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Context of 'August 14, 2003: EPA Lifts Restriction on Land Contaminated by PCBs'

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Environmental Protection Agency ombudsman Robert Martin writes to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman criticizing her decision (see September 28, 2001) to transfer his office to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Martin challenges her assertion that this would result in greater autonomy, noting that the IOG had previously “interfered with [a]… National Ombudsman investigation” of the Marjol Batter Site. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/26/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Environmental Protection Agency grants the oil and gas industry a two-year reprieve from regulations aimed at reducing contaminated water run-off from construction sites. The Clinton-era EPA phase II stormwater pollution rule “A” —scheduled to go into effect on this day—requires that companies obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for construction sites between 1 and 5 acres. But the EPA has decided that the Clinton administration had underestimated the rule’s impact on the oil and gas industry. In addition to granting the two-year reprieve, the agency says it will also consider giving the industry a permanent exemption. [Associated Press, 3/10/2003; Business and Legal Reports, 3/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Grand Teton National Park, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

President George Bush names Utah Governor Mike Leavitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), replacing Christie Todd Whitman who resigned in June. [US President, 8/18/2003] Leavitt was at the center of a controversy a couple of months ago for a back-room deal he made with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to suspend wilderness studies on millions of acres of Utah lands (see April 11, 2003). He supports replacing mandatory pollution controls with voluntary compliance programs for polluting industries and is a strong backer of the administration’s policy of shifting environmental regulation to the states. [Washington Times, 8/12/2003] During his term as governor, US Magnesium, a magnesium-processing company on the western side of the Great Salt Lake, earned the place as the nation’s worst polluter. Leavitt says that he and Bush “have a like mind and a like heart” on environmental policy. [Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/2003] Environmentalists condemn the nomination noting that aside from Leavitt’s strong opposition to a plan to store nuclear waste on a Utah Indian reservation, the governor has a very poor environmental record. “Mike Leavitt has no credentials, no understanding and no political willpower to protect America’s clean air, clean water and clean land,” Marc Clemens, chapter coordinator for the Utah Sierra Club, tells the Salt Lake Tribune. [Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/2003]

Entity Tags: Mike Leavitt, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly lifts a 25-year-old restriction on the sale of PCB-contaminated land. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are linked to cancer and neurological problems. The rollback, based on an EPA reinterpretation of an existing law, is announced in an internal memo written by EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. Fabricant claims in the memo that the old interpretation represented “an unnecessary barrier to economic redevelopment.” Because the change is considered a “new interpretation” of existing law, the administration has no legal obligation to make a public announcement. Critics, including some EPA staffers, note that the longstanding ban served as an incentive for landowners to notify the EPA of the contamination and clean up their property. As a result, about 100 sites a year were submitted to the agency for review. They also warn that the new policy will make it hard to track sales of polluted sites and to ensure that buyers properly assess the land prior to development. [Environmental Protection Agency, 8/14/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/1/2003; New York Times, 9/3/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Environmental Protection Agency, Robert E. Fabricant

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

The Environmental Protection Agency rules that carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming, cannot be regulated as a pollutant. EPA General Counsel Robert Fabricant writes in his 12-page decision, “Because the [Clean Air Act] does not authorize regulation to address climate change, it follows that [carbon dioxide] and other [greenhouse gases], as such, are not air pollutants.” His ruling reverses the position taken by the Clinton administration in 1998. Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is pleased with the decision. “Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe? That’s not a pollutant,” he says. Melissa Carey, a climate policy specialist for Environmental Defense, disagrees. “Refusing to call greenhouse-gas emissions a pollutant is like refusing to say that smoking causes lung cancer. The Earth is round. Elvis is dead. Climate change is happening.” [Knight Ridder, 8/29/2003]

Entity Tags: Robert E. Fabricant, Bush administration (43), Eron Shosteck, Melissa Carey, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

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