Jump-starting the economic and environmental recovery

Last year, in a decisive step to pull the country out of the worst economic crisis in four generations, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the Recovery Act.

As envisioned by the Congress, the president made dramatic investments designed to create and keep good jobs while investing in the long-term environmental sustainability of our communities. Here at EPA, I believe these investments will pay enormous dividends for years to come in our cities and towns.

Across the country, EPA was charged with over $7 billion in projects and programs for a cleaner environment. Here in New England, the Recovery Act provided EPA with approximately $700 million to jump start important environmental projects across Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

In real environmental terms, the Recovery Act is funding hundreds of significant projects that will help clean New England’s environment, and provide better environmental and public health protection to New England citizens. The Recovery Act is helping to create green jobs – jobs that will help clean contaminated land, jobs to produce cleaner drinking water and air quality, and jobs to spur environmentally-conscious urban and rural re-development and reduce greenhouse gases.

We are beginning to see tangible evidence of the good work being accomplished in New England states, thanks to the Recovery Act.

For example, in Maine an old mill in Sanford is benefiting from funds to clean up contamination and set the stage for the mill’s reuse in the community. Leaking underground storage tanks are being removed from the ground in New Hampshire. In Stafford, Vt., clean up work is being jump-started at the Elizabeth Mine Superfund site. Chelsea, Mass., will have cleaner, healthier air thanks to Recovery Act funding that will reduce diesel exhaust from a large industrial facility. A contaminated parcel in Woonsocket, R.I., is being cleaned up. The Port of New Haven will benefit from a truck stop electrification project, allowing truck drivers to have heat, air conditioning and electricity for in-cab appliances without idling their engines.

The Recovery Act has helped fund 40 distinct projects to protect specific watersheds throughout our states.

The list just keeps going — important work being done in communities across New England that will help for years to come.

Across New England, EPA is making a huge investment in upgrading infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water and to safely process wastewater. These investments will pay dividends for decades to come, priming the pump for communities to be welcome destinations for new businesses and a vibrant tourist economy.

And what about jobs? Recipients of EPA funding reported 730 jobs created through the end of December 2009. We expect that number to rise significantly as soon as the spring construction season arrives.

Not only is EPA working hard to get this Recovery Act money out into New England communities, we also are working hard to ensure that these grants and contracts are fully documented in the most intense and transparent tracking ever seen — to ensure that all citizens can understand where all the money went, how it got spent, how many jobs were created or saved from loss. (You can log on to Recovery.gov to see how EPA’s work in your community is going.)

Even as we know that more of the created jobs and most of the environmental benefits are still before us, we are beginning to see that the Recovery Act is helping to keep and create good jobs, while investing in a clean and healthy environment for our communities to grow and prosper in the years to come.

Curt Spalding is the newly appointed regional administrator of EPA New England.