Senator Barbara Boxer slams the Bush Administration’s environmental policies

Bush’s environmental record isn’t exactly pristine (much unlike the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which some politicians want to start drilling for oil), but just how much the current administration has mucked up the environment is hard to picture without a nicely bulleted list in front of you. Luckily, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has that list of the Bush Administration’s environmental misdeeds, which she so graciously provided in an opening statement at a recent Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing. Here are some of the report’s more disturbing low points:

  • In one of its first official acts, the Bush EPA tried to suspend the newly strengthened standard for arsenic in tap water. Thankfully, EPA retreated from its efforts after a public outcry and legislation blocked it.
  • EPA proposed to do a study jointly with the chemical industry, in which low-income families were offered gifts and other incentives if they agreed to enroll their newborns in pesticides studies in their homes over a two year period. After a great outcry, EPA cancelled the study.
  • EPA has set weaker standards than its scientific advisors recommended for toxic soot, smog, lead pollution in air, and lead paint cleanup.
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that EPA has severely weakened its Office of Children’s Health Protection and largely ignored its Children’s Health Advisory Committee. GAO also found that EPA political officials worked with the White House and the Pentagon to undermine the process for evaluating toxic chemical risks.
  • Despite unanimous EPA staff recommendations, The Bush Administration denied the California emissions waiver, which would have allowed states to set limits on global warming emissions from vehicles.

  • Under the Bush Administration, the Superfund program has slowed to a crawl with cleanups dropping by about 50% compared to the last seven years of the prior administration, from about 80 cleanups per year to 40 or less.

  • EPA recently decided it won’t set a health standard for the toxic rocket fuel perchlorate in drinking water, even though EPA data show that up to 16.6 million people are exposed to unsafe levels.
  • And, in its latest effort, the Bush administration recently tried to dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act by requesting that the most expert agencies in protecting endangered species be largely cut out of the decision process. 

Boxer’s bullet points are just plain depressing, but at the very least they serve as a reminder that the outcome of November’s election is crucial if we don’t want the next four years to be summed up as a long list of environmental woes. After all, when it comes to US environmental policy, the President is the Decider.

By: Jessica A. Knoblauch 


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