decision-making, and voluntary and cooperative actions—all of these as opposed to reliance on the prescriptive technology-based controls that currently prevail under existing law. We need to shift our regulatory and enforcement authorities from compliance assurance to compliance assistance. We need to facilitate investment in pollution prevention by businesses, and we need to shift our priorities from strictly human health protection to the long-term sustainability of ecosystems, looking specifically at restoration of the integrity of ecological processes. We need to merge environmental and economic policies for a long run sustainable future. And we need to set ambitious but realistic national targets for environmental improvement and measure our progress towards those goals.
Now I will outline the purpose and history of our National Environmental Goals Project, then ask my colleague Peter Truitt to provide a more detailed overview of the proposed goals. We've handed out a piece that will guide you through that dialogue.
First of all, why are we doing this? The purposes of the National Goals Project are twofold. Number one, to strengthen understanding and support for the national environmental agenda by describing the expected real-world improvements that will result if we do our jobs well. Number two, to manage better—to tie our plans, budgets, and program evaluations to environmental outcomes so that the investments we make with taxpayer money pay back in terms of measurable and recognizable environmental improvements.
This project didn't start yesterday. Indeed, back in 1992, former Administrator Bill Reilly launched it. The project languished for a while until current Administrator Carol Browner directed her staff to develop the goals with full public participation. That process has ensued over the last couple of years. In 1994, EPA held a series of nine public roundtables around the country, which discussed what the national goals should cover and how they might be expressed. That process was extraordinarily rewarding. When you gather a group of a hundred people into a room and spend a day talking about the future, you begin to sense the different values of the participants, the stakeholders. You see how the dialogue starts to shape a collective future. That kind of public engagement informs the process for articulating national goals. And that public process will, of course, continue through the formulation of the final goals. Because without public involvement these goals are essentially meaningless.
In early 1995, EPA prepared a summary goals report that was reviewed by many government agencies and participants of the roundtables. Some of the guidance that reviewers provided to us was that the goals should be more visionary, which I think means that they should inspire people towards a future and not just be numerical measures of this or that. Reviewers said that we should describe how we will attain these goals, including the costs and who will pay. We also engaged Congress in the process, who came back to us saying, ''Which goals and which milestones ought to be priorities? Just because we can attain these targets doesn't mean we should." I think that joins the debate we heard this morning