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Special Event

Whitman Defends New Jersey's Environmental Record During Confirmation Hearings

Aired January 17, 2001 - 11:00 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we want to go ahead and listen to Christie Whitman, in her confirmation hearing.

This is her opening statement as she is looked at for the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. CHRISTIE WHITMAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: ... Our air is cleaner. For example, the number of day New Jersey violated the federal one-hour air quality standard for ground-level ozone has dropped from 45 in 1998 to four last year. We're doing a better job of monitoring our air quality, with more air monitoring stations around the state, and we're on target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels through incentive to encourage voluntary reductions, promote energy efficiency and renewable technologies and reduce land gas emissions.

Our water is cleaner in my home state. The Delaware River is thriving against, as Senator Carper knows, and the shad population is finally coming back up, further up the river, and it's increased more than 300 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not supposed to talk about chad in this community.

WHITMAN: Not chad, shad -- it's the s that was my confusion initially too in Florida, I must say.

But it has increased more than 300 percent since the 1970s. New Jersey leads the nation in opening shellfish harvesting beds. Annual open beach closings, as you heard before, dropped from a high of 800 in 1988 to 11th last year.

Our land is cleaner. We have transformed our Brownfield Programs into a redevelopment tool, providing 15 million dollars to help towns clean up sites and market them for reuse. Mine is the only state in America today that provides a program for private citizens to do voluntary clean up sites. We provide reimbursement, and we're the only state to do that.

In addition, in 1998, the voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly approved my plan to preserve one million acres by the year 2010, and we are already 20 percent of the way to doing that.

Only by measuring the quality of the environment, the purity of the water, the cleanliness of the air, the protection afforded the land can we, I believe, measure the true success of our efforts of everything that we are doing. By those measures, New Jersey is succeeding -- our water and air are cleaner, our land better protected than it was seven years ago.

At the same time, New Jersey's economy is stronger than ever. More people have jobs today in my state than ever in our history. As President-elect Bush has emphasized, and as New Jersey has seen, environmental protection and economic prosperity do and can go hand and hand.

The president-elect has articulated a clear set of principles that I will work to implement at the EPA should I be confirmed, and I would just like to highlight several of those today.

First, we will launch an era of cooperation among all stake holders in environmental protection. Only by including all America can we meet the challenges we face. There is much that government can do, but government cannot do it alone.

Second, we will maintain a strong federal role but will provide flexibility to the states and local communities. They need that flexibility to craft their solutions to their unique situations. We will also respect state and local authority and rely on their expertise.

Third, we will continue to set high standards and will make clear our expectations. To meet those goals, we will place a greater emphasis on market-based initiatives.

Next, we will use strong science. Scientific analysis should drive policy, neither policy nor politics should drive scientific results.

Finally, we will work to promote effective compliance with environmental standards without -- I repeat, without -- weakening our commitment to vigorous enforcement of tough laws and regulations. We will offer the carrot first, but we will not retire the stick.

Taken together, these reforms will transform the way we meet EPA's mission. They will also produce real results, results to which we will be able to look when we want to know how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in order to meet the desires we all have for a clean and healthy environment.

I'm looking forward to the job ahead, should you honor me with your confirmation. The EPA is staffed with some of the finest environmental professionals in the world, and I know they are eager as I am to begin our work together. I also know that the demands I face as an administrator of EPA will not be the same that I faced as governor. The position I hope to assume allows for no room for regional favoritism, but I do expect to bring to my job an understanding and empathy for what it's like to be on the receiving end of mandates from Washington.

Mr. Chairman, one of the first things that my father taught me on that trout stream was something he said which was Christie, always leave any place cleaner than when you found it. He didn't know at that time that that was awfully good advice for someone who someday would be nominated to serve as the head of our nation's agency for environmental protection.

I pledge to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the members of this committee that if confirmed I will do everything that I can as EPA administrator to leave America's environment cleaner than when I found it. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Whitman, thank you very much.

The process now to remind members of the committee and Governor Whitman...

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Christie Whitman, the governor of New Jersey, defending her environmental record in New Jersey, saying our air is cleaner, our water's cleaner, and our land is better protected, also giving a preview of what she would do if she does indeed head the EPA.

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