Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Environmental Protection Administrator Christine Whitman

On criticism of the Republican's record on the environment:

"If you look at the history of the Republican Party starting with Teddy Roosevelt and the national parks system, Richard Nixon establishing EPA, George Bush the 41st and the Clean Air Act, Republican presidents and Republican governors, if you look what they have done around the country, have been very attuned to the environment.

What we have been very bad at is translating that into real life terms ... explaining to people that we are not just doing this as an academic exercise but we are doing it to make life better.

We hate regulations. There is a lot of that and the Republican Party is not a big-government party and we would just as soon see regulations go away. And my agency is a regulatory agency and the environment is also an area that elicits just enormous emotions.

For environmentalists, you can never do enough, there is no halfway point, there is no moving toward a goal. It is either you get there or you are not going to get there. And that is what counts.

Many businesses, anything you do is too much because every decision we make requires someone to either spend millions or billions of dollars or make changes in the way they live their lives for benefits they may never see. They may not see the air get clean in the way you can see open space be preserved but they are all things we need to do."

On which environmental issue is the No. 1 challenge:

"I would put it in terms of what I think our single greatest challenge is, and I don't know how we are going to solve it all, and that is water.

I think water is going to be the biggest environmental issue that we face for the 21st century in both quantity and quality. The agency doesn't really deal with quantity much – that falls more under (the Department of) Interior and others. But (EPA) clearly has an impact on quality.

As you look, not just for the United States it is around the world. If you look at what is happening in the Middle East, there are some severe droughts going on. Water is a major problem – clean water in Afghanistan. We have a million children dying a year from waterborne diseases around the world, entirely preventable. And here in this country we look at enormous costs – anywhere from $480 billion to $1 trillion in infrastructure repair needs in cities and around the nation.

... we have gotten really good at identifying and correcting the problem that comes from a single source from a pipe that's emitting into a stream. We are having now to get to the point where people understand what they do in their driveway can end up somewhere far away and have a cumulative impact

... when you look at the problems we have in the West with the arsenic standard, the cost of that, all of those things say to me that water is going to be really one of our biggest challenges and I am not entirely sure that we have it all down on how to solve that."

On reports that business had greater input than environmental groups in drafting the Bush energy plan:

"I think it is a little bit of a red herring, this 'Who did you meet with and how many times?' The important thing here is the program. The important thing here is the proposal. Is the energy plan good for energy security for the nation? Does it provide the kind of balance that we need?

... The way policy gets done to my mind is you listen to everyone, you have them all at the table ... at the end of the day what is important is the policy and I ... I would really focus what is the end product whether that is good or bad."

On campaign finance reform legislation which President Bush signed Wednesday:

"I am of the opinion that everyone is quick enough on their feet that people figure out ways around it, whether it means you have other groups that get the money or state parties versus the national party. At this point I think it is too soon to tell. They will get their money. One way or another they will figure out how to get their money."

On whether she is concerned that the environment was an afterthought in drafting the Bush energy report:

"We were at the table from the very beginning. It was an energy task force. The focus was on the energy crisis and the need to provide a stable source of affordable energy but environment was always there. Environment was at the table from the beginning. As far as the chapters on renewal able resources and conservation, those were always going to be part of it. "

On a federal appeals court decision Tuesday upholding air pollution standards:

"It does two things ... what this says is first of all the court recognizes sound science and the ability of the EPA to enforce that and in fact particulate matter and smog are important to public health. And that was all being challenged ... (and) I see it as an example of why we could do this much better much faster."

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