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Profile: Environmental Protection Agency

 
  

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Environmental Protection Agency actively participated in the following events:

 
  

Early 2002      Bush's environmental record

       Michele Merkel, a staff attorney in the EPA's enforcement division whose specialty is in the area of factory farming, resigns because of the administration's reluctance to enforce federal regulatory laws and because she believes the livestock industry has too much influence on EPA oversight of factory farms. [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002; Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Once the Bush team came in, I was not allowed to pursue any further air lawsuits against CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations],” she tells Muckraker. “We got political cover to continue what was underway, but I was told that new efforts were off-limits. It wasn't just coming from my EPA superiors, it was coming from the White House.” [Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Ultimately what drove me out of the agency was the anti-enforcement philosophy of the current administration,” Merkel tells the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Michele Merkel
          

January 14, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       EPA staffers meet with the agency's top pollution regulator, Jeffrey Holmstead, in his fifth-floor conference room to discuss a February 2004 deadline for creating a rule governing formaldehyde emissions at wood products plants. Holmstead, a lawyer, formerly worked at Latham & Watkins representing one of the nation's largest plywood producers. Also present at the meeting is William Wehrum, the EPA air office's general counsel, who had also represented timber interests as a partner of the same law firm. They meet with Timothy Hunt, a lobbyist for the American Forest & Paper Association who is an old acquaintance of Holmstead, and with Claudia M. O'Brien, the association's lawyer. O'Brien had previously been a law partner of Holmstead's and Wehrum's at Latham & Watkins. During the meeting she proposes to exempt “low-risk” plywood, particleboard and other plants from strict emission controls, arguing that such facilities are often located in isolated areas where their emissions pose a relatively small risk to public health. She also contends that the expense of adding new controls to the plants, which the industry complains could cost as much as $1 billion, would make them vulnerable to foreign competition. Holmstead likes the idea and decides that the agency should push the proposal, despite opinions from EPA career attorneys that the exemption would violate the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments (see March 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Timothy Hunt, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Claudia M. O'Brien, William Wehrum, Jeffrey Holmstead
          

November 12, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The National Park Service (NPS) announces a plan to reverse a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The NPS proposal would limit the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks per day to 1,100 by December 2003. However, beginning with the 2004-2005 winter season, there would be no restrictions on the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002; The Washington Post, 11/12/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The proposal is made despite the National Park Service having received some 360,000 emails and letters on the issue, eighty percent of which were in support of the ban. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002] Lifting the ban on snowmobiles would have a considerable impact given that according to the EPA's own figures, the emissions from a single snowmobile can equal that of 100 automobiles. [National Park Service, 5/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 2001; Blue Water Network, 1999] The EPA had recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks in order to provide the “best available protection” for air quality, wildlife and the health of people visiting and working in the park. After coming to office, the Bush administration ordered a review of the policy as part of a settlement with snowmobile manufacturers who had challenged the ban. [The Washington Post, 11/12/2002]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

November 22, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a rule that makes four important changes to the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. Critics say the changes will help polluting industries maintain the status quo.
Plantwide Applicability Limits (PALs) - This change will allow a facility to set a Plantwide Applicability Limit (PAL) based on its average emissions over the previous ten years. A facility will be exempted from the New Source Review process when it upgrades or expands its operations if those changes do not cause the plant's emissions to exceed its PAL. Critics complain that the change does not require plants to reduce their overall emissions when a facility expands or modifies operations.
Pollution Control and Prevention Projects - Facilities will be permitted to undertake certain environmentally beneficial activities without having to apply for NSR permits.
Clean Unit Provision - Plants that voluntarily install “best available pollution controls” will be afforded “clean unit” status and exempted from NSR provisions for a period of 15 years. The change is retroactive to 1990.
Emissions Calculation Test Methodology - Facilities will be permitted to use a more lenient method when determining if a plant upgrade has increased its emissions. With the exception of power plants, facilities will be permitted to select any 24-month period during the previous decade to serve as its baseline for determining pre-modification emission levels. The EPA also announces that it intends to revise the “Routine Maintenance, Repair and Replacement” exemption so that any modifications whose costs do not exceed a certain level would be exempt from the NSR provisions requiring plants to install pollution controls and conduct impact assessments on the ambient air quality when upgrading or replacing equipment. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/22/2002; EarthVision Environmental News, 11/25/2002; Clean the Air, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; ENSR International, 12/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 15, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces the final rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). [Sources: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) final rule] One of its provisions allows factory farms to dump unlimited amounts of raw animal waste on the land. The resulting runoff will pollute waterways, killing fish and spreading disease. The rule also limits corporate liability for environmental damage and allows factory farms to devise their own permit conditions. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

December 18, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tells the EPA to use the discounted value of 63 percent for health impacts on senior citizens in calculating cost-benefit analyses when conducting assessments for new air pollution restrictions on polluting industries. [Knight Ridder, 12/19/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget
          

December 21, 2002      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a Clinton era rule that imposes total pollution limits for all water bodies and requires federal oversight on the clean-up of nearly 300,000 miles of rivers and 5 million acres of lakes. The move will make it easier for states to remove waterways from the clean-up list and more difficult for other waterways to be added. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/2003, pgs 17-18; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Environmental Defense, 1/13/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

(2003-July 2003)      Bush's environmental record

       EPA staffers are instructed by higher-ups not to analyze any mercury or carbon dioxide reduction proposals that conflict with the President's “Clear Skies” bill or, if they do, to keep the results under wraps. For example, an alternative proposal sponsored by Senators Thomas R. Carper and Lincoln Chaffee is analyzed by the EPA but its conclusions—showing that the Carper-Chaffee plan has some advantages over Clear Skies—are not released. According to one EPA staffer later interviewed by the New York Times, Jeffrey Holmstead, the assistant administrator for air programs, wondered out loud during a May 2 meeting, “How can we justify Clear Skies if this gets out?” And in June, EPA administrator Christie Whitman sends a letter to Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, informing them that the EPA will not do economic analysis on their alternative plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as they requested. Senator McCain later tells the New York Times that he did “not feel it was normal procedure to refuse to analyze a bill that is under the agency's jurisdiction.” [New York Times, 7/14/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, Thomas R. Carper, Lincoln Chaffee, Jeffrey Holmstead
          

January 10, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration announces its intention to propose rules that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country's wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim they are responding to a 2001 Supreme Court decision which ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. The administration's announcement ignores the Department of Justice's position that the court decision did not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003 Sources: Federal Register, Vol 68., No. 4] “If the administration gets its way, thousands of streams, wetlands and other waters would no longer be protected by the law, allowing industry to dredge, fill or dump waste into them without a permit and without notifying the public,” explains the Natural Resources Defense Council. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003] The public will have 45 days to comment on the administration's announcement. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003] Also this day, the administration issues a “guidance” encouraging regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to deny protection to wetlands unless they lie adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries. In cases involving isolated intrastate non-navigable waterways, the document states that formal approval must first be obtained from EPA headquarters before exercising regulatory authority. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, US Army Corps of Engineers
          

February 2003      Bush's environmental record

       A 50-page internal EPA report, written by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance, finds that the agency has done a poor job enforcing federal water pollution regulations. The study, which looks at about 6,600 industrial installations and wastewater treatment plants between 1999 and 2001, concludes that at any one time a quarter of all large industrial plants and water-treatment facilities are violating federal law. But only a fraction of these are ever held accountable. Furthermore, the office reports, 50 percent of the serious offenders exceed hazardous substance limits by over 100 percent and 13 percent exceed the limits by 1,000 percent. In 2001, the EPA took action against no more than 15 percent of the facilities judged to be out of compliance with water pollution rules. Less than half of these resulted in fines averaging about $6,000. [Washington Post, 6/6/2003; Reuters, 6/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

February 4, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The President presents his fiscal 2004 budget proposal. In it are billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to energy companies and several anti-environment provisions including cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, natural resources spending, and renewable energy programs. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 2/5/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Environmental Spending Under the Bush FY 2003 Budget [Table]]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush
          

March 10, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants the oil and gas industry a two-year reprieve from regulations aimed at reducing contaminated water run-off from construction sites. The Clinton-era EPA phase II stormwater pollution rule “A” —scheduled to go into effect on this day—requires that companies obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for construction sites between 1 and 5 acres. But the EPA has decided that the Clinton administration had underestimated the rule's impact on the oil and gas industry. In addition to granting the two-year reprieve, the agency says it will also consider giving the industry a permanent exemption. [Associated Press, 3/10/2003; Business and Legal Reports, 3/14/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

March 13, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a June 2000 rule intended to clean up waters polluted by nonpoint source pollution such as agricultural runoff. The Total Maximum Daily Load was set to take effect under the Clean Water Act. [Florida Department of Environmental Protection; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The rule was opposed by the construction industry which claimed it would increase building costs by requiring contractors to comply with “costly and burdensome water quality requirements.” [Associated Builders and Contractors, 3/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

May 5, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency privately meets with factory farmers to negotiate a “safe harbor” agreement. According to one draft of the deal—which bears a remarkable resemblance to a proposal made by industry lawyers (see June 11, 2003) —livestock farms would enroll in a two-year monitoring program during which time they would be exempt from federal air pollution laws and receive amnesty for their past violations as well. In exchange, the farms would pay up to $3,500 to help pay for the program. During the amnesty period, farms below a certain size would be automatically exempted from the laws. After two years, the EPA would use the collected data to establish permanent air emissions standards (see June 11, 2003). [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; New York Times, 5/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] But the proposal does not require that farms submit to enforcement or adopt any technologies after the program is finished. Critics of the proposed deal note also that the number of farms participating in the monitoring program would represent less than 1 percent of the total number of US factory farms. [New York Times, 5/6/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

June 11, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       John Thorne of Capitolink and Richard E. Schwartz, an environmental law attorney, write a memo on behalf of the industrial livestock farm industry to David A. Nielsen and Sally Shaver of the EPA with an “outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement.” Under the proposed agreement, the EPA would provide industrial livestock farms with amnesty from federal air quality and toxic waste clean-up laws in exchange for the industry helping to fund an EPA program to monitor air pollution at the farms [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; Crowell and Moring, 5/22/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Memo: outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement ] EPA officials and industry leaders will meet and discuss the proposed agreement on May 5 (see May 5, 2003).
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, John Thorne, Sally Shaver, Richard E. Schwartz
          

June 18, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA inspector-general launches an inquiry seeking to determine “whether the agency is deliberately misleading the public by overstating the purity of the nation's drinking water.” The inspector general is concerned that data collected by states from their utilities—which serves as the basis for EPA assessments on national water quality—is flawed due to significant underreporting of violations. According to EPA officials and internal agency documents, states may be underreporting violations by as much as 50 percent. Notwithstanding these concerns, the EPA will release its unprecedented “Draft Report on the Environment” five days later (see June 23, 2003). The heavily criticized document will claim that in 2002, “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But internal documents dating back to March suggest the figure is closer to the 75 percent to 84 percent range. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

June 23, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: 2003 Draft Report on the Environment] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, The Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents ... show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House. Some time during the spring, administration officials had asked the agency to delete references to a 2001 report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures had risen significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. “In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion,” the New York Times reports. Irritated with the White House's influence on the report, EPA staffers wrote in an April 29 confidential memo that it “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” Unable to reach a compromise with the White House, the EPA elected to drop the entire section. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; The Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA's report also left out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

July 17, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA announces that its budget of $277 million will allow it to begin clean-up work at only 10 of the 20 newly proposed Superfund sites. The agency selected the 10 sites based on their potential for economic redevelopment and their risk to human health. The reason for the funding shortfall is related to the lapsing of a polluter fee in 1995, which shifted the burden of clean-ups away from corporate polluters to taxpayers. The Bush administration has made no effort to push Congress to reinstate the “polluter pays” fee. [EPA, 7/17/2003; Associated Press, 7/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

August 14, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency quietly lifts a 25-year-old restriction on the sale of PCB contaminated land. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are linked to cancer and neurological problems. The rollback, based on an EPA reinterpretation of an existing law, is announced in an internal memo written by EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. Fabricant claims in the memo that the old interpretation represented “an unnecessary barrier to economic redevelopment.” Because the change is considered a “new interpretation” of existing law, the administration has no legal obligation to make a public announcement. Critics, including some EPA staffers, note that the longstanding ban served as an incentive for landowners to notify the EPA of the contamination and clean up their property. As a result, about 100 sites a year were submitted to the agency for review. They also warn that the new policy will make it hard to track sales of polluted sites and to ensure that buyers properly assess the land prior to development. [USA Today, 9/1/2003; New York Times, 9/3/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: EPA memo, Interpretive Statement on Change in Ownership of Real Property Contaminated with PCBs, August 14, 2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Robert E. Fabricant
          

August 27, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The EPA revises the “New Source Review” (NSR) provision of the Clean Air Act. Previously, the NSR required industrial facilities to install modern pollution controls when they made upgrades to their facilities. However, the provision's revised definition of “routine maintenance” will exempt some 17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment, provided that the cost does not exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of what the EPA broadly defines as the entire “process unit.” This restriction basically allows industries to replace entire plants one-fifth at a time with no concomitant responsibility to controlling its emissions. This applies even to circumstances where the upgrades increase pollution. It is estimated that the revised rule could save billions of dollars for utilities, oil companies and others. Industry has spent the last two years heavily lobbying the White House for this rollback. [Reuters, 8/28/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer promises to sue the administration, telling reporters, “This flagrantly illegal rule will ensure that ... Americans will breathe dirtier air, contract more respiratory disease, and suffer more environmental degradation caused by air pollution.” [Reuters, 8/28/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Eliot Spitzer, Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 17, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will not regulate dioxins in land-applied sewage sludge, which is considered to be the second largest source for dioxin exposure. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision goes against a December 1999 proposed rule calling on the EPA to regulate the application of sludge, which is used for fertilizer on farms, forests, parks, and golf courses. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003] The EPA says that regulation is not necessary because dioxins from sewage sludge do not pose significant health or environmental risks. But according to a National Research Council report completed the year before, the agency had been using outdated methods to assess the risks of sewer sludge. [Associated Press, 10/18/2003] According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dioxins are “among the most toxic substances on Earth” and are responsible for causing cancer and diabetes, as well as nervous system and hormonal problems. The NRDC says that the decision violates the Clean Water Act, which charges the agency with restricting the level of toxic pollutants that harm human health or the environment. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Ivan L. Frederick II
          

October 31, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture announce a decision to approve the unrestricted sale of the pesticide atrazine. Manufacturers of the chemical will be responsible for monitoring atrazine residue levels in only a small percentage of the watersheds vulnerable to atrazine contamination and ensuring that they do not exceed the Clean Water Act's total maximum daily load (TMDL). Other vulnerable waterways will not be monitored by the manufacturers or the EPA. For example, Syngenta—the major manufacturer of the chemical—agreed in private meetings with the EPA that it would monitor atrazine pollution in 20 of 1,172 watersheds labeled as high risk beginning in 2004. The number would double the following year. Atrazine has been linked to cancer and is potentially harmful to endangered fish, reptiles, amphibians, mussels, and aquatic plant life. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/31/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/31/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Syngenta, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush
          

November 2003      Bush's environmental record

       The National Cancer Institute publishes a study demonstrating that 25,000 workers exposed to formaldehyde had an increased risk of leukemia. The EPA will ignore the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: National Cancer Institute, Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 26, 2003      Bush's environmental record

       EPA officials complete a draft proposal outlining plans to revise the conclusion of a court-ordered December 2000 EPA study which had determined that mercury emissions “pose significant hazards to public health and must be reduced.” As a result of the 2000 study, the agency had been ordered to propose a “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) standard for all coal-burning power plants by December 15, 2003. [EPA, 12/14/2000; The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003 Sources: Mercury White Paper] But instead of complying with this mandate, the EPA's current draft proposal on the regulation of mercury emissions attempts to modify the December 2000 conclusion claiming that it had been based on a misreading of the Clean Air Act. Citing a different provision in the Clean Air Act, the draft proposal recommends a flexible regulatory approach that is more acceptable to industry. It suggests a market-based mandatory “cap and trade” program permitting utility companies to purchase emissions “credits” from cleaner-operating utilities to meet an industry-wide standard. It is estimated that their plan would reduce mercury emissions to 34 tons a year by 2010, or about 30 percent below current levels. But this is a much higher cap than the 26-ton limit initially specified in the White House's “Clear Skies” initiative (see June 5, 2003). The White House claims that by 2018 their “cap and trade” plan would result in a mercury emissions reduction of 70 percent, which is significantly less than the 90 percent reduction that would otherwise be achieved within 3 or 4 years, if the EPA were to keep to the original December 2000 ruling. [The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 2003      Bush's environmental record

       Bruce Buckheit, the director of the EPA's air enforcement office, is ordered to shut down ongoing New Source Review investigations—which he later says were strong cases—at several dozen coal burning power plants. In an April 2004 interview with MSNBC, he will recall: “I had to tell the regional engineers and lawyers, stop. Put your documents in the box, so that hopefully we can get back to it someday.” [MSNBC, 4/20/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bruce Buckheit, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

Early 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health completes a study of 10,000 workers who have been exposed to formaldehyde and find that they have an increased risk of leukemia. Though not published until March, it is posted on the institute's website in early 2004. The EPA does not consider the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule for regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
          

January 7, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency says in a report to Congress that for the second year in a row, “limited funding prevented EPA from beginning construction at all sites or providing additional funds needed to address sites in a manner believed necessary by regional officials, and caused projects to be segmented into phases and/or scaled back to accommodate available funding.” The report explains that for 2003 (see July 17, 2003), the funding shortfall amounted to $174.9 million. As a result, clean-up work at 11 superfund sites was put off and work at 29 other locations was slowed down. [Government Executive, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/9/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Congressional Request on Funding Needs for Non-Federal Superfund Sites, EPA, January 7, 2004] The 11 sites where work was postponed include Jennison-Wright Corp. in Granite City, Ill.; Continental Steel Corp. in Kokomo, Ind.; Marion Pressure Treating in Marion, La.; Atlas Tack Corp. in Fairhaven, Mass.; and Mohawk Tannery in Nashua, N.H. In 2003, the EPA completed 40 clean-ups, compared to 42 in FY 2002, and 47 in 2001. Under the Clinton administration, an average of 76 clean-ups had been completed each year. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004] The report was requested in July by US Senator Barbara Boxer, House Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell, Rep. Hilda Solis, and Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Jeffords. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004; Government Executive, 1/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Barbara Boxer, Bush administration, John Dingell, Hilda Solis, James Jeffords, Environmental Protection Agency
          

February 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency meets its February 27, 2004 deadline to come up with a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions. Ignoring the opinion of experts, the EPA did not take into account the findings of two recent studies that had found that workers who were exposed to formaldehyde were at an elevated risk of leukemia. The EPA said it did not have time to incorporate the two findings before the deadline. Though extensions for such deadlines are often given, the agency did not request one. Instead, the EPA relied on a cancer risk assessment by the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a private, nonprofit research organization, funded primarily by chemical companies. That assessment was about 10,000 times weaker than the level previously used by the EPA in setting standards for formaldehyde exposure. The new federal rule is modeled on a proposal that had been designed by a lobbyist for the wood products industry (see January 14, 2002). It creates a new category of “low-risk” plants, which gives the agency the authority to decide on a plant-by-plant basis which facilities pose a risk to public health. It initially exempts eight wood products plants from having to install pollution controls for formaldehyde and other emissions, but could eventually extend the exemptions to 147 or more of the 223 facilities nationwide. The exemption allows qualifying plants to legally skirt pollution-control requirements that had been mandated by a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act requiring all large industrial plants to use “best available” technology in order to reduce emissions of 189 substances. Though backers of the new rule claim that it does not violate the amendment, the lawmakers who wrote the legislation disagree. “I don't have any doubt but that is a way to get around the policy which we worked hard to achieve,” former Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) will tell the Los Angeles Times in May. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) similarly says the exemption is “directly contrary to our intent.” The new rule will save the industry as much as $66 million annually for about 10 years in potential emission control costs. [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Henry A. Waxman, David F. Durenberger, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

February 13, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will allow North Dakota to adopt a new method for estimating air pollution. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision was made during a meeting between EPA administrator Michael Leavitt and North Dakota Governor John Hoeven the previous weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004] According to the agency's own specialists in air quality monitoring, the new method will grossly underestimate pollution levels, potentially allowing North Dakota to relieve itself of the stigma of being the only state whose federal preserves—Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge—are in violation of the Clean Air Act. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; USA Today, 9/15/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/13/2004] The lower pollution levels could in turn result in the lifting of local development restrictions, allowing power companies to proceed with plans to build new coal-fired power plants in the area. “That sets the stage for new investments in our energy industry and real progress in our rural communities,” Hoeven explains. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; Platts, 2/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Mike Leavitt, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, John Hoeven
          

February 16, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt signs a final rule permitting power plants to continue using the “once-through” method to cool their turbines. The practice—condemned by critics as the most environmentally-damaging method of cooling available—relies upon water continually drawn from lakes, rivers and reservoirs for the power plants' cooling systems. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004; Environmental News Network, 2/18/2004; Associated Press, 1/9/2004; Riverkeeper, 2/17/2004; Democratic Policy Committee, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Every year, some 200 million pounds of aquatic organisms are killed when they are trapped in the intake screens or forced through the water intake structures of these power plants. The new rule requires large power plants to reduce the number of fish and shellfish drawn into the cooling systems by 80 to 95 percent. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004] However, the rule also provides large power plants with several “compliance alternatives,” such as using existing technologies, implementing additional fish protection technologies, restocking fish populations and creating wildlife habitat. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004; Democratic Policy Committee, n.d.] Leavitt's decision to sanction the continued use of the “once-through” method goes against the advice of his own staff which recommended requiring power plants to upgrade to closed-cycle cooling systems which use 95 percent less water and which pose far less of a risk to aquatic ecosystems. But the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which works under the White House's Office of Management and Budget, reportedly opposed requiring plants to switch to the newer more expensive closed-cycle system. [Environmental News Network, 2/18/2004; Riverkeeper, 2/17/2004] The new rule applies to 550 power plants that withdraw 222 billion gallons of water daily from American waterways. [Environmental Protection Agency, 2/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Mike Leavitt  Additional Info 
          

March 16, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) an exemption from federal restrictions on land disposal of hazardous waste for two commercial Class 1 injection wells in Romulus, Michigan. It is estimated that each year, the wells will inject roughly 100 million gallons of liquid industrial waste—including chemicals like methanol, acetone and ammonia —into sponge-like rock located thousands of feet below the earth's surface. EPA officials claim that “the waste will stay confined to a layer of rock deep underground and will not threaten human health or the environment.” Local residents and state officials strongly oppose the plan, against which they have been fighting for more than a decade. [Environmental Protection Agency, 3/17/2004; Detroit Free Press, 3/17/2004; Capitol Reports, 3/19/2004; Ecology Center, 12/1999; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Disposal Systems, Environmental Protection Agency
          

April 2, 2004      Bush's environmental record

       The Environmental Protection Agency posts a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it will continue studying the 51 drinking water contaminants included in its 1998 Contaminant Candidate List. [Sources: Federal Register, Vol 69., No. 64] But the announcement seems to suggest that the EPA is continuing to ignore recommendations embodied in three National Research Council reports—Setting Priorities for Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), Identifying Future Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), and Classifying Drinking Water Contaminants for Regulatory Consideration (2001)—which suggested, among other things, that the agency use the latest gene-mapping technology to screen for a more comprehensive list of contaminants, including waterborne pathogens, chemical agents, disinfection byproducts, radioactive substances and biological compounds. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other health and environmental groups have urged the agency to follow the Council's recommendations in order to protect the public against the numerous contaminants that have been shown to be detrimental to human health but which are not currently regulated. [National Research Council, 5/2001; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Bush administration, National Research Council (NRC), Environmental Protection Agency
          

(May 2004)      Bush's environmental record

       Sylvia Lowrance, the former deputy administrator for enforcement at the EPA, tells the Chicago Tribune that while at the EPA her office had been instructed not to pursue any more pollution cases against farms without the approval of the senior political appointees in the EPA. “That's unprecedented in EPA,” she says. [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Sylvia Lowrance
          

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