National Press Club

EPA Administrator Jackson Blasts Industry Lobbyists

March 8, 2010 | By Bob Webb |

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Lobbyists battling the Environmental Protection Agency's clean-up efforts are committing "an act of breathtaking negligence," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said at a March 8 Luncheon.

"Once again, alarmists are claiming that (these efforts) will be the death knell of our economy. Once again they are telling us we have to choose the economy or environment," she said.

Jackson said alarmists are going against the overhwhelming desire of the American people for a cleaner environment now rather than continue to subject their children to the dirty air and other climate hazards that endanger asthmatics, such as her own son, and sufferers of cancer and heart disease.

"This is happening despite the overwhelming science on the dangers of climate changing -- despite the Supreme Court 2007 decision directing EPA" to increase its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she said. Jackson predicted Congress will pass a Cap and Trade bill cutting carbon emissions through industrial trade-offs.

"When the air is dirty, or the water is contaminated, and people are getting sick, those kinds of health costs are multiplied by millions of families," she said. "And they're a burden to small businesses trying to provide health care to their workers. Good environmental protection is critical to our health, and because of that it's critical to our economy. Second, environmental protection is critical to our health, and because of that it's critical to our economy."

Jackson said the drive for cleaner air and water has wide support. "Everyone wants a clean environment Ten out of 10 Republicans want clean air to breathe. Ten out of 10 Democrats think safe water is important. Ask all 20, and they'd actually agree."

Recalling the history of the EPA, she said the catalytic converter used to burn unleaded gasoline, now standard on American automobiles, was "extremely controversial" 30 years ago. "The Chamber of Commerce claimed, and I quote, 'entire industries might collapse.' Using the Clean Air Act in this way was said to be a poison pill for our economy -- something that sounds all too familiar around Washington today."

As for the phase out of ozone-depleting CFCs years ago, controversy was immense, she said. "CFCs were the chemicals in aerosol cans and other products that led to a growing hole in the ozone layer. I remember a lot of people wondering if they were going to have to give up their hairspray or their deodorant -- and not being to happy about it. And they weren't the only ones. The chemical industry predicted severe economic disruption. Refrigeration companies forecast shutdowns of supermarket coolers and chiller machines used to cool office buildings, hotels and hospitals."

And despite all the controversy, "the auto industry survived," Jackson said. "Dangerous lead pollution in our air is 92% lower than it was in 1980. By 1985 the reductions of lead in our environment had estimated health benefits of $282 billion in revenues and $40 billion in exports, and supported 1.6 million American jobs. And that number doesn't include all the engineers and professional services firms that support those businesses."

Asked in the question-answer session about many aspects of EPA actitivity, she said, "90% of what we do is below the line, 10% above," and stressed that environmental cleanup can't be her agency's job alone -- the American people must help. "They have a job to do," she said, such as pressing government at all levels to join the effort for a healthier environment.