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March 4, 1999


March 4, 1999

Thank you and good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is a great honor to be here today and to have been nominated by the President and asked by Administrator Browner to serve as General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency.

I believe that now is an opportune time to be taking on the challenges of serving as EPA's General Counsel for several reasons:

First, EPA today is a fundamentally different organization that is reconnected to communities and the American people - helping make a difference in the issues people face in their everyday lives. EPA no longer is "the crucible of everyone's discontent", as it was once referred to in the past. It has become the crucible of hope. Whether it be the child who suffers from asthma, or the family that lives near a river too polluted for fishing or swimming, our nation still has much to do to protect the health of its citizens and its environment. As I go about my work, I think back to my early childhood - living in Newark, New Jersey, with my mother, a single parent and a dedicated public school teacher. From it I recognize that a government that is caring and honest and open can make a difference in the lives of ordinary citizens. I look to my own two small children and recognize the importance of the work we are embarked on together, to assure them a healthy future and the continued enjoyment of our nation's legendary natural bounty that has been so important throughout my life.

Second, I am hopeful we are again entering a time of basic agreement on the tasks that are to be done to advance public health and environmental protection. The pendulum has done some swinging back and forth now for many years, but I now sense a more fundamental agreement on the important work that we all have to do together to continue the bipartisan accomplishments of the past 30 years. As the public health and environmental statutes have matured, we must keep their overall goals and framework in mind as we apply the law to new situations in fresh ways. These developments will continue to challenge us, and will demand balance, common sense, and judgment. If confirmed, I look forward to a close cooperative relationship with the Committee and its staff in carrying out this work.

I have been privileged over the last several years to have worked with Administrator Browner, who with her senior leadership team, has demonstrated an uncompromising commitment to the protection of public health and the environment, accomplished through creative means that provide unprecedented flexibility to communities and industry. This approach has continued to demonstrate that our economy and our environment are inextricably linked and that a strong economy and a healthy environment are twin and compatible goals that must drive our actions.

In the course of this work, I have had the opportunity to work with several members of this Committee and their staffs on many issues of shared interest. These include working to protect children from the threat of environmental tobacco smoke and helping to insure the future of the Everglades. These efforts have required the careful and respectful coordination of activities in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

When I think of some of the major issues EPA will face over the next several years, I am struck by how central lawyering will continue to be to the success of these efforts. Whether it be new efforts to apply more broadly the lessons learned from reinvention, or EPA's setting of new tailpipe emissions and sulfur in fuels standards; or our implementation of the protections for children of the new Food Quality Protection Act, or new chemical testing initiatives being developed with industry and the environmental community; whether it be meeting the challenge of the responsible collection, use and dissemination of information, or EPA's work under the Clean Water Action Plan to address non-point source pollution -- all of these challenges will demand the best from our nation's premier environmental law firm.

I am delighted to be rejoining a group that is as talented, creative, dedicated, and hardworking as the career staff at EPA's Office of General Counsel. They have an expertise in environmental law that is unmatched. I recognize that EPA's currency with Congress, the courts, and the public is its credibility, and that much of this rests with the objectivity and integrity of the work of the agency's Office of General Counsel. I look forward to continuing the great traditions of that office and to this opportunity for continued public service.

I also know - from my career in the private practice of environmental law representing private industry and states, and then from my work at the Department of Justice and at EPA representing the federal government - that keeping an open mind and being attentive to absolute fairness of process for all affected parties are also essential to the ultimate success of our work. When I clerked for Judge Elbert Tuttle -- who had by then served as a Federal Circuit Court judge for 30 years, following his already long and distinguished career in private practice and the military -- it so impressed me that he was vitally interested in my relatively uninformed views. This openness of thinking -- this reaching out to hear all perspectives, no matter how long or hard we have been immersed in an issue -- is critical to improving the quality of EPA's analysis and of its decisions. Also critical is maintaining the highest of ethical standards. These are values that, if confirmed, I will strive to take to my job every day, and to continue to build in our staff.

I will also work tirelessly to ensure that we create a seamless web of consultation with our agency clients by early work to help identify sound legal approaches to carrying out the agency's mission. I want to build on the capacity for innovative, not purely reactive, counseling. And I recognize that the EPA's General Counsel has the rare luxury of a vantage point that cuts across all of the Agency's work - providing an important perspective and means for integrating disparate agency activities.

I wish you could have joined me several weeks ago when I went door-to-door at EPA's offices to meet the staff of the Office of General Counsel. The excitement of our lawyers at working for the public on the issues EPA confronts every day is palpable and invigorating. It is a joy to see. But it also creates a deep responsibility to lead this group wisely, as does the responsibility of ensuring that our nation's environmental laws are faithfully carried out. These are public trusts that, if confirmed, I look forward to working closely with you to continue to ensure.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.


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