SPECIAL REPORT | September 8, 2008
The Environmental Monitor: The Bush Environmental Record in 2008
"Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
--President Bush, July 10, 2008.
In 2008, the Bush Administration persisted in its attempts to weaken environmental and public health protections in favor of corporate special interests. The Environmental Monitor provides a summary of actions taken by the Bush Administration in 2008 that have seriously undermined environmental and public health protections.
Air and Water
California Waiver. On January 23, 2008, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that Administrator Johnson overruled his agency's own scientists when he denied a waiver request from California and as many as eighteen other states that sought to take aggressive action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA's internal documents revealed that EPA scientists warned Administrator Johnson that denying the waiver would result in a lawsuit from California that it was "likely to lose."
Mercury.On February 8, 2008, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled unanimously that the EPA's rules for air emissions from power plants failed to comply with protective safeguards in the Clean Air Act that require strong and timely protection of public health from mercury emissions. The court decision means that EPA, which tried to skirt legal requirements for controlling toxic air emissions from power plants, must rewrite its mercury rules, a task that could take years. Mercury is emitted into the air when coal is burned for electricity and its effects have a potentially harmful effect on women who are pregnant and small children.
California Waiver.On February 27, 2008, internal documents from the EPA were released that revealed that its career employees cautioned Administrator Johnson that there was "no legal or technical justification" for denying California and as many as eighteen others states the ability to take more aggressive action in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The internal documents also stated that if Administrator Johnson were to deny the waiver that "the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged."
Carbon Dioxide Emissions.On February 28, 2008, the EPA declined to announce when it would be releasing an analysis on the health threats posed by carbon dioxide emissions despite the fact that the analysis, which was ordered by the Supreme Court, was a year over-due.
California Waiver.On February 29, 2008, Administrator Johnson finalized his decision to deny California's and as many as eighteen other states the application to take more aggressive action in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA's final decision quoted arguments previously presented by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions. On March 7, 2008, the EPA released a draft inventory report on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through 2006. The report showed that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 136 million metric tons since 2001 (5,846.2 billion metric tons to 5,983.1 billion metric tons). The Bush Administration has previously attempted to take credit for a recent annual reduction in emissions despite the fact that Energy Information Administration found that the reductions were due in large part to Hurricane Katrina and higher energy prices.The EPA finalized the report on April 15, 2008.
Drinking Water.On March 11, 2008, the Associated Press published a story that revealed that the drinking water of at least 41 million Americans has been contaminated with pharmaceutical products. The Bush Administration has not required any testing or set safety limits for drugs in water despite the fact that the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Food Quality Protection Act direct the EPA to address the problem of chemicals and their impact on the body.
Smog Air Quality Standard.On March 12, 2008, the EPA announced it had rejected the recommendations of its scientific advisors by setting a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard or Smog Air Quality Standard which is less protective of health than the level recommended by its advisors. The decision by the EPA was criticized the American Lung Association (ALA) as a threat to the public's health.The ALA, other health groups, and eleven states would later sue the EPA over its decision, saying the agency failed to comply with legal requirements to protect the public's health.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions.On March 13, 2008, it was reported that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants rose by the largest amount since 1998. Analysis of data provided by the EPA also found that carbon dioxide emissions were rising faster than our nation's demand for electricity.
Clean Air Act.On March 13, 2008, EPA Administrator Johnson proposed changes to the Clean Air Actthat would overturn safeguards in place for over 35 years, and allow him to take costs to industry into consideration when establishing what have been strictly health-based air quality standards (under current law, costs are considered later, when enforceable standards are established for specific air pollution sources). The EPA's proposed changes would decrease the consideration that EPA gives to scientific analysis and the impacts that pollution has on the public's health. The Chairwoman of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee stated that Administrator Johnson's proposals were made so that he could get "out of a bind"he faced from special interests demanding he weaken air pollution standards.
Smog Air Quality Standard.On March 14, 2008, it was reported that President Bush intervened at the last minute to weaken a more stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone (smog) that had been recommended by EPA scientists and independent scientific advisors. The Washington Post reported that "EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents."
Carbon Dioxide Emissions.On March 18, 2008 analysis of data provided by the EPA found that carbon dioxide emissions were rising faster than our nation's demand for electricity.The published report also found that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants increased by the largest amount since 1998.
Mercury. On March 25, 2008, the EPA allied with utility companies in attempt to overturn a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that struck down its rule for mercury emissions from power plants. The appeal was unfortunate because it meant that the EPA would spend its time trying to overturn a unanimous ruling rather than focusing its attention on re-writing a stricter mercury rule that regulates emissions from utilities.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions.On March 27, 2008, EPA Administrator Johnson announced that instead of taking action to address climate change-as ordered by the Supreme Court-the agency would instead initiate a public comment period on the effects of climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The decision was widely viewed as an attempt by the Bush Administration to circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling so that it would not have to address the issue of climate change.
Wetlands. On March 31, 2008, the Bush Administration announced that it had finalized regulations that would allow developers to destroy or damage wetlands if it replaced them in other areas. The regulation could harm local ecosystems that are dependent on the wetlands and the final regulation did not contain provisions that would require the developer to take steps to lessen its impact on existing wetlands.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.On April 2, 2008, officials from 18 states sued the EPA for its failure to determine whether or not greenhouse gas emissions posed a risk to the public's health. The House Government and Oversight Committee has previously found that EPA's scientists discovered that greenhouse gas emissions were endangering the public's health but that once those findings were presented to the Bush Administration, officials began delaying the scientists' work.Three weeks later, the National Research Council concluded that their was "strong evidence" that people were experiencing negative health effects from breathing ozone and that even "short-term exposure to ambient ozone is likely to contribute to premature deaths."
Political Interference.On April 24, 2008, the Washington Post reported that more than half of EPA's scientists who responded to an independent survey reported that they witnessed political interference in scientific decisions. EPA's scientists reported that their data were at times used to selectively advocate a position and that their data was altered.
Lead.On May 1, 2008, the Bush Administration announced a proposal to establish new limits on the amount of lead allowed to be in the air which ignored the recommendations of EPA scientists. EPA data indicates that emission of just 60 pounds of lead into the air from a single source can cause the loss of up to three IQ points in children. The impacts of lead exposure are more pronounced in children because they absorb lead more easily than adults.
Percholarate. On May 7, 2008, an EPA official told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that there is a "distinct possibility" that the agency would take no action to regulate the amount of perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel, found in the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans. Studies have shown that ingestion of the chemical blocks normal hormonal functions and may affect brain development in infants.
Sewer Infrastructure.On May 8, 2008, an analysis of EPA data by USA Today found that America's sewer infrastructure is deteriorating and its inability to treat wastewater was continuing to threaten the public's health and the environment. A 2004 report from the EPA estimated that the lack of adequate sewer infrastructure was partly responsible for the estimated 850 billions of gallons of storm water that contaminated sewage that enters U.S. waters each year. The Bush Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 budget request for wastewater (the Clean Water State Revolving Fund) was $134 million less than the Fiscal Year 2008 enacted level.
Devaluing Human Life.On July 10, 2008, the Associated Press reported that the EPA had reduced the value that it had been assigning to a human life by approximately $1 million from the value it had assigned five years ago. The new value may make it more difficult for EPA officials to impose stronger environmental protections like stringent clean air rules.
Clean Air Interstate Rule.On July 11, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously ruled that the Bush Administration's Clean Air Interstate Rule violated the Clean Air Act. This ruling represents another major court loss for the EPA's inadequate clean air rules.
Natural Resources and Public Lands
Whales.On January 16, 2008, President Bush granted the Navy two exemptions from major environmental laws so that it would not be bound by a court decision to limit its use of sonar during military training exercises. The use of the sonar without certain precautions can be harmful to whales and other marine mammals. President Bush's decision sought to avoid a ruling by a U.S. District Court that found the Navy's policies to protect whales were "grossly inadequate to protect marine mammals from debilitating levels of sonar exposure."
Whales.On February 5, 2008, a U.S. District Court struck down President Bush's attempt to waive the applicability of the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The decision overruled President Bush's attempt to sidestep these environmental laws by allowing ordinary exercises to be classified as emergencies. The result of the President's actions laws would have been detrimental to whales as sonar is believed to be the cause of injury, disorientation, and even death in some marine mammals.
Coral Reefs.On February 6, 2008, the Bush Administration proposed not taking rising ocean temperatures into account when it determined factors that could affect coral reefs and other marine habitats. The decision came despite widespread scientific evidence that increasing ocean temperatures are threatening the health and ecological vibrancy of coral reefs as rising water temperatures kill off algae which provide food for the reef and leave behind reefs that are devoid of color. These "bleached corals"result in catastrophic losses in biodiversity, fish populations, and further expose coastal regions to the threats posed by hurricanes and their accompanying storm surge.
National Parks, Wilderness Areas, and Pollution.On February 27, 2008, a federal study was released that showed our nation's national parks and wilderness areas were being polluted from pesticides, heavy metals, and airborne contaminants and that these pollutants were found in more than 20 national parks and monuments. The report found that contaminant levels in fish exceeded human consumption levels at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Gates of the Arctic and Denali National Parks and Alaska's Noatak National Preserve.
Endangered Species Listings.On March 23, 2008, the Washington Post reported that officials at the Department of Interior when deciding on protections for endangered species "were barred from using information in agency files that might support new listings, and that senior officials repeatedly dismissed the views of scientific advisers as President Bush's appointees either rejected putting imperiled plants and animals on the list or sought to remove this federal protection." This decision has meant that listings during the Bush Administration has dropped and that Secretary Kempthorne has not declared a single native species as threatened or endangered since his confirmation by the Senate.
Border Fence.On April 1, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was waiving more than twenty-four environmental laws so that it could continue the construction of the border fence. The decision was criticized because it could have impacts on wildlife throughout the region and because its scope was significantly larger than any previous environmental waiver issued by the DHS.
Whales.On April 4, 2008, the Bush Administration released a draft environmental impact statement that listed the Navy's planned training exercises as having the potential to harm tens of thousands marine mammals including two whales species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The draft environmental impact statement also failed to address the reasons why the federal courts have ruled against the Bush Administration's previous attempts to skirt environmental protections.
Whales.On May 1, 2008, documents released by the House Government and Oversight Committee and the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that Vice President Cheney's office had been delaying rules that would protect right whales. The regulations, which were drafted by the Bush Administration's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would require ships to decrease their speed to ten knots when they are near whale feeding and breeding grounds.
National Parks and Air Quality.On May 16, 2008, the Washington Post reported that the Bush Administration was close to finalizing new rules that would weaken air quality standards in and around national parks. The report states that the efforts were being opposed by scientists within the Administration and National Park Managers, who argued that it will worsen already worsen visibility in areas that are already impaired.
Abandoned Mines.On July 22, 2008, the Department of Interior's Inspector General released a report on the Bush Administration's lack of adequate oversight of abandoned mines. The report found that serious environmental hazards persist because the problem has not been addressed and that dangerous levels of pollutants like mercury, arsenic and lead are polluting the surrounding areas. Additionally, the report found that the Bush Administration has willingly ignored these problems.
Marine Debris.On August 8, 2008, USA Today detailed the Bush Administration's lack of commitment to protecting marine ecosystems, such as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, from marine debris. While Congress authorized up to $15 million each year to tackle marine debris nationwide, the Administration's budget for Fiscal Year 2009 requests only $4 million. The Bush Administration's commitment to protecting the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument has been lax as debris removal has fallen dramatically from 102 tons to 35 tons.
Endangered Species Act. On August 11, 2008, the Bush Administration proposed making significant and highly controversial changes to rules under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes would, among other major changes, eliminate the requirement for an independent scientific review by expert agencies when, for instance, a new dam or highway is built. Instead, the Bush Administration would have the agency proposing the project to make its own determination-without an independent scientific review-about the impacts a proposed project would have on a species.
Toxics, Nuclear Waste, Nuclear Safety
Nuclear Plant Safety.On January 4, 2008, the Washington Post reported that security guards at our nation's nuclear plants were taking naps and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) let the matter drop after receiving assurances from the nuclear industry.
Mercury.On January 23, 2008, tests found that mercury levels in tuna in restaurants were so high that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could take legal action to remove them from the market. No government agency regularly tests mercury levels in seafood despite a joint FDA and EPA warning in 2004 that pregnant women and children should limit their consumption of tuna because of mercury concerns.
FEMA Trailers.On January 29, 2008, CNN reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was covering up the risks associated with formaldehyde exposure in the trailers it was providing to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita victims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportedly told FEMA that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde, which is used as preservative in construction materials like plywood, can cause respiratory irritation and cancer.
FEMA Trailers.On February 15, 2008, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) toxicologist warned FEMA officials about the long-term cancer risks associated with formaldehyde exposure but that CDC officials omitted the information on long-term impacts and instead only released information on short-term risks.
Chemical Rules.On April 30, 2008, at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that criticized the Bush Administration's new policies that delay and politicize the scientific assessment of chemicals. The new Bush Administration policies allow agencies like the White House's Office of Budget and Management and the Pentagon to secretly delay and influence EPA documents that establish purportedly safe levels of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Chemical Database.On May 22, 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that EPA's changes to its chemical database system had degraded the EPA's ability to make timely decisions on the safety of chemicals. The GAO report found that the proposed changes to the EPA chemical database system would add years to decision-making process and jeopardize the program's credibility.
Yucca Mountain.On June 3, 2008, the Bush Administration filed the license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to certify Yucca Mountain's soundness to store nuclear waste. The Administration's license application did not, however, include a plan to protect the public's health from exposure to radioactive waste.Days later, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of nuclear waste storage systems described the project as a "doomed undertaking."
Climate Change and Global Warming
Polar Bears. On January 8, 2007, the Department of Interior reported that it would not meet the statutory deadline to determine whether polar bear should receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. The delay came despite the fact that the United States Geological Survey issued a report in September 2007 that found that two thirds of the world's polar bears would die in 50 years due to thinning sea ice from climate change.
Greenhouse Gas Registry. On February 5, 2008, President Bush's Fiscal Year 2009 budget request for the EPA failed to include funding for a national greenhouse gas registry despite the fact that Congress ordered the EPA to create one in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008.
Polar Bears.On April 2, 2008, Interior Secretary Kempthorne refused to appear at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on why the Bush Administration had failed to meet the statutory deadline in determining whether or not the polar bear warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. Secretary Kempthorne's refusal to testify came after the Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the Bush Administration did not have a legal excuse for failing to comply with the law.
Bush Climate Plan.On April 16, 2008, President Bush announced his support for a goal of stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The President's plan was widely seen as inadequate because the world's leading scientists have called for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 50 to 85 percent by 2050.
Polar Bears.On April 29, 2008, a federal judge ordered the Bush Administration to make a decision about whether or not the polar bear was warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act. The court found that the Bush Administration has "been in violation of the law requiring them to publish the listing determination for nearly 120 days."
Climate Assessment.On May 29, 2008, the Bush Administration published a scientific assessment of the effects of climate change on the United States, after being ordered last year by a U.S. District Court to comply with the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The report found that it is "very likely" the U.S. will experience more heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events to the detriment of public health.
Political Interference.On June 2, 2008, NASA's Inspector General issued a report which found that political appointees in the Bush Administration distorted and suppressed the science associated with climate change.
Political Interference. On June 25, 2008, the New York Times reported that the White House refused to open an e-mail from the EPA because it contained information that was contrary to the White House's views on climate change. A senior official at the EPA reported that the e-mails contained information which showed that the Clean Air Act could be used to reduce greenhouse gases.
Political Interference.On June 30, 2008, the Wall Street Journalreported that the White House was trying to prevent the EPA from publishing a document on how the Clean Air Act could be used to regulate greenhouse gases. Specifically, the White House requested that "the EPA delete sections of the document that say such emissions endanger public welfare, say how those gases could be regulated, and show an analysis of the cost of regulating greenhouse gases in the U.S. and other countries."
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.On July 11, 2008, the Washington Postreported that the Bush Administration had decided to ignore the Supreme Court and not take any action to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. Instead, the Bush Administration decided to solicit comments on the threats that climate change and global warming pose even though an overwhelming amount of evidence already exists on the subject.
 Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2008, "Bush to partners: Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter,"
Associated Press, January 23, 2008, "Document: EPA Staff Favored Emissions Waiver for Calif."
http://www.kcbs.com/pages/1529886.php; E&E Daily, Jan 24, 2008, " EPA documents show staff support for Calif. Waiver," http://www.eenews.net/EEDaily/2008/01/24/6/; Senate EPW Committee, "States that Have Adopted California Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards," http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=6913a8db-b9f2-4ae0-8491-e452d4a50cec.
 Philadelphia Inquirer, February 9, 2008, "Court raps EPA rules on mercury,"
 New York Times, February 27, 2008, "E.P.A. Staff Lobbied Boss on Decision on Emissions,"
Greenwire, February 29, 2008, "EPA chief finalizes denial of Calif. Waiver,"
Energy Information Administration, "U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Growth Lower than Average in 2005,"
Environmental Protection Agency, March 7, 2008, "Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 - 2006," http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads/08_CR.pdf
Associated Press, March 11, 2008, "AP: Drugs found in drinking water,"
 Oakland Tribune, "New EPA smog standard falls short, critics say,"
Associated Press, "American Lung Association Sues Over Smog,"
Environmental Integrity Project, "Running Out of Time,"
E&E Daily, "EPA's Clean Air Act proposal greeted with jeers,"
Washington Post, "Ozone Rules Weakened at Bush's Behest,"
Environmental Integrity Project, "Running Out of Time,"
E&E News PM, "EPA, utilities appeal ruling on Bush pollution rule,"
Administrator Johnson, Letter to Congress,
Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2008, "Wetland rules stir debate,"
Washington Post, April 3, 2008, "EPA Is Sued for Answers on Emissions,"
Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2008, "Smog panel urges EPA to keep weighing the value of life in setting pollution rules," http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/23/nation/na-smog23
Washington Post, April 24, 2008, "Scientists Report Political Interference,"
Washington Post, May 1, 2008, "New EPA Standards Would Cut Amount Of Lead in the Air,"
Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2008, "EPA may decide not to limit the amount of a toxin in water supplies,"
USA Today, May 8, 2008, "Aging systems releasing sewage into rivers, streams,"
 Associated Press, July 10, 2008, "How to value life? EPA devalues its estimate,"
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, July 11, 2008, North Carolina V. EPA, http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/200807/05-1244-1127017.pdf
Washington Post, January 17, 2008, "Navy Wins Exemption From Bush to Continue Sonar Exercises in Calif.,"
New York Times, February 5, 2008, "Judge Reinstates Rules on Sonar, Criticizing Bush's Waiver for Navy,"
E&E News PM, February 6, 2008, "Habitat proposal for corals sidesteps rising ocean temps,"
Associated Press, February 27, 2008, "Study: High toxin levels in nat'l parks,"
Washington Post, "Since '01, Guarding Species Is Harder,"
Los Angeles Times, "Border fence will skirt environmental laws,"
E&E News PM, "Calif. sonar could affect 94,000 marine mammals a year - Navy,"
New York Times, May 1, 2008, "Whale Protection Caught in Agency Rivalry, Files Show,"
Washington Post, May 16, 2008, "Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased,"
Department of Interior, July 2008, "Abandoned Mines Lands in the Department of Interior,"
USA Today, August 8, 2008, "Trash soils Bush pledge to protect islands,"
Washington Post, August 12, 2008, "Endangered Species Act -- parts of it could become extinct,"
Washington Post, January 4, 2008, "Video of Sleeping Guards Shakes Nuclear Industry," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/03/AR2008010304442.html
New York Times, January 23, 2008, "High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi,"
CNN, January 29, 2008, "FEMA accused of twisting science in report on trailer danger," http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/01/29/fema.trailers/
Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 15, 2008, "CDC discussed Katrina trailer risk a year ago,"
Washington Post, April 30, 2008, "New Policy Prolongs EPA Chemical Reviews,"
E&E Daily, May 22, 2008, "EPA proposes 'unacceptable schedule' for key risk assessment database - GAO,"
USA Today, June 3, 2008, "Nuclear dump application filed,"
Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2008, "Yucca Mountain safety plan is 'doomed,' nuclear company says,"
Washington Post, January 8, 2008, "Wildlife Service Delays Polar Bear Report," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/07/AR2008010702945.html
E&E Daily, February 5, 2008, "Lawmakers slam White House failure to fund greenhouse gas registry,"
 Washington Post, April 3, 2008, "Inaction on Polar Bear Criticized," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/02/AR2008040203187.htmland Environment and Public Works Committee, April 2, 2008, Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer, http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Statement&Statement_ID=f70c41aa-e070-44e7-9331-e80058c8222f
Washington Post, April 17, 2008, "Warmed Over,"
Associated Press, April 29, 2008, "Decision ordered on polar bear status,"
Greenwire, May 29, 2008, "White House report outlines U.S. vulnerability as world warms,"
New York Times, June 25, 2008, "White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail,"
Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2008, "White House Blocks EPA Emissions Draft,"
Washington Post, July 11, 2008, "EPA Won't Act on Emissions This Year,"
- Ryan Mulvenon (224-3232)