NRDC Condemns Bush Administration's Policies as the 'Most Serious Threat Ever' to America's Environment at Senate Committee Hearing

Documents More Than 80 Anti-Environment Actions

WASHINGTON (March 7, 2002) - The Bush administration has launched a secret war on environmental protections by weakening long-established public health and public lands safeguards, one of the nation's largest environmental advocacy groups charged at Senate hearings today. NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) leveled its charges during testimony before the Government Affairs Committee, during which it presented the committee with copies of its new report, Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Unseen Assault on the Environment

"The Bush administration is quietly subverting federal agency rules in ways that will mean more pollution, greater health risks, and a reduced quality of life for all Americans," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "This regulatory assault is the most serious threat ever to America's landmark environmental protection programs."

In preparing its report, NRDC documented scores of anti-environmental actions by the Bush administration, many of which were quietly put in place after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The more than 80 administrative actions highlighted in the report span the spectrum of the nation's most important environmental programs, including those protecting our air, water, forests, wildlife and public lands.

The report details all post-September 11 anti-environment actions, and also lists all environmental assaults since the administration took office in January 2001. Some of the most glaring actions documented include:

  • An Army Corps of Engineers action 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.

  • 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.
  • A 90-day review by the Environmental Protection Agency of "new source review" rules for power plants and oil refineries -- now entering its tenth month -- that could undermine the Clean Air Act and threaten pending legal cases against polluters. The White House's efforts to weaken federal air rules and its reluctance to crack down on violaters was highlighted by the recent resignation of a senior EPA enforcement official.
  • A White House effort to block a key program to stem the discharge of raw sewage into America's waters.
  • A White House plan to shift responsibility for Superfund cleanup costs from polluters to taxpayers and slowing the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

The report also sheds light on how the administration is deploying other destructive tacks that are comparably damaging, but far less visible than blatant regulatory rollbacks. The failure to assure funding for vital environmental programs is one important example. Opting not to aggressively enforce environmental requirements and refusing to defend environmental requirements in court represent other stealth approaches. The administration also has made extensive use of highly technical agency "guidance," rather than changes in formal rules, to avoid an open public process when backing away from high profile environmental programs.

Of specific note, the reports reveals efforts by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to weaken environmental safeguards by twisting the regulatory process to benefit industry at the expense of public health. Indeed, there appears to be an ongoing campaign at OMB to stack the deck in the federal agency rulemaking process, blocking environmental safeguards with new procedural hurdles, biased analytical assumptions, and unwarranted political interference.

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 Record