March 22, 2001
from Mary Zoeter -
In an interview with the New York Times, President Bush
said "Prosperity will mean little if we leave future generations a world
of polluted air, toxic lakes and rivers and vanished forests." [New York
Well, after 60 days of the Bush Administration
prosperity is in trouble, air quality is in trouble, lakes, rivers and
forests are in trouble and our drinking water is in trouble too.
Let's look at President Bush's environmental record
after only 60 days in office.
* He wants to drill in a wildlife refuge.
* He backed down on a promise to the American people to curb the
greenhouse gas, C02.
* He moved to block efforts to protect a third of our national forests
from roads and logging.
* He repealed the rule that requires mining companies not to destroy the
environment or endanger public health.
Now in a stunning announcement, the Bush Administration
repealed tough scientific based standards for arsenic in drinking water.
I've been in elected office for 25 years and I have never met one person
who defends high levels of arsenic in our drinking water.
The arsenic standard that the Bush Administration has
put into effect as of now, is a standard set in 1942. It ignores years
of scientific research. And it does not come close to meeting the
worldwide accepted standard of 10 parts per billion. Every one of our
trading partners in the European Union
has this 10 parts per billion standard that he is repealing.
Yesterday, Christie Todd Whitman said the 10 parts per
billion standard wasn't based on science and it was done too quickly.
Well, here is the 10 parts per billion rule as published in the Federal
Register. It is 92 pages long and is based on at least 5 years of
Congressionally mandated studies.
Let's be clear. We believe that George W. Bush has
declared war on the environment. But, we are here today to tell him that
we will fight him in that war -- regulation by regulation, legislation
by legislation, standard by standard, confrontation by confrontation.
We know that exposure to unsafe levels of arsenic causes
all kinds of cancer. Lung cancer, skin cancer, and bladder cancer.
We know that it causes other severe health problems,
including damage to the central nervous system and cardiovascular
disease. We know that it can cause reproductive problems and birth
Studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences
have shown that 1 in every 100 people who drink water containing arsenic
at the old standard may develop cancer. That's a risk factor 10,000
times higher than the amount allowed by EPA in food.
Congress recognized the undeniable health threats posed
by arsenic several years ago, passing the Safe Drinking Water Act
Amendments of 1996. This legislation, which passed unanimously by the
Senate, called upon EPA to update its standard for arsenic in drinking
water by January 2001.
EPA followed through with this task by setting a new
drinking water standard in January at 10 parts per billion. This
standard is based on a decade of sound, peer-reviewed science and will
improve drinking water for 13 million people once fully implemented. We
need this standard.
But instead, the Bush Administration has ignored the
That is why my colleagues and I are announcing several
steps that we plan to take to ensure that this standard is not repealed
by the Bush Administration.
First, we are asking Acting EPA General Counsel Anna
Wolgast to defend Administrator Whitman's cancellation of this new
Second, we are prepared to use the Congressional Review
Act to overturn the Bush Administration's repeal of this new standard.
Third, I have drafted legislation with Chuck Schumer
that would set the same standard for arsenic levels in our drinking
water at 10 parts per billion, recommended by EPA in January. I
understand that Bill Nelson is working on similar legislation.
As a long time supporter of efforts to reduce arsenic
levels in drinking water, I urge Administrator Whitman and the Bush
Administration to reconsider their proposal to withdraw this standard.
President Bush, we will NOT stand by while you turn back
the clock on our public health standards. But rest assured: If you won't
do what is in the best interest of the American people, we will.
Handwritten letters are the most effective. To find out
who your lawmakers are and their contact information visit:
You can also send email comments directly to the
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