The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933; Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Democrates Pressure EPA to Green-light Pork

Rep. Frank Says EPA Will Bar Anyone with a "Record of Hostility" to Pet Project


Democrats pushing pet projects are pressuring the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to short-circuit scientific reviews and
anti-pollution protections, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Politicians saying that they have
"assurances" of favorable treatment undercut promises by the Obama
administration that EPA and other environmental agencies would follow
the rule of law rather than political dictates.

At issue is the controversial $1.4 billion Fall River/New Bedford
rail line to Boston slated to bisect the largest freshwater wetland
remaining in Massachusetts - the Hockomock Swamp, which is designated
as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts and a priority wetland by the EPA. In a March 27, 2009
interview, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) stated he has received "assurances"
that EPA will not raise "obstacles" to the rail route that he favors:

"Referring to objections over building the rail
through the Hockomock Swamp along a possible Stoughton route, Frank
said he and other supporters made sure the new leadership of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency did not include anyone with 'a record
of hostility' to the project. 'I think we are assured on that part,' he
said. 'We're going to be environmentally responsible, but we don't want
obstacles put in the way.'"

"We thought the era of litmus tests at EPA was supposed to be over,"
stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and
biologist who was formerly a wetlands regional official at EPA. "How is
this different from the political manipulation that the Bush
administration exerted over EPA?"

PEER has contended that if EPA truly follows the rule of law it will
find that the route through the Hockomock is illegal under Section 404
of the Clean Water Act. PEER today wrote EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
asking her to investigate Rep. Frank's claims and seeking guarantees
that EPA will strictly follow the law in reviewing any proposed
permits. PEER is also asking EPA to turn over all communications that
it has had with top officials from the Commonwealth about the rail

Apart from the myriad negative environmental impacts of the diesel
rail project, the state's official estimates of ridership for the Fall
River/New Bedford rail line have fallen by nearly a fifth since 2002
while costs continue to swell. The low ridership figures cut heavily
against the claimed environmental benefits for this particular route.
Moreover, PEER points out that there are more eco-benign alternatives
that the state is not pursuing.

"In essence, Congressman Frank is asking EPA to violate the law to
curry favor with Massachusetts politicians," added Bennett, arguing
that while many of the environmental costs of this project are evident,
the environmental benefits are unsupported by hard analysis. "This
boondoggle has all the earmarks of abusive pork barrel spending that
President Obama vowed to stop."


See Rep. Frank's remarks about EPA support

Read PEER letter to EPA Administrator

Find out about the rail project through the heart of the Hockomock Swamp

Look at the low and falling ridership projections for the project

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.