Gephardt issues statement on President Bush's environmental actions

In a recent statement, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt commented on the effect that President George W. Bush's actions have had on national environmental policy.

March 29, 2001—In a recent statement, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt commented on the effect that President George W. Bush's actions have had on national environmental policy.

"During the campaign President Bush promised to be a 'steward of the Earth'," Gephardt said. "He said he wanted to work with every Member of Congress on an agenda that served the needs of all Americans. He said he was a uniter not a divider who would change the tone of Washington by reaching out to Republicans and Democrats.

"Unfortunately, to date, the President has not made good on these promises. Instead of coming to the middle on a sensible agenda that protects our environment, the President has issued a string of executive orders that have appealed to the far right of the Republican party and the special interests.

"In just two short months, the President has launched a blistering attack on environmental regulations that affect the lives of millions of people in our country. He has decided to block rules that protect millions of acres of national forest from development. He has broken his campaign promise on global warming and blocked new Carbon Dioxide emissions standards. And he has relaxed restrictions on arsenic in our drinking water.

"This last decision, ironically, was made during National Poison Prevention Week at the EPA. We know arsenic causes cancer. We know it is particularly damaging to children. We know millions of Americans are exposed to levels that are simply too high. Yet our new President would rather take care of the mining and chemical companies than stand up for the basic health needs of our children and families.

"Unfortunately, we have good reason to believe that the actions of this administration are just the beginning. We think the administration, as we speak, is teeing up more rules to roll back. They are reviewing environmental standards, looking for ways to undo progress, putting together a budget that cuts $2.3 billion from programs to protect natural resources.

"A couple weeks ago President Bush announced that all public lands are on the table for oil drilling, including national monuments. The administration wants to drill in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. It might roll back wetlands protections. Just yesterday, we heard the United States is unilaterally pulling out of negotiations on global warming. The head of the Forest Service, a career civil servant, resigned apparently to protest the administration's reversal on roadless forest preservation. And we hear the President might even block new standards to reduce lead in our air in yet another defeat for our nation's children.

"What is going on in this White House is no secret. The special interests are driving the bus. One business lobbyist told the Wall Street Journal: 'We have come out of the cave, blinking in the sunlight, saying to one another, 'My God, now we can actually get something done.' But the American people do not want an administration that puts the interests of Big Oil, Big Mining and Big Chemical Companies ahead of clean air, clean water and protected public lands.

"Today we will hear from people affected by pollution in their environment. We will hear from Americans who have suffered because their environment was not safe for them.

"Democrats believe that instead of drilling early and drilling often, we need a balanced approach. We support more energy production from traditional sources, and we believe this can be done in an environmentally sustainable manner. We support more conservation and more production of renewable energy, which we think will make us less dependent on foreign oil, make our economy more efficient, and reduce air pollution.

"We have a responsibility to every family to improve our country's public health. We appeal to Republicans in the Congress who care about the environment to join us and ask the President to reverse these recent decisions. The environment is not a partisan issue. The vast majority of Americans want clean air, clean water and pristine public lands for their children."

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