Report Documents Sweeping Retreat on Environment Across Federal Agencies

NRDC report asserts coordinated attack on environment by federal government including 26 major retreats on key environmental issues at six different federal agencies.

Published: 23-Jan-2002

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (AScribe Newswire) -- A major new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) documents a coordinated attack on the environment in the agencies of the Bush administration, including 26 major retreats on key environmental issues at six different federal agencies. The agency rollbacks span the spectrum of the nation's most important and worthwhile environmental programs, ranging from clean air and water, to protection of forests and wildlife, to mining on public lands.

"Our landmark environmental laws face the gravest challenge since the assaults of the Newt Gingrich Congress in 1995, and perhaps ever," commented Gregory Wetstone, NRDC Director of Advocacy. "The threat this time is more insidious, and potentially more dangerous. The Bush administration is quietly moving to subvert the federal agency rules that give our environmental laws meaning by translating them into specific requirements for industry."

The new report from NRDC, "Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Unseen Assault on the Environment," offers a comprehensive review of federal agency actions since September 11, and profiles major administrative assaults pending, or in process. Also, the report details the sweeping effort at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to broadly weaken environmental safeguards by twisting the regulatory process to benefit industry at the expense of public health and natural resources.

Among the examples in the report are:

-- A pending EPA rulemaking that would take the teeth out of the fundamental requirement of the Clean Air Act that directs power plants, refineries and other big pollution sources to install state-of-the-art clean-up equipment when they expand or modernize their facilities.

-- A recent Corps of Engineers proclamation that would reverse the "no net loss of wetlands" policy, issued under the first Bush Administration, which has been the cornerstone of America's approach to wetlands preservation for more than a decade.

-- An Interior Department rulemaking that undermines the minimal environmental safeguards applying to private mining company operations on public lands, and renounces the agency's own authority to deny an operating permit to a mine causing "irreparable harm" to the environment.

-- A White House's OMB effort to block a key program to stem the discharge of raw sewage into America's waters, which according to EPA resulted in 40,000 sewage spills in 2000.

Other compelling examples in the report include a sweeping effort to promote clear cutting in pristine national forests, a major retreat on safeguards for storage of nuclear waste, a retreat on control of factory farm pollution, and a rollback in protections for National Parks and National Monuments.

"It is not new that there is an anti-environment slant to the Bush administration," Wetstone continued. "In fact, the early months of the administration were largely defined by public disapproval of President Bush' s environment and energy policies, including in particular, furors over arsenic in drinking water, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the president's broken promise to curb global warming pollution from power plants."

"Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, however, as the public attention has shifted to the war on terrorism, the environmental assaults have quietly grown in scope and virulence. Instead of directly challenging popular environmental laws, the Bush administration is seeking to quietly render them irrelevant to what polluters and developers do in the real world."

A pre-final copy of "Rewriting the Rules" is available upon request by fax or e-mail. To receive an electronic version (.pdf), contact Rob Perks at the above phone number or by e-mail rperks@nrdc.org.

A final version of the report will be available tomorrow on the web at: www.nrdc.org.

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 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For the past year, NRDC has tracked the Bush administration's anti-environmental actions on its website. To view the "Bush Record" to date, go to: www.nrdc.org/bushrecord/default.asp.

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