White House has mixed record on environment
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On Earth Day, April 22, President Bush said Americans have a duty to make sure the land is preserved, the air is clean and the water is pure.
But critics of Bush's environmental record -- pro-growth, anti-regulation, market-based -- suggest his actions so far don't match the talk.
"The Bush administration has established a terrible record on the environment," said Debbie Sease, legislative director of the Sierra Club. "It is no better than you would expect from an administration made up of oil company executives."
So, what is the record?
Remember the flap over arsenic? For years the federal ceiling on arsenic has been 50 parts per billion in drinking water.
A rule pushed through in President Clinton's last days would have cut that limit to 10 parts per billion by the year 2006. Bush suspended that reduction, ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to study the matter to determine if the costly regulation was worth implementing.
But after a year of study and withering criticism, Bush set the limit at 10 parts per billion by 2006, exactly as Clinton had done.
On bigger environmental issues, Bush's record is mixed.
He pushed unsuccessfully to allow oil drilling in a part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yet he is moving to stop drilling plans off beaches in Florida, where his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, is vying for re-election.
Earlier this year, the head of the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement resigned, complaining that the agency was "fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce."
Bush opposed tighter fuel-mileage limits on SUVs and trucks, but supports more money to research hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles for the future.
Bush rejects the global warming agreement reached under Clinton, saying economic growth comes first. But Clinton himself refused to send the agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, knowing it would have been killed.
Bush wants to get rid of detailed regulations on power plants. He calls the regulations a confusing and ineffective maze, producing too many lawsuits and not enough progress.
Instead, the president proposes a system of market incentives under which plants that pollute more than the government allows would have to pay a financial penalty. He says his Clear Skies Initiative would cut major pollutants from power plants 70 percent by the year 2018.
Critics say current law would cut pollution even more, if enforced.
"I think that the so-called Clear Skies approach would dirty our skies, not clean them up," Sease said.
But some environmental groups say Bush's plan will work nationally -- as a similar approach already has worked to reduce acid rain in places like New York's Adirondack region.
"The bill that the president had introduced to the House and Senate just recently is much better than a lot of people are giving it credit for being," said John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, "and I think if it were applied nationally, we would see most of the country with much, much cleaner air right away."
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