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Bush Seeks to Attach a Rider to the Omnibus Spending Package to Shield the EPA from Future Lawsuits

For Release on January 9, 2003
For More Information Contact:
Melody Monroe
Director of Development
(314) 231-4181
(314) 231-4184 fax
melody@greatriverslaw.org

CLEAN AIR ACT UNDER SIEGE

St. Louis, Mo - Republicans report that the Bush administration has requested a rider to weaken the clean air requirements for cities that failed to attain ozone standards by the statuatory deadlines.  The clean air deadline for cities with a classification of moderate (St. Louis was classified as moderate) was 1996, for serious areas 1999 and for severe areas 2005.

Environmentalists and Congressional Democrats consider the move by the Bush administration to be a major step in weakening the Clean Air Act.  This rider would prohibit aggrieved citizens from suing EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act, when EPA deliberately violates the Act by unlawfully extending those deadlines instead of compelling the states to restrict emissions of ozone precursors.  In short, it would give free reign to industry to pollute without minimal controls.

IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH

High levels of ozone and particulates are the primary components of the urban smog that causes shortness of breath, increased risk of infection, asthma attacks, decreases in lung function, and is a severe irritant--even to healthy adults.  This suffering results in an estimated 10 to 14 billion dollars in costs to the nation.

REWARDING THE RECALCITRANTS

St. Louis has been a "nonattainment area" for ozone since 1978.  For more than two decades the Missouri government, obedient to the wishes of the polluting industries, has failed and refused to limit emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides (both ozone precursors) sufficiently to attain even the inadequate, 1979 standard for ozone-a standard which even EPA admits is insufficient to protect the public health.  While many other states have met the standard, Missouri has constantly dragged its feet.

"This is a shameful performance," said Lewis Green, President of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center in St. Louis.

"It is even more shameful that EPA now seeks to protect the most recalcitrant states from the consequences prescribed by the Clean Air Act for states which protect the polluters, rather than the people."

Green further noted that the rider would give the polluters only two or three years of saving the cost of pollution controls.  "By 2004 or 2005, the new 8-hour-average standard will be effective, requiring much more stringent controls than would the old standard," said Green.  "The polluters merely seek to postpone for a few years the spending of any money for controls, while the children, the elderly, and the asthmatics suffer excessively from the unlawfully polluted air."

GREAT RIVERS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER

The primary purpose of Great Rivers is to provide public interest legal services to
organizations, citizens groups and individuals who seek to protect the environment.

In addition to aiding and advising citizens and organizations, Great Rivers works directly with federal and state environmental agencies, encouraging them to use their authority to protect the environment.  Great Rivers Environmental Law Center works through the courts and administrative agencies to safeguard the environment by enforcing environmental laws, especially air and water pollution laws, and laws intended to protect wetlands, floodplains, open space, and endangered species.

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