About EPA

Biography of Carol M. Browner

Appointed by President Clinton in January 1993, Carol M. Browner is now the longest serving Administrator in the history of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As EPA Administrator, Browner's mission is to protect public health and the environment by safeguarding the nation's air, water, and land from harmful pollution. She is guided by the philosophy that safeguarding the environment means protecting where we live and how we live. It means protecting the health of our families and communities. It means providing Americans with real everyday benefits - fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, safe food to eat, land on which it is safe to live.

She also has been guided by another philosophy: the environment and the economy go hand in hand. We can set tough standards to protect the environment and public health - but do so in ways that promote innovation, flexibility, and American competitiveness.

Guided by these principles, Browner has successfully fended off repeated attempts by some in Congress to undermine environmental and public health protections, and has secured funding for the Clinton Administration's new generation of more common-sense, cost-effective, and protective environmental standards.

Protecting the Air We Breathe and our Climate:

Browner has made it a top priority to protect the public from breathing polluted air. Under the President's and Vice-President's leadership, Browner took the toughest action in a generation to safeguard public health with updated standards for particulate matter (soot) and ozone (smog). The new standards together will provide health benefits to 125 million Americans, including 35 million children. Every year, they will prevent 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma, nearly a million cases of significantly decreased lung function in children, and approximately 15,000 premature deaths.

Browner has taken a number of other actions to reduce air pollution in cost-effective, common-sense ways, including new partnerships with the automobile industry to produce cleaner cars. She has worked closely with Midwestern and southern states to address the airborne transport of smog, a serious problem in the eastern United States. And Browner approved the Chemical Manufacturing Rule, which will reduce air toxics by 500,000 tons/year and smog-producing chemicals by 1 million tons/year.

Browner also has taken action against one of the nation's most serious threats: global warming. She believes the country, working together, can address this problem in ways that grow our economy and improve our competitiveness. For example, under her leadership, EPA has built partnerships with thousands of businesses and organizations to use energy more efficiently. Just in 1997, these partnerships prevented the release of nearly 60 million tons of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming. At the same time, these measures saved businesses and consumers more than $1 billion.

Protecting the Water We Drink, Our Rivers, Lakes, and Streams:

Another priority of Browner's is protecting the nation from unhealthy drinking water. Under her watch, 10 million more Americans received water that meets EPA water quality standards. In 1996, President Clinton signed the new Safe Drinking Water Act, which includes strong new standards to safeguard public health and Consumer Confidence Reports to update consumers on the health of their water system. President Clinton recently announced the first public health standards under the act to protect against Cryptosporidium, other disease-causing microbes, and potentially harmful byproducts of the water treatment process. These standards will strengthen drinking water protections for 140 million Americans - and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Browner led the administration's efforts for the first-ever comprehensive restoration plan for the Florida Everglades, which will replumb a half century of misguided waterworks to balance future development with the preservation of natural areas, as well as the needs of farmers, urban areas, and the natural system. She also established broad protection for the Great Lakes, and she helped lead the administration's efforts to develop and implement President Clinton's Clean Water Action Plan, the nation's blueprint for finishing the job of cleaning up and restoring all our nation's rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.

Protecting the Land on Which We All Live, and the Food We Eat:

To protect people from toxic waste, Browner has made cleanups of the nation's hazardous waste sites 20 percent faster and significantly reduced costs. In the past six years, more Superfund toxic waste sites have been cleaned up than in the entire history of the program. Today, 90 percent of Superfund sites are either cleaned up or in the midst of cleanup.

She also has made the cleanup of "brownfields" a priority. Brownfields are abandoned, contaminated urban property. So far, the program has leveraged more than $1 billion in public and private funds for brownfields redevelopment, and created thousands of new jobs. This brings new hope, now prosperity, and new development to our inner city communities across the country while helping to protect the green areas outside the cities.

Through enforcement of President Clinton's new food safety production law, Browner is setting protective, comprehensive, health-based standards that limit pesticide risks in the foods American feed their children.

Protecting Every American by Protecting our Most Vulnerable Citizens: Our Children:

Every action EPA has taken to protect the American people from environmental hazards reflects Browner's deep commitment to children's health issues. Browner recognizes that an awareness of children's unique susceptibility and exposure to toxic threats must guide EPA actions to protect public health and the environment. She established an Office of Children's Health Protection at EPA, and under the guidance of President Clinton's Executive Order on Children's Environmental Health, Browner developed and implemented new agency policies that ensure - for the first time ever - that children's health risks will be consistently and explicitly evaluated in all scientific and standard-setting activities.

To better understand children's health risks, Browner has worked with other federal agencies to establish eight federal children's health research centers at premier research institutions. She also convened the first-ever federal conference on possible links between childhood cancer and environmental hazards, and coordinates federal research into this issue. She developed a new federal strategy to protect children from lead-based paint, and launched the Child Health Champion pilot program to jump start community efforts to identify and eliminate local environmental risks to children.

Ensuring the Public's Right to Know:

Browner believes that one of the best ways to protect children, and all Americans, from environmental hazards, is to ensure the public's right to know about pollution in neighborhoods and communities. Since arriving in Washington, the Clinton administration has doubled the number of chemicals for which facilities must report releases, and required thousands of more facilities to report. Americans now have access to information about smog levels in their communities, and when levels pose a significant health risk. EPA has joined in partnership with the environmental community and the chemical manufacturing industry to provide the American people with public health data on 3,000 of the most widely used chemicals. And Browner has directed the establishment of a new office of information to coordinate information and data programs to ensure that they are timely, accurate, and widely accessible, including on the Internet. In 1998, visits to EPA's Web site had doubled, ending the year with more than 40 million visits a month.

Enforcing our Nation's Environmental Laws:

To ensure that tough public health standards are met, Browner has established a vigorous enforcement and compliance assistance program. Under her leadership, the Clinton Administration has collected the largest environmental fines in history from irresponsible polluters - while also offering a new level of compliance assistance to honest business owners. EPA has nine compliance assistance centers to help small businesses understand and comply with environmental requirements as easily and cost effectively as possible. EPA also has implemented a self-audit policy that waives penalties for companies that voluntarily identify, disclose, and correct violations. Since 1996, more than 1,600 facilities have voluntarily disclosed and corrected violations.

Bringing Common Sense and Cost-Effectiveness to Environmental Regulation:

Following the Vice President's mandate, Browner is working to "reinvent" environmental protection, to achieve the very best public health and environmental protection for the least cost. Her Common Sense Initiative is an industry-by-industry approach to environmental regulation that moves beyond the old piecemeal approach. Project XL encourages companies to pursue creative new ways to exceed existing environmental requirements in cost-effective ways. In March 1995, President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Browner announced a package of 25 regulatory reforms to cut paperwork and simply environmental rules. To date, these reforms have eliminated more than 25 million hours of paperwork - the equivalent of returning 635,000 work-weeks back to the private sector, at cost savings to industry of $762 million.

Browner has long understood that the American people deeply value clean water, air, and land. That is why she fought so hard to defeat the 104th Congress' attempt to roll back the environmental and public health protections of the last quarter century. Browner has led the administration's successful fight against yearly congressional barrages of anti-environmental riders and legislation. She has secured funding for environmental protections and preserved the nation's commitment to our health, our air, our water, our communities, and our children's future.

Background:

Browner knows environmental regulation both from the Washington and state perspective. From 1991 to 1993, Browner was Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Regulation, one of the nation's largest state environmental agencies. She won praise for dealing effectively with difficult issues involving wetland protection, hazardous waste disposal, and Everglades cleanup.

From 1986 to 1988, Browner worked in Washington for then-Senator Lawton Chiles, the late Governor of Florida. She also served as Legislative Director for then-Senator Al Gore.

Browner grew up in south Florida, where the Everglades were a bike ride away. Her parents, college professors at Miami-Dade Community College, gave the future EPA Administrator her first lessons in politics and an appreciation for the natural world.

Browner graduated from the University of Florida in 1977 and then earned a degree from its law school. She served as General Counsel for the Florida House of Representatives Government Operations Committee in 1980. She then worked for Citizen Action, a grassroots consumer group in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, Michael Podhorzer. They have a son, Zachary, and live in Maryland.

"I want my son to be able to grow up and enjoy the natural wonders of the United States in the same way that I have," Browner said at her swearing-in ceremony in January 1993. "I believe that we will now be able to make the investment in our economy that we so desperately need, yet preserve the air, land, and water."

In April 1997, Browner received the "Mother of the Year Award" from the National Mother's Day Committee for her dedication to preserving America's children with a safer, healthier world. Browner also has received Glamour Magazine's "Woman of the Year Award," the South Florida Chapter of the Audubon Society's "Guy M. Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award," the "Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award" from the New York State Bar Association, and others.