Sierra Club s Reaction To Whitman Resignation
Wednesday 21 May 2003
Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope on Christie Whitman's Resignation
Under the circumstances, Christie Whitman did the best she could at the EPA, but the Bush Administration simply wouldn't allow her to do the job. It's unfortunate that after the Bush Administration picked someone with environmental credentials to head the EPA, she wasn't given the power to do the job of cracking down on polluters and protecting our families and communities.
While Whitman came into office having demonstrated a concern for the environment, the Bush Administration's actions on the environment did nothing to build on that record.
From resisting efforts to get arsenic out of our drinking water, to weakening the clean air act and the enforcement of environmental safeguards, the Bush Administration has demonstrated a pattern of siding with corporate polluters over the health and safety of America's families.
Just weeks after taking office, Whitman tried to act on President Bush's campaign pledge to curb the carbon dioxide causing global warming, but the Administration quickly cut her off. Then, in June, both President Bush and Administrator Whitman disavowed a government report acknowledging humans' role in causing global warming. An administration that ignores their own scientists' report on global warming makes us fear for the future.
In New Jersey, Gov. Whitman worked for clean air, supporting strong New Source Review protections to cut power plant pollution. Yet last year the Bush Administration weakened the Clean Air Act by gutting the New Source Review protections that require dirty power plants to install pollution controls when they increase their emissions.
The EPA did make one move in the right direction under Whitman, announcing a proposal last month to require cleaner fuel and engines for "non-road" diesel machinery, such as tractors, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment. But it is just a proposal. The EPA will take public comment on the proposal, and must fend off any attempts to weaken this rule.
Given the Administration's track record on the environment, we have littlehope that President Bush's next EPA Administrator will be allowed do abetter job of cutting pollution and keeping families safe.
Some lowpoints of the Bush Administration's EPA environmental record:
- Recommended cutting EPA enforcement budget by 13 percent, gutting the government's ability to hold polluters accountable for breaking the law.
- Breaking the campaign promise to curb carbon dioxide, which causes global warming.
- Weakening the Clean Air Act to allow more power-plant pollution.
- Opposing efforts to make polluters pay for cleanup of their toxic waste sites.
- Initially opposing efforts to reduce the amount of arsenic in our drinking water before public outcry forced a reversal.
NRDC s Reaction To Whitman Resignation
Wednesday 21 May 2003
In response to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman's resignation, NRDC Advocacy Director Gregory Wetstone made this statement:
"As head of the agency charged with protecting the public from pollution, Governor Whitman presided over a White House-driven effort to undermine crucial environmental laws. Although there have been a few exceptions, Whitman's tenure at EPA has been a disaster for public health and our environment.
"Whitman was not the force behind the Bush administration's unprecedented assault on our landmark environmental protections, and her resignation is not the solution. Whitman occasionally opposed environmental retreats in unsuccessful behind the scenes battles with the White House, but almost never prevailed.
"Her accomplishments, tough rules on diesel pollution and a decision to clean up the Hudson River, are small steps forward on a train speeding backward.
"Confirmation hearings on the next EPA administrator will give Congress and the American people a chance to demand a more responsible environmental policy."
SUMMARY OF BUSH EPA ACTIONS
Below is a short summary of key actions during the Governor Whitman's tenure at EPA. (A comprehensive look at all EPA's actions under her tenure is available in the "Bush Record" section of the NRDC web site http://www.nrdc.org/):
UNDERMINING THE CLEAN AIR LAW
Even as we face an epidemic of childhood asthma in our cities, EPA is eliminating requirements for clean-up America's dirtiest pollution sources. EPA has moved to weaken the "new source review" program, undermining the fundamental compromise that traces back to original 1970 Clean Air Act. Under that law, new factories had to install tough air pollution controls, while facilities already operating at the time of the law's enactment were allowed to continue largely uncontrolled until they expand or modernize, at which time they would have to upgrade pollution controls. After 33 years, most of the exempted pollution sources still around are finally due for modernization, and tougher controls. But EPA has moved to let the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants and refineries off the hook with changes to the "new source review" program, allowing them to expand and modernize without installing updated pollution controls. Like many of the recent EPA changes, this is almost certainly illegal, but it will take years in court to have the measure overturned.
BACKING AWAY FROM EPA ENFORCEMENT
Three of EPA's top career enforcement officials have resigned and publicly given EPA's lack of commitment to enforcement as the reason. The administrator will likely cite recent big clean air act settlements as evidence that she is tough on polluters. But these cases were began under the Clinton EPA, and there have been no comparable efforts launched under Whitman's tenure. In fact, since these were efforts to enforce the "new source review" provisions of the clean air law, and Whitman's weakening changes will block all such actions in the future. A reflection of the problems in the enforcement office emerged recently when press reported that EPA attorneys who are supposed to be focusing on criminal enforcement efforts against polluters, have been re-assigned to provide personal security for Whitman, and in many cases relegated to undertaking controversial personal services like chauffeuring, and handling restaurant reservations for the administrator.
A FREE PASS FOR FACTORY FARM AIR POLLUTION
EPA recently announced a new agreement not to enforce against major clean air violations by factory farms, where massive quantities of animal waste pose huge public health and environmental threats. EPA claimed this deal allowed them to get monitoring data on the serious air pollution problems associated with these facilities, but EPA has legal authority to require such monitoring at any time without any agreement from industry.
A FREE PASS FOR FACTORY FARM WATER POLLUTION
In December, EPA issued new rules governing factory farms that fail to address the immense water pollution problems caused by the millions of tons of untreated animal waste that routinely contaminates rivers, streams and waterways. The rules seek to protect corporate agriculture interests from financial liability for illegal spills and groundwater contamination.
GLOBAL WARMING INACTION
Despite early positive signals on the global warming problem, Whitman's EPA has opposed serious efforts to get started on reducing global warming pollution. Especially disturbing is the "clear skies" proposal, which seeks to completely restructure power companies' clear air obligations, without requiring any action whatsoever to reduce the release of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
A FREE PASS FOR DUMPING MINING WASTE INTO WATERWAYS
Another especially outrageous Clean Water action was tailored to help mining companies. EPA issued new rules to exempt mining waste from regulation as a pollutant under the Clean Water Act. This means that no permit or public notice of any kind is required before mining companies absolutely bury creeks, streams and rivers with the huge volumes of waste they produce, especially when they use "mountain top mining, a process where the tops of mountains are simply removed and dumped in the valley to get to desired ore.
ELIMINATING CLEAN WATER ACT PROTECTION FOR AMERICAN WATERWAYS
In an astound and unprecedented effort, EPA is moving forward with an effort to drastically reduce the number of waterways protected by the Clean Water Act. Departing from 30 years of precedent, they have already dropped Clean Water Act protections for up to 20 million acres of wetlands, and are considering major changes that would completely eliminate Clean Water Act protections for an estimated 60 percent of the nation's stream miles. EPA claims that this assault is needed to adjust EPA policy to a recent Supreme Court decision, but Justice Department attorneys from this administration have concluded in the case should not be read to narrow the Clean Water Act this way.
MOVING BACKWARDS ON MERCURY POLLUTION
Rather than moving forward with tough standards for mercury pollution from power plants, as the Clean Air Act requires, EPA is instead seeking to weaken the law with it "clear skies" proposal. Even as scientists grow increasingly concerned about the pervasiveness of this health threat, "Clear skies" requires far less mercury pollution control far and gives much longer for it to happen. The attached backgrounder provides more information.
UNDERCUTTING THE EFFORT TO PROTECT THE PLANET'S OZONE LAYER
EPA is moving to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in the battle to preserve the earth's protective ozone layer. Apparently motivated by the requests of pesticide companies and agribusiness, EPA is opening an outrageous new loophole in the, until now, successful global program to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer under the Clean Air Act and the international agreement called the Montreal Protocol, which as negotiated under the authority of the current President's father. More specifically, EPA wants to allow continued widespread use in the U.S. and around the world of one of the most potent ozone depleting chemicals, methyl bromide. This effort will put the U.S. out of compliance with the international treaty, violate the Clean Air Act and expose millions of Americans to higher levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. The attached backgrounder provides more information.
MORE SEWAGE IN OUR WATERS
According to EPA data, our sewage systems overflow into rivers, lakes and other water bodies with disturbing frequency, in fact more than 40,000 times each year, causing a variety of serious public health concerns. The Clinton EPA developed a proposal to address this problem, which was negotiated with the municipalities operating the sewer systems. This effort was suspended -up when President Bush came into office, and has never moved forward. Now EPA, instead of trying to stop the overflows and require public notice when they happen, is reportedly moving to "blending," an outrageous effort to evade action by simply EPA approval to spills of untreated sewage into our waterways so long as they are sufficiently diluted or "blended."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information is available through NRDC's web site at www.nrdc.org.