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E.P.A. National Notable Achievement Awards, Arlington, Virginia

          Talking Points for Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
          Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
          at the
          E.P.A. National Notable Achievement Awards
          Arlington, Virginia

          April 25, 2001

          Thank you, Mike (Shapiro), and good morning. It’s good to be with you.

          This is my second EPA awards ceremony this month.

          Of course, that’s just a recognition of what you and I know – there are lots of good people doing lots of good things here at EPA to protect our environment and the public health.

          Certainly, no one in the Agency has a more important and challenging job than those of you who work to manage the nation’s hazardous and other wastes.

          Guided by a sense of fairness and a dedication to sound science, your efforts to cleanup and restore Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action sites reflects your commitment to improving the world in which we live.

          Having been governor of New Jersey, I’m more than a little familiar with Superfund. New Jersey has more sites on the National Priority List than any other state.

          I know from first-hand experience how hard your job is and how important you are to the people whose communities you are restoring to environmental health.

          I also know how hard EPA regional and headquarters staff are working with our state partners in implementing RCRA cleanup reforms.

          The success of those reforms is reflected in the tenfold increase in facilities meeting both corrective action environmental indicators.

          Your jobs are rarely easy. When it comes to cleaning up a contaminated site, those who live nearby think it can never be done fast or cheaply enough.

          We would think the same thing if we were in their shoes.

          But we also know that the work you do has to be done right.

          By doing it right, however, you are making sure that the health of the people you serve is protected based on the best possible science and technology available, in the most efficient and effective manner.

          Your commitment to excellence has earned a real sense of pride, not just in yourselves, but in all of us who have the honor to work with you.

          It is fitting that we meet during Earth Week to recognize those regional staffers who are out there in the field every day making a real difference in the lives and health and countless Americans.

          In each of our award categories, we are honoring some truly special public servants – people whose actions have distinguished themselves among an already distinguished and dedicated group of EPA employees.

          You know how important it is to build partnerships with those we serve – partnerships that I believe are the key to the next generation of environmental progress in America.

          With EPA now 30-plus years old, we have a record of accomplishment in which every EPA employee can take pride.

          Our mission is the same as it was 30 years ago – to protect our natural environment and the public health.

          Back on that first Earth Day in 1970, one of the pieces of popular wisdom among us then-young people was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

          Well, even though EPA is over 30 years old, I know our Agency still retains the trust and the confidence of the American people.

          That’s a trust I believe we can build on, by finding new ways to tap into the commitment to environmental protection that is increasingly shared by state and local governments, responsible business leaders, energetic groups, and creative citizens.

          We are eager to build new partnerships with all those who have a stake in what we do, and that will require some new ways of doing business.

          But as I said at my confirmation hearing, we will offer the carrot first, but we will not retire the stick.

          Those who think a invitation to partnership is a license to pollute had better think again.

          As I looked over the list of today’s winners, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I don’t have the toughest job at EPA after all.

          While it’s true that at headquarters we have to deal with the occasional explosive issue, we’ve never had to deal with actual explosives, as one of our award winners did.

          And even though there are times we have messes to clean up, they’re nothing like the messes you find out in the field.

          Please know that you have my personal appreciation for the work you do and the difference you are making in the lives of countless Americans.

          As administrator, I will continue to do my part to make certain you have the support you need to do your jobs in the excellent manner in which you are accustomed.

          Thank you, and congratulations.