Presidential Election Campaign Rhetoric Heats Up

Although it's not a headline grabber for either presidential campaign, the clean water issue is something both the current president, Republican George W. Bush, and his Democratic challenger...

By Maureen Lorenzetti

Although it's not a headline grabber for either presidential campaign, the clean water issue is something both the current president, Republican George W. Bush, and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, address through promotional literature and on their respective websites.

The campaign website for Kerry says that "today, approximately 45% of our nation's waterways do not meet the 'drinkable, swimable and fishable' standard set out by the Clean Water Act 30 years ago. As president, John Kerry will implement a 'Restore America's Waters' campaign, an integrated approach to protecting our precious, limited water resources. He will work with states on the toughest water quality challenges, restore damaged watersheds, protect wetlands, invest in our waterfronts and coastal communities, and protect our oceans."

Meanwhile, President Bush's website touts the White House Water 2025 program, which "will help states, tribes, and local communities in the West improve water quality and provide access to adequate water supplies. The program aims "to help manage scarce water resources and develop private and public partnerships". The partnerships "encourage voluntary water banks and other market-based measures, promote the use of new technology for water conservation and efficiency, and remove institutional barriers to increase cooperation and collaboration among federal, state, tribal, and private organizations."

Bush' re-election officials also cite a $7.8 billion "Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan" that the GOP says "will restore millions of acres in the Everglades and ensure that South Florida has a reliable supply of fresh water." Similarly, the Bush campaign notes that President Bush will spend $45 million to clean up contamination of sediments in the Great Lakes and "has already established a task force to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts. President Bush will never allow the diversion of Great Lakes water."

Kerry meanwhile says the current administration is taking credit for programs started under the previous president, Democrat Bill Clinton. And he insists that under Bush, the US is not meeting Clean Water Act goals. And he echoes the concerns of some groups, such as environmentalists, that President Bush wants to weaken drinking water standards and reduce enforcement.

Kerry says if he is elected president, he will "work with states and cities to tackle the toughest water quality challenges that threaten sensitive rivers, lakes, bays, and estuaries." This includes stormwater runoff and sewer overflows; and pollution from factory farms and agricultural runoff.

The Democratic challenger says he wants to establish "reporting obligations" that will provide broader disclosure of impacted water bodies; and put federal incentives in place so that new developments and infrastructure retrofits lead to reduced pollution runoff.

MTBE Question

Regarding the controversial fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, President Bush has not of late specifically endorsed the suggestion offered by House Republican leaders from oil-producing states to give the chemical limited product liability protection. Lawmakers from areas where MTBE water contamination has been a serious problem, such as in the West and East Coasts, have resisted a liability protection agreement so far.

Bush on his website does encourage other clean fuel alternatives, including the perennially popular fuel ethanol. The White House says it wants to expand the use of ethanol and biodiesel and Bush supports a pending congressional plan to put in place a renewable fuel standard that requires five billion gallons of ethanol or biodiesel in motor fuels by 2012.

Kerry says he supports expanded fuel ethanol use but as so far opposed measures that would shield MTBE producers from liability.

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