(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
I have looked forward to this day for a long, long time. Today marks a turning point for the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. These two agencies have a moral responsibility to protect our families and our communities from environmental threats. They have a duty to ensure the health and safety of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we all share.
Today, this Committee has the honor and privilege of conducting the nomination hearing for the leadership of two agencies that are critically important to the health and welfare of the American people.
I want to welcome Lisa Jackson, who has been nominated to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Senator Lautenberg has told us in his warm introduction, Lisa Jackson has a strong science background. Lisa has worked on all aspects of environmental protection, including leading one of the largest and most complex state agencies in the country – the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
I also want to welcome Nancy Sutley, who has been nominated to be Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Nancy has a long history as a leader in environmental protection in my home state of California. She most recently served as Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the City of Los Angeles. She was a board member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board. She was a deputy at the California Environmental Protection Agency.
The State of California has benefited from Nancy’s passion for environmental protection, and I am so pleased that she has the opportunity to bring that high level of commitment to the White House.
I would first like to talk about the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is very clear: “To protect human health and the environment.” This is EPA’s central purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen the agency move in a direction diametrically opposed to the mission it was established to achieve.
EPA has a responsibility to protect public health, not to ignore toxic pollution.
EPA must rely on scientific experts, not special interests.
EPA must listen to its professional staff and independent experts, not industry lobbyists.
EPA must ensure that our environmental laws protect our children first and foremost, not ignore the dangerous threats children face from pollution. When we protect our children, we protect everyone.
EPA works for the American people, and in my view we have seen it hurt the American people these past eight years.
At this hearing, I intend to ask the nominee for EPA a series of questions. In each case, what I am looking for is a renewed commitment to EPA’s mission.
Like EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has veered off course. Its fundamental mission is to “promote the improvement of environmental quality.” The White House Council on Environmental Quality needs to reassert itself as a key advisor to the President on environmental matters. The Chairman of the CEQ needs to bring together all the voices in the Administration for a strong, coordinated environmental policy. I will ask the nominee for Chair of the CEQ to make a similar commitment to a new direction at this important White House agency.
The priorities of the leadership in these two agencies must include ensuring our drinking water quality, strong clean air safeguards, protective chemical policies, scientific integrity, transparency, cleaning up dangerous toxic waste sites, protecting the natural environment, and addressing the urgent threat of global warming.
All of us celebrate our grandchildren, and some of us read to them. As I reflect on the last eight years at EPA, I am reminded of the story of Sleeping Beauty.
We have an agency and a set of laws that are already in place to do what we must be done. But that agency as it was conceived of by President Nixon needs to be awakened from a deep and nightmarish sleep.
With new leadership, I am confident that we can wake up the EPA and the CEQ to their critical mission -- to protect human health and the environment.