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Bad Science and the Bush Record
How the Bush administration has systematically distorted science to weaken regulations and serve political ends.

  

The Record: Examples of the Bush administration's systematic distortion of science to serve political ends.

Words of Concern: Scientists, newspapers and policy experts speak out.

The Junk Science of George W. Bush by Robert Kennedy Jr.

Hard Job of Blowing the Whistle Gets Harder, from the Christian Science Monitor

 

No matter how strong the nation's environmental protections, our laws and regulations can be effective only if they are as protective as possible and are properly implemented and enforced. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has been criticized - and justifiably - for distorting science to weaken regulations so as to serve its political objectives.

The White House's favored tactics include misinterpreting information, ignoring scientific evidence, muzzling government scientists, censoring government studies, removing independent experts from federal advisory panels or stacking those panels with industry consultants. These tactics not only override basic environmental protections in favor of industry, but also undermines the authority of science itself.

It's no wonder the administration's mantra of "sound science" amounts to little more than a policy whereby decisions are based on whatever science sounds good to the White House.

What follows are specific examples compiled from NRDC's Web site -- "The Bush Record" -- illustrating how this administration's reliance on bad science threatens public health and the environment.

Toxics and Health

2/3/05--The Environmental Protection Agency manipulated science in developing industry-favored power plant pollution rules, according to the agency's own inspector general.
1/10/05--A report by the National Academy of Science, ordered by the Bush administration, concludes that it is safe for people to drink water with as much as 20 parts per billion of perchlorate - that level is 20 times the standard recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency two years ago.
11/15/04--The EPA accepts the recommendation of an industry-funded scientific review to downgrade the chemical captan from a "probable" human carcinogen to "not likely."
8/31/04--Bush administration proposes relaxing safety standards on the toxic metal selenium, which causes mass deformities and death in waterfowl.
8/15/04--Bush administration turns down a petition by health advocates to strengthen health standards for beryllium, a metal that OSHA concluded causes cancer and lung disease.
8/13/04--EPA criticized by Congress for issuing a rule that allows industry to treat toxin-laden towels as laundry, rather than as hazardous waste.
5/21/04--EPA recalculates the "safe" level of formaldehyde used in plywood manufacture to 10,000 times below the previous level -- after relying on a on a risk assessment provided by the chemical industry. A month later, the World Health Organization finds that formaldehyde is carcinogenic to humans, with sufficient evidence of nasopharyngeal cancer in humans and strong evidence of leukemia in humans. The pertinent studies were all in the published scientific literature before EPA took its action.
4/23/04--Federal court reprimands EPA for relying on an industry study in deciding that fertilizers can safely contain higher levels of toxic residue.
4/7/04--Evidence surfaces that the Bush administration downplayed the effects of mercury while working with EPA officials to write regulations for coal-fired power plants.
4/6/04--EPA allows pesticide industry to block regulatory initiatives that would protect children and wildlife from unintentionally ingesting rat poison
4/1/04--Bush administration, in cooperation with the U.S. chemical industry, weakens a European Union plan that would have required chemical manufacturers to test their products and disclose any potential health effects before selling them in Europe.
3/11/04--EPA's inspector general reports that agency officials repeatedly made misleading statements about purported improvements in national drinking water quality.
10/31/03--EPA decides not to restrict the use of the pesticide atrazine, which is known to cause cancer, and reduces its monitoring to only a small number of contaminated watersheds.
9/9/03--EPA inspector general reveals that Bush administration officials instructed the agency to downplay the dangers of air pollution in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse on September 11, 2001.
4/28/03--Bush administration imposes a gag order on EPA officials from publicly discussing perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient found in drinking water.
1/21/03--EPA declares that drinking water 12 times more contaminated with the herbicide atrazine than allowed by law does not pose a health problem.
10/8/02--Bush administration rejects renowned scientists for service on a Centers for Disease Control federal advisory committee, replacing them with individuals who have ties to the lead industry.
9/17/02--Bush administration replaces officials and committees from the Department of Health and Services with members who have strong ties to regulated industries.
9/02--Industry-funded group removes critical information on the dangers of perchlorate from a government scientific journal.
7/19/02--EPA determines that organophosphorous pesticides pose no danger to children. Instead of using the typical 10-fold safety standard for tests, however, EPA uses only a 3-fold safety margin.
7/8/02--EPA allows Louisiana rice growers to use Carbofuran, one of the most toxic pesticides in existence. The pesticide, banned since 1998, has killed tens of thousands of birds.


Water, Air and Global Warming

11/8/04--Bush administration continues to resist regulating greenhouse gas pollution despite two newly released studies that confirm global warming is already drastically affecting conditions in the United States.
9/22/04--EPA records reveal, for the third time, that the agency's proposal for regulating mercury pollution from power plants copied passages -- in some cases word for word -- from memos written by a law firm representing the utility industry. It just so happens that the head of EPA's air program and his chief counsel were both partners at the firm before President Bush installed them at the agency.
2/4/04--Former EPA employee reveals that the agency knowingly used unreliable data when denying a petition to stop the use of sewage sludge as farm fertilizer.
1/30/04--EPA proposes extremely weak mercury emission regulations, much of which is transposed -- sometimes verbatim -- from memos submitted from a law firm representing the utility industry.
10/17/03--EPA announces it will not regulate dioxins from land applied sewage sludge, despite findings that dioxin exposure poses a threat to human health.
6/23/03--Bush administration forces EPA to remove a clause on the harmful effects of climate change, from the first-ever comprehensive report on environmental problems facing the United States.
11/9/02--Top Bush administration political appointee at Interior reverses earlier findings that air pollution from a proposed coal power plant in Kentucky would significantly hamper visibility at the nearby Mammoth Cave National Park.


Public Lands, Parks and Forests

1/28/05--BLM approves construction of 50,000 new natural gas wells in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, despite the threat to national parks and local air quality.
11/26/04--Records reveal that EPA deleted comments that referred in a negative manner to the Bush's proposed rollback of the roadless rule.
11/15/04--Evidence surfaces that Bush administration quietly changed rules, allowing oil companies to skip environmental requirements when drilling in National Parks.
11/10/04--Former BLM employee sues the bureau for wrongfully firing him when he refused to comply with orders to downplay toxic and radioactive dangers at a Nevada copper mine.
10/27/04--BLM overestimates the potential amount of natural gas underneath Colorado's Roan Plateau, stating that the gas reserves could power the country for nine months. A USGS report concludes that the tapped gas supplies could actually power the country for only 6 days.
4/29/04--EPA experts accuse Bush administration of altering science on poor air quality over National Parks.
2/24/04--Mine Safety and Health Administration demotes and relocates a top official for accusing the agency of covering up facts during the investigation of a massive coal slurry spill in West Virginia.
4/7/03--Bush administration deletes key information in letter urging the United Nations to remove Yellowstone from a list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
1/17/03--Bush administration claims that environmental laws restrict energy development in the West despite government findings that the vast majority of public lands are open for oil and gas drilling.
1/17/02--Interior Department claims that polar bears can be adequately protected from oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge despite government studies showing the opposite to be true.
1/3/04--Bush administration grants a Kentucky coal company a reprieve from obeying federal law, allowing mining to continue without a permit.


Wildlife

2/9/05--Hundreds of government wildlife scientists report political pressure, scientific distortion
12/18/04--Court records reveal that a Bush administration political appointee in the Interior Department conspired with industry lobbyists to support the California Farm Bureau's lawsuit against her own agency. After a series of emails and telephone calls Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald tried to scuttle scientific recommendations that favored protecting endangered fish and wildlife habitat by limiting the amount of water diverted for irrigation.
10/2/04--NOAA orders federal biologists to rewrite a report that had concluded harmful effects on endangered salmon from a federal plan to divert millions of gallons of water from rivers in Northern California to the southern part of the state.
7/20/04--USFWS fires Florida scientist who publicly criticized the agency for using faulty science when approving eight development projects in the critical habitat of the endangered Florida panther.
5/21/04--Government biologist resigns after accusing the Bush administration of politicizing science, and illegally disregarding his advice leading to the massive fish kill in the Klamath River.
5/3/04--Evidence surfaces that USFWS employed false data to conclude that the Florida panther's survival is not in jeopardy -- when in fact the panther population is severely dwindling.
4/15/04--Federal officials deleted information used in a cost-benefit analysis of its recovery of the endangered bull trout, falsely concluding that protecting the species would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
11/1/02--Bush administration admits to hiding three reports regarding Klamath River policies, which suggest that protecting water levels would benefit both wildlife and the economy through recreation. However, the administration later chooses to divert water for agriculture, leading to a massive fish kill.
10/28/02--NMFS whistleblower accuses the Bush administration of forcing his agency to violate the Endangered Species Act by overruling concerns that diverting water from the Klamath River for irrigation would harm fish. Subsequently, a massive fish kill resulted that later was linked to the administration's decision.
8/22/02--Industry lobbyists convince the Mineral Management Service to weaken sperm whale protections, which they complained hindered the oil and gas industry.
1/17/02--Interior Department abruptly reverses its decision that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would harm polar bears.
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