Speeches - By Date
EPA Science Forum, Washington, D.C.05/05/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Forum
May 5, 2003
Thank you Dr. (Kevin) Teichman for that introduction. I want to welcome everyone to EPA= s Second Annual Science Forum. This is an important opportunity to bring together all of EPA= s scientific community and our partners to highlight the broad range of cutting-edge research and technological work that is underway at EPA.
From the food we eat, to the water we drink, to the air we breathe, our work at EPA reaches almost every aspect of American life. Though our mission is complex, our goal is simple B to make our air cleaner, water purer, and land better protected. There is no doubt that success in reaching that goal depends largely on a foundation of sound science.
We rely on science to help us understand environmental problems and the risks they pose to our health and quality of life. We rely on science to provide solutions to those problems and analysis of which solution will work best. We rely on science to determine the effectiveness of existing programs and policies. When you rely on something that heavily, you better make sure that the foundation is strong.
Fortunately, that has always been the case with science at EPA.
As Administrator, I have looked for ways to strengthen this vital program and increase the role of science in our decision-making processes. That is why when I arrived at EPA, I commissioned a task force to help identify ways we could improve the use of science. Over the past two years, we have implemented a number of their recommendations, and I would like to share with you three key areas where we have seen significant improvement and progress.
First, we have worked to improve the resources that determine the quality of EPA= s science. In this area, our most important resource is our scientists. EPA attracts some of the best and brightest minds in America. In order to ensure that we continue to do so, we have developed a proposal to make EPA research salaries and positions more competitive with the private sector.
In addition, EPA also supports a strong Post Doctoral program which helps produce future leaders in the science and engineering fields. Our postdoctoral scientists have made important research contributions such as developing a method to identify Hepatitis E in watersheds and developing a population model to predict children= s exposure to certain pesticides used in the home and garden. As a result of this program= s success, EPA has requested an additional 20 postdoctoral positions in the FY 04 budget.
However, it is not enough to just recruit great scientists, we must also ensure that their work is reflected in our policy and regulations. With that in mind, the number of laboratory engineers and scientists engaged in providing scientific input to our regulations has doubled in three years B from 150 in 2000 to over 300 today.
By not only increasing the number of scientists, but their role as well, we are holding our policy to the same high standards of quality and excellence that we expect from our science.
Just as important as strengthening the quality of our science within the Agency is our increased efforts to reach out in partnership to outside groups in support of our overall environmental mission.
As an Agency we need to be aware of the important scientific work that is being conducted by outside parties, and we must be active in seeking ways to partner in those efforts. For example, EPA has joined with the American Chemistry Council to coordinate our research as we work to understand the effects of chemicals on the development of infant and children = s immune systems.
EPA = s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) partnerships, also supports research outside of the Agency by providing competitive grants to scientists in the academic and private sectors. Since the program began in 1995, nearly 800 grants have been awarded for a total of over 700 million dollars. In the President= s FY 04 budget, he requested an additional $5 million to support this important program.
Finally, an area where we saw one of the greatest needs for improvement is that of coordination and communication. I appointed our AA in ORD and my science advisor, Paul Gilman, to oversee this effort. Under his leadership, the application and use of our science has not only improved, but it has become much more uniform across the Agency.
From EPA = s Science Policy Council which helps direct the use of scientific and technical information in policy decisions to developing Information Quality Guidelines that set high standards for the scientific information EPA releases, there is a much clearer understanding today of how we use our science and what we expect from it.
This is an understanding that we want to ensure is communicated and coordinated across the entire agency, with our regional offices, our partners, and the American public. Our Science Forum is an important part of that effort. For the next few days, you will have the opportunity to visit exhibits that showcase our scientific work, meet with many of our Agency = s top scientists and engineers, and participate in panel discussions covering a wide range of pressing environmental topics such as water quality and homeland security efforts.
As we open up this forum today, we are also kicking off Science Month. Throughout May, I will be traveling all around the country visiting many of our EPA regional labs to see first hand the work in which our scientists are engaged and to highlight the importance of science to our work as an Agency.
As all of you know, the environmental challenges we face today are not as clear cut as they were thirty years ago. If we are to indeed foster a healthier environment and a greater quality of life then we must continue to rely on the tool that has gotten us this far B science.
I want to thank Paul Gilman and everyone who worked so hard to make this forum such a success and I hope that all of you will enjoy the next few days with us.