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EPA applauds America’s new green culture on the 37th Earth Day - Colorado successes cited


By Robert E. Roberts, Regional Administrator, U.S. EPA Region 8

Thirty-seven years have passed since the first Earth Day, in 1970, when 20 million Americans joined in one of the largest demonstrations of public opinion in the history of our country. Today, one of Earth Day’s highlights is taking stock of the great progress we have made. That progress is real – on this Earth Day we celebrate the cleanest environment in a generation. But our job is not done. We still face environmental and public health challenges.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency strives to meet those challenges, but we do not do it alone. That’s because something very important and extremely positive is happening in this country. Environmental protection in America for years largely had been the exclusive responsibility of governmental agencies. That is no longer the case. Increasingly, the EPA, along with state and local departments, finds itself being joined in its mission by a growing citizen army – a new green culture. That culture includes people from towns and cities and suburbs and farms. It includes both small and large businesses. But what unites them all is a decision to assume increased responsibility to help ensure cleaner air, water and land.

Environmental business is everybody’s business. EPA looks forward to a future where material and energy is used efficiently in every business, in every community, and every home. By encouraging our partners to make smart use of our resources, we are continuing to accelerate environmental protection in America. The benefits of such collaboration have been amazing. By promoting the recycling of scrapped automobiles, 12,000 companies have been created in the United States to dismantle cars. In addition to generating an estimated $8.2 billion in sales annually, this new industry is protecting our environment. When manufacturers use scrap metal during the manufacturing process, they reduce air and water pollution by more than half – once again proving that doing what’s good for the environment is good for the bottom line.

An example of this collaboration occurred during the last two years, with EPA working in partnership with the citizens of the San Luis Valley to ensure clean and safe drinking water from their household drinking water wells. So much progress has been made that Region 8 recently presented community leaders there with an EPA award.

In another example, EPA encourages companies and corporations to voluntarily go beyond what environmental regulations call for through a program called Performance Track, and EPA designated Denver International Airport the first airport in the nation to be awarded membership into Performance Track. And Xanterra Parks & Resorts, headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colo., was named a Performance Track Corporate Leader for the environmental initiatives it is undertaking.

Also during 2006, Region 8 attained numerous Superfund milestones, such as when community members and representatives of the EPA, Department of Energy and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment joined with elected officials to celebrate the final cleanup of the Rocky Flats site, recognizing more than two decades of environmental remediation at the former nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Another milestone was observed during the Residential Soils Completion Ceremony at Vasquez Boulevard & Interstate 70 Superfund site, where the cleanup of lead and arsenic in soils encompassing more than four square miles and more than 4,300 properties in all or parts of the Cole, Clayton, Swansea, Elyria, Globeville and Curtis Park neighborhoods was completed in August. Last summer, yet another milestone was reached with the removal of 11.5 square miles of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal from the Superfund National Priorities List. The action enabled the U.S. Army to transfer the property to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, more than doubling its size to approximately 19 square miles.

EPA’s collaboration with the General Services Administration and the architects, builders and engineers who worked on Region 8’s new Denver Headquarters green building at 1595 Wynkoop Street led to a high-performance structure that offers considerable benefits in terms of reduced pollution and resource conservation. The building well-represents EPA’s mission and the public EPA serves, featuring numerous environmentally friendly designs and systems, including a green roof, recycled building materials and a level of energy efficiency that makes it a green leader among buildings in the Region.

As you can see, Region 8 is doing its part but knows that it can succeed only as part of a team that includes other government entities, including state and local governments, Tribes and countless civic-minded and environmentally concerned organizations and citizens. We believe our environmental future is bright. We applaud America shifting today to a green culture where all citizens embrace the awareness that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. And we want to ensure that this vital movement continues -- instead of having 17,000 EPA employees working to help us protect the environment, we are welcoming 300 million Americans as our environmental partners.

Earth Day reminds us that much progress has occurred through our nation’s landmark environmental laws and their enforcement by local, state and federal agencies. Those laws remain in effect, are vigilantly enforced and will continue to produce important results. But the next generation of environmental gains will come in part through the good work of millions of citizens and thousands of businesses who have assumed an individual sense of environmental responsibility. This Earth Day, 2007, is an excellent time to pledge a commitment to America’s new green culture.


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