AS a young girl, Carol Browner used to ride a bike from her
south Miami home into the Everglades. Nowadays she rides the subway
to her office-bound job as the new administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency, but she says the memory of her
days of sawgrass and alligators remains.
"I was very shaped by growing up in that kind of environment
where nature was right there," Ms. Browner says.
It's a good thing she had that experience when young, because
she may be too busy to get outdoors much for some time. Running a
big government regulatory agency is tough in the best of times -
and it's doubly so when you're trying to push the bureaucracy in
Some 20 years after serious environmental cleanup started in the
United States, so-called "end of the pipe" laws, which do such
things as regulate the amount of smoke spewing from a factory, have
done about as much as they can do. They will continue to be an
important EPA tool, but "you're really moving from environmental
regulation into a new generation, which is environmental
protection," Browner says.
In other words, pollution prevention. Protection of whole
ecosystems, not just isolated areas. Getting all the EPA fiefdoms
to work together, instead of having the water people think only
about water cleanup, the air people understand only atmospheric
Browner points proudly to some of the deals she brokered in
Florida, where she was head of the state's Department of
Environmental Regulation from 1991 until this year.
In one, Walt Disney Company won the right to drain and build on
400 acres of wetlands in the ecologically sensitive Orlando area -
in return for a $40 million restoration of an 8,500-acre ranch
located at the historic head of the Everglades, Florida's river of
"It would be very, very difficult to do this job if I hadn't had
my experience in Florida," says Browner, who was a Senate aide and
environmental activist in Washington before moving back to her home
She cites the EPA's new regulations issued yesterday governing
toxic pollution in the Great Lakes area as a major impact the
Clinton administration has already made on the environment.
Bush-era regulators had refused to issue the rules.
Environmental regulators need to think in blocks as big as
"Great Lakes," or "Chesapeake Bay," she says.
"You need to look at a system in its entirety and say `what do
we need to do to restore and protect this system,' " she says. "You
need to develop a long-term plan, rather than just saying every
facility in this system has to achieve this standard by this date. …