New Report Catalogues How White House Rewrote Rules for Industry in 2004

WASHINGTON (January 19, 2004) -- As President Bush is about to officially begin his second term, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) releases its fourth annual assessment of the administration's environmental policies. "Rewriting the Rules (2005 Special Edition): The Bush Administration's First Term Environmental Record" documents nearly 150 destructive policy actions over the past year alone. (The report is available in print and on the NRDC website.) The report also previews some environmental battles in the legislative and judicial arenas NRDC expects during Bush's second term.

"An almost daily barrage of weakening policy changes over the past four years threatens decades of hard-won environmental progress," said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a senior attorney with NRDC and author of "Crimes Against Nature," a book critical of the Bush administration's environmental record. "By rewriting hundreds of environmental rules for polluting industries, this administration has stolen the hope that all Americans one day will breathe healthy air, drink clean water and forever enjoy our country's natural heritage."

After years of steady improvement the nation's water and air pollution now are getting worse under Bush's tenure, according to government data. Among the most troubling trends, the report documents increases in the amount of toxic releases nationwide from industrial facilities, along with worsening mercury contamination, sewage contamination and air pollution. Meanwhile, federal enforcement against polluters has declined dramatically, and hazardous waste cleanups have dropped to record lows.

"The Bush administration's reign of environmental error is taking its toll," said Gregory Wetstone, director of NRDC's Advocacy Program and one of the report's authors. "The regulatory structure supporting America's environmental laws has been systematically eroded, and now we're seeing the damage."

NRDC's report highlights the administration's anti-environmental actions during 2004, summarizing a steady stream of regulatory changes -- a new assault every two or three days on average -- that undermine landmark protections for air, water, wildlife, forests, parks and public health. (A comprehensive and more detailed catalogue of the actions can be found at For example, some of the worst regulatory actions last year include:

  • Letting the utility industry craft toothless government policies that undermine efforts to substantially reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

  • Moving to legalize the dumping of untreated sewage into U.S. waterways, despite the dangers to public health.

  • Loosening environmental review and public participation requirements to expedite and expand oil and gas drilling on public lands at the expense of public health, wildlife and recreational opportunities.

  • Relaxing environmental review and public participation requirements and nullifying wildlife safeguards to boost logging in national forests.

Despite the Bush administration's claims of a political mandate following the election, the public largely rejects the White House's hostile policies toward the environment. Last week USA Today/CNN/Gallup released polling results (conducted Jan. 7-9) showing the number of people who "disapprove" of Bush's environmental record has risen from 37 percent last year to 45 percent, while the number of those who "approve" of his environmental policies has fallen from 53 percent to 49 percent. (See the poll.) Moreover, a Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday shows that 65 percent of respondents expect that the Bush administration "will not make progress" on the environment over the next four years -- compared to only 32 percent who believe environmental progress will be made. (See the poll.)

"The healthy environment valued by most Americans hangs in the balance, as we face the prospect of four more years of hostile regulatory changes that benefit no one but polluters and industry," Wetstone added. "Only through a vigilant media and an engaged citizenry can we hope to stem this destructive tide."

"Rewriting the Rules" (2005 Special Edition) is available here. For the full Bush administration environmental record to date, click here.