In TV Interview, EPA Head Explains U.S. Stance on Energy and the Environment

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We can't do much right now short term, but we can do a lot and plan for the future. And in planning for the future, one of the things that is clear is that we are going to have a mix of energy sources. It's bad, and it's dangerous, and it's wrong to rely on just one source, and coal will obviously be a part of that. It's 51 percent of the mix of energy now. It may become less, but still it is going to be a part of it, and we need investment in clean coal technology. The President felt very strongly that engaging in a discussion on capping [carbon dioxide emissions] at this point was going to have the potential to drive up energy prices now and depress the desire of those who need to invest now in clean coal technology.

What's in the report, and do you think it's fair to the livestock industry?

Well, the report is going to go forward and I can't talk about all that's in the report at this point in time. But you know, the problem you have with science is that you can identify things and you don't always know what the total impact is or the cumulative impact of something is. But information is important. People need information in order to be able to make informed decisions and to start to see trends and to start to trace things. So we really believe that as part of our job at the Environmental Protection Agency, while not wanting to unfairly disadvantage any one group, to ensure that the public has access to the kind of information it needs. And that's why we go forward with reports like that.

When you talk about the information people need, give us some nuts and bolts here. What changes can average Americans expect in their lives to improve their environment in the next four years? What changes will government give them, what changes do you expect from them?

In the course of this administration, an effort to ensure that we take advantage of what the Environmental Protection Agency, I believe, has done so successfully over the last thirty years. It engaged during those last thirty years in a command-and-control model. And it needed to, because people's environmental sensitivity wasn't where it needed to be. Because of that success, we are now able to enter the next phase, which is to start to engage in partnerships. Because in partnerships we can get a whole lot more done than doing things individually on our own. That means partnerships with business, partnerships with states, with municipalities, and with individuals. We, at the agency, will still have the ability to regulate and get tough. We will always maintain that, but we're going to see what we can do from a voluntary perspective that will help advance the agenda that we have, which is cleaning the air, cleaning the water, and protecting the land.

When you say voluntary, people say they simply will not get things done if they don't force the issue.

Could you do more? People would argue you could do more, maybe in individual cases if you came down and forced a lawsuit or forced an enforcement action. But [in] the broader picture, I believe you could do more when people are voluntarily trying to be innovative and think of ways to do things. Also, I will say, as we look at regulation and why we support the diesel rule, is that once industries know what targets are, they can be really creative in reaching them.

With that in mind, one last quick question here. You have suggested that the energy problems in California will not remain limited to California. Do you think that Americans can expect brownouts, energy shortages in their states in the next two to three years?

There's some concern about the New York metropolitan area perhaps, but they're taking steps to address it. It's more you have a confluence of things happening in the Northwest. You've had a drought. They get a lot of waters, hydropower, a lot of electricity is provided through hydropower. They are now in the second to third year in a very serious drought that's reduced the levels of water, so that's reduced how much…, let's say that Washington can sell to California and that they had been selling to California. It becomes a kind of escalating, ripple effect, what's happening in California. Their demand of power is having an impact on other areas where their natural energy sources are not what they used to be, and that's why we have so much concern about other parts.

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