following remarks were offered by Whitman on July 24, 2001,
before the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, in
support of legislation that will establish a Department of Environmental
When the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 by Richard
Nixon, it was a combination of 10 different units from five departments and
agencies. In a message to the congress, President Nixon submitted
his reasoning for the reorganization plan that would establish
the EPA. He wrote, As concern with the condition of our
physical environment has intensified . . . it has become increasingly
clear that only by reorganizing our federal efforts can we .
. . effectively ensure the protection, development and enhancement
of the total environment.
This statement rings true more than 30 years later. The
environment continues to gain prominence in the American consciousness and is routinely ranked
among the publics most important national concerns. Without an organic statute of its
own, there continues to be a need for an institutional framework
to protect the environment that is equal in scope and significance
to the pervasive nature of this issue.
Establishing EPA as a cabinet department is not a new
idea. The first bill to elevate EPA to cabinet status was introduced in the Senate in June 1988; and
since that time a dozen similar proposals have followed.
Former President Bush was the first president to support
elevating the EPA to cabinet level, mentioning it in his State
of the Union address more than a decade ago and inviting then-administrator
Reilly to attend cabinet meetings. President Clinton
and President George W. Bush have followed suit with both presidential
support for the legislation and a seat at cabinet meetings for
the sitting EPA administrator. Without legislation that codifies
these practices, however; there is no guarantee that future
administrations will do the same.
The mission of the EPA is of vital importance to all of
our lives. The actions of this agency protect our environment and public health by ensuring the most
basic of lifes necessitiesclean air to breathe and
safe water to drink.
In the short history of the agency, our work has helped
transform the way America views the environmentplanting
in the American consciousness a clear sense of environmental
stewardship. The EPA has helped underscore the universal agreement
that our natural resources are valuable; not just for economic
prosperity, but for sustained quality of life. No longer do
we debate whether we need to act to protect the environment.
Rather we discuss how we can keep America green while keeping
our economy growing.
The EPA is a natural fit among the other cabinet departments.
Our missionto protect human health and safeguard the environmentboth
complements and contributes to the overall service
of the cabinet. Already I have found my participation at the
cabinet level helpful in navigating the many important areas of overlap between the work of EPA
and other departments including Energy, Agriculture, Interior,
Housing and Labor. Quite frankly, I cannot think of a cabinet
department with which EPA does not interact. I would consider
it vital to the work of future administratorsand vital
to our countryto assure similar cooperation and participation
in the future.
The time has come to establish EPA as a full member of
the cabinet, and doing so would be consistent with observations
of state governments as well as our international counterparts.
As governor of New Jersey, I felt it important to have
my environmental commissioner as part of my cabinet. I find it instructive that all but five
of the states that have a formal cabinet include the head of
the environmental agency at that level. As President Bush calls
for increased cooperation between federal environmental regulators
and state and local governments, it is appropriate to follow
their leadership on this issue.
Further, the environment continues to play a central role
in international relations. This legislation would bring the United States on par with the rest
of the G-8 countries and more than 60 others by establishing
a secretary of the environment.
I am pleased that Congress supports this important step.
Both the Boxer/Collins bill, S. 159, and the Boehlert/Borski bill, H.R. 2438, would elevate EPA to
cabinet status and provide for the orderly transfer of responsibilities from the agency to
the department. Moreover, both bills are clean bills in that they exclude extraneous
policy issues that in the past have derailed the legislative process to establish
a Department of the Environment.
While the Boxer/Collins bill is more prescriptive, technical
changes could be made. I believe that the Boehlert/Borski bill
provides the agency with the flexibility it needs to ensure
that the transition to cabinet status goes as smoothly and efficiently
The justification for placing EPA in the cabinet is compelling.
Creating a Department of the Environment will ensure that our
country prioritizes this issue today and long into the future.
As I have said repeatedly, my aim for this agency is to leave
Americas air cleaner, water purer,
and land better protected than when I arrived. I enjoy the full
support of the president in pursuit
of this goal. Elevating the EPA to cabinet level will assure
that future administrators are able to setand achievesimilar
goals in the future. Taking this step will be a reflection of
the importance the congress and the president place on the environment
in America today.