EARTH DAY BRINGS OUT POLITICIANS
Everybody claims to be an environmentalist for the day
President George W. Bush used the 32nd annual Earth Day to tout his environmental programs while critics of his Administration called many of Bush's programs useless.
Bush, along with EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and several New York representatives, went to the Adirondack Mountains in New York last week to show support for the environment. In a speech there, Bush called for more cooperation and volunteerism to improve the environment and for Congress to pass legislation to implement his Clear Skies Initiative, a program intended to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury, mostly from power plants (C&EN, March 11, page 33).
"We will reach our ambitious air-quality goals through a market-based approach that rewards innovation, reduces costs, and most importantly, guarantees results," Bush said.
Other Administration officials also participated in Earth Day events. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced that DOE headquarters would purchase at least 17% of its energy from renewable energy sources, qualifying it for EPA's Green Power Partnership. Interior Secretary Gale Norton traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to dedicate a $6.2 million Invasive Species Control Facility that is to help keep imported organisms from damaging the Everglades. And Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman promoted land and energy conservation at USDA's Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.
But national environmental activist organizations took advantage of Earth Day to charge that the Bush Administration is aggressively weakening environmental regulations. Many of the complaints focused on what the groups said were attempts to ease water pollution regulations, im-pose less restrictive land-use rules, and make taxpayers foot Superfund cleanup bills. The most frequently voiced complaint was that Administration officials with industry backgrounds were letting "corporate polluters" set the rules.
Bush's Clear Skies Initiative received the bulk of criticism, including a particularly sharp attack from former vice president Al Gore. In a speech at Vanderbilt University, Gore said, "Instead of working to reduce air pollution, the Bush Administration's so-called Clear Skies Initiative actually allows more toxic mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur pollution than if we enforce the laws on the books today."
Earth Day was begun in 1970 by then-senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) and environmental activist Denis Hayes. In many ways, it marked the political and social acceptance of the modern environmental movement.