ADA — The Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center celebrated its 40th anniversary with a commemoration that featured Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Stephen L. Johnson.

"Forty years of being on the cutting edge of environmental science is really quite an accomplishment," Johnson said. "Coming here to this research center is like a second home to me. I really do appreciate and am thankful for all of the work that you have done."

Johnson was sworn in as the 11th administrator of the U.S. E.P.A. in May 2005. His goal since taking the position has been promoting and maintaining the utilization of sound science while making advanced and progressive approaches to solving environmental problems. The EPA implements and enforces the nation's federal environmental laws and regulations; the agency has over 18,000 employees nationwide and an annual budget of $8.6 billion.

"It was an honor for me personally, to be asked by President Bush to serve as the first career employee to ever be asked to serve as an administrator, the first scientist to ever be asked to serve as an administrator." he said. "It's a real honor for me and I'm really humbled by it."

Johnson has been part of the EPA for 25 years. Preceding his current position, he served as acting administrator since January 2005, deputy administrator from August 2004 to January 2005 and acting deputy administrator from July 2003 to August 2004.

Johnson explained priorities that are required from him with his position.

"As administrator, my priorities are focused on policies that will help make the President's change reality, and in fact, we are accelerating the pace of environmental protection and we're taking actions that produce environmental results," he said. "We embrace the tools of collaboration and innovation and all the while, ensuring that the best available science remains the center of our decision making. I believe that that's the foundation of EPA successes and the genesis of our future successes.”

Johnson said by understanding the science that will deliver cleaner air and portable energy, meeting the President's call to invest in innovation that will secure the future. By understanding the science, the American people are meeting the President's goal of restoring, improving and protecting 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years and by understanding science, America is working with its global neighbors to find common solutions to common environmental challenges.

“But in order for the EPA to maintain our ability to deal with the challenges of the decade, the next 40 years, we need to make sure we have the right people, trained in the right discipline, with the right problem solving skills,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that employees of research center have contributed to the nation's progression. "Our air has gotten cleaner, our water has gotten purer and our land has been better protected and it's because of the work at the Robert S. Kerr Research Center, and it's because of the work of the EPA that these great accomplishments have been made," he said.

"It's the high quality scientific research that has been coming out of the Ada Lab for the past 40 years that has really helped the agency, and helped the nation achieve the environmental successes. This lab has tirelessly worked to improve our understanding types of groundwater and to help surface environment. You all have really helped inform people about groundwater issues."

Johnson also discussed the connection between environmental achievements with other sources. "Our country's gross domestic product has actually tripled over the last 35 years," he said. "It's not just about environmental protection and environmental advances, in fact, as a country, economic success and environmental success go hand in hand. I believe that it helps improve both and I know that President Bush understands this."

Johnson said that celebrating both the anniversaries of EPA and Kerr Lab offered up a chance to recognize employees vital to its success. "EPA's 35 anniversary and Ada's 40 anniversary are not only chances to celebrate our environmental successes, they're also chances to celebrate employees who've made our environmental successes possible. So I want to say from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the President and our entire nation, thank you for all of the great work that you've done."

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