WASHINGTON - September 22 - Statement by Nat Mund, Sierra Club Air Quality Expert
"The Bush administration's 2003 Status Report on air pollution, released earlier today, should be read with a skeptical eye. It not only paints a misleading picture of the state of our air, but it also hides the fact that the Bush administration has weakened the clean air laws that are responsible for the progress to date.
"The Bush Administration is using the decline in overall pollution to mask increases in sulfur dioxide, a pollutant leading to acid rain. The administration consistently points to the acid-rain trading program, which allows polluters to buy and sell the right to pollute, as a successful model for controlling all air pollution problems. However, this year's report shows that sulfur dioxide pollution increased by half a million tons, demonstrating the limits of pollution trading. The administration worked closely with polluting industries to rewrite clean air rules for America's oldest and dirtiest power plants, refineries, and factories. If these facilities were using the best available technology to reduce the amount of soot they produce, we would significantly cut the number of attacks and hospitalizations caused by asthma.
"The biggest reductions from 2002-2003 came from reductions in carbon monoxide, a pollutant that the Clean Air Act has successfully reduced in the past. Other pollutants have stayed fairly constant.
"It's also worth noting that although smog-forming emissions went down a little in 2003, too many communities are still experiencing too many smog days. In fact, when the Bush administration announced earlier this year that 474 counties in 31 states have air that fails to meet federal health standards, it proposed allowing many of these areas to clean up less over a longer period of time, as compared to strong enforcement of the Clean Air Act.
"Everyone can agree that the Clean Air Act has made significant gains in making our air safer to breathe, but Bush Administration policies threaten further progress on clean air by weakening those protections for local communities."