Earth Day Report Documents Sweeping Rollback of Environmental Protections by Federal Agencies

Major Polluters Given Carte Blanche in Washington

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2002) -- Under the Bush administration, federal agencies have quietly launched the worst attack on key environmental safeguards in modern history, according to a report released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The agency rollbacks span the spectrum of the nation's most important environmental programs, including those protecting the nation's air, water, forests, wildlife, and public lands.

In its report, NRDC documents more than 90 environmental assaults at six federal agencies, noting that the attack on environmental protections intensified after September 11, when public attention was diverted by the war on terrorism.

"It is now painfully clear that this is the most anti-environmental presidential administration ever," commented Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "There is no mistaking the trend. On issue after issue, federal agencies have been promoting the agenda of corporate polluters at the expense of our clean air, clean water, protected lands and forests, and even our planet's climate."

The NRDC report, Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment, provides a detailed review of more than 30 recent or continuing federal agency actions, along with an appendix of more than 90 environmentally destructive actions since January 2001. The report also details the White House Office of Management and Budget's efforts to weaken environmental safeguards by twisting the regulatory process to benefit industry at the expense of public health and the environment.

Some of the most glaring examples documented in the report include:

  • A pending Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would undermine the fundamental Clean Air Act requirement directing older power plants, refineries and other major air pollution sources to install state-of-the-art cleanup equipment when they expand or modernize their facilities.

  • A recent Army Corps of Engineers proposal that would reverse the "no net loss" of wetlands policy issued under the first Bush Administration, which has been the cornerstone of America's approach to wetlands preservation for more than a decade.

  • Bush administration's efforts to shift Superfund hazardous waste clean up costs from polluters to taxpayers, dramatically slowing the pace of clean ups.

  • An Interior Department rulemaking that undermines the minimal environmental safeguards for private mining company operations on public lands, and renounces the agency's own authority to deny an operating permit to a mine causing "irreparable harm" to the environment.

  • White House intervention to block a key EPA program to stem the discharge of raw sewage into America's waters.

The report also documents efforts to promote clear-cutting in pristine national forests, roll back safeguards for storing nuclear waste, weaken controls on untreated livestock waste from factory farms, and undermine protections for national parks and national monuments.

"The Bush Administration actions to subvert the vital federal rules that translate environmental laws into specific requirements for industry poses the gravest challenge ever to our landmark environmental laws," concluded Wetstone.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment
The Bush Record on the Environment