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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks at the Chicago Recovery Act Training Grants Award, As Prepared

Read the blog post and see photos from this event.

As prepared for delivery.

When I worked on environmental issues in New Jersey, one of our greatest challenges was the pollution in the Passaic River. The river today is still heavily contaminated with industrial waste, trash, and dioxins that can cause cancer. It’s not safe to swim there or to eat any fish that come out of the river. And in recent years, efforts at cleaning up the water have stalled. As a result, no one will invest in the local communities. Opportunities for recreation or development along what would be prime water-front property just aren’t there.

The environmental degradation has stunted the growth of the local economy. It’s created a blight that is self-reinforcing.

On the other side of the coin is the Gold Coast – an area of former industrial sites on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Today the Gold Coast has some of the most valuable real estate in the country. Much of the development there has taken place on formerly contaminated industrial lots that were cleaned up and rehabilitated.

Those sites are now back in the local economy. Rather than languishing as polluted, empty lots, they’ve become part of the growing economy.

In the last few years, companies have seized the opportunities there. They’re moving into those sites, setting up shop, and creating good jobs.

So we can see that environmental challenges in our neighborhoods create entry barriers for new businesses and new jobs – as they have along the Passaic.

But restoring or preserving neighborhoods – as we did on the Gold Coast – is a great way to create new opportunities.

And that economic revitalization is what we’re working to bring to communities in Chicago today.

I’m proud to announce that EPA is awarding almost half a million in Recovery Act funding to help train workers for new, green jobs in environmental remediation and energy efficiency weatherization.
This funding will help 80 local workers learn the skills needed for jobs restoring polluted sites, or weatherizing homes to cut energy consumption and reduce air pollution.

This is about protecting our health and environment, and expanding meaningful economic opportunities in places where they’re needed most.

By restoring undeveloped lots or weatherizing buildings to lower energy costs, these workers will generate new economic possibilities, bringing new opportunities and jobs here.

The remediation training program will focus on the 9th and 24th Wards on Chicago's South Side, as well as seven suburbs immediately south of Chicago, areas that are plagued with contaminated Brownfields sites and other environmental hazards.

Those are exactly the kinds of environmental problems that put up entry barriers to new jobs. Poison in the ground means poison in the economy. A weak environment means a weak consumer base. And unhealthy air means an unhealthy atmosphere for investments.

So we’re giving the residents there the tools they need to turn that around.

Not only will the cleanup process put people to work – but once that process is complete, the sites themselves can be put back to work.

They can become the homes to new business. They can be transformed into greenspace. Or they can be part of walkable communities that improve the health of the residents.

Whatever shape the improvements take, the areas around them will be better places to live, and more attractive locations for businesses to invest and bring jobs.

The weatherization training will help put people to work at the same time that it saves families hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs. We also get a nice cut in greenhouse emissions and other air pollutants in the bargain.

It helps communities that stand to benefit the most from higher employment, lower bills, and cleaner air – all in one simple initiative.

Another benefit is that we’re training people for good jobs that can’t be sent overseas. These jobs employ local workers, and they help to build a strong foundation for future growth.

We’re making it clear that – in Chicago or anywhere else in the country – protecting our health and our environment is a great way to rebuild our economy.

I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead as we build our green economy, create new jobs, and safeguard human health and the environment in every community.

Thank you very much.