WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday chided the Bush administration for working to undermine a number of laws and regulations that safeguard the environment and the public’s health and safety and he accused the administration of interfering with the historically bipartisan consensus for environmental protection that has existed in Congress for decades.
At an oversight hearing called to examine the implementation of environmental law, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Todd Whitman defended the administration’s record. She was followed at the witness table by Eric Schaeffer, who resigned in protest last week from his job as EPA’s director of regulatory enforcement, saying the White House “seems determined to weaken the rules.”
Lieberman chided the administration for trying to market proposals that weaken existing law with a “false promise of innovation… The environmental initiatives of this administration have been both disappointing and somewhat deceptive,” he said. “I only wish the administration were as tireless and resourceful in trying to solve our common environmental challenges as it seems to be in devising ways to take the teeth out of important environmental rules and regulations.”
Lieberman cited administration policy on a number of initiatives, including global warming, clean air, the rollback or attempted rollback of a variety of regulations, including ones to lower the level of arsenic in drinking water and increase the efficiency savings of air conditioners.
Most notable, Lieberman said, was the administration’s rumored overhaul of rules which govern how power plants comply with the Clean Air Act. These rules, known as New Source Review, are intended to ensure that when old power plants upgrade their operations, they upgrade their emissions reduction technology as well.
Lieberman cited new research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that links, for the first time, long-term exposure to air pollution from coal-fired power plants, factories and diesel trucks to an increased risk of dying from lung cancer. A Washington Post article reported that “as many as 30,100 deaths a year are related to power plant emissions… By comparison, 16,000 Americans are killed each year in drunken driving accidents and more than 17,000 are victims of homicides.”
“This is serious business, which, frankly, the Bush Administration is not treating seriously enough,” Lieberman said. “That’s undoubtedly one reason why Eric Schaeffer resigned last week… Mr. Schaeffer’s resignation is powerful evidence that this Administration is not following a balanced environmental policy. It is listening and responding to the views of those who are the source of pollution, without giving the views, voices and values of others the weight they deserve…
“In my opinion the Bush Administration has undermined many critical environmental and public health protections and, as a result, has broken the bipartisan consensus for environmental protection that has existed for years…
“This hearing is intended as a direct challenge to the Bush Administration to defend its environmental record and hopefully to improve it before it gets worse,” Lieberman said.