U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/31/2004
 
Statement of Stephen L. Johnson
Nominations for EPA and Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of this committee, I have the honor and pleasure to appear before you today to seek your confirmation to serve as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Deputy Administrator. Since joining the Administration’s team at EPA, I have had the opportunity to visit with many of you to discuss your environmental priorities and to share with you my vision for environmental progress. I thank you for your time. It has been an enlightening and rewarding experience, and I hope to continue to work closely with the Committee, should I be confirmed as EPA’s Deputy Administrator.

Now is an exciting time to work at EPA. Administrator Leavitt has quickly demonstrated an extraordinary grasp of today’s leading environmental issues, and his vision has already become an inspiration for our employees and management team. I am excited by the prospect of working with Administrator Leavitt in advancing his four cornerstones towards a “better way” for the environment. They include facilitating collaboration, harnessing technology, creating market incentives –– and a commitment to measuring progress, not process. Administrator Leavitt has two emerging themes echoing throughout the agency –– increasing the velocity of improvement and implementing "a better way." The Administrator is challenging EPA to reach new levels of environmental progress, and to do it in less time. I am proud to be nominated by the President to work with Administrator Leavitt at such a pivotal time in the Agency’s history.

The American people trust EPA to protect their families, communities, and the land, air, and water where they live. I understand the enormous responsibility that comes with that trust, and I will do everything in my power to make sure those responsibilities are met. I have learned that the best way to fulfill our responsibility is to promote transparency in our work and base our decisions on sound science. While serving as Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS), one of my top priorities was implementation of the landmark Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. The FQPA added new protections against pesticides, especially for children, and established statutory milestones for progress. During my two years at the helm, EPA met the law’s rigid deadlines for reviewing the safety of existing pesticides. How did we do it? We conducted extensive outreach to stakeholders to improve our decision making and to ensure broad support. We collaborated to ensure that EPA’s actions not only reduced risks from pesticides, but provided the agricultural community with the products they needed to control pests. To support the process, we ensured expeditious and scientifically sound testing and registration of new lower risk pesticides, especially products of biotechnology. We were able to meet the ambitious goals of FQPA through a powerful combination of extensive collaboration, sound science, and new technology. It is a success that I believe we can replicate in other programs across the Agency.

In my experience, these approaches can apply to a broad range of environmental policy. For example, in the area of industrial chemical regulation, I worked to ensure the introduction of safe new chemicals as well as the protection of citizens against hazards posed by lead, mercury, asbestos, PCBs and other existing pollutants used in industry and homes. We moved the voluntary High Production Volume Chemical Challenge (HPV) from concept to reality. This program “challenged” chemical companies to voluntarily generate and make public for the first time basic health effects information on the 2,800 industrial chemicals produced in the greatest quantities in the United States. Today hundreds of companies are submitting that data, which is posted on EPA’s Web site. The collaboration brought together EPA, industry and the environmental community in an unprecedented partnership to inform and protect the American public.

As I address these and other priority issues, I want to mention my personal operating philosophy and principles I will follow if confirmed as the Deputy Administrator. They include: advance the best science to support our regulatory decisions; foster open communication and regular consultation with our stakeholders; build strong and trusting relationships with all our customers, including Congress, states, tribes, industry, the scientific community, other government agencies, the international community, and the consumer advocate community; and finally, promote professionalism, dedication and diversity in the federal workforce.

These principles serve us well for the challenges we know are before us, but serve even better for challenges we may never imagine. In the wake of September 11, 2001, we were able to focus the efforts of staff from various EPA offices on the additional goal of chemical and food safety from terrorist threats, as well as anthrax cleanup. EPA staff joined forces with several other federal agencies and even other levels of government to effectively decontaminate anthrax at the Senate Hart Office Building and the Brentwood Post Office in Washington, D.C. We were able to quickly step up to these new challenges precisely because at EPA we have fostered a culture of collaboration, internally and externally, and we had the existing relationships and networks necessary to succeed.

The success of our leadership team at EPA is inextricably linked to the productivity and creativity of the Agency’s staff. EPA has an exceptionally talented and diverse workforce. As the designee for Deputy Administrator, I believe I have a responsibility to invest in our people, promote professionalism and diversity, and prepare our workforce for the future. This has been a longstanding interest of mine. In 1998 I became a charter member of EPA’s newly reconstituted Human Resources Council. I actively participated in the HRC even while serving as Acting Deputy Administrator. Over the years I have remained actively involved in a number of HRC-sponsored activities including direct participation in supporting the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program. I promoted agency-wide human resources programs such as the Workforce Planning Strategy both in OPPTS and in the Office of the Administrator. During my tenure at OPPTS, a number of progressive human resource programs were implemented to make OPPTS a "model" employer. For example, OPPTS pioneered an innovative employee rotation program that allows mid-level employees the opportunity to compete for special assignments that stretch and develop them professionally. I have been involved in EPA's effort to meet the objectives of the President's Management Agenda, including the Strategic Management of Human Capital.

I would like to close with two personal observations. My family has a strong commitment to public service. My father served in the Department of the Navy for more than 30 years. In fact, he and other family members are with me today in the audience. I’d like to thank all of them for making the trip to support me. Growing up, I always admired my father's government service. During college in the early 1970s, I began my public service as a GS-4 intern, and I am proud to have worked in public service for more than 20 years. This experience has led me to have a deep appreciation and abiding respect for the importance of reaching for excellence in government.

On another personal note, I have been fortunate to be able to devote the majority of my career to environmental protection. For me, serving in the government, with the goal of helping all Americans and their families, has been a distinct privilege. When I reflect on my past service and consider the future, I know that I will face difficult, complex, and serious issues. I have confidence that sound science and collaboration will lead to successful outcomes and best serve the American people. If confirmed as Deputy Administrator, I pledge to work toward national goals with a keen sense of the needs and realities of our individual families and communities. I hope that my service will reflect positively on my children, their everyday choices, and the community that each of us live in.

I appreciate your consideration of my nomination, and I look forward to working with you on a bipartisan basis to advance the mission of protecting the environment.