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American people. Also, achieving the waste goals will, of course, contribute to achieving many of the other goals such as clean water. They're all linked together, so it is hard to evaluate the risk reduction associated with one milestone.

Aside from the criticisms I mentioned earlier, we have heard very positive comments about the goals project. People are saying, congratulations EPA, at last you are delivering an environmental results management tool that's going to be very useful. It is a strong direction-setting document. It's useful not only for planning and budgeting, but for program evaluation. As time goes by, we will be reporting whether we are above our targets, or below them, and why. So it's an evaluation tool. And it will be useful for communicating with people in terms of results.

There are some issues that concern us. Will our report stand up to scrutiny by scientists and economists? We don't know yet. Is it unrealistic to assume continued societal investments and government programs? We believe the American people are willing to invest in environmental protection that promises results. Are all the goals equally important? Probably not. Perhaps we should be setting higher targets for higher-risk problems and paying for them by easing the targets for lower-risk problems. It makes conceptual sense, but drawing conclusions from the information we currently have is difficult.

With that I'm going to turn it back over to John Wise who will wrap up.

John Wise:

I'll wrap up briefly. As you can see, the scope of this endeavor is truly heroic, and to the extent that we are successful in engaging a public process, that we can withstand the scrutiny of the science community and the economic community, we will actually propose a set of goals for America next year.

How is all of this going to be used? That's an important question. When these goals become generally accepted as part of the country's environmental agenda, we will then craft EPA's strategic plan to chart a course to the milestones. We'll use that strategy with the milestone targets as a base for our annual planning and budgeting, and to develop our performance agreements with state and local agencies—which as I mentioned earlier, carry the majority of the load in terms of environmental protection at a state and local level. We'll also use the goals-based strategic plan to fulfill some of our obligations under the Government Performance and Results Act.

Lastly and most importantly, we'll prepare annual reports for the public that explain the progress that we're making—or not making—and reaffirm our commitment to environmental quality. So with that, let us stop and listen to you.

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