Bush White House Harms Environment
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The resignation letter below was written in February 2002 by Eric Schaeffer, the EPA's Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement. It documents his frustration with the Bush White House's determination to, "weaken the clean air rules the EPA is trying to enforce." In many respects it is a plea for help. See: MSNBC article, "EPA Regulator's Resignation Letter." Bold and underline are my own. See also, "Clearing the Air: "Why I Quit Bush's EPA by Eric Schaeffer, Washington Monthly
August 1, 2002."


See also: Earthjustice: "EPA Violates Clean Air Act;" "EPA Official’s Resignation Signals Deeper Problems with Administration’s Enforcement of Environmental Laws"  and
NRDC: EPA Documents Reveal Plan to Weaken Air Quality Protections. Also: Bush Administration Accused of Suppressing, Distorting Science, 2/19/2004

Other Environmental Travesties from the Bush Administration

Update: 3/16/2005: Senate Votes to Open Alaskan Oil Drilling
"WASHINGTON - Amid the backdrop of soaring oil and gasoline prices, a sharply divided Senate on Wednesday voted to open the ecologically rich Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, delivering a major energy policy win for President Bush. The Senate, by a 51-49 vote, rejected an attempt by Democrats and GOP moderates to remove a refuge drilling provision from next year's budget, preventing opponents from using a filibuster - a tactic that has blocked repeated past attempts to open the Alaska refuge to oil companies."- H Josef Hebert, Associated Press.

Update, 12/23/2004: New Rules Issued for National Forests: Some Environmental Protections Eased
The Bush administration issued comprehensive new rules yesterday for managing the national forests, jettisoning some environmental protections that date to Ronald Reagan's administration and putting in place the biggest change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades.

Update 11/6/2003: Going Backwards: EPA Drops Its Cases Against Dozens of Alleged Polluters by Elizabeth Shogren
"The Bush administration has dropped enforcement actions against dozens of coal-fired power plants that were under investigation for violating the Clean Air Act and allegedly spewing thousands of tons of illegal pollution into the air, EPA officials said Wednesday."

Update 9/21/03: Bush Covers Up Climate Research: White House officials play down its own scientists' evidence of global warming
"White House officials have undermined their own government scientists' research into climate change to play down the impact of global warming, an investigation by The Observer can reveal."

"The disclosure will anger environment campaigners who claim that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions are being sabotaged because of President George W. Bush's links to the oil industry."

Update 9/15/03: EPA sued over kids and pesticides: Coalition charges agency failed to protect children
"NEW YORK, Sept. 15 — The Environmental Protection Agency was sued by four states and a coalition of conservation, public health and farmworker groups Monday for failing to protect children from unsafe levels of pesticide residue found in food. The plaintiffs, who filed two separate cases in Manhattan federal court, seek court orders forcing the EPA to comply with a 1996 law requiring that the agency set pesticide residue standards 10 times stricter than those considered acceptable for adults.

"ONE OF THE suits was brought by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The other case was brought by an 11-member group that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Action Network North America, the Breast Cancer Fund, and the Physicians for Social Responsibility." -Reuters, 9/15/03 from MSNBC

Update: 8/29/03, Knight Ridder News Service, Bush Administration: Carbon Dioxide Not a Pollutant," by Seth Borenstein

Update: 9/2/03: EPA lifts ban on selling PCB sites, by Peter Eisler, USA Today

Update: 6/20/03, the Boston Globe, "Bush Fries Climate Change," by Derrick Z. Jackson

Update: 3/8/03:  Oil Industry Granted Clean-Water Waiver by Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times

Update: 1/1/03: New Pollution Standards Prompt Suit
9 States Challenge U.S. Decision to Relax Rules

"Nine northeastern states ranging from Maine to Maryland filed suit yesterday challenging the Bush administration's decision to relax national industrial pollution restrictions for the first time since enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1970."- Eric Pianin, Washington Post.

Update: 12/16/02: Bush to California: Choke on this
The White House has joined with the oil and auto industries to undermine the state's rigorous environmental regulations.


Update 12/29/02: White House Budget Office Thwarts EPA Warning on Asbestos-Laced Insulation
"The Environmental Protection Agency was on the verge of warning millions of Americans that their attics and walls might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation. But, at the last minute, the White House intervened, and the warning has never been issued.

The agency's refusal to share its knowledge of what is believed to be a widespread health risk has been criticized by a former EPA administrator under two Republican presidents, a Democratic U.S. senator and physicians and scientists who have treated victims of the contamination." - Andrew Schneider, St Louis Post-Dispatch


Update: 11/22/02: EPA Eases Clean Air Requirements on Power Plants
"The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants.

The long-awaited regulation issued by the Environmental Protection agency was immediately attacked by environmentalists, state air quality regulators and attorneys general in several Northeast state who promised a lawsuit to try to reverse the action."

"...Vickie Patton, an attorney with Environmental Defense, said the changes amount to "a sweeping and unprecedented erosion of state and local power to protect the public health from air pollution" by thousands of power plants, oil refineries and industrial facilities.

"They're going to do everything they can not only to roll these rules back at the federal level but to force states to dismantle clean air programs that have been in place for years," she said."
- John Heilprin, Washington Post, 11/22/02; See also: Bush Weakens Clean Air Act: Rollback Will Increase Air Pollution, Threaten Public Health, NRDC.


Update: 4/5/02, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
While not directly related to air quality, the Interior Department's hasty effort to mitigate the conclusions of a US Geological Survey study outlining the adverse effects on caribou of drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, further demonstrates this Administration's weak support for environmental causes. See The NRDC, 4/5/02 press release, " Bush's Call for New Study Is Politically Motivated, Lieberman Says."


Update: 614/02, EPA Proposes To Ease Rules On Clean Air
"The Bush administration announced yesterday a major relaxation of clean air enforcement rules governing older coal-fired power plants and refineries that would effectively preclude future government legal action in all but the most flagrant cases of pollution."- Eric Pianin, Washington Post, 6/14/02

"EPA Mulls New Water Cleanup Rule,"  Michael Grunwald, Washington Post, 7/13/02:
"The Bush administration is considering a plan to reduce federal oversight of a key Clean Water Act anti-pollution program and instead "trust states" to clean up more than 20,000 dirty rivers, lakes and estuaries, internal Environmental Protection Agency documents show."

"Grime Pays," David Cave, Salon, 7/31/02:
"On June 24, the EPA told Congress that it planned to cut funding for 33 Superfund sites. A handful of those properties received last-minute funding July 22, but Atlas Tack, its cleanup once scheduled to start in April, is currently destined to remain unfunded and untouched.

"...Now that the EPA pressure is off, however, it is unlikely that the company will foot the bill for cleanup simply because it is the right thing to do.

"...The lesson here is that if a company delays long enough, it will get a break from the government. There is also an implied promise of laxity for future polluters. Why should a company spend money on clean and sustainable production if it is cheap to pollute for a profit?

'Asian Brown Cloud' poses global threat
"In the biggest-ever study of the phenomenon, 200 scientists warned that the cloud, estimated to be two miles (three kilometers) thick, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from respiratory disease."- CNN News 8/12/2002

National Environment Trust's latest study shows that children in California will exceed the acceptable exposure to dangerous cancer-causing pollutants well before their first birthday- 9/16/02, National Environment Trust Web Site.
 

Christine Whitman
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
       
Dear Ms. Whitman:
       
       I resign today from the Environmental Protection Agency after twelve years of service, the last five as Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and leave with a deep admiration for the men and women of EPA who dedicate their lives to protecting the environment and the public health. Their faith in the Agency’s mission is an inspiring example to those who still believe that government should stand for the public interest.

       But I cannot leave without sharing my frustration about the fate of our enforcement actions against power companies that have violated the Clean Air Act. Between November of 1999 and December of 2000, EPA filed lawsuits against 9 power companies for expanding their plants, without obtaining New Source Review permits and the up to date pollution controls required by law. The companies named in our lawsuits emit an incredible 5.0 million tons of sulfur dioxide every year (a quarter of the emissions in the entire country) as well as 2 million tons of nitrogen oxide.

       As the scale of pollution from these coal-fired smokestacks is immense, so is the damage to public health. Data supplied to the Senate Environment Committee by EPA last year estimate the annual health bill from 7 million tons of SO2 and NO2: more than 10,800 premature deaths; at least 5,400 incidents of chronic bronchitis; more than 5,100 hospital emergency visits; and over 1.5 million lost work days. Add to that severe damage to our natural resources, as acid rain attacks soils and plants, and deposits nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay and other critical bodies of water.

       Fifteen months ago, it looked as though our lawsuits were going to shrink these dismal statistics, when EPA publicly announced agreements with Cinergy and Vepco to reduce Sox and Nox emissions by a combined 750,000 tons per year. Settlements already lodged with two other companies B TECO and PSE&G B will eventually take another quarter million tons of Nox and Sox out of the air annually. If we get similar results from the 9 companies with filed complaints, we are on track to reduce both pollutants by a combined 4.8 million tons per year. And that does not count the hundreds of thousands of additional tons that can be obtained from other companies with whom we have been negotiating.

       Yet today, we seem about the snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We are in the 9th month of a “90 day review” to reexamine the law, and fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce. It is hard to know which is worse, the endless delay or the repeated leaks by energy industry lobbyists of draft rule changes that would undermine lawsuits already filed. At their heart, these proposals would turn narrow exemptions into larger loopholes that would allow old “grandfathered” plants to be continually rebuilt (and emissions to increase) without modern pollution controls.

       Our negotiating position is weakened further by the Administration’s budget proposal to cut the civil enforcement program by more than 200 staff positions below the 2001 level. Already, we are unable to fill key staff positions, not only in air enforcement, but in other critical programs, and the proposed budget cuts would leave us desperately short of the resources needed to deal with the large, sophisticated corporate defendants we face. And it is completely unrealistic to expect under funded state environmental programs, facing their own budget cuts, to take up the slack.

       It is no longer possible to pretend that the ongoing debate with the White House and Department of Energy is not effecting our ability to negotiate settlements. Cinergy and Vepco have refused to sign the consent decrees they agreed to 15 months ago, hedging their bets while waiting for the Administration’s Clean Air Act reform proposals. Other companies with whom we were close to settlement have walked away from the table. The momentum we obtained with agreements announced earlier has stopped, and we have filed no new lawsuits against utility companies since this Administration took office. We obviously cannot settle cases with defendants who think we are still rewriting the law.

       The arguments against sustaining our enforcement actions don’t hold up to scrutiny.

       Were the complaints filed by the U.S. government based on conflicting or changing interpretations? The Justice Department doesn’t think so. Its review of our enforcement actions found EPA’s interpretation of the law to be reasonable and consistent. While the Justice Department has gamely insisted it will continue to prosecute existing cases, the confusion over where EPA is going with New Source Review has made settlement almost impossible, and protracted litigation inevitable.

       What about the energy crisis? It stubbornly refuses to materialize, as experts predict a glut of power plants in some areas of the U.S. In any case, our settlements are flexible enough to provide for cleaner air while protecting consumers from rate shock.

      The relative costs and benefits? EPA’s regulatory impact analyses, reviewed by OMB, quantify health and environmental benefits of $7,300 per ton of SO2 reduced at a cost of less than $1,000 per ton. These cases should be supported by anyone who thinks cost-benefit analysis is a serious tool for decision-making, not a political game.

       Is the law too complicated to understand? Most of the projects our cases targeted involved big expansion projects that pushed emission increases many times over the limits allowed by law.

       Should we try to fix the problem by passing a new law? Assuming the Administration’s bill survives a legislative odyssey in today’s evenly divided Congress, it will send us right back where we started with new rules to write, which will then be delayed by industry challenges, and with fewer emissions reductions than we can get by enforcing today’s law.

        I believe you share the concerns I have expressed, and wish you well in your efforts to persuade the Administration to put our enforcement actions back on course. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican and our greatest environmental President, said, “Compliance with the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favor.” By showing that powerful utility interests are not exempt from that principle, you will prove to EPA’s staff that their faith in the Agency’s mission is not in vain. And you will leave the American public with an environmental victory that will be felt for generations to come.
       
       Sincerely,
       
       Eric V. Schaeffer, Director
       Office of Regulatory Enforcement


 

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