WASHINGTON - April 15 - The Environmental Protection Agency today released an updated list of areas, which taken together show that more than half of all Americans live in places with unhealthy air. Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to promote policies that weaken the nation's clean air laws.
"With today's announcement, the Bush administration is admitting that Americans face a serious air pollution problem, but across the board the administration has worked to weaken the nation's clean air laws," said Nat Mund, who heads the Sierra Club's clean air program.
For areas on the list, EPA's warning means that air quality poses a health risk to residents--especially children, the elderly, and those with asthma and other respiratory diseases.
EPA had little choice but to make new smog designations after the Supreme Court rejected an industry challenge in 2001. The Bush administration, however, has done little to ensure that states and municipalities actually implement plans to reduce air pollution in a timely manner and in some places even caved to political pressure by leaving areas with air problems off the list.
Since coming into office, the Bush administration has moved to weaken power plant clean-up laws on smog, soot, and mercury. Under the current law, the oldest and dirtiest power plants and refineries must install modern preventative equipment when making changes that increase pollution. The Bush administration has created a huge exception for utilities from this rule, placing local communities and those downwind at increasing risk for health problems.
In addition, the Bush administration has proposed radical changes to the Clean Air Act that could allow polluters to emit twice the amount of soot and smog for a decade longer than if the current law were simply enforced. And in a case currently before the Supreme Court, the Bush administration has joined bus and truck companies in trying to block Southern California from replacing polluting buses and trucks with cleaner vehicles. Southern California has some of the worst air in the nation.
"The Bush administration could curb more air pollution faster by simply enforcing the law," added Mund. "Unfortunately, this administration is more interested in what sounds good than what actually works."