Carol Browner became the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January, 1993. Her mission is to promote public health by protecting the nation's air, water, and soil.
In naming Browner, President Clinton cited her strong administrative background and her record in building innovative partnerships to protect our environment while also promoting economic growth.
As head of EPA, Browner is charged with protecting the nation's air and water from harmful pollution, overseeing garbage and hazardous waste disposal, cleaning up hazardous sites under the Superfund law, and establishing guidelines for pesticide use and food safety.
Browner has declared pollution prevention her priority and has vowed to speed EPA decision-making on air, water, and land issues. She hopes to inspire Americans to participate with pride in protecting our environment.
In six short months, the agency announced a policy to protect children from harmful pesticide residues on food tightened control over hazardous waste incinerators, improved how the Superfund law is administered to clean up toxic sites, took enforcement action against dozens of polluters, expanded the Toxic Release Inventory requiring industry to inform the public of toxic emissions, and played a leading role in President Clinton's requirement that all federal agencies cut down on pollution.
From 1991 to 1993, Browner was Secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation for the State of Florida, the nation's third-largest environmental agency. In that post, she won praise for dealing effectively with complex issues involving wetland protection, hazardous waste disposal, and Everglades cleanup.
In a widely lauded agreement, Browner in her Florida post allowed Walt Disney World to develop its property, in return for spending about $40 million to turn 8,500 acres of endangered wetlands into a wildlife refuge. Browner also helped to ban oil and gas drilling off the Florida Keys and played a key role in improving water quality in the Florida Everglades. When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida, she was commended for helping communities and businesses to get back on their feet while minimizing pollution hazards.
Under Browner's leadership, a coalition of Florida business leaders worked out a fee structure for major sources of air pollution in advance of the federal deadline, giving the state a headstart in improving air quality. Browner also cut red tape in the state regulatory process and assisted small businesses in complying with the Clean Air Act.
From 1986 to 1988, Browner worked for Sen. Lawton Chiles, now Governor of Florida, helping to negotiate a complex land swap that expanded Big Cypress National Preserve. She then served as Legislative Director for Sen. Al Gore, Jr., helping to draft amendments to the Clean Air Act. She knows environmental regulation both from the Washington perspective and from the state viewpoint.
Browner grew up in south Florida, where the Everglades were a bike ride away. Her parents, college professors at Miami-Dade Community College, gave her her first lessons in politics and appreciation for the natural wonders around her.
Browner graduated from the University of Florida in 1977 and then earned a degree from its law school. She began working on environmental issues 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, 5, 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 on January. "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."