New Air Pollution Rule Under Fire

Environmentalists are protesting a new air pollution rule from the Bush Administration. They say it will make it easier for the industry to continue to pollute or even pollute more. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Environmentalists are protesting a new air pollution rule from The Bush administration. They
say it will make it easier for the industry to continue to pollute or even pollute more. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Despite the 1970 Clean Air Act, some factory owners have kept polluting at the same rate for
more than 30 years. That’s because plants only were required to add pollution controls when
making significant updates. Environmentalists say a new rule put in place by the Bush
administration makes that loophole even bigger.


Eric Schaeffer is a former EPA official who quit, protesting the weakening of environmental
rules.


“What this rule says is if you’re sitting on an old plant that’s pretty dirty, that’s uncontrolled, that
isn’t meeting the Clean Air Act standards, you can go in and piece by piece, you can continue to
rebuild these plants and keep them alive and keep them going without putting on pollution
controls.”


The new rule comes in the wake of a General Accounting Office report that found the Bush
White House made the decision based almost entirely upon anecdotes from factory owners rather
than from hard data collected by the EPA.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Trust Fund for Great Lakes Restoration?

Some members of Congress feel the timing is right for the long-anticipated federal legislation to help restore the Great Lakes. A bill introduced in the Senate recently proposes EPA monitoring of Great Lakes water quality. Now, a bill being introduced in the House proposes a four billion dollar Great Lakes Restoration Fund. And it has strong political support. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak reports:

Transcript

Some members of Congress feel the timing is right for the long-anticipated
federal legislation to help restore the Great Lakes. A bill introduced in the
Senate recently proposes EPA monitoring of the Great Lakes water quality.
Now, a bill being introduced in the House proposes a four billion dollar
Great Lakes Restoration Fund. And it has strong political support.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak reports:


A critical report by the General Accounting Office prompted
Congress to start a coordinated recovery plan. The bipartisan
bill on the Senate side would pay for more reliable monitoring of
water quality. And the House bill now being introduced – also bipartisan –
would supply four billion dollars to help restore the environmental health of the lakes.


The Great Lakes Trust Fund is modeled after a multi-billion dollar
federal plan to rehabilitate Florida’s Everglades. Congressman Thomas Reynolds of New York
is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.


“We’ve seen, from increased levels of toxins and bacteria that are
killing wildlife and closing beaches, to invasive species that are
attacking an ecosystem. The Great Lakes need more than help – they need funding.”


Reynolds says he believes the backing is there to pass the legislation –
and that federal help is long overdue.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak.

Government Shuttle Services Inefficient

A government report finds that a lot of free shuttle bus services paid for by federal programs could work together to be more efficient. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

A government report finds that a lot of free shuttle bus services paid for by federal
programs could work together to be more efficient. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


There are 62 different federal programs that provide transportation for disadvantaged populations.
According to a report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress…
many times those vans and shuttle buses could be hauling more people if agencies and programs
would coordinate more.


Kate Siggerud is one of the authors of the report. She says the free transportation which is often
run by state or local agencies could work together better…


“And they generally speaking in most communities have not coordinated. So, you might have
several vans for different programs going to one senior center or one clinic rather than using one
van to pick up a larger number of people in a particular area.”


Siggerud says the report doesn’t look at how much fuel is wasted or whether the fleet of shuttles
could be reduced, but she says the report does reveal that the people who rely on the
transportation could be better served by a coordinated effort by government agencies.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Chemical Plant Security in Question

The General Accounting Office has released a report saying that there’s no way to know how secure the nation’s chemical plants are from terrorist attacks. The Congressional Research Agency says that no federal department has looked into the problem yet. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:

Transcript

The General Accounting Office has released a report saying that there’s
no way to know how secure the nation’s chemical plants are from
terrorist attacks. The Congressional Research Agency says that no
federal department has looked into the problem yet. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:


The GAO released the study last week. It says that there are 123
chemical plants in the U.S. that are in areas where more than a million
people would be effected by a toxic release. But the GAO says the
government has failed to take a comprehensive approach to addressing
chemical plant security. Kate McGloon is spokesperson for the American
Chemistry Council, an industry trade group. She says many
chemical-makers have already taken steps voluntarily to increase
security since 9/11. But they don’t want to reveal what those
are.


“Homeland Security has stressed to us that one of the best ways to keep
potential terrorists from knowing what they’re doing is to be
unpredictable and random and not tell people what you’re doing.”


McGloon says many chemical companies would welcome federal legislation
putting the government in charge of assessing and enforcing chemical
plant security. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Poorman.

States to Have Bigger Enforcement Role?

The Bush Administration wants to shift more of the job of enforcing environmental laws to the states. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to give states twenty-five million dollars to do the job. However, environmentalists, the General Accounting Office and even the EPA’s own Office of Inspector General find problems with the plan. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:

Transcript

The Bush administration wants to shift more of the job of enforcing environmental laws to the states. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to give states 25-million dollars to do the job. However, Environmentalists, the General Accounting Office and EVEN the EPA’s own Office of Inspector General find problems with the plan. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


Although the EPA is responsible for enforcement of national environmental laws, in most cases it assigns much of that authority to the states. Already 44 state environmental agencies act as the enforcement agency for the EPA. Now in its fiscal year 2002 budget, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator, Christie Todd Whitman, proposes cutting the agency’s staff and giving more money to the states to enforce environmental laws. This move would only shift a little more of that burden to the states.


Some members of Congress have been pushing for shifting many of the federal government’s enforcement duties to the state level, arguing that the people at the state level are more attuned to the effects that strictly enforcing regulatory laws can have on the local economy.


The EPA has found that’s sometimes true. But in considering the economic impact, the state regulators don’t always enforce the law the way the EPA wants it to be done and that can be bad for the environment. Eileen McMahon is with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General.


“We have –going back to 1996– been doing reviews and evaluations of different areas of enforcement, air enforcement, water enforcement, other enforcement and have found, certainly, cases where the states could be doing a better job.”


In a report released just last month the EPA’s Inspector General found that while some states have great records at enforcing environmental laws. But in many other cases some states have simply looked the other way.


“We found that states’ concerns with regulating small and economically vital businesses and industries had an impact on whether or not they were effectively deterring non-compliance.”


Some environmental groups are not surprised by those findings. Elliot Negin is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says he wouldn’t expect much good to come from letting states take more responsibility for enforcing environmental laws.


“Well, it’s gonna open a whole can of worms. The states, many states have pretty bad track records when it comes to upholding environmental laws. And, the state politicians are, unfortunately, sometimes too close to the polluters through campaign contributions and what not.”


Despite those concerns, some members of Congress feel the US EPA has been too aggressive in its application of environmental laws, and that shifting more of the enforcement authority to the states would bring a certain measure of common sense to the process.


As, the two sides argue about the merits of enforcing environmental laws at the federal level or the state level. One government office says no decision should be made at all just yet. The General Accounting office says the states and the EPA should take stock of how things are working now.


The GAO just released a report that finds cutting staff at the federal level and shifting resources to the state level — in other words, just what EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whittman is proposing— is premature. John Stephenson is the Director of Natural Resources and Environment for the GAO. He says the EPA has no idea how many people it takes to properly enforce the law because its workforce plan is more than a decade old.


“And, so, that’s basic information you would need to determine, number one, how many enforcement personnel that the states might need and number two how many personnel EPA headquarters might need to oversee the states.”


The GAO’s Stephenson says until some kind of workforce assessment is done. There’s little point in debating whether the EPA or the states are better suited to enforce environmental laws.


“This shift in authority, as you know, is an ongoing debate in the Congress and we feel like that there needs to be this basic workforce analysis done before either side is in a position to support their relative positions.”


The EPA agreed with the General Accounting Office’s findings. But it’s unclear whether there’s enough time to assess the agencies and states’ workforce needs before Congress approves the budget that could shift some of the enforcement authority to the states.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

STATES TO HAVE BIGGER ENFORCEMENT ROLE? (Short Version)

The Bush Administration is proposing the Environmental Protection Agency turn over more of its enforcement authority to the states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham explains:

Transcript

The Bush administration is proposing the Environmental Protection Agency turn over more of its enforcement authority to the states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


In the fiscal year 2002 budget, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whittman proposes cutting agency staff who enforce environmental laws and in their place giving states additional money to do that job. Some environmental groups say that’s a bad idea because some states have a terrible track record on enforcing environmental laws. Eileen McMahon is with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General. That office reports states sometimes look the other way.


“We found that the state enforcement programs could be much more effective in the deterrence and non-compliance of permits.”


The Inspector General says sometimes the states don’t enforce the law when the business is vital to the local economy. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.