WASHINGTON - September 21 - The Green Party of Louisiana today issued a strong condemnation of plans to
suspend U.S. environmental protections in the wake of the Katrina disaster.
"The first disaster to hit our state was a natural one. The one following
suspension of EPA rules will be a human-generated environmental disaster,"
Leenie Halbert, Co-Chair of the Louisiana Green Party warned.
A U.S. Senate proposal introduced Thursday would grant the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) administrator the authority to waive or modify
requirements for any emergency response related to Hurricane Katrina. The
blanket proposal, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), applies to any
project carried out by the EPA.
Halbert predicted that relaxation of environmental safeguards will lead to
an unknown, but predictable, increase in the death rate in the lower
Mississippi Valley, and stated that a limited suspension of EPA rules to
allow burning of some wastes would be sufficient for the needs to clean up
"There is no reason why there needs to be a complete waiver of EPA
protection for the entire Mississippi Valley for a period of a year and a
half," she said. "Furthermore, the EPA has been extremely slow in
initiating testing of soil and water samples in the storm-damaged areas and
we question if in any case the agency has the will to demand that pollution
be kept in check during this period."
"Our people already are suffering from living in what is known as 'Cancer
Alley,'" Halbert said. "Now, they have suffered the loss of their homes and
the neglect-seen on televisions worldwide-of their basic needs in time of
disaster. But this is not enough for the right-wing idealogues who control
our institutions in Washington, and our people are once more going to be
betrayed by this Administration."
The Senate Committee on Public Works, which met behind closed doors with EPA
officials after the hurricane, claims that the waiver is needed during
clean-up of the disaster, according to Bill Holbrook, from the majority
staff of the committee.
Halbert quoted officials of the environmental law firm Earthjustice, who say
that the waiver of eighteen months is too long a time for environmental
protections to be suspend, and echoed their concerns about the proposed
waiver which includes occupational health and safety laws applying to debris
disposal, water management and reconstruction workers coming to the area.
"This entire maneuver is nothing more than a cynical attempt to use this
disaster to achieve the dismantling of laws and procedures that have been
created to protect our people," Halbert warned.