Animal Writes
22 April 2001 Issue
Statement by Senator Barbara Boxer On President Bush's Environmental Record

March 22, 2001
from Mary Zoeter - [email protected] 

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 Times, 4/4/00]

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* He repealed the rule that requires mining companies not to destroy the environment or endanger public health.

Now in a stunning announcement, the Bush Administration repealed tough scientific based standards for arsenic in drinking water.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 defects.

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 science.

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 standard.

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 President at:
[email protected]

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