1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Thanks First Environmental Excellence Award Winning Businesses For Eliminating 1.4 Million Tons Of Waste, Pollution

On October 28, 1996, Gov. Tom Ridge addressed the first-ever winners of the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards thanking them for showing others in the business community how reducing pollution and waste is good for the bottom line--

As winners of the first-ever Governor’s Environmental Excellence awards, you are doing your part to facilitate an environmental renaissance in Pennsylvania that points to real change.

The “rules of the game” have changed over the past 50 years.

In 1996, Pennsylvania is no longer preparing for the 21st century — we are living it.

The industrial revolution spurred Pennsylvania’s economy. But while we reaped great benefits, we the succeeding generations have paid a price.

Back then, we didn’t look at progress with the global, environmental perspective we have now. That naive view left our landscape scarred. Forests were clear cut without replanting. Sediment choked streams.

Toxic pollution was commonplace. And environmental policy was non-existent.

Thankfully, we are making better choices now.

We are making better choices because employers and workers and government finally recognized the inherent link between progress and a healthy environment.

For, just as a quality education helps reduce social problems and increases economic potential, land and water use decisions can affect the vibrancy and potential of entire communities.

That’s why it’s more important than ever before that we make the smarter choices — that when it comes to environmental policies both government and employers choose the common-sense, balanced approach.

It’s also that approach which brings us together tonight.

For, as the former executive director of Greenpeace International, Paul Gilding, has said, “The real environmental leadership in the 21st century will come from the business community because modern capitalism is infinitely capable of adapting to new realities to survive.”

As evident here tonight, Pennsylvania’s industries and employers are innovators of environmental leadership.

When I was inaugurated in January 1995, I called for a partnership — the most advanced partnership in the nation to promote and enhance our natural resources. I called for Pennsylvania to showcase well-reasoned — inspired — environmental leadership.

We have made great strides in the last year and a half. The confrontational and legalistic mystery of the Department of Environmental Resources has come to an end. Rising from its ashes — a new approach to environmental protection.

It’s an approach based on science, public input, pollution prevention and compliance assistance.

Let me take just a moment to share some of the strides we have made with you.

First has been our effort to open doors. When I came to Harrisburg, this was a novel concept — public participation. The new Department of Environmental Protection is committed to seeking meaningful input up front — input from people with a real stake in the issue.

Stakeholder groups and the use of regulatory negotiation have opened government to new ideas and public discussion.

The idea is to listen to what people have to say — even on the thorniest of issues — at a point in the process when their ideas can make a difference. It’s just common sense!

Common sense also dictates public access and the use of technology — particularly emerging technologies like the World Wide Web. Pennsylvania’s Home Page on the Internet is part of our commitment to keep people informed. Over one million people have tapped into our Home Page since it first went on line about a year ago.

And each month, over 12-thousand people click to DEP’s Home Page.

A new Environmental Education and Information Center on the first floor of the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg has also opened its doors. This cooperative effort between DEP and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sends a clear message — information is a key element. Cooperation and keeping the flow of information open and accessible is the goal of a new Pennsylvania program.

On October 17th, the Commonwealth was chosen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to proceed with a statewide initiative to improve small business access to environmental information and assistance.

Working with a statewide network of organizations, we want to implement total quality environmental management partnerships with our small and medium-sized businesses.

What’s interesting about this initiative is that it will be a joint effort. A joint effort between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community and Economic Development.

A joint effort to help our employers be stronger competitors and supporters of the environment.

Why? Because environmentally sound practices make good business sense.

As we move away from the attitude: “government knows best,” we can only share the responsibility for a clean environment with Pennsylvania’s citizens if Pennsylvania’s citizens are informed.

It is with that in mind that the land recycling program I signed into law has taken off. It’s quickly become one of the most comprehensive — most successful — industrial site reuse programs in the nation.

Protecting our greenfields and re-using our brownfields makes good business, environmental and social policy sense.

In just over a year, 44 sites have been cleaned up. Ninety-one others are underway. All government had to do was point in the right direction. After that — government gets out of the way. 

In Pennsylvania, we’ve proved that it works. It works because Pennsylvanians want clean air, clean land and clean water. Our very heritage was based upon that — dating back to William Penn.

You want to comply with environmental laws. You just need a little help figuring out what the laws are and what the regulations mean. So, last year we underwent an unprecedented year-long, public review of over 13,000 pages of environmental regulations [Regulatory Basics Initiative].

 New policies and guidelines were developed in an open process that included over 1,200 public recommendations.

Without lowering environmental standards or reducing citizen participation, we will save $154 million - that’s right, $154 million - if all the recommendations are adopted.

It’s really a simple goal — to make sure that our regulations are understandable — flexible — and accomplish the intended result in a cost-effective manner.

That’s why I signed an executive order to make environmental regulations more responsive by establishing the Money-Back Guarantee Permit Review Program for DEP.

It’s another simple concept — permit decisions within specific deadlines. If they’re not done on time, the application fee is returned.

The program does not waive government’s responsibility for making sound environmental decisions. But it does make government responsible for its service to you — government’s customer.

I am pleased to report that so far — DEP hasn’t missed a deadline. Money Back guarantee. That’s a novel concept for government — but to you and me, it just makes sense.

It also makes sense that preventing pollution is better than trying to clean it up after it happens. That’s why we encourage individuals, local governments and businesses to achieve a zero discharge goal in their environmental programs.

That goal of zero discharge is, of course, very ambitious, but many forward-looking companies have already adopted it and some have even achieved it.

An important way we’re communicating these success stories and finding new ones is through DEP’s new Office of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance.

We believe these activities must be highlighted in everything DEP does - that’s why I’m here tonight, honoring those of you who have achieved success in your own businesses in preventing pollution, educating the public and developing innovative technology to reduce emissions.

The old environmental protection paradigm had but one tool in the toolbox — the hammer. That “command and control” approach was extremely popular from 1970 to 1990. But now it is time for the next step.

While we have not and will not throw away the hammer, we believe we can gain greater environmental compliance with pollution prevention, education, training and the formation of an environmental public/private partnership. We are on the verge of a great adventure together.

For years, many assumed that economic growth and environmental protection were not compatible.

Today — just here in this room tonight are over 30 companies that have shown they can protect the environment and make money at the same time.

This too is just common sense, and here’s why. Companies are realizing that the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes costs them too much money, so they are searching for the ways to reduce their pollution at the source.

They are adopting new management tools such as activity-based cost accounting systems to determine their true environmental costs. And they are discovering that waste — including environmental waste — is really raw material that the companies paid for but that didn’t make it into their product.

In fact, research shows that for every dollar spent on pollution prevention, a company saves nine dollars in raw materials, reporting and permitting compliance time and in pollution treatment and disposal costs.

Pollution prevention can protect the environment while simultaneously building a competitive edge for business growth.

That is why we urge companies to strive for zero emissions — because that is where real cost savings can be realized.

Such an approach requires research people and engineers to think about environmental consequences from the start. It requires an absolute need to fully integrate business and environmental performance.

And, lastly, we must all work together to reverse the traditional view of environmental compliance as a cost or a burden and begin to look at environmental innovation as fuel for the engine of growth.

This is no small change in thinking. It is, in fact, a paradigm shift as great as the difference between night and day.

It requires those of us in government as well as those in the private sector to take every opportunity to educate businesses, local governments and citizens about new ways of doing business in a more economically and environmentally compatible manner.

It is through the examples of your leadership that we can show others in business and industry that pollution prevention can be worth it.

It is a fact that a number of businesses are setting and achieving “zero emission” goals simply to make themselves more competitive.

This movement by business to go beyond compliance for market reasons provides DEP with an extraordinary opportunity to achieve many environmental goals by assisting companies in their efforts.

It is only by working together that we will ensure that the land, the water and the air in which we truly borrow from our children is preserved for them. 

We welcome you to join us as we take the next step — critical when you think it appropriate as well as supportive when you agree, but always — always — as respected partners whose opinions count.

[Note: The 52 winners of the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards in 1996 eliminated 1.4 million tons of pollution – hazardous and residual wastes, air pollution and wastewater.]

Related Articles In This Series:

Feature: 20 Years Of Growing Greener: A Celebration Of Leadership, Partnership, Accomplishment

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About His Very Personal Connection To Lake Erie And The Need To Work Together To Restore The Great Lakes

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge: Expanding Partnerships To Clean Up The Susquehanna River And The Chesapeake Bay Beyond

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Joins With Governors Of Delaware, New Jersey, Federal Officials To Establish The Delaware Estuary Program

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About Rebuilding Pennsylvania's Industrial Heritage Through Land Recycling

1996 - Gov. Tom Ridge Talks About The Vision And Actions Needed To Restore Our Environment At The PA Environmental Council’s Three Rivers Awards

1996 - Department Of Environmental Protection Mission Statement & Statement Of Values

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary James M. Seif: The Assignment Was Clear - Take The Kick Me! Sign Off DER

1995-2002 - DEP Secretary David E. Hess: Many New Hands Now Help Protect Penn’s Woods

1995-2002 - Environmental Accomplishments Of The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

1995-2002: Awards And Recognition For Environmental Programs During The Ridge & Schweiker Administrations

[Posted: December 11, 2019]


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