnerships and together make better, more informed decisions about the health and safety of their families and the places where they live and work and play.

[radon, nlev, accurate test kits for radon, encouraging people, outreach] [Introduction]
[themes: changing world; partnerships; information; protecting people and the environment] [right to know] [food safety] [safe drinking water act] [clean air] [children's health]