May 21, 2003
Whitman Leaves Environment, Public Health in Worse Shape
Statement by Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
The tenure of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman disappointed environmentalists everywhere. Her resignation signals a crossroads for the Bush administration. The president now has a choice – appoint a leader who will uphold the EPA’s mission and improve the administration’s dismal environmental record or choose someone who will put the interests of regulated industries first.
Whitman’s involvement in EPA decisions regarding cleanup of the World Trade Center site, in which her family has a substantial financial interest, and her reassignment of the agency’s ombudsman raised troubling questions about whether she was acting in the public interest.
Among the most grievous actions during her two-and-one-half-year term were:
- opposing the Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to curb global warming and to protect future generations from its harmful impacts;
- setting unacceptably lenient radiation protection standards for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump (Public Citizen is party to a lawsuit challenging these regulations);
- proposing an agriculture industry rule to give factory-style farms a two-year break from air quality and toxic waste cleanup laws if they participate in a planned $11 million research program;
- narrowing the scope of the Clean Water Act by siding with mining companies that fill
streams with mine wastes, and by scaling back proposed new rules governing livestock-feeding operations;
- adopting rules allowing large industrial plants to avoid the New Source Review (NSR) permiting process, which requires that plants install modern pollution controls; and,
- requesting inadequate funds help municipalities comply with the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
We urge President Bush to appoint someone who will act as a steadfast steward of the environment in the face of pressure from corporate leaders and protect citizens by enforcing and safeguarding laws that will truly keep our air clean, our water pure and our land protected. But the Bush administration’s record of appointing former corporate executives, lobbyists and others who are more committed to industry interests than good governance is cause for concern.