Senator Boxer: Protecting Public Health and the Environment   

Friday, February 4, 2011  

Dear Friend:

I want to share with you the text of a speech I gave last week to a town hall meeting held for employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I wanted to commend the EPA for the work it does every day on behalf of the American people and to reaffirm my strong commitment to protecting public health by defending the nation's landmark environmental laws.

You can count on me to keep doing all I can to protect the health of our environment and our people.

Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
EPA Town Hall

January 25, 2011
(as prepared for delivery)

I come here today because I want to acknowledge and applaud you, the men and women of the Environmental Protection Agency, for the critical work you do to protect the public health of our people and the environment of the United States of America.

Too seldom do we thank those who work to ensure we have clean air and clean water, who protect us from toxic chemicals like lead that poison our children.

The mission you undertake every day is critically important to children and families, the elderly and communities large and small all across America. Your mission matters. It is a mission created with bipartisan support, and one that has made huge strides to improve our families' and our nation's health.

We must remember what was happening in our country before President Nixon established the EPA in 1970. The air was heavily polluted in many places, and so were the rivers and lakes that we relied on for drinking water, fishing and recreation.

Over Thanksgiving in 1966, smog blanketed the Eastern United States and researchers concluded that it killed 24 people a day from November 24 to the 30th. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. Swaths of the Great Lakes were lifeless "dead zones." And hundreds of thousands of gallons of sticky, toxic crude oil washed ashore along 35 miles of California's coastline, killing birds and marine life, and threatening fishing and recreation jobs.

But then our predecessors acted to save lives and safeguard public health. A series of landmark public health and environmental laws were passed with strong bipartisan support, and signed into law by Republican and Democratic Presidents. They are worth listing -- the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972. The Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 and the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. The Superfund law in 1980, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996, and the nation's Brownfields law in 2002.

These laws were created by listening to the science and crafting legislation, based on science. And that must be our guiding light today -- listening to the science and protecting our people. Doing that, EPA responsibly followed the rule of law to get lead out of our gasoline, reduce toxins in our drinking water and decrease smog in the air we breathe. These safeguards have protected our children and family members. That is who these laws protect. The fight for the EPA isn't about the EPA -- it's about the fight for the health of our families.

And, yes, it's about saving lives - so thank you for choosing a profession that is so noble in my view.

Early on in this Administration, Administrator Jackson's memo to “All EPA Employees” laid out three common sense but powerful principles that President Obama expected EPA to uphold:

•    Science must be the backbone for EPA programs;
•    EPA must follow the rule of law; and
•    EPA’s actions must be transparent.

She is right on point.

Over the last two years, EPA has followed these principles to address serious problems like reducing air pollution, which can cause asthma attacks, lost days at school and work, emergency room visits, heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths.

This EPA listened to its scientific advisors, public health organizations, doctors, and researchers across the nation by reconsidering the Agency's safeguards on dangerous smog-forming pollution.

The endangerment finding on carbon pollution released by this Administration, following a ruling from the Supreme Court, recognized the threat from carbon pollution and followed the law in responding. Now EPA is crafting a modest, flexible plan to limit carbon pollution from the largest facilities in the country.

The auto standards proposed by EPA and the Department of Transportation will reduce carbon pollution too. It will save consumers money, and cut our oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels.

Now I know that there are those who are going after this carbon pollution reduction plan.

But we all know what the science says; we know what the endangerment finding says; we know that EPA is following the science and the law and EPA is protecting our people.

And my strong message to you is -- keep it up -- keep doing what our laws say we have to do.

Keep following in the footsteps of Republicans and Democrats who stood up for the people of the United States of America -- for their health -- for their healthy future, and for science, and for our environment.

Thank you for your dedication, and I will stand firmly behind you in this noble endeavor.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer, US Senator, California
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer