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Opening and Closing Remarks

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Opening Remarks

David Sheldon - Senior Director of Innovations and Partnership Programs, Council for Excellence in Government Robert Perciasepe - Assistant Administrator, US EPARobert Varney - Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (not available)

Closing Remarks

Jay Benforado - Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation, US EPA

David Sheldon
Senior Director of Innovations and Partnership Programs, Council for Excellence in Government

Good morning.

I'm Dave Sheldon, Senior Director of Innovations and Partnership Programs, at the Council for Excellence in Government, and I'd like to welcome you to the first ever National Environmental Innovations Symposium.

As you can imagine from my title, I am extremely pleased to be partnering with the EPA and ECOS to bring you these two days devoted to learning about innovations in environmental governance.This symposium fits in very nicely with the mission of the Council: to improve the performance of government. The Council, a non-partisan, non-profit organization in Washington DC, has a number of programs aimed at encouraging practitioners in government to share their successes and learn from their mistakes.

First, our leadership development work helps federal government managers see how they can innovate and create change for their agencies.

Second, our technology consortium is looking at how the advancements and innovations in the technology sector are allowing governments at all levels to provide more meaningful service to citizens, both individually and through partnerships.

And finally, as a partner with the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School at Harvard University in the Innovations in American Government Awards program, we seek out and recognize innovative government at all levels.

I am pleased to say that this year, the EPA was a winner of the Innovations Award for the Brownfields program. You will have the opportunity to learn more about the Brownfields program later in the symposium, through both a workshop and a field trip. And tomorrow, a 1999 awardee from the State of Florida, the Environmental Performance Measurement System, will be presenting in a workshop session.

And while I'm probably stealing a line you will hear tomorrow from Gail Christopher, the Executive Director of the Innovations Program, I want to challenge you to apply for the Innovations Award. With all the fantastic innovations that we will hear about in the next two days, there is certainly a future winner, or winners, amongst us. An application was inserted into each one of your binders for easy reference. Please consider applying.

This symposium presents a great opportunity for intergovernmental learning. It is clear that governments at all levels need to work more closely with each other to get the best results. The mix of federal and state participants at this symposium is an excellent opportunity to improve these relationships between environmental governments. We are so pleased that we will have two state commissioners here with us, Bob Varney of the New Hampshire and Dennis Treacy of Virginia. are joining us today. We will also be joined by a number of senior leaders from the EPA. This is a real testament to the strength of the symposium agenda.

So before turning this over to the next speaker, I'd like to acknowledge a few people who have made this all possible.

The planning committee for this symposium included a mix of folks from both EPA headquarters and regional offices, and from the states. Their names, and those of the workshop coordinators, are listed in your binder behind the agenda. I'd like to ask these planning committee and session coordinators to stand up and be recognized for all of their hard work. Let's give them a round of applause.

I'd also like to thank the co-chairs of the planning group, Ira Leighton, Betsy Shaw, and Laura Yoshii, as well as Bob Varney and Dennis Treacy, and the unofficial leader of the planning group, Sandy Germann. Their leadership was invaluable in making today a reality.

And finally, I'd like to acknowledge the support of Rick Farrell who really understood the importance of creating this symposium and who allocated the resources to make it happen.

Last of all, I want to point out that there are four of us from the Council that are here to assist you. My colleagues Katherine Hansen, Ramiro Inguanzo, and Margaret Cerrato join me in wishing you a terrific two days of learning and networking here in Kansas City.

Photo:  Robert Perciasepe speaking at National Environmental Innovations Symposium

Robert Perciasepe
Assistant Administrator, US EPA

Thank you. I'm delighted to be here today to discuss the importance of innovation in environmental programs.

EPA and the States Share a Common Mission and Responsibility

As the States and EPA come together this week, I should note we've just marked an important date in environmental history.

It was thirty years ago this past Saturday–December 2–that EPA opened its doors. The year was 1970, one often referred to as the "Year of the Environment," and while President Nixon and Congress moved to consolidate federal environmental responsibilities into a single agency, many states were founding their own environmental agencies as well.

At the time, there was a shared feeling among the people in this country that something had to be done about pollution. Clearly, the situation had gotten way out of hand. When a river actually catches fire - as one particular river did at the time - you know you've got a problem.

So the nation committed itself to halting pollution, to restoring our lands and waters to their uses, and to protecting the American public health.

No one knew exactly how we would solve all the problems we faced. But we didn't let that stop us.We've Made Great Environmental Progress

In fact, we launched an all out war against pollution, starting with a set of environmental and public health laws that have served us well. Congress banned lead from gasoline to protect our children, addressed acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer from CFC's, and found ways to address toxic waste sites like Love Canal.

They passed the laws, and we've been in charge of carrying them out. We've set tough standards and worked in a variety of ways to ensure they were met.

And today, we see the fruits of our labor. There are visible signs of progress.

  • Cars today are 95 percent cleaner than in 1970.
  • Almost every American now drinks water that meets EPA health standards.
  • We've removed dangerous chemicals from the food we eat, yet we have record agriculture and productivity.
  • Toxic waste sites are being cleaned up and returned to productive use in communities throughout the country.

These achievements are impressive, and in many ways they are a tribute to the profound dedication of state and EPA staff over these years towards making America a better place to live, work, and raise our children.

Innovation Is a Part of Our Legacy

And throughout these thirty years, innovation has been a critical element in our success.

Those same people in our agencies have driven us towards innovation because they are committed to achieving results. To better protect our environment and reduce costs so that dollars can be spent on progress, not paperwork.

Through a combination of economic incentives, performance-based standards, market-based programs, and innovative non-regulatory programs, we're reducing pollution now faster and cheaper than we ever thought possible.

Let me give you a few examples:

Project XL

Since 1995, when EPA listed Project XL as one of 25 innovative actions it would undertake, the program has grown to encompass 50 current projects that are underway in a variety of media. Its success shows that EPA is a place where a small group of people can make big change happen.Sure, there's been internal frustration along the way to this success— perceived competing interests across offices, or resource constraints. However, we've been able to resolve those challenges and implement projects that can make a real impact on the way we carry out our goals to protect human health and the environment. And Project XL has identified for us the tough issues we need to address to make reinvention work. It's accelerated cross-office dialogue to discuss inter-office policy considerations and legal constraints, along with the challenging questions of "what is regulatory flexibility?" and "what does superior environmental performance mean?"

To address these questions, XL has reinvented itself along the way through Programmatic activities as Constituency Dialogues and Technical Assistance Agreements.

There have been major innovation successes in the media programs as well:

Acid Rain

When EPA announced new rules to cut emissions and reduce acid rain in the early 1990's, critics argued that it was too tough and too expensive. They estimated that the pollution reduction required would cost up to $7 billion to fully implement.

Today, the emissions reduction targets are being met and even exceeded, but for $1 to $2 billion per year.

We set up an innovative trading program that rewards early action and gives companies flexibility to choose their own, most cost-effective compliance options. We are continuing to integrate the latest technology into the program by setting up electronic on-line trading and tracking of allowances. This reduces costs for industry and government.

Since going into effect, this program has reduced air pollution by 30 percent more than required by law.

Based on its success, we've used it as a model for other market-based programs, such as interstate regional ozone. The lessons learned have also been helpful as we've moved to assess the applicability of market-based trading programs for climate change, as well as its potential for water quality.

Water Quality

The start of market-based trading is just one sign of innovation in the water program. Another is the complete reorientation of water quality programs around watersheds.

During the seventies and eighties, most of our water pollution control efforts focused on controlling discharges from large industrial and municipal sources.

That was the right strategy at the time when problems were obvious and easily addressed. But by the early nineties, we understood there were interactions we weren't addressing, and we began thinking more comprehensively about all the stressors affecting water quality.

Today, many of our traditional water quality programs–at EPA and in the States–are being managed to focus on watersheds, not just a particular water quality issue. It's a more holistic and efficient approach, and one that's fundamentally different than the one we were using ten years ago.


Then there's the work we've done to address brownfields–those sites once used for industrial, manufacturing or other commercial purposes that lie abandoned due to suspicions of toxic contamination.

These sites can lead to blight, joblessness, and despair in our neighborhoods. They don't qualify for attention under Superfund. And concern about potential environmental liability has often kept developers, investors and lenders from investing in cleanup and redevelopment.

But in 1995, the Brownfields Initiative was launched, representing a whole new approach to addressing contaminated property. Rather than providing a federally-prescribed "solution," this program supports action at the local level. It provides seed money to help communities assess conditions and secure additional public and private sector investment to expand cleanup and redevelopment efforts.

To date, more than 1,900 sites have been assessed to determine the true extent of contamination – 600 turned out to require no cleanup at all.

In sum, more than $100 million in cleanup costs and more than $2 billion in redevelopment funds have been leveraged and 6,400 new jobs have been created.

And we're not the only ones who recognize how innovative the Brownfields program is. In October, the Brownfields Initiative was recognized by the prestigious Innovations In American Government awards program as one of the top ten government innovations for 2000.

Gail Christopher, the Executive Director for that program, is on our agenda. So, you might be hearing important lessons from this and other winners tomorrow morning. I understand several state programs–several of which are represented here at this symposium–have been recognized through this program, too.

We Need More Innovation–New Tools, New Ideas, and New Partnerships to Meet Today's Challenges

We're off to a good start. What we're here to do at this conference is learn the lessons from these pilot projects, regulatory experiments, and the day-to-day management of traditional programs, and share it with others who can implement these strategies in the future.

Because our jobs are far from over. Ironically, this progress we have made means the environmental problems of the future will be more complex - more difficult for any one local, state, or federal governmental agency to address independently. We can't go it alone.

We'll need to address the sources of pollution, not just the effects. For example, we've gone as far as current technology allows us to reduce the effects of pollution from power plants and vehicles. But still, because energy use and the miles we drive keeps increasing as our economy grows, air pollution is projected to increase.

Global warming, for example. We're past the point of debating whether the threat is real. More than 2,000 of the world's experts on the global environment have told us that the effects of climate change can be predicted–sea levels will rise, storms will intensify, and everything from the incidence of skin cancer to agricultural productivity will change.

Clearly, it's going to take new ideas, new tools, and new partnerships to address these and other environmental problems.

We need to seek more creative - more collaborative solutions.

  • Solutions that go beyond the traditional role that EPA has played, and that develop partnerships with industry and with states and local governments to address not just the effects, but the causes of pollution.
  • Solutions that allow America to go beyond what the law mandates - because our environmental regulations should be a floor for what we can accomplish, not a ceiling.
  • Solutions that directly engage our citizens in environmental protection.

We're already taking steps at EPA to reward in our regulatory framework those states and communities that have incorporated some of these traditionally non-regulatory strategies.

We've proved over the past 10 years that a healthy environment and healthy economy go hand in hand, and working together, I'm confident we can continue that track record into the next decade.

But to do that, we need to work together and share our experiences - that's what we're here to do today.

Recent Examples of Innovation

Let me end by recognizing some of our most recent examples of innovation and partnership:

National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse

The National Compliance Assistance Clearinghouse is an important new tool for environmental managers that we''ll officially launch during lunch tomorrow.

This new clearinghouse provides one-stop shopping for environmental compliance information. It's the first of its kind and it was made possible through a partnership involving US EPA, State agencies, as well as tribal and local organizations.

Joint Planning - Vision and Goals Statement

In September 1999 we held a national strategic planning workshop that brought together senior OAR managers, regional air managers, and representatives from Tribal, State, and Local governments. One of the outcomes of that open dialogue was development of the Joint Statement on Vision and Goals, which describes a shared ten-year vision and set of strategic goals for the national air program.

The Joint Statement on Vision and Goals is about to be published and will be widely circulated. In the meantime, the intergovernmental working group is focused on a series of action items to implement the Vision and Goals, including one proposed by ECOS to advance regulatory innovation, multi-pollutant strategies and voluntary market-based approaches.

And we have proposed to formalize this partnership by establishing a Clean Air Partnership Committee that brings together all of the major government partners at a senior level to focus on the strategic and policy issues in the national air program.

Asthma PSA Award

The CDC estimates that asthma affects more than 17 million individuals in the US. And according to a NAS report, indoor environmental pollutants play a significant role in developing and exacerbating asthma.

As part of our multi-media campaign to educate asthmatics and their caregivers about the importance of indoor environmental triggers, the Ad Council has developed a media campaign centering around public service announcements of the seriousness of asthma for children and the importance of an asthma management plan.

It's a great example of the innovative ways our voluntary programs are working to get our message across to the public and motivate healthy behavior.

The Ad Council is so enthusiastic about the campaign that they awarded it the Crain Award, for the outstanding PSA of 2000.

We have a copy of the video here today... (Bob, I would just delete this portion since we ran into technical difficulties).


These are examples of the type of innovation and cooperation that the American people expect from us. If we can work together, keep looking forward and keep learning from our experiences, we'll be able to meet their expectations and achieve real progress.

Thank you for coming, and for being a part of this important event.

photo: Jay BenforadoJay Benforado
Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation, US EPA

Thanks, I would like to thank the previous panel. I am going to be very brief, because I think we have had a tremendously successful meeting, and it's now time to put your seats and tray tables in their full and upright position, and I'll have us on the ground in two minutes.

I'm overwhelmed. It's like drinking from a fire hose. The volume of ideas and the energy presented here has been absolutely overwhelming.

You know, public service is something I chose to go into, and I am so proud at meetings like this to work with my colleagues. In my international travels for EPA over the last 15 years, one of the things that I've been struck by is that the rest of the world envies us and the government institutions we have in this country. And I am talking about the bureaucracy, and the military, and the court system, and the SEC, and the IRS, and the Social Security, and all the regulatory agencies at the Federal and State government. We are the envy of the world in terms of the kind of systems that we run free of corruption and full of innovation, and in terms of it constantly changing and improving.

I think the meeting agenda was extremely successful, beginning with leadership remarks by Bob Perciasepe of EPA and Bob Varney of New Hampshire. Malcolm Sparrow got us off to a very good start, giving us a framework of how to think about innovation, and how to make change happen. Mindy Lubber and Dennis Treacy and Ed Van Leeuwen, from Hallmark talking about how innovation is not just another project, it's part of an organization's culture, it's the way you approach your job. And then Gail Christopher this morning getting us to think about how innovation actually works. She gave us lots of examples and shared some of the criteria the Innovations in American Government award program uses to select the truly successful innovations.

And then the breakout sessions, I do not have time to summarize. I got to sample some of them. Let me just leave you with five or ten key words: Information - it's going to be a key to many of the innovations. Partnerships. The new models. Market based approaches. Enforcement and compliance innovation. Culture change. Stakeholders. Evaluation. All of these concepts touched on here are in fact what we need to work on.

Next, let me follow up on the remarks of Malcolm Sparrow,who I think in fact said it best. His advice was "Pick important problems and fix them." That is what innovation is about. We have a set of environmental problems we need to work on in this country, and we all know what they are—climate change and open space, declining species, smog, and so forth. And we need to use new tools. We need to think about some new roles for states, for the business community, for citizens. And we need some new strategies. It is not about pollution control anymore. It is about pollution prevention, sustainability, environmental justice, a whole set of new concepts.

Let me shift next to some thank you's, and I hope the people are in the room, and if not, if someone would get them. Let me begin with the excellent people from the Council for Excellence in Government who helped bring this meeting together, particularly David Sheldon and Katherine Hansen, and their colleagues. Are they in the back? Please stand up. Next, and I am not sure that these people are here, but I want to thank them anyway, the planning committee that helped work the last three to six months to put this together, and I cannot list them all. They are in your book. Bob Minicucci from New Hampshire; Ken Zarker from Texas; and Tim Titus from ECOS, are you still here? Thank you very much! And lastly, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart, Sandy Germann from EPA, who really took the leadership to put this together.

And let me leave you with two final thoughts. The first one is, and I am going to steal a Tom Peters phrase here, "Innovation demands passion." To me, that is the thought I want to leave you with. This stuff is intellectually demanding, analytically demanding, organizationally awkward, incredibly difficult to do. It's the passion of the people who came to this meeting to really talk about what they are doing. That's what innovation is about, and I encourage all of you to take some of these ideas, and start to go out and make change in your organization.

And my last idea flows from that. I think this kind of meeting cannot be a one shot event. I think we have got to get back together in a year, year and a half to really check-in again on how we are doing. And I will take leadership within EPA to help make that happen. And I will work with our state counterparts to figure out what the right next step is.

So, let me end with my final thank you to all the participants for attending. And this concludes the first Annual Environmental Innovations Symposium.

Thank you very much.

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