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September 27 2004 | 4:03 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Dean from Osawatomie, KS:

Is it true the your Administration is escalating attacks on our environment by letting corportations increase air and water pollution, cut down our wild forest, and destroy our public lands?

This information came to me by the Natural Resources Defense Council. If this is what is going on or is planned, will you please have it stopped?


A: Jim Connaughton - Chairman Council of Environmental Quality:

Thanks for the question and the opportunity to respond to some of the myths out there. We appreciate it when interested and concerned Americans, like you, want to find out the facts for themselves.

Our air and water quality are continuing to improve, even as our economy is rapidly growing. For example, since 1970, air pollution has been dramatically cut – by more than half – while the economy more than doubled in strength. In the last several years alone, power plant emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) have been significantly reduced. We’re going to build on that progress.

We are now in the process of implementing new, more stringent health-based air quality standards to reduce smog and fine particles that make life more difficult for people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. To help the states, the President introduced Clear Skies legislation that will dramatically improve air quality by reducing power plants’ emissions of SO2, NOx, and mercury by approximately 70 percent – more than any other clean air initiative. This historic proposal will bring cleaner air to Americans faster, more reliably, and at less cost than under current law. And it’s based on the most successful program of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments – the Acid Rain Program – so it’s proven to work.

While Congress considers this landmark legislation, the President is moving forward with the steepest cuts in power plant emissions in over a decade with the Administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule. SO2 emissions would be reduced by 3.6 million tons in 2010 (approximately 40 percent below current levels) and by another 2 million tons per year when the rules are fully implemented (approximately 70 percent below current levels). NOx emissions would be cut by 1.5 million tons in 2010 and 1.8 million tons annually in 2015 (about 65 percent below today's levels). With these policies in place, power plants will spend roughly $50 billion in new pollution control technology.

In May 2004, the Bush Administration finalized a rule that will dramatically reduce pollution from heavy-duty diesel engines used in construction, agricultural, and industrial equipment. Soot and NOx emissions will decrease by more than 90 percent by 2014, and the sulfur content of diesel fuel will be cut 99 percent by 2010.

Mercury emissions from power plants are not currently regulated, but for the first time ever, the Bush Administration will impose a mandatory 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from those sources. EPA has already acted to substantially cut emissions of mercury in the air by more than 90 percent from other large industrial sources, including municipal waste combustors and medical waste incinerators.

We’re cleaning, restoring and protecting our lands and wildlife habitat more efficiently and effectively. President Bush supported and signed into law a Farm Bill that enhances conservation and environmental stewardship. Under this Administration, funding has nearly doubled for these effective programs. The Farm Bill conservation programs are providing more than $40 billion over a decade to restore millions of acres of wetlands, protect habitats, conserve water, and improve streams and rivers near working farms and ranches. In 2003, President Bush signed legislation implementing the key portions of his Healthy Forests Initiative, which is reducing the threats of catastrophic wildfires, disease and insect infestation, and specifically protects old-growth trees in our forests. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act received overwhelming bipartisan support and was unanimously passed by both chambers of Congress.

Fulfilling a commitment he made in 2000, President Bush signed historic bipartisan Brownfields legislation – again, unanimously approved – in 2002, accelerating the cleanup of abandoned industrial sites to better protect public health, create jobs, and revitalize urban communities. Between 2001 and 2003, nearly 1,200 brownfield sites were cleaned and prepared for redevelopment – with thousands more to come.

President Bush is an avid outdoorsman – a rancher, a hunter and a fisherman. As he frequently says, every day is Earth Day when you work your land. On his ranch in Crawford, the President practices what he preaches to all Americans – the values of personal stewardship and responsibility. He knows the importance of protecting and sustaining wildlife, and reinvigorating native species that have been crowded out by invasives. I’d encourage you to read the transcripts from the tours of his ranch that he has given. You’ll know then that protecting the environment and conserving the land are very important to President Bush. (/news/releases/2003/01/20030102-3.html and /news/releases/2001/08/20010825-2.html.)

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