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Key Events

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General Topic Areas

Global warming
Wildlife protection
Corporate welfare
Public health
Air pollution
Public land use
National Parks
Corruption
Wetlands
Water pollution
Environmental enforcement
Outsourcing and privatization
Politicization and deception
Superfund sites and clean-up
Toxic waste
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Endangered species
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Coal Industry
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Specific Pollutants

Mercury
Methyl Bromide
MTBE
Formaldehyde
Atrazine
Lead

Specific Issues and Cases

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Clear Skies
Round Up power plant
Outsourcing CAT
New Source Review
Klamath Basin Fish Kill
Formaldehyde Rule
Mining in the Cabinet Mountains
Roadless Rule
Mountaintop Mining
Snowmobile regulation
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The Bush administration's environmental record: Water pollution

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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November 16, 2002

       William Myers, the Interior Department's solicitor general—and a former lobbyist for ranchers—announces to members of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association (NCA) that the Bush administration intends to limit environmental reviews and make it easier for ranchers to graze livestock on public lands. He also says that the Department of Interior is seeking ways to prevent federal laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act from restricting grazing on public lands (see December 5, 2003). [Associated Press, 11/16/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] “We should not be using the Endangered Species Act ... as a land management tool. It is not there as a tool for zoning on federal lands,” Myers says. His comments are well received by the NCA. John Falen, a former president of the organization, tells the Associated Press, “Bill's our friend. It's been a long time since we had a friend in the solicitor's office.” [Associated Press, 11/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Nevada Cattlemen's Association (NCA), John Falen, William G. Myers III, Bush administration
          

December 15, 2002

       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 19, 2002

       The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget sends a report to Congress announcing that it will conduct a review of more than 300 regulations—including ones pertaining to the environment and public health—which it has slated for overhaul, reform, or elimination. The review will draw on more than 1700 recommendations from private industry and think tanks. Many of the recommendations would weaken food safety standards, energy conservation standards, and natural resources. Sixty-five of the regulations targeted for overhaul are under the jurisdiction of the EPA. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/19/2002; Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, 12/20/2002 Sources: Rewriting the rules, Senate Office of Governmental Affairs, 10/24/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget
          

December 21, 2002

       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: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 27, 2002

       The Bush administration outlines a seven-point plan “clarifying” federal guidelines on preventing wetlands loss. This reinterpretation of existing rules weakens protections for wetlands by focusing on the ecological quality of new wetlands that replace destroyed wetlands in developed areas instead of requiring acre-for-acre replacement. [Associated Press, 12/27/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

February 2003

       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

       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, renewable energy programs, and clean water programs including a $492 million, or 37 percent, cut from a revolving fund used by states to upgrade sewage and septic systems and storm-water run-off projects. [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: George W. Bush, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

March 10, 2003

       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, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

March 13, 2003

       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

       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
          

May 13, 2003

       The US Fish and Wildlife Service revises a Clinton-era judgment which had concluded that the proposed construction and operation of two mines in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana would likely have an adverse impact on the local population of grizzly bears. In January 2002, twelve months after the Bush administration came into office, the mining companies filed a lawsuit protesting this judgment. The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider the case reasoning that it needed to “make sure that it [had been] based on the best available science.” Some time after the decision was made to reconsider the case, one of the mining companies abandoned its permit. The Fish and Wildlife Service, in its new judgment, concludes that the operation of one mine would not threaten the area's grizzly bears. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; Earth Justice, 1/29/2002; Missoulian, 5/14/2003] The proposed Rock Creek Mine, a copper and silver mine, would be the first large-scale mining operation to take place in a wilderness area. It would remove up to 10,000 tons of materials each day for up to 35 years. Critics argue that traffic brought by the mine and its accompanying roads would harm the local populations of grizzlies and bull trout and contaminate the surrounding watershed. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; The Washington Post, 5/18/2003; Missoulian, 5/14/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website] The company that would operate the mine, Sterling Corporation, and its executives have a poor business and environmental record. [Mattera and Khan, 1/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website]
People and organizations involved: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sterling Corporation, Bush administration
          

June 11, 2003

       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, Sally Shaver, John Thorne, Richard E. Schwartz
          

June 18, 2003

       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

       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: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

August 11, 2003

       President George Bush names Utah Governor Mike Leavitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing Christie Todd Whitman who resigned in June. [White House, 8/11/2003] Leavitt was at the center of a controversy a couple of months ago for a back-room deal he made with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to suspend wilderness studies on millions of acres of Utah lands (see April 11, 2003). He supports replacing mandatory pollution controls with voluntary compliance programs for polluting industries and is a strong backer of the administration's policy of shifting environmental regulation to the states. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Washington Times, 8/12/2003] During his term as governor, US Magnesium, a magnesium-processing company on the western side of the Great Salt Lake, earned the place as the nation's worst polluter. Leavitt says that he and Bush “have a like mind and a like heart” on environmental policy. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/12/2003] Environmentalists condemn the nomination noting that aside from Leavitt's strong opposition to a plan to store nuclear waste on a Utah Indian reservation, the governor has a very poor environmental record. “Mike Leavitt has no credentials, no understanding and no political willpower to protect America's clean air, clean water and clean land,” Marc Clemens, chapter coordinator for the Utah Sierra Club, tells the Salt Lake Tribune. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/12/2003]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Mike Leavitt, Environmental Protection Agency
          

October 8, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton signs a legal opinion by Deputy Solicitor Roderick Walston reversing the interpretation of the agency's previous solicitor-general, John Leshy, who had ruled in 1996 that the 1872 Mining Law limits each 20-acre mining claim on federal land to a single five-acre waste site. As a result of Norton's decision, mining companies will be permitted to dump unlimited amounts of toxic waste on public lands, threatening surrounding waterways, wildlife, and the health of local human populations. The Bush administration and the mining industry have argued that the Clinton-era opinion caused a significant reduction in US minerals exploration, mine development and mining jobs since 1997. “It created an atmosphere of uncertainty and when you are making investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, uncertainty is not something you want to face,” explains Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson. “We anticipate we will now see more development and exploration for mining.” The decision was praised by the mining industry. “This is good news,” Russ Fields, executive director of the Nevada Mining Association. “The old opinion did create a lot of uncertainty for our industry.” [Associated Press, 10/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Gale A. Norton, Bush administration, Roderick Walston, John Leshy
          

October 17, 2003

       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

       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: Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Syngenta, George W. Bush
          

January 7, 2004

       The US Office of Surface Mining (OSM) announces that it intends to “clarify” the buffer zone rule of the Surface Mining Act of 1977, which governs permits for coal strip mines that are located within 100 feet of a stream. The Bush administration disagrees with the current interpretation of the rule which prohibits mining near streams unless it can be shown that the activities will not “adversely affect the water quantity and quality or other environmental resources of the stream.” The White House claims that the buffer zone rule is confusing and its current application too restrictive on the coal mining industry. Instead, the administration proposes a policy that would call on coal operators to minimize the impact on streams “to the extent possible, using the best technology currently available.” Critics warn that the proposed “clarification” would encourage a method of surface mining known as “mountaintop mining,” which involves the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams. The method is extremely destructive to the environment because the resulting debris is bulldozed into nearby valleys, often completely burying streams in a practice known as “valley fill.” [Charleston Gazette, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/7/2004; Los Angeles Times, 1/18/2004; Environmental News Service, 1/8/2004; The New York Times, 1/13/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Federal Register, Vol 69., No. 4]
People and organizations involved: US Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Bush administration  Additional Info 
          

January 14, 2004

       According to a memo authored by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, an “Intermountain Region Director's Round Table Discussion” takes place on this date to consider plans to eliminate outside agency reviews of US Forest Service activities that are unrelated to what Bosworth has described as the “four threats” —fire risk, invasive species, un-managed recreation and loss of open space. The measure would end the practices of (1) consulting the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries on the effects of land management activities on inland aquatic species; (2) conducting environmental analyses of herbicide applications that are ostensibly done to control invasive plants; and (3) allowing state agencies to review US Forest Service activities that may affect historical and cultural artifacts as required by the Historic Preservation Act. [PEER, 3/18/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: US Forest Service Internal Memo, Balancing Our Approach, January 14, 2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Dale Bosworth, US Forest Service (USFS)
          

February 2, 2004

       The Bush administration announces its proposed 2005 budget for the EPA, which cuts the agency's funds by more than 7 percent. While the budget does increase the Superfund by ten percent so the program can complete cleanup at 40 sites—well below Clinton's average of 87 sites/year—the budget substantially reduces funds for clean water programs. For example, the budget cuts $492 million, or 37 percent, from a revolving fund used by states to upgrade sewage and septic systems and storm-water run-off projects. [Reuters, 2/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

March 16, 2004

       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: Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Disposal Systems, Bush administration
          

April 2, 2004

       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), Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, National Research Council (NRC)
          

May 28, 2004

       The US Army Corps of Engineers relaxes water quality and stream protections for mountaintop removal mining without consulting the Environmental Protection Agency. According to internal agency “guidance” obtained by Inside EPA, the Corps has recommended its staff to approve proposed clean water projects that would allow sewers and constructed ditches—rather than newly created streams, wetlands or water habitat—to qualify as mitigation projects replacing streams buried by mining operations. Commenting on the policy, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Daniel Rosenberg says, “As if letting coal companies get away with destructive mountaintop removal mining isn't bad enough; the Bush administration says it's a fair trade to replace buried pristine natural streams with sewers and ditches.” [Inside EPA, 5/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers
          


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