(•ironmental Protection
 Through The Environment
 Expectations For The  Next
           Four Years
Keynote Address by,
William K. Rcilly, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the annual meeting
of the
National Wildlife Federation
March 26, 1989.

 I want to spend some time this afternoon
 talking about expectations—your expectations
 for what can be accomplished at EPA over the
 next four years, the President's expectations,
 and my own.
   Washington is a place where perception often
 drives reality. That's especially true in an area
 as emotionally charged as.the environmental.
 You don't have to be very well seasoned in the
 ways of this city to see that the best way to
 deal with conflicting opinions and  emotions is
 to lower expectations.  If you tell people you are
 going  to jump the three-foot bar, they are
 happy and surprised when you soar four feet
 high. But if you tell folks you are going to clear
 the bar at seven feet,  they are likely to be
 deeply disappointed, even if you miss by only a
 few inches. So the standard advice is set your
 sights  low, especially as funds are  few.
  President George Bush is doing something
 different.  He is setting out to reaffirm and
 reinvigorate the conservation tradition in
 American public life that began with Theodore
 Roosevelt. He is moving to take decisive steps
 to create,  as he put it, "a new attitude on the
 environment" within the federal government.
  Consider what the President has done in his
 first 50 days in office;
 • He authorized Secretary of State  James Baker
 to make global warming the subject of the first
 speech of his tenure.
 • In meetings with the President of Brazil and
 the Prime Minister of Japan he personally
 expressed American concern ove.r the financing
 and construction of the Trans-Amazon
 Highway, which threatens one of the world's
 most important ecosystems.
 • In his budget message, he pledged "no net
 loss" of wetlands, a goal to which Jay Hair
 contributed through his participation in The
 Conservation Foundation's National Wetlands
 Policy Forum.
 • The  President pledged to propose Clean Air
 legislation this year, an initiative that promises
 finally  to break a 10-year deadlock.
• Last week, the President stated his intention
to seek legislation giving our government
authority to ban exports of hazardous waste,
except  where the receiving country agrees to
provide for safe handling of the waste.

• Also, the President committed the United
States to call for the complete phaseout of CFCs
by the year 2000. We will work through the
Montreal Protocol to ensure that the substitutes
are safe.

  With these early initiatives the President,
himself, has set high expectations, I believe it is
my mission to help him meet those
  I also believe that high standards have been
set by my predecessors. I think it's great that
you are honoring Lee Thomas Saturday. He is a
tough act  to follow. Those who have followed
EPA closely know  very well what a great job
Lee Thomas performed, under difficult
circumstances.  In enforcement, asbestos
cleanup, indoor air pollution, and building
public understanding of international
environmental issues, and many other areas,
Lee made outstanding contributions on which I
will be proud to build.
  So the second goal I have set for myself  is to
try to do as good a job as did Lee Thomas.
  The third set of expectations are those of the
people I work with, the 15,000 people of EPA.
Not every Agency head considers his people
the best and the brightest, but I truly believe
that, in the entire federal government, EPA has
the most dedicated and  talented  staff, working
on  the toughest, most thankless issues, in  the
worst building.
  EPA staff want more innovative approaches
to environmental problems. They recognize,  in
these days of tight budgets, the wisdom of the
British scientist who said, "Gentlemen we have
no  money, and therefore we must think."
Many of our EPA people are the children of the
first Earth Day  19 years ago, and they want to
see EPA reflect their highest personal values.
So do I.
  The final set of expectations, which are the
highest of all, are those of the American
people. The Bible says that "Without vision,  the
people perish." I believe that our people have a
vision of living in harmony with the planet that
sustains us.
  They want us to set our standards high,  to
reach and to stretch, even if the results
sometimes fall short. I share  their expectations,
and I am willing to take those risks.
  We are not satisfied with the state of our
environment. Despite huge investments over

 / believe that our people have a vision of living
in harmony with the planet that sustains us.
the past two decades, the environment today is
under less control, the problems facing us more
complex, the solutions more demanding than in
the past. We must be resourceful and
imaginative, even while our will is larger than
aur wallet. We dare not be satisfied. We can do
better. We will do better.
  We have in this society a large unfinished
agenda of environmental business. These are
:he problems our laws were crafted to solve.
But they have not been solved.
  Consider wetlands. We knew 20 years ago
:hat wetlands play a vital role in nurturing
narine life and waterfowl, filtering pollutants,
md buffering floodwaters. And yet, despite
ongstanding federal and state laws, we
rontinue to lose these vital and productive
•esources. To this problem President  Bush has
.aid enough, no more, it's .time to draw the line
md set an ambitious new goal: "No net loss of
  A second long-standing concern  is  acid rain,  a
sroblem that has bedeviled the environment,
damaged lakes and rivers, forests and
mildings, fish and man.  President Bush has
nade clear that "the time for study alone is
>ver; now is the time for action." We will make
?ublic our legislative proposal  for clean air this
•pring. It will be a comprehensive proposal,
lealing also with air toxics, ozone
ion-attainment, and the  smog problem that
'eached its worst in many cities during 1988's
lot summer. I hope and  believe that  many
nembers of Congress and the  President's
:ommitment to clean air will break the long,
:ontentious, and  exhausting stalemate and give
is what we have not had in 12 years, a
eauthorized Clean Air Act.
  There are many other items of unfinished
msiness. One is our debt to clean up after
;enerations of careless, ill-informed dumping of
lazardous wastes. That debt is past-due. We
ire in arrears. And it's a  big debt.
  Numerous critical reports from the  Congress
md elsewhere make clear that Superfund is a
lawed program. My charge is  to fix it. I have
>egun an internal management review to
xmsider the criticisms and recommendations in

these reports. Bright, committed people have
given their best to this program and still the
results have disappointed us. The  President
made clear in his  State of the Union address
that he sees enforcement as central to the
solution. He wants to see vigorous pursuit of
those responsible  for dumping hazardous
wastes. We intend to use all the enforcement
tools at our command.
  You have all heard a great deal recently about
EPA's regulation of pesticides.  We must review
our exhaustive and expensive  testing and
research processes. This society halts trading in
a bad stock faster  than it cancels a bad
chemical. So we'll work  to correct  that, if
necessary by recommending new legislation.
  But let me enter a caution: we must as a
society speak frankly about risk. The scientists
at EPA and elsewhere have worked for many
years to develop methods  for assessing risks.
They have  also contributed to our
understanding of  such concepts as "acceptable
risk" and "negligible risk." Our society will
need to understand these concepts, for  we
cannot escape risks any  more  than we can run
from life. We will need consensus if EPA is to
have public understanding and support as it
regulates and manages risks.

Our debt is to clean up after generations of
careless, ill-informed dumping of hazardous
wastes. That debt is past-due.

  Our challenge is to steer a course between
scaring the country to death on the one hand,
and boring it to death on the other. We are
tempted to exaggerate and hyperbolize to  get
an issue on the agenda,  and then  to use
esoteric and arcane language of the specialist
once it becomes law. Superfund and pesticides
have seen us err in both directions. I think
sometimes  I'll scream if I hear more jargon
about RIPS' and ROD's.  And how many people
have any idea what 10 to the minus 6 means in
assessing pesticide residues?
  We need to communicate more clearly about
risk and about choice, about consequence  and
about cost.  The Bush Administration is serious
about improving our environment.  As we  move
forward, at a time when new money is hard to
find, the premium will be on clear thinking and
frank communication about difficult tradeoffs.

 We intend to use all the enforcement tools at
 our command.
   I have spoken about our unfinished agenda.
There is also a new agenda, one that wasn't
understood back in the early 1970s when our
major laws were enacted. This agenda derives
from more recent discoveries: the pervasiveness
of toxic substances and their tendency to move
around among air, water and land; CFCs and
the terrible destruction to stratospheric ozone
they have caused, are causing, and will
continue to cause even if we were to cease their
manufacture and use tomorrow. When
President Bush was presented with the most
recent scientific evidence indicating the problem
is much more serious than had been believed,
he acted at once to commit the United States to
full phase-out of these chemicals through the
Montreal Protocol by the end  of the century.
For this to work, we must ensure safe
substitutes are available.
  And global warming. Five of the 10 warmest
years on record occurred in this decade. Carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 25
percent in 100 years. Something significant may
be occurring. We dare not ignore it. Tomorrow
morning I will testify on EPA's just-completed
report on the range of possible policy responses
to global warming. (This effort is the first by
any government to take a comprehensive look
at how nations might respond to global
  There is a fortunate and persuasive
coincidence between the policies we would
need  to undertake to address global warming
and policies desirable in and of themselves for
our environmental and economic well being.
These include phasing out CFCs, (which
account for almost a fifth of all greenhouse
gases); promoting energy efficiency (saving
energy also reduces carbon dioxide emissions);
and using our influence with the World Bank
and other multilateral aid and lending
institutions, as well as our own foreign
assistance agencies to give a higher priority to
reforestation and discouraging deforestation.
  The weekend before last I headed the U.S.
delegation to the London conference on saving
the. ozone layer. President Bush gave me a
personal letter to Prime Minister Margaret

Thatcher affirming his strong interest in the
international environment. In our conversation,
the Prime Minister spoke with great urgency
about our environmental challenges, and then
referred to people's environmental concerns as
part of an increasingly universal aspiration
toward quality in all areas.
  Mrs. Thatcher is correct. Americans want
quality in their jobs and their homes, in the
things they buy and the recreah'on they pursue.
 Our challenge is to steer a course between
 scaring the country to death on the one hand,
 and boring it to death on the other.
They want a better life, and they define
environmental quality as an essential part of
that life. They (we) want economic
improvement/of course.  That's what pays for
our environmental gains, among other things,
but we want economic growth that doesn't
shorten our lives or our  breath.
  Let us as a people claim the environmental
high ground and give definition to quality and
to economic progress. Let us clarify for the
world that investments in the protection of
natural systems like clean air and estuaries,
ground  water, and wetlands are every bit as
essential and productive as investments in
education, science, and defense.
  To do this, to be a beacon to the world,  we
will have to do better ourselves. We in the
United States produce twice the solid waste per
capita that West Germany does, and three
times that of Italy. We use twice as much
energy per capita as Switzerland or West
Germany and nearly three times that of Japan.
We must seek international cooperation.  We all
use and pollute the earth's resources. Unilateral
action by the U.S. will not be enough. The
President places a very high priority on
international cooperation.
  We must learn not just to control pollution
but to prevent it, not just to dispose of waste in
better ways, but to eliminate it.
  Here I must confess that more of the
same—more controls, tighter standards, better
enforcement—will not be enough to get us
there. Regulations closing off waste disposal
options will help. They have helped. Greatly
increased costs of waste  disposal are creating

 the incentives. Did you know that a third of the
 landfills in the country will be obsolete in five
 years? Ten years ago the cost of solid waste
 disposal was $5 to $10 per ton. Now in some
 places it is $125 per ton and rising.
   When costs rise like this, so must our
 ingenuity  and resourcefulness. We  must learn
 to generate less waste in the first place, to use
 less disposable material, and to make products
 that are recyclable or reusable.
   Speaking of resourcefulness, Governor
 Branstad of Iowa told me recently that he has
 proposed a law requiring that plastic bags and
 food containers be biodegradable. He told me
 of a poll indicating that 93  percent of lowans
 support these measures. I learned later that  the
 biodegradable bags are to be made of corn
 starch! That's Iowa ingenuity!
   The agendas I've cited are in a sense a return
 to the roots of the environmental
 movement—the deep understanding that
 everything natural is connected—and  that we
 are here as stewards. The environment will
 always be  changed by human activity. I see
 nothing wrong with that. We are part of
 nature. We have a right to  be here,  and to earn
 our living from its bounty.  But we do not have
 the right to harm the ability of nature to supply
 that living  to our posterity.
We want economic growth that doesn't shorten
our lives or our breath.
  So I envision four priorities for the years
ahead. First, we will make enforcement the
vital core of our regulatory efforts, the means of
ensuring that our laws are respected and
liabilities are voluntarily settled.
  Second, pollution prevention. This will
increasingly become the measure against which
all our policies and regulations are judged. We
need strong incentives for pollution prevention,
throughout our society.
  Third, ecosystem protection. Wetlands,
estuaries, and groundwater, the sea
itself—these are natural systems  on which life
and commerce depend. They will receive a high
priority, as we move to give expression to the
President's promise to introduce "a new era of
coastal awareness."

  Fourth, we will endeavor to reassert U.S.
leadership in the international arena. We intend
to enlarge and raise the status of EPA's
international office, to revitalize important
environmental treaties, to assist in developing
administration policy on aid and lending
institutions, and to help developing countries
manage their environments. So much of what
we must achieve cannot be achieved unless the
world community  cooperates. CFC phaseout is
the most immediate example. Should other
nations increase the manufacture and use of
CFCs they could offset all the gains achieved
from our phasing them out. We will be a part
of the'team  that seeks  to make the environment
an important priority of U.S. foreign policy, as
the President's and Secretary of State's recent
actions make clear.
Pollution prevention will increasingly become
the measure against which all our policies and
regulations are judged.
  Defending and improving the environment as
we move toward a new century will
increasingly affect the way we live. I  think we
will have to change our lifestyle, and develop,
if I may coin a phrase, a kind'er, gentler
relationship with the environment. The role of
the Environmental Protection Agency is to help
manage that change.
  What if we don't make this great change? We
hear much  talk about the fragility of Nature;  it
is true that human ignorance and greed can
destroy large portions of the environment. But
Nature is not fragile; Nature is very tough
indeed, as you might expect from something
that has been around for three billion years.
No, it is human  society that  is fragile, as is the
temporary aspect of Nature—the climate,  for
example—that sustains life. This aspect can
change, as it has in the distant past, in ways
that would  make this earth vastly less
comfortable  for our sort of life. Nature bats last,
as we used to say in  the environmental
  Such a change may be happening now.  We
don't know  for sure,  but the prudent person, or
the prudent society, takes out insurance in the
face of uncertainty. The modifications that I
foresee in our way of life are in a sense the

remiums on that insurance. If the insurance
irns out to be unnecessary, no one complains
i their insurance company because they're still
 When Time Magazine declared "Earth the
anet of the Year in 1988" everyone was
irprised: everyone but the  comedian Jay Leno
ho said, "Well, of course, what would you
cpect, all the judges came from earth!"
 So they did. So we do. Self-interested all  in
aking the changes necessary to life.
 The Japanese have a social technique for
iplementing change. It is a slow process
hereby the stakeholders in a particular
ijustment are brought into the process far in
Ivance of its activation, listened to, and made
 feel that they are not being unduly  harmed.
icy trail this process "binding the roots." In
is country our roots are wilder and thornier
r far than they are in Japan, but 1 think some
iriant of this process can work. I certainly
tend to try, and I hope I can rely on your