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Environmental Policy No. 308

Adopted 2001
Amended 2002
Amended 2003
Amended 2005
Amended 2007


           The Bush Administration's actions on environmental issues have been disastrous. The administration has been called the most anti-environmental administration in recent memory. Agencies throughout the Bush administration are taking explicit directions from big corporate polluters, allowing these corporations to rewrite the agency rules that give life to America's environmental laws.
           In March 2001 President Bush withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto global warming treaty supported by 164 nations, replacing legally binding pollution cuts with a half-hearted, voluntary plan that would allow emissions to rise at exactly the same rate they are today.
           The Bush Administration opposes plans to clean pollution from power plants and efforts to make vehicles more efficient, thereby reducing vehicle emissions. Their energy plan - guided heavily by coal and oil company lobbyists - would lead to increased emissions from fossil fuels while providing minimal support for cleaner alternatives.
           The early months of this presidency were defined in part by overwhelming public disapproval of the administration's positions on arsenic in drinking water, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. Since September 11, however, the environmental assault has intensified, bolstered numerous presidential appointees at key federal agencies actively pursuing an anti-environment agenda.  The Bush Administration acknowledged that “global climate change” is indeed occurring, but he refused to acknowledge the cause of this change. The President announced a plan on global climate change just before leaving for the G8 Summit. The Bush plan aims to gather representatives from 15 influential nations this year to discuss climate change and adopt long-term “aspirational goals” by the end of 2008 to reverse global warming. The administration would not define what “aspirational” meant, nor say how long long-term would be or when any global warming goals might go into effect. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the G8 to agree now on a need for reduction in world greenhouse gas emissions by 50%. This plan was rejected by U.S. negotiators.
           As a direct result of the lack of action and assaults on the environment by the Bush Administration, there have been colossal negative outcomes:
Clean Air         
          A fundamental requirement of the Clean Air Act is that older electric power plants and other smokestack industries must install state-of-the-art cleanup equipment when facilities are expanded or modernized. Coupled with the strict standards for new industrial facilities and power plants, this "new source review" requirement is intended to ensure long-term air quality improvement as older pollution sources are rebuilt or replaced. The EPA is poised to give big polluters exactly what they have long sought, carving massive new loopholes in this crucial air quality program. These changes would allow hundreds of the nation's oldest and dirtiest facilities to drastically increase air pollution. The recent 'Clear Skies' initiative expands the flawed pollution trading system, which may leave some communities more polluted than ever, and delays the enforcement of public health standards for soot and smog until 2015. The initiative would effectively set a lower standard than could be achieved if the Clean Air Act was strictly enforced. Furthermore, an unlawful EPA attempt to remove power plants from the list of pollution sources regulated by the Clean Air Act could push back the enforcement of standards even more.
Wetlands and National Parks
            For more than a decade, the cornerstone of America's approach to wetlands protection has been a policy that calls for "no net loss" of wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved to reverse this long-standing policy by issuing new guidance dramatically weakening standards for wetlands "mitigation," allowing wetlands to be traded off for dry upland areas. This will likely mean the annual loss of thousands of acres of wetlands which provide vital flood protection, natural cleansing of ground water, fish and wildlife habitat. The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina provided a dramatic example of what can happen when we fail to protect our wetlands. This administration has also relaxed a key provision of the Clean Water Act that regulates development and industrial activity that affect streams and wetlands, the nationwide permit program, making it far easier for developers and mining companies to destroy more streams and wetlands.
            In 2005, ignoring millions of constituent voices nationwide, the Bush administration released its final plan to dismantle the “Roadless Area Conservation Rule,” made against a background of measures that threaten our forests. The administration's plan will cut huge loopholes in the rule, giving timber companies more access to our natural heritage. We urge the Bush administration to reconsider this damaging policy, before these areas of natural beauty and national significance are spoilt forever. We further urge the Interior Department to follow the precedent of the Clinton administration and public opinion to either severely curtail or completely ban environmentally degrading snowmobiling in National Parks.
Mining on Public Lands
            According to the EPA, mining activities have despoiled 40 percent of western watersheds. In October 2001, the Interior Department issued new hard-rock mining regulations reversing the limited environmental restrictions that apply to mining gold, copper and other metals on federal lands. Under the new rules, the agency has renounced the government's authority to deny permits on the grounds that a proposed mine could result in "substantial irreparable harm" to the environment. The new rules also limit corporate liability for irresponsible mountaintop removal and/or "other" mining practices, undermining cleanup standards that safeguard ground and surface water. In addition, the Bush administration has begun selling public lands to companies at rock-bottom prices, allowing our rapidly-disappearing lands to be stripped and destroyed for the corporations’ benefit and the public’s detriment.
Raw Sewage
            According to the EPA, there were 40,000 discharges of untreated sewage into waterways in 2000. Before the Bush administration took office, the EPA issued long-overdue rules minimizing raw sewage discharges into waterways and requiring public notification of sewage overflows. The rules were blocked by the regulatory freeze ordered by the Bush administration when it took office in January 2001. The administration still has not issued sewage overflow safeguards. The Safe Drinking Water Act prohibits sewage disposal that affects drinking water, but the Bush administration now threatens to relax those already-weak standards.
The Office of Management and Budget
            The Bush administration has given unprecedented new power to the OMB to gut existing environmental rules and bottle up new ones indefinitely. The OMB has carried this effort a step further by reaching out to polluters and their champions on Capitol Hill to develop a "hit list" of environmental safeguards they plan to weaken. The list includes safe drinking water standards, controls on toxics, Clean Air Act requirements, water pollution limits, pollution from factory farms, and forest planning regulations.
Although the list of Bush administration assaults on the environment could run to more than 100 items, we urge the administration and Congress at a minimum to consider the following proposals to protect our people and our ecosystems:

          ADA encourages conservation of our natural resources including air and water.

          ADA calls upon the Senate to ratify the Kyoto treaty.
          America should take the lead in the development of alternative fuel sources and reduction of heat-trapping gases, and reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and then transfer its technological advances in emission reduction to the rest of the world, including both industrialized and developing nations.
           We urge the EPA to insist that old as well as new power plants be bound by the New Source Review program standards.
            We urge the EPA to move forward immediately to require monitoring and reporting of sanitary sewer overflows, including requiring notification of the public and of public health authorities of sewer overflows that have the potential to affect human health.

          We urge our elected officials to reduce our nation's destructive over-reliance on oil, in order to benefit our health, save us billions of dollars, preserve our environment, slow global warming, enhance America's national security and set us on a sustainable path toward lasting oil independence by:

  • refusing to exploit natural treasures such as the Greater Yellowstone area, which would supply only a tiny fraction of our oil needs,
  • raising fuel economy standards for motor vehicles;
  • enacting tax incentives for hybrid and fuel cell vehicles;
  • reinvesting in public transit;
  • promoting anti-sprawl "smart growth" of our cities;
  • accelerating the development of plants for making motor fuel from crop wastes;
  • ensuring greatly increased affordable production of non-pollutingvehicles;
  • We urge that current protections for national monuments be maintained;
          We urge the Senate to support ratification of the Stockholm Convention to phase out persistent organic pollutants (POPs) internationally - these chemicals and pesticides last for decades, accumulate in our food, concentrate in our bodies, may cause cancer and affect normal infant development.
  • We endorse efforts to renew and strengthen the Clean Air and Water Acts and oppose new initiatives such as 'Clear Skies' which threaten to set lower environmental standards. Every American should have the right to clean drinking and recreational water and clean air;
  • The Endangered Species Act should be preserved and strengthened;
  • Homeowners and the general public need to be aware of the dangers of pesticides and herbicides; food commodities grown with these products have detrimental effects on the consumers as well as on the environment.
          ADA resolves to reaffirm and strengthen wetland protection and restoration efforts.
          ADA supports environmental justice legislation that requires direct citizen participation in decision-making to remedy the concentration of polluting facilities and activities in poor and minority neighborhoods.
          ADA deplores the Senate's passageof a proposal to explore and drill in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), as outlined in resolution #348. The Refuge is the natural habitat of many species, some endangered, as well as a temporary home to millions of migratory birds.
Green Plan
          We need a national "Green Plan," such as that pioneered by the Netherlands, a long-range plan over the time scale of a generation for the transition to a sustainable economy. Such a plan would take into account all environmental factors, as well as jobs and quality of life considerations. The process must be open to democratic participation, not dominated by moneyed interests.
         Some components in a green plan would be:
  • Comprehensive data collection on species and habitats, climate change, chemical production and use, and human health problems that may be caused or aggravated by pollutants;
  • A massive solar and renewable energy research and development program, such as the labor-related Apollo, program to refit large buildings to save energy and control pollution.
  • A land use strategy to preserve existing natural ecosystems and restore others, protect habitats and family farms using such tools as land trusts and conservation easements, and encourage democratic regional planning, especially in metropolitan areas in watersheds;
  • Investment in a complete public transit system, allowing people cleaner and safer access to destinations in all urbanized areas, and a high speed rail system for intercity travel, which would improve travel convenience, greatly reduce car fatalities as well as pollution, and create millions of good jobs;
  • A preventive approach to pollution and solid waste, requiring manufacturers to inventory all chemicals they use and to accept the return of their products once users are through with them (a policy Germany has adopted), and prohibiting the export of wastes; and
         Design standards for product reuse, recyclability and durability.
Offshore Oil Drilling
         The coastal communities of the United States are a vital part of the national economy. Most oceanic life is concentrated in coastal zones. Fisheries are declining throughout the world, and oil spills are a significant threat to marine ecosystems and food chains. Economic well being, as well as environmental concerns, necessitate preserving our seacoasts and marine life. Thus, no further offshore oil drilling should be permitted along the American coastline.

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No. 308
Energy, Environment, and Economic Policy Commission