|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
APRIL 21, 2004
|CONTACT: U.S. PIRG
Liz Hitchcock (202) 546-9707
Earth Day Report Documents Local Impacts Of Bush Administration Environmental Policies On States Across The Country
WASHINGTON - April 21 - America's environment faces a long list of challenges because of the Bush administration's environmental policies, according to a new Earth Day report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report"America's Environment at Risk"details local impacts of recent decisions at the federal level to weaken environmental protections.
"Our message for this Earth Day is clearthe Bush administration continues to allow big corporations to weaken our environmental laws so they can pollute our air and poison our water, cut down our national forests and make taxpayers, rather than polluters, pay to clean up toxic wastes," said U.S. PIRG Executive Director Gene Karpinski.
U.S. PIRG's report highlights Bush administration policies that have the greatest local impacts on the environment and public health. Specifically:
- More than half of the population lives in areas where the air is unhealthy to breathe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued two rules that eliminate the primary enforcement mechanism for cutting soot and smog pollution from the nation's dirtiest power plants. This will cause more smoggy days, more asthma attacks, and more acid rain.
- Forty-three states now have fish consumption advisories in effect because of mercury pollution in local waterways. While EPA and the Food and Drug Administration warned women and children just weeks ago to limit their consumption of tuna because of mercury contamination, EPA has proposed a new plan to weaken and delay efforts to clean up mercury emissions from the nation's coal-fired power plants.
- More than 2.5 million people have submitted comments to the Forest Service about the widely popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule, enacted in 2001 to protect 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land from most commercial logging and road-building. Instead of protecting these wild places, the Forest Service has failed to implement the Roadless Rule and removed protections for the Tongass National Forest.
- More than 40 percent of U.S. waterways are too polluted for safe fishing or swimming. The Bush administration instructed EPA and Army Corps of Engineers staff to stop using the Clean Water Act to protect so-called "isolated" waterways, allowing polluters to dump more toxic chemicals into streams and developers to drain and fill more wetlands. The administration also has proposed allowing wastewater treatment facilities to dump inadequately treated sewage into our waterways.
- This year, America's taxpayers will pay almost $1.3 billion to clean up abandoned toxic waste sites, more than four times the amount they paid in 1995, the year Superfund's "polluter pays" fees expired. The Bush administration has failed to support reinstating the "polluter pays" fees that help fund cleanup of abandoned toxic waste sites, slowed the pace of cleanups, and forced taxpayers to pick up more of the bill for the cleanups that are happening.
U.S. PIRG also pointed to a number of upcoming decisions that offer the Bush administration the opportunity to protect the environment and public health. "We need to work together for cleaner air and cleaner water, for a new clean energy future, and for permanent protection for America's special places," said U.S. PIRG Research Director Alison Cassady. "But the Bush administration and their special interest allies are finding ways to cut short the progress that we have made over the past thirty years, by weakening our environmental and public health protections."
Specifically, U.S. PIRG called on the Bush administration to do the following:
- EPA should protect the health of America's children by withdrawing its industry-written proposal to regulate toxic mercury emissions from power plants and proposing a rule that reduces mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2008as EPA itself has said is possible.
- Having already exempted Alaska's Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule, the Forest Service may propose allowing governors to remove forests in their states from the rule's protections. The Forest Service should instead fully implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and restore protections to the Tongass.
- The Bush administration should guarantee all waterways the shelter afforded by the Clean Water Act by rescinding the guidance to EPA and Army Corps staff that lifted protections for "isolated" waterways and revoking the draft guidance that would allow more inadequately treated sewage to enter our rivers, lakes and coastal areas.
"On Earth Day, it's time to send a loud and clear message to the Bush Administration," said Karpinski. "Listen to the public, not the polluters. Let's strengthen our environmental laws, not weaken them."