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As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, Charlotte Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life Celebration, Charlotte, NC

Thank you, Mayor McCrory, for that welcome.

I’m pleased to join you all today to celebrate the environmental and economic results produced through the Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life, or SEQL program. Through SEQL, we are building a healthier, brighter future for the Greater Charlotte bi-state Region.

While I congratulate everyone in this room for supporting sustainable growth, I want to particularly acknowledge Mayor McCrory and Chairman Parks Helms, who were both instrumental in getting this local project started.

Last summer, the Mayor and I had the pleasure of sharing the stage at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation in St. Louis. During his remarks, the Mayor discussed some of the good work being done here in Charlotte to balance economic growth with a protected environment. So it’s great to finally visit the Queen City, and see the fruits of your efforts first-hand.

Through cooperative conservation, President Bush and EPA are equipping local leaders with the essential tools to protect their local environment. And that’s exactly what we are doing through the SEQL program.

Over the past 15 years, this entire region has experienced the population growth and economic prosperity that many communities in our country can only envy. And while you could have sat back and basked in the glow of your economic accomplishments, you quickly realized that the quality-of-the-environment has a lot to do with your residents' quality-of-life.

Over the past five years, you took the environmental bull by the horns. By partnering with EPA, you committed to region-wide cooperation and integrated environmental stewardship into all your energy, transportation, land use, and economic development efforts. As a result, EPA was proud to provide over one-million-dollars in funding to develop these forward-thinking, long-range planning efforts.

This commitment is helping build a healthier, brighter future for the greater Charlotte region.

Your innovative solutions are important because there is no cookie-cutter answer to the environmental challenges of economic and residential growth. To achieve lasting improvement in environmental health, it takes a willingness to use a range of inventive approaches, build partnerships, and work collaboratively across county and state boundaries.

And with our nation’s population topping the 300-million mark, more growing metropolitan areas are quickly facing these same challenges. I’m pleased we can point to the success of the Charlotte area to help communities understand that the quality-of-the-environment has a lot to do with their residents' quality-of-life.

At EPA, we understand that the environment and the economy must advance hand-in-hand. So when President Bush charged me with accelerating the pace of environmental progress while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness, I told him, “We’re already on it.”

And your region is a shining example of this pro-growth, pro-environment philosophy at work. While you enjoy the fruits of prosperity, you are ensuring it does not come at the expense of the environment. And you understand that by protecting the quality-of-the-environment today, you will ensure a higher quality-of-life for generations of residents.

At EPA, we are pleased to play a role in supporting this effort: SEQL serves as a model for other communities across the nation – and for that, you should all be very proud.

I want to thank you for your willingness to set this example. I look forward to continuing our work together as we build a healthier, brighter future for the residents of your region.

Thank you.