Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EPA Boss Has New Slant on Some Old Problems Browner Pushes for Saving `Ecosystems,' Not Just Isolated Areas

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EPA Boss Has New Slant on Some Old Problems Browner Pushes for Saving `Ecosystems,' Not Just Isolated Areas

Article excerpt

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 new directions.

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 problems, etc.

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 grass.

"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 state.

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. …

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