U.S. Commerce Department Releases First Report on Environment

Today at Yale University, the Commerce Department’s Office of Technology Policy (OTP) issued the first comprehensive report on the U.S. Environmental Industry. The new report, “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Industry Faces the 21st Century, The U.S. Environmental Industry,” finds the industry facing critical policy choices that will determine whether it strengthens its competitiveness or becomes obsolete.

The U.S. environmental industry includes public and private sector companies that provide potable water, wastewater treatment, wastewater management, and the equipment and services needed for compliance with pollution control, remediation and other environmental requirements. In 1996, this industry involved more than 110,000 revenue-generating organizations, employed more than 1.3 million Americans and generated $181 billion in revenue.

“The environmental industry has become a significant part of the U.S. economy while making the nation’s environment the cleanest in the world for the population and quality of life it serves,” said Kelly Carnes, Commerce’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Technology Policy, during a panel discussion at Yale that followed the report’s release.

According to the new report, the environmental industry is now at a crossroads. In the past, growth in the industry was driven by the need for compliance with regulations and focused heavily on cleaning-up after polluting. Now, substantial compliance with existing regulations has been achieved. Yet the industry, as a whole, has been slow to adopt the creative and technologically innovative approaches needed to meet growing demand for sustainable growth, authors of the report found. This reluctance is due, in part, to budget constraints, traditional thinking, and outdated regulations that prescribe a focus on post-pollution clean-up, they said.

“Government and industry must work together to ensure that American environmental businesses remain competitive – finding creative solutions to future challenges through innovation, while at the same time, ensuring a clean environment and high quality of life for future generations,” Carnes said.

In order for the U.S. environmental industry to remain viable and grow, government and industry leaders must develop policies that encourage simultaneous economic growth and environmental protection, the report concluded. Environmental protection and pollution prevention must become integral aspects of industrial processes.

Copies of “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Industry Faces the 21st Century, The U.S. Environmental Industry” are available on-line at http://www.ta.doc.gov/reports or by calling the OTP Publication Request line at (202) 482-3037.

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