WASHINGTON - Enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has fallen precipitously
under the Bush administration, US Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of
Malden, said yesterday.
Markey asked Christie Whitman, head of the Environmental Protection Agency,
to return to much higher enforcement levels seen during the Clinton administration.
A study by Markey's staff showed a huge decline in costs to polluters resulting
from EPA enforcement. Using the agency's data, the study found that the total
amount of penalties and remedies for EPA administrative actions in the first 14
months of the Bush administration fell 80 percent from the total recovered during
the last 131/2 months of the Clinton administration, from $845.1 million to $165.1
The average settlement cost of those EPA administrative actions fell by 63
percent, from $234,000 to $87,000, in the periods examined in the study.
The staff also looked at a three-month period under both the Clinton and Bush
presidencies - from Feb. 20 to July 20 in 2000 and 2002 - and found similar results.
''I am concerned that the dramatic reduction in numbers of and settlements
for EPA Administrative Actions taken during the Bush Administration could lead
polluting companies to conclude that it pays to pollute and that there is no incentive
to stop,'' said a statement Markey released.
''Just as weak oversight of corporate accounting led directly to misleading
and fraudulent investment disclosure by companies like Enron, weak enforcement
of our environmental laws will lead directly to rising pollution, tainted water
supplies and dirty air,'' he said. ''It is unacceptable for the new EPA menu to
have plenty of specials for polluters, but leftovers for the families who must
live next to polluting facilities.''
An EPA spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment on the analysis.
The Markey study - titled ''Does Polluting Pay at the Bush EPA?'' - focused
on cases launched and concluded within the two administrations. Administrative
actions include cases that are handled internally by the EPA or by an arbitrator,
as opposed to judicial actions, which require intervention by the courts.
Markey, a nuclear energy opponent who serves on the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, asked for stiffer enforcement of environmental laws in a letter to
Whitman, the EPA administrator.
''Businesses that fully comply with federal environmental laws are harmed
when those who fail to comply are not subject to enforcement action,'' Markey
wrote. ''If the laws are not enforced, dishonest competitors can put honest businesses
out of business simply by continuing to pollute while avoiding the expenses associated
with preventing pollution that are incurred by honest competitors.''
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company