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League of Conservation Voters Dinner

Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
League of Conservation Voters Dinner

                         Washington, DC
                        October 7, 1998

     Thank you Gene. And thank you to the League of Conservation Voters for all that you do to provide the American people with a critical voice in the electoral process -- and in the environmental debate.

     Where would we be without LCV's Scorecards? As sure as leaves fall in Autumn, members of Congress have come to expect their copy of the Scorecard. It's an event some of our members welcome, but far too many others fear.

     Well, these members of Congress should be fearful.

     When you vote against the environment and public health, you vote against the will of the American people. In poll after poll -- from California to New York, from Florida to Maine -- Republicans and Democrats alike have said that they want their government to do what it takes to provide clean air, pure water, safe land, and healthy communities.

     That is why I am proud to serve in the Clinton/Gore Administration. The President and Vice President have stood firm for tough protections of our health and environment against many obstacles, against many odds.

     And we have made great progress.

     We have taken the toughest action in a generation to improve our air quality -- setting stronger public health air standards for soot and smog -- standards that will prevent thousands of premature deaths each year, and improve health protections for people of all ages.

     We're putting children first in everything we do, setting safety standards -- for drinking water, for food, for pesticides -- that take into account the unique vulnerabilities of children.

    We're continually expanding the public's right to know about toxics in their environment so people can make fully informed decisions about how best to protect themselves and their families.

     We have a new Safe Drinking Water Act and a Food Quality Protection Act, which set tough standards and protect our water and food from dangerous contaminants.

     And the President has put forward common-sense, cost-effective plans to address some of our most serious environmental and public health challenges -- global warming, polluted runoff, and -- as the President announced tonight -- our disappearing wetlands.

     Many of you in this room were the driving force behind the changes the President is proposing in the wetlands program -- thorough environmental review for sensitive wetlands with full public participation. Thank you for your attention to this. Thank you for making your voice heard.

     But let me say that while the President is moving the country forward on wetlands, on global warming, on all our challenges -- some in Congress are holding us back.

     There are representatives and senators from both sides of the political aisle who have shown steadfast leadership for our environment and public health. But too many members of Congress have turned a blind eye to the fact that nearly 40 percent of our surveyed waters are still too polluted for swimming and fishing.

     Too many members of Congress ignore -- or simply don't care -- that one-third of Americans live in an area where the air is not healthy to breathe. That four million children live within four miles of a toxic waste dump. That three years ago, 100 people died in Milwaukee because of unclean drinking water.  

     Time and time again, these elected officials have stood in the way of this administration's efforts to safeguard families and children from environmental threats.

     At first, they weren't shy about it. You and I remember those early days of the 104th Congress. The assaults on our environmental laws were launched in the full light of day.

     And when the American people saw what was happening -- when they objected and demanded stronger protections, not weaker ones -- what did these elected officials do? They went underground.

     We've seen legislation that -- under the guise of regulatory reform and property rights  -- would severely undermine our public health and environmental safeguards.

     We saw clandestine riders that would roll back our new clean air standards and other public health protections.

     And as the President said tonight, appropriations bills have become Velcro for any anti-environmental, anti-public health provision these members of Congress can dream up.

     It's been rough going every step of the way. As we have tried to move forward, this Congress has been the shifting sands beneath our feet.

     So we have much at stake in the coming elections. We need the solid ground of a Congress unified with the vision and guts to vote right on the issues the American people care about.

     We need a Congress that will move forward on a tough Superfund reauthorization that ensures polluters pay for the messes they make.

     We need a Congress that recognizes that it's just not acceptable that so many of our nation's waters are still too polluted for our children to swim in -- a Congress that will do everything it takes to address the very difficult challenges of polluted runoff and disappearing wetlands.

     We need a Congress that understands the very real, very serious problem of global warming and has enough sense to ratify the Kyoto Protocol while there's still time to address the problem in common-sense, cost-effective ways.

     We need a Congress prepared to meet the difficult challenges of the 21st Century, not a Congress that wastes time and the taxpayers money with back-door attempts to delay or roll back our environmental and public health protections.

     We need more members of Congress like George Miller, and all the representatives and senators that have been steadfast leaders for clean air, pure water, and safe land.

     To each and every one of you who does the good work of the League of Conservation Voters -- to each and every member of Congress who has stood firm for public health and the environment -- let me say that your continued support for environmental protection is more than a simple necessity -- it is a moral imperative.

     Continue to do all that you do to make this world a cleaner, safer, healthier place.

     Thank you.