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tv   Acting EPA Administrator Speech to Employees  CSPAN  July 11, 2018 1:31pm-1:55pm EDT

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there are disagreements, but nato has made decisions and we are delivering on the defense pledge. and for me in the long run, substance is what counts and on the substance, nato is delivering. >> thank you very much. that's unfortunately all we have time for, before the leader's dipper. so we will see you again tomorrow. thank you. >> thank you. >> back live in washington now at the environmental protection agency, where acting epa administrator andrew wheeler will speak to staff there. there have reports of a number of resignations since former epa administrator scott pruitt stepped down last week. it should be getting underway shortly live here on c-span.
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>> my name is henry darwin, epa's chief of operation. it is my privilege this afternoon to introduce the acting administrator of the u.s. environmental protection agency, andrew wheeler. he was selected by president trump to become acting administrator starting july 9th, 2018. he was confirmed by the u.s. senate as the deputy administrator of epa on april 12th. administrator wheeler has dedicated his career to advancing sound environmental policies. he began his career in the 1990s at epa, as a special assistant in the pollution prevention and toxics office, where he received three bronze medals. after his time at epa, he moved to congress, where he worked on environmental issues and eventually became majority staff director and chief council, as well as a minority staff director of the senate committee on environment and public works. i like to think of congress as our board of directors, so i know that administrator
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wheeler's experience on the hill will greatly benefit the agency. throughout his career, he has received bipartisan support and representation for his work and his leadership. along with his other accomplishments, administer wheeler is an eagle scout and perhaps most impressively of all, has climbed mt. kilimanjaro. i have seen firsthand how thoughtful and collaborative he is in his approach to issues. in meetingings, i regularly see him seek out the opinions of others, careers and politicals alive. so be alert. he has served his agency as both a career employee and now as a political, so he understands the important role each of you play. when he talks about his past specious at epa, he talks about it with pride. it's clear that he cares deeply about this agency and its
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mission. so please join me in giving a warm welcome to acting administrator, andrew wheeler. >> thank you and good afternoon. and thank you, henry, for that generous introduction. i do want to announce henry darin will be assuming the duties of the acting deputy administrator to help me in my role as the acting administrator going forward. and thank you, henry, for agreeing to take on that new responsibility. it is a privilege and an honor to be standing before you today as acting administrator of the environmental protection agency. i am humbled and grateful that president trump has given me the opportunity to lead this agency, the very agency where i began my
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career in 1991, in the pollution, prechingt, and toxics office as a career employee. since this is my first time speaking to many of you, and since you're probably only -- you've only been reading flattering things about me in the press, and hello to the press in the back of the room, allow me to briefly introduce myself and then splexplain my vision and priorities for the epa. i began my career in washington, as henry said, here at the epa. i was a special assistant in the management division and toxins programs. at that time, it was office of toxic substances, ops, then ott. over the course of four years. in my fourth year, i went to work on the hill for the ledges fellow program and my office reorganized yet again and i realized there was probably more stability working in congress than there was in the epa at the time. and i say that half-joking,
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because i do understand firsthand the stress that goes along with a change in management or a change in the reorganization. and we're going through that change now and i understand how stressful that can be. and i want you to know that i understand that and that i will try to minimize the stress that you all deal with in a daily basis, as employees here at the agency. during my time, henry mentioned, i had three bronze medals as an epa employee. i'm actually wearing one of the bronze medal pins today. when i went to work in the senate, i worked for two great members of the senate. and i spent 12 years working on the senate environment and public works committee. the epa committee has jurisdiction of all the statutes that we have here at the agency
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except at the pesticides program, for those of you who follow congress carefully. after i left the hill, i worked at a law firm. i had a number of clients. if you read in the press, i only had one, but i actually had over 20 clients. a wide range of clients. working with different companies, trade associations, some public sector, some private sector clients, some ngos. i think it's important, i know in the press, i think it's been used by some people to -- in a derogatory manner, but i'm proud of the work i did.
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i want to explain in particular the last four to five years working for the company, the number one issue they asked me to work on was the minor miners protection act. i did, before i left private practice, we were able to pass legislation for the health care benefits, but we never finished the pension benefits. and that is, i really wish we had done that before i left the senate, or maybe before i left private practice. and that legislation was introduced by senator manchin and capito of west virginia. and that really was important to me. my grandfather was a coal miner during the depression. my grandmother raised her children in the coal camps in west virginia. in fact win still have some of the company script that she used to buy food in the company store. so the work that i did on behalf of the company, to try to help the retirees of the united mine
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workers is the reason why the united mine workers endorsed by confirmation when i was nominated last year. i don't think that story has been out there. and i think as employees of the agency, you need to know that about me. over the years, when i work, particularly on the hill, over in the private sector, i would often give speeches like this, although a much smaller audience. and i would often be asked, what was it like as a republican working at the environmental protection agency? what were the career employees like at the epa. and i would say that the epa employees were some of the most dedicated of all the employees in all the federal government. and i say that because many of you developed a passion for the environment at an early age and pursued a career at epa for that very reason. just like me, you came to epa to help the environment.
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it is a privilege to work alongside you and leave the agency in its vital mission of protecting human health and the environment. when it comes to leadership, you can't lead unless you listen. a wise person once said, we all have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that poerpgs. i a val -- proportion. i value your input and feedback and you will find me and my team ready to listen. to the employees, i want you to know that i will start with the presumption that you are performing our work as well as it can be done. my instinct will be to defend your work and i will seek the facts from you before drawing conclusions. thanks to the leadership of president trump and administrator pruitt, we have made tremendous progress over the past year and a half. we are accelerating the remediation of super fund sites, we are financing critical investments to improve the nation's water infrastructure. we are enhancing air quality and
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in areas around the country, and we are improving how chemicals are reviewed for safety, just to name a few of our accomplishments. we will continue to press forward on all of these fronts. i will continue the administrator's priority list for super fund sites. we owe it to the american public, the families in those communities around those sites to remove the environmental risk and get those sites cleaned up. we are also restoring the rule of law, reigning in federal regulatory overreach and refocusing the epa in its core responsibilities. as a result, the economy is booming and economic optimism is surging. we will continue to build on these accomplishments. when president trump called me last week and asked me to take the lead, he asked me to focus on three key areas. he said clean up the air, clean up the water, and provide regulatory relief. i think we can do all three of these things at the same time. one way we can accomplish this
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in the president's agenda is by providing more certainty to the american public. based on my years of experience, the epa needs to provide more certainty to the american public, a lack of certainty and clarity from epa hinders environmental protections and creates paralysis in the marketplace. we will focus on providing certainty in three areas. one, certainty to the states and local governments. two, certainty in epa's programs, such as permitting and enforcement actions with, and three, the most important one to me personally and the one i intend to spend the most amount of my time is certainty in risk communication. if we can improve these three areas, we will make tremendous progress improving environmental protections and enhancing of economic growth. number one, we need to provide certainty to the states. when congress established the epa's authority, it intended states to be partners in our effort to protect the environment and public health.
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for example, the clean water act lays out the process by which states can take charge of their own pollution discharge elimination systems. the epa's recent approval of idaho's program is a great example of epa working cooperatively with states to provide them certainty with respect to water permitting. we are also collaborating with states to improve air quality. since march of 2017, epa has turned an average of one federal implementation plan into a state implementation plan each month. these actions provide states clarity and certainty as they strife to reduce air pollution. administrator pruitt was in regular contact with our state partners and eager to listen and address their concerns and i will do the same. i will also be visiting each epa region office over the next few months. i've already visited regions two, three, and four. and i plan to travel to the rest of the regions, as soon as possible. our regions are the key to working cooperatively with the states. two, we need to provide
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certainty in the epa programs. on permitting, permitting issues overwhelmingly impact small and medium-sized businesses. the backbone of the american economy. we need to be more responsive. prior to this administration, we were not systemically tracking permit decisions. through epa's lane management system and the office of continuous improvement led by a stellar epa, we are now tracking the time it takes to issue permits. our goal is to make all permit decisions up or down in six months. in order to accomplish this, we will make a profound, transformative change in how the agency carries out its responsibilities. i am not suggests that we approve all permits in a set amount of time. yes or no, up or down, within a
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set amount of time. during my time in private practice, i learned firsthand the importance of timely enforcement actions. companies must disclose pending enforcement actions in their annual shareholder's reports. oftentimes they have to state a range of the fines they might be subjected to. 5 million to 50 million. and when our agency in the department of justice don't settle the enforcement actions, they can linger for years, and companies must support them year after year. this hurts the competitiveness of u.s. businesses. it also delays actions that may be necessary to prevent harm to the environment. let me be clear. i'm not advocating for letting people off the hook, rather, i'm advocating for making enforcement decisions in a timely and consistent manner. accomplishing this would dramatically improve our relationship with american businesses and take away a lot of the criticisms that is lobbed at the agency. number three and the most
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important one of the three to me is to provide certainty on risk communication. risk communication goes to the heart of epa's mission of protecting public health and the environment. we must be able to speak with one voice and clearly explain to the american people the relevant and environmental and health risks that they face, that their families face, and that their children face. in my mind, the need for this goes back to 9/11. after 9/11, i was the clean air subcommittee staff director in the senate. we had jurisdiction over the clean air act, as well as fema. and i was very involved in the recovery efforts in new york city and to bring the communities back. part of that was the people who lived around ground zero. and at the time, the agency made some statements regarding the safety of the homes as far as the air quality for the people to move back in. some of that information was
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criticized. was said to be misleading. and at that time, i actually went up to new york city for a hearing, i was chaired by senator lieberman. senator clinton was there. and i met with a lot of the families that lived in the area of ground zero and i listened to their concerns and their problems and their concerns about what the agency was saying. and the point in my mind and the lesson i took away from that, we need to be very clear to people when a large incident happens, that they understand that the risks that they face, and just as importantly, if the information that we have changes, and it does change, and i recognize that, we need to go back to those same people and explain to them what changed and why it changed and what the new information means to them. and there's been other examples since then. the canal river in west virginia a few years ago, the goat king mine in colorado, and of course, most recently, flynt, michigan, which has become the poster child for our need to improve
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risk communication. i do believe we have great risk communicators across the agency. and in every program office and every region. and i'm not finding fault with what individuals are saying on risk. but i am saying we need to be consistent across the board. it doesn't matter which region you live in, you're getting the same information about the same type of environmental risk you might face in your community. the reality is that risk communication disproportionately impacts people at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. they are the ones who often live, work, or go to school in areas with environmental hazards. and they are the most impacted by how well or how poorly we communicate to them. epa owes it to the american public to be able to explain in very simple, easy to understand terms what are the risks that they face in their daily lives. when i worked here in the
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agency, we offered a number of different training courses. i took a three-day training course on risk communication, another on risk analysis, and the third one was risk management. we no longer offer those courses. i'm not suggesting that just offering a course is the answer to the issue. but it could be part of the answer. and i will be convening in short order a working group to start taking a look at this issue across the entire agency. as an agency, we need to provide the certainty of risk communication to the american people. if we are able to improve in these areas and provide more certainty to the public and the regulated community, we can dramatically enhance environmental protections and give the private sector the clarity and transparency it needs to grow and create more jobs. we have important work before us. to quote my favorite author, shakespeare, we know what we are, but know not what we may
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be. we cannot forget that the united states is the gold standard worldwide for environmental protection. since 1970, the mission of the six criteria under the nation m ambient air quality standards have dropped 73% while the u.s. economy has grown by leaps and bounds and lifted millions out of poverty. this is a remarkable achievement that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the world. a 73% reduction in any other social ill, crime, poverty, disease, or drug addiction would lead the evening news, and that message is not getting out, and i hope today that message is getting out. this is just one of the many reasons the u.s. as a global leader and environmental stewardship. the world is watching us. we will not shirk for this
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responsibility or take it lightly. america's blessed with abundant natural resources, resources we use to fuel and feed the world. we will continue to protect and steward these resources for the benefit of ourselves and our posterity. i want to thank you all. i look forward to working with you as we continue our important work to protect the environment and human health for the american people. when i went around to the regions, i took questions from the audience and because of the mechanics today, i'm not able to do that. i will do that when i visit the rest of the regions, but i understand you probably have a lot of questions and what i thought i would do is just provide some of the answers to you and you can write your own question. the answers are cincinnati chili and that's skyline three ways, the "lord of the rings" trilogy, the golly river, godfather part
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1, the penguin, c, true, all of the above, and finally, the final answer is 42. i want to thank you all for your time today and thank you for your attention. this afternoon we'll go live
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to a senate subcommittee hearing on paid family leave. republican senator joanie ernst of iowa and democratic senator kirsten gillibrand are cosponsoring bills. tomorrow, peter strzok, the former chief of the fbi's counterespionage section testifies about russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. live coverage begins tomorrow morning at 10:00 eastern here on c-span3, online at and with the free c-span radio app. sunday night, on q&a -- >> when she came back a few days later, she saw me sitting in the aisle and she physically tossed it at me and said, no change. i decided right then and there, i'm going to get that amendment ratified. >> gregory watson, the man responsible for getting the 27th
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amendment to the constitution ratified. >> and i'll never forget it, brian. i was in the library, downtown austin, texas, and i came across a book that had in it a chapter, an entire chapter, devoted to amendments that had passed congress but not enough state legislatures had approved, and this one just jumped right out at me. it said, no law varying the compensation for the services of the senators and representatives shall take effect until an election of representatives shall have intervened. and i can remember standing in the aisle, holding that book in my hand, and it was as if lightning had struck. i could feel the pulsating electricity of it all. and i thought, you know what? instead of writing about the
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equal rights amendment and this disputed extension in its ratification deadline, why don't i instead write about this amendment that says when members of congress want to adjust their salaries, they have to wait until the next election. >> sunday night, at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. taking a look now at the supreme court nomination and confirmation process, joining us at the table is jeff peck, who is former general counsel and staff director for the senate judiciary committee. good morning. thank you for being here. >> sure. pleasure. >> should also point out for the viewers you assisted senator joe biden, democrat from delaware, back in those days, in several separate confirmations processes for robert bork, justice kennedy, and clarence thomas. tell us first what you learned from those experiences on the committee as things progressed, and apply it to this current situation with brett kavanaugh. >> sure. i thinkt


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