It is a priority of the EPA and of this Administration, to ensure that our regulatory system is guided by science and that it protects human health and the environment in a pragmatic and cost effective manner.
One means by which this Administration has made this priority clear is through Executive Order 13563, which includes a directive for federal agencies to develop a regulatory retrospective plan for periodic review of existing significant regulations. Under that directive, EPA has developed a plan which includes 35 priority regulatory reviews. Recent reforms, already finalized or formally proposed, are estimated to save up to $1.5 billion over the next five years.
But let me be clear: the core mission of the EPA is protection of public health and the environment. That mission was established in recognition of a fundamental fact of American life - regulations can and do improve the lives of people. We need these rules to hold polluters accountable and keep us safe. For more than 40 years, the Agency has carried out its mission and established a proven track record that a healthy environment and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.
The Clean Air Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in American history and provides an illustrative example of this point.
For 40 years, the nation's Clean Air Act has made steady progress in reducing the threats posed by pollution and allowing us to breathe easier. In the last year alone, programs implemented pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are estimated to have saved over 160,000 lives; spared Americans more than 100,000 hospital visits; and prevented millions of cases of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma.
Few of the regulations that gave us these huge gains in public health were uncontroversial at the time they were developed. Most major rules have been adopted amidst claims that they would be bad for the economy and bad for employment.
In contrast to doomsday predictions, history has shown, again and again, that we can clean up pollution, create jobs, and grow our economy all at the same time. Over the same 40 years since the Clean Air Act was passed, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States grew by more than 200 percent.
Some would have us believe that "job killing" describes EPA's regulations. It is misleading to say that enforcement of our nation's environmental laws is bad for the economy and employment. It isn't.
Families should never have to choose between a job and a healthy environment. They are entitled to both.
We must regulate sensibly - in a manner that does not create undue burdens and that carefully considers both the benefits and the costs. However, in doing so, we must not lose sight of the reasons for implementation of environmental regulations: These regulations are necessary to ensure that Americans have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Americans are no less entitled to a safe, clean environment during difficult economic times than they are in a more prosperous economy.
As President Obama recently stated in his Joint Address to Congress, "...what we can't do...is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades...We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom where we try to offer the...worst pollution standards."
Editor's note: This in part is testimony EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson offered before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Her response obviously was in answer to the Republican agitation that government intervention is an anathema to job creation--or somehow relaxing pollution controls will cause business to hire more rather than just positively altering its bottom line.