Public Interest Groups Criticize Bush’s Big Donor Fundraising from Big Polluters Who Poison Maryland Air

Dec. 5, 2003

Public Interest Groups Criticize Bush’s Big Donor Fundraising
from Big Polluters Who Poison Maryland Air

 

Millions of Dollars from Electric Utilities Get Bush Administration to Weaken Air Rule, Allowing Pollution that Harms Thousands of Marylanders – A.G. Curran Opposes Action by Bush’s EPA

BALTIMORE, Md. – Leading environmental and public interest groups gathered today near the site of a Bush fundraiser to criticize the big donor fundraising practices of the Bush campaign, which have led to devastating attacks on environmental policies that protect Maryland’s air and water.

Today’s exclusive Baltimore fundraiser, along with a Miami campaign event scheduled for later today, will put President Bush over the $110 million mark for a primary campaign in which he is running unopposed, according to Public Citizen, which is tracking Bush’s fundraising on its Web site, WhiteHouseForSale.org.

The environmental policies in question, including a radical alteration of the Clean Air Act and proposed changes in regulations of mercury emissions, have served as paybacks to the electric utility industry, which contributed more than $4.8 million to Bush’s 2000 campaign and is giving again to Bush’s re-election effort.

Leaders from the industry were regularly consulted by the Vice President Dick Cheney’s secretive energy task force and received key appointments within the administration, ultimately helping to rewrite a key Clean Air Act rule that had required polluters to retrofit their plants with pollution controls when making plant modifications. The new rule does not require them to do so, permitting several Maryland utilities – as well as dozens of Midwestern coal-fired plants “upwind” from Maryland – to continue polluting the air.

“The gutting of the Clean Air Act regulation by Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example of how this administration is paying back its biggest corporate contributors,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “In exchange for campaign cash from polluters, Bush and his appointees are subjecting Maryland citizens to bad air that sickens or kills thousands every year.”

According to reports from the City of Baltimore’s Department of Health, 2003 has been a particularly bad year for childhood asthma, with a large increase in cases over 2002.

Charlie Garlow, air and energy chair for the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter added, “We all need clean, healthy air to breathe, but the Bush administration has given polluters a pass by weakening a key clean air protection that required aging coal-fired power plants to install modern pollution controls. There is a better way. Enforce the law, hold polluters accountable and require them to use today’s technology to protect our health and safety.”

In addition to concern about sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, mercury is another critical environmental problem for Maryland citizens, and Bush’s EPA has just announced it is considering weakening those regulations as well.

“The administration’s polluter-friendly mercury rule disregards the serious public health threat of toxic mercury exposure to women and developing children, for years longer than necessary,” said Dr. Cindy Parker, M.D., research associate with Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Even low levels of mercury exposure before birth can result in serious neurological and development impairment. Affected children may struggle to keep up in school and may require remedial classes or special education.”

Since coal-fired power plants are a major source of mercury emissions, changes in this regulatory policy would also benefit the electric utilities that have generously supported the Bush campaign, including Maryland’s Mirant Power Company.

“Mirant Power Company and the rest of the utility industry have spent millions to buy the Bush administration’s attack on the Clean Air Act, and they got their money’s worth and then some,” said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “The White House’s new plan to put the brakes on reducing emissions of toxic mercury – a known reproductive and neurological toxin – for at least another generation illustrates yet again how the Bush administration puts corporate interests ahead of the health of our children without a second thought.”

Maryland has joined the legal battle against changes to the Clean Air Act, taking part in a lawsuit against the EPA to stop the rewritten regulation from taking effect. When joining the lawsuit, Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran said, “We will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the health of Maryland’s citizens and the Chesapeake Bay. Over 650,000 Marylanders suffer from respiratory ailments. The air they breathe – the air we all breathe – needs to be improved, and the rule announced by the EPA is a step in the wrong direction.”

Added Clemente of Public Citizen, “It is ironic that Maryland Governor Ehrlich will be helping to raise money for President Bush at today’s event, even while Maryland’s Attorney General is suing to stop the EPA rule changes sought by the administration and its major contributors in the electric utility industry. Is Governor Ehrlich serving the interests of the people of Maryland, or the interests of the Bush Administration and the utility industry?”

Public Citizen, a national consumer group with 3,600 Maryland members, launched the WhiteHouseForSale.org Web site to track Bush’s contributors, particularly those whom Bush has dubbed Rangers or Pioneers in recognition of their steering at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, toward his campaign. Public Citizen’s accounting of Bush’s fundraising total is drawn from Federal Election Commission data, statements from the campaign and press reports.

For more information, please visit www.WhiteHouseForSale.org.

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