Senate Democrats

Environmental Monitor: The Bush Record on the Environment In the 109th Congress

The Bush Administration has protected special interests and ignored public support for strong environmental protections and conservation measures.  During the 109th Congress, the Administration took the following actions to weaken environmental protections: 

Air and Water

Particulate matter. On September 29, 2006, the seven members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Johnson charging that EPA ignored several aspects of the Committee’s advice and questioned whether the EPA had fully considered the advice when finalizing its particulate matter (PM) standards.  The letter cited the unchanged annual ambient PM 2.5 and PM 10 standards, which the panel unanimously recommended tightening, and stated that the new standards left “serious scientific concerns regarding the public health and welfare.”


Particulate matter. On September 23, 2006, the EPA finalized a rule regulating PM that does not reflect the recommendations made by the EPA’s own science advisors.  The rule tightens only hourly standards, not annual standards, for fine PM, does not tighten hourly standards for course PM, and eliminates annual standards for course PM.  While the science advisors’ recommendations would have reduced air-pollution related deaths in 9 cities by 48 percent, the Administration’s rule would reduce deaths in those cities by only 22 percent.


Clean air.  On September 8, 2006, the Administration proposed new rules for New Source Review requirements that would change how the EPA reviews industry projects.  The changes would allow industry to complete more projects without updating pollution controls.


Clean air.  On August 18, 2006, the Administration proposed changing regulation of emissions from aging coal-fired utility plants that are regulated by the Clean Air Act‘s New Source Review.  The new rule would measure hourly emissions instead of annual emissions to determine whether plants are complying with New Source Review requirements.


Clean water.  On June 22, 2006, the Administration proposed rules under which farms with large livestock operations apply for permits to discharge pollutants into waterways.  The proposed rules allow farms to determine what constitutes a “discharge,” effectively allowing them to decide when to apply for a permit and when not to.

Stormwater. On June 15, 2006, the Administration finalized a rule exempting oil and gas exploration, production, and construction sites from applying for permits to discharge stormwater.  The EPA expanded language from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting construction sites from permitting requirements.

Water transfers.  On June 1, 2006, the Administration released a draft rule removing water transfers through flood gates, canals, tunnels or natural stream courses from federal pollution regulations.  The rule was proposed while the Miccosukee tribe and environmentalists have pending lawsuits to stop the transfer of polluted stormwater from city streets and farms in Florida to the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.

Clean air.  On April 20, 2006, the EPA released a report finding that 21 percent of coal plants would not have modern emissions controls for smog and soot-forming pollutants by 2020 under the Administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule.  A similar study conducted by environmental groups found that as many as 50 percent of coal plants could lack modern technology by 2020 under the rule.

Hazardous pollutants. On April 3, 2006, environmental groups obtained a draft rule from the EPA that would allow an industrial plant currently classified as a “major source of hazardous air pollutants” to be regulated as an “area source” at any time.  This change would allow plants to avoid upgrading to maximum achievable control technology (MACT), which reduces emissions by 95 percent or more.


Clean air science.  On April 3, 2006, the EPA released a draft of a new scientific review process for emissions standards.  The draft proposed eliminating a staff report that turns scientific data into policy proposals and creating a risk and exposure report on consensus and uncertainties in scientific opinion on the air pollutant.

Air pollution exemptions overturned.  On March 17, 2006, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the Bush Administration’s “routine maintenance” rule, which exempted thousands of major air pollution sources from regulation.  The court referred to the EPA rule as only applicable in a “Humpty Dumpty world” and illegal under the Clean Air Act‘s explicit wording.

Power plant emissions. On February 17, 2006, environmental groups released data from the EPA showing that the Bush Administration’s Clean Air Interstate Rule would not reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions as much as the Administration had projected.  The data projects that over 50 percent of coal-fired plants in 2020 would still not be using the best available technology.

Clean drinking water.  On February 16, 2006, the Bush Administration proposed criteria to allow lower drinking water quality standards for low-income and rural communities with small systems.  According to the EPA, as many as 10 million Americans drink water that does not meet current standards for levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen.

Budget cuts.  On February 6, 2006, President Bush released a budget for Fiscal Year  2007 that would cut funding for the EPA by $304 million, including cuts of $200 million in grants to states for clean water projects and $23 million in state grants for air quality management.

Lead contamination.  On January 26, 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that the EPA has failed to collect thorough data from states regarding lead levels in water.  The lead contamination database was found to contain no or limited data for over 70 percent of community water systems.

Manipulating science. On January 4, 2006, Greenwirereported that the Bush Administration issued a memorandum requiring the EPA to review the use of science in establishing agency standards for air pollutants.  The review would overhaul policies that have driven rulemaking at the agency for over 20 years, eliminate expert staff review and recommendations, and reduce transparency of the process.

Disregarding science. On December 21, 2005, EPA proposed revisions to the air quality standard for fine particulate matter (PM-2.5) and chose standards that were weaker than and outside the range of the recommendations made by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee.

Blaming environmental advocates for Katrina damage. On September 16, 2005, the Jackson Clarion Ledger obtained an email from the Department of Justice seeking information on environmental lawsuits brought against levee projects around New Orleans.

Environmental waivers. On September 14, 2005, the Bush Administration waived environmental laws to rush the completion of a security fence on the Mexican border.  The Administration justified this action by citing a law that allows the Homeland Security Department to waive laws while updating border patrol efforts.

Clean air.  On June 30, 2005, the Bush Administration dropped requirements for industries in more than a dozen urban areas to meet ground-level ozone air quality standards.

Clean air.  On June 2, 2005, the Bush Administration decided to reject a petition challenging its changes to the Clean Air Act that establish an arbitrarily high capital spending threshold for industry before it must install new pollution controls.


Clean air.  On June 1, 2005, the EPA delayed implementation of a rule to reduce sulfur emissions from diesel fuel by 45 days.

Delayed data. On April 29, 2005, the Washington Post reported that a 14-month-old report commissioned by the EPA found a “hot spot” of mercury contamination in the Atlantic Ocean between North Carolina and Florida.  The report also found that cutting mercury emissions from power plants would generate up to $5 billion in health and other benefits nationwide.

Mercury. On March 15, 2005, the Bush Administration issued a final rule on mercury pollution from power plants which would delay reductions for ten years beyond legal requirements.

Mercury. On March 7, 2005, the GAO released a report that faults EPA for not considering the public health benefits of reduced mercury emissions.

Clean air.  On March 7, 2005, the EPA’s Inspector General issued a report finding that proper monitoring for air toxics is lacking in 45 out of 50 areas where the risk of cancer is believed to be highest.

Budget. On February 7, 2005, the Administration proposed to cut funding for environmental programs by 10 percent, including a $373 million cut to clean water and safe drinking water programs.

Mercury. On February 3, 2005, the EPA’s Inspector General issued a report admonishing the Bush Administration for ignoring scientific data to support a predetermined outcome on the mercury pollution rule.  The EPA’s proposed mercury rule regulates mercury emissions from power plants.  The report says the EPA did not analyze the full costs and benefits of regulatory alternatives or the effects of the rule on children’s health.

Regulations. On January 31, 2005, the Bush Administration issued a report with 189 proposed changes to ease requirements on manufacturers.  

Clean water.  On January 25, 2005, the EPA approved Florida’s plan to clean up phosphorus pollution in the Everglades.  The revised plan gives the state until 2016, ten years later than the original goal, to complete remediation.

Clean air.  On January 21, 2005, the Bush Administration announced an agreement under which factory farms would be exempted from Clean Air Act standards in exchange for EPA monitoring of air quality at their factories.  This agreement gives factory farms a shield from enforcement actions relating to air emissions for at least three years.

Clean water exemption.  On January 19, 2005, the Bush Administration proposed to continue exempting oil and gas construction from stormwater pollution regulations until June 12, 2006.

Clean air.  On January 18, 2005, the Bush Administration announced it would not take on any new cases against the utility industry for Clean Air Act violations.

Clean air.  On January 13, 2005, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report stating the Bush Administration’s plans to revise the Clean Air Act would likely allow higher emission levels at individual electric utility plans than New Source Review provisions currently allow.

Natural Resources and Public Lands

Forest management. On December 11, 2006, the Bush Administration announced a final rule that eliminates environmental analyses and the public’s right to participate in forest management planning under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Under NEPA, public involvement and environmental analyses are required whenever the Forest Service wants to change the way it manages a forest – a process that occurs for each U.S. forest every 15 years.  However, under the new rule, any update or significant change to individual forest plans would be exempt from NEPA review.


National forests. On September 20, 2006, the Agriculture Department’s Inspector General released an audit finding that the Forest Service’s hazardous fuels reduction program does not have a process to assess risk to communities, assess the costs and benefits of projects, or ensure that high-priority projects receive funding first.  The Forest Service has focused on increasing the number of acres treated in the program rather than completing projects in areas with the highest risks.


Interior Department ethics. On September 13, 2006, the Interior Department’s Inspector General testified before the House Resources Committee that “short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of Interior.”  He faulted the Department for ethical lapses and for failure to address problems when they occur.


Oil and gas. On August 23, 2006, the Bush Administration announced plans to lease areas of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska around Teshukpuk Lake.  Several regions around this lake were unavailable for leasing under previous adminstrations because they provide critical habitat for wildlife.


Air quality at National Parks. On August 16, 2006, the National Parks Conservation Association released a new report analyzing the effects of new energy development on air quality at national parks.  The report found that development threatens air quality at several of the most cherished parks, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, and Glacier National Parks.

National Park management. On June 19, 2006, incoming Interior Secretary Kempthorne overturned anti-conservation revisions to National Park Service management policies proposed by Administration political appointees in October 2005.  The management policies serve as a handbook for Park Service officials.  The June 19 draft policies also reinstated “natural soundscapes and clear skies” as valued park resources and acknowledged the need to monitor climate change.

Marine ecosystems. On June 1, 2006, the Marine Fish Conservation Network released a report finding that federal fisheries managers are not tracking or taking steps to minimize bycatch, unwanted catch that commercial fishers toss overboard.  Bycatch, which often dies before it is returned to the water, can deplete species and reduce food for other species.

National Park politics. On May 26, 2006, the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior released a report finding that a former special assistant to Park Service Director Fran Mainella improperly used his influence to circumvent Park Service procedures on behalf of a private landowner.  The landowner requested that the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historic Park allow him to clear 130 trees to improve his view of the Potomac River.

Forest land sales. On April 19, 2005, the Bush Administration admitted it had not done management cost analyses on land parcels it proposed to sell to finance reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program.  Earlier this year, the Administration cited high management costs as one of the factors in choosing which land parcels to sell.

National Parks. On April 5, 2006, the GAO released a report finding that rising costs are causing National Parks to cut back on visitor services, resource protection, and maintenance.  The report states that at all 12 parks surveyed, managers did not receive enough funding to address increases in operating costs.

Road maintenance. On March 22, 2006, the Bush Administration issued a controversial order allowing state laws to determine ownership of rights-of-way that existed before land was designated as federal property.  The order could result in environmental degradation across thousands of miles of roads, trails, and fences on protected federal land.

Forest land sales. On February 6, 2006, President Bush released plans in a budget for Fiscal Year 2007 to sell 300,000 acres of national forest land to fund reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.  The sales would provide one-time funding for the rural schools program contingent upon actual sales and would phase out the program after five years.

Interior funding cuts. On February 6, 2006, President Bush released a budget for Fiscal Year 2007 that would cut funding for the Department of the Interior by $393 million, including a $90 million cut to construction and maintenance projects in the National Park Service and elimination of the Land and Water Conservation Fund state grant program.

Oceans. On February 3, 2006, the Joint Oceans Commission released a report criticizing the Bush Administration’s oceans policy and funding levels.  The report stated that “significant steps must be taken immediately to avoid substantial and perhaps irreversible damage” to oceans and wildlife.

Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. On January 18, 2006, the National Park Service admitted that the Bush Administration’s revised rule allowing increased snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is not improving air quality as Administration officials had predicted.  The emissions from four-stroke snowmobiles have not proven to be significantly lower than those from dominant two-stroke snowmobiles.

Oil and gas. On January 11, 2006, the Bush Administration approved expanded oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.  The expanded area was off-limits for drilling under the Clinton Administration due to expected negative impacts on wildlife.

National Parks. On October 18, 2005, the National Park Service released new draft management policies, which dilute the definition of “natural condition” to allow more air pollution and make many more activities subject to skewed cost-benefit analyses.

Oil and gas. On June 30, 2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a rule that requires protests of oil and gas lease sales to be received in state BLM offices 15 days before a sale in hard copy or fax form.  This rule was not submitted for public review.


National forests. On June 1, 2005, the Bush Administration announced a plan to sell up to 20 percent of Forest Service facilities to reduce the Service’s maintenance backlog.  The plan did not specify how the Forest Service will decide which facilities to sell.

Roadless areas.  On May 5, 2005, the Bush Administration repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, replacing it with a rule requiring states to petition to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas in national forests.

Oil and gas. On April 15, 2005, the Bush Administration proposed a new policy that would require protests on oil and gas leases to be filed 15 days before the sale.

Forest closures. On March 4, 2005, the Bush Administration asked regional foresters to consider closing campgrounds, trails, and other recreational sites in national forests to save money for other activities.

Oil and gas. On January 24, 2005, the Bush Administration decided to allow oil and gas drilling on New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, despite opposition from the state.  The Otero Mesa in New Mexico is the largest undisturbed chihuahuan desert grassland in the nation.

Tongass National Forest. On January 13, 2005, the Bush Administration decided to ignore environmentalists’ concerns about logging in the forest’s management plan.  Advocate groups claim the plan exaggerates the demand for timber, resulting in unnecessary logging and roadbuilding.

Oil and gas. On January 3, 2005, the GAO issued a report concluding that the BLM does not track or use nationwide information on challenges to energy development decisions on federal lands. 

Toxics and Nuclear Waste


Right to know. On December 18, 2006, the Administration released a final rule that reduces public reporting requirements for polluters that release between 500 and 2,000 pounds of certain chemicals.  The new rule will affect nearly 3,000 facilities and substantially reduce the information the public and local governments receive regarding chemical releases within this threshold.


Falsified data. On September 18, 2006, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a lead auditor for quality assurance on the Yucca Mountain Project uncovered falsified data and retaliation against employees who noted quality assurance problems as early as 2001.  The auditor sent documentation to the DOE Inspector General’s office in 2001 and 2002, but the office decided not to investigate the complaints and instead referred them back to the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, where the problems were occurring.


Mercury emissions targets. On August 21, 2006, a report by former EPA employees at the National Wildlife Federation found that under the Administration’s mercury rule, only 27 states will meet their Phase I emissions requirements and only 7 states will meet their requirements in Phase II.  Overall, the report found that emissions will be reduced by only 50 percent by 2020, short of the 70 percent reduction by 2018 predicted by the Administration.


Yucca Mountain. On August 18, 2006, the DOE’s Inspector General released an audit finding that DOE was “not effectively managing and resolving issues adverse to quality” at the Yucca Mountain site.  The report found that more than half of planned actions since 2003 to correct quality assurance problems had not been implemented in a timely manner.


Superfund account. On July 31, 2006, the EPA’s Inspector General released an audit finding that the EPA could be losing $39 million per year because the agency failed to properly bill cleanup work to the responsible party.  The EPA often took too long to break down the work required for outside contracts, interagency agreements, and small purchases.


Air toxics. On July 26, 2006, the GAO released a report faulting EPA for making the reduction of toxic air pollution a low priority, exposing the public to health hazards.  EPA has set an unacceptably low budget priority for the toxics program, completed only a fraction of emissions standards for small stationary sources, and will not complete residual risk reviews until four years after the statutory deadline of 2008.


Superfund. On June 16, 2006, the GAO issued a report finding that EPA is doing little to guarantee that businesses fulfill their obligations to clean up toxic waste under the Superfund program.  The GAO found that EPA is underutilizing its existing authorities to make sure businesses comply with cleanup requirements and criticized the EPA’s oversight of cleaned sites with residual contamination.

Pesticides testing. On May 24, 2006, unions representing over 9,000 EPA scientists and specialists sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson asserting that agency managers and the pesticide industry were exerting political pressure to allow continued use of certain pesticides.  The scientists and specialists are studying the health effects on humans of organophosphates and carbamates and assert that “the integrity of the science upon which agency decisions are based has been compromised.”

Nuclear waste. On April 27, 2006, the Bush Administration nominated Dale Klein, an early and outspoken supporter of the Yucca Mountain project, to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  The NRC will review the project’s license application when it is filed.

Nuclear waste. On April 5, 2006, the Bush Administration released legislation related to Yucca Mountain that would preempt local, state and federal water law, air quality and toxic cleanup requirements; remove local, state and Department of Transportation authority over transportation of the waste; change budget procedures so that program funding could be increased more easily; and repeal the statutory cap on the amount of nuclear waste the Administration proposes to store at the site.

Nuclear safety. On April 4, 2006, the GAO released an audit finding that the weakening of NRC safety regulations for nuclear reactors appeared to be based on industry demands, not objective assessments of terrorist threats.  The regulations require that plants have the ability to withstand certain threat scenarios but not others, including a rocket-propelled grenade or large truck bomb.

Superfund accounting. On February 28, 2006, the EPA’s Inspector General released a report finding that administrative and accounting problems are leaving less money for cleanup accounts.  The report also found that EPA’s model to assess needed personnel and funding for projects is outdated.

Superfund. On September 30, 2005, the EPA’s Inspector General released a report noting a significant decrease in Superfund project funding, causing a backlog of project proposals.  At the same time, administrative expenditures have increased by $38.6 million between 1999 and 2003.

Toxics. On September 21, 2005, the Administration proposed limiting reporting requirements on businesses that release toxic emissions.  EPA proposed changing  reporting requirements to the Toxics Release Inventory from annual to biennial reports and increasing the emission threshold for more detailed reports from 500 to 5,000 pounds of toxic emissions.

Human testing.  On September 7, 2005, the EPA released draft rules regarding testing of pesticides, claiming that no tests including pregnant women or children were valid.  In fact, the rule allows for abused or neglected children to be exposed to chemicals without the permission of a parent or guardian.

Nuclear waste. On August 22, 2005, the EPA proposed a revised radiation exposure standard for Yucca Mountain that is nearly 25 times weaker than the original standard rejected by a federal district court.

Nuclear security. On July 27, 2005, the GAO released a study in which it found that security at DOE facilities containing nuclear or radioactive materials that could be used by terrorists had several weaknesses.


Chemical safety. On July 13, 2005, the GAO released a report concluding that EPA lacks sufficient data regarding toxic chemicals to protect public health.  The EPA has not banned a chemical from production since asbestos in 1989.

Human testing. On July 5, 2005, the Baltimore Sun  reported that senior EPA scientists and lawyers called the new rules regarding testing of pesticides on humans “dangerous” in an internal memo to the author of the draft rules.

Human testing.  On June 28, 2005, the Washington Post reported that draft rules issued by the EPA would allow pesticide manufacturers to test some chemicals on human subjects when seeking government approval without applying all the testing safeguards recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

Human testing.  On June 16, 2005, Congressional staff released a report confirming that EPA continues to use data from tests by industry that intentionally exposed humans to pesticides to decide whether it approves certain pesticides.

Toxics. On March 29, 2005, the EPA issued new guidelines to determine whether a chemical causes cancer.  The new guidelines require more evidence of the link to cancer and would generally allow higher exposure to toxic substances.

Falsified data. On March 16, 2005, the Bush Administration announced that federal employees working on the Yucca Mountain project falsified scientific documents and data.  The Energy Department is using the falsified data to support its claim that water could not penetrate the Yucca Mountain facility and cause radiation to leak out into the groundwater.

Electronics recycling. On January 21, 2005, the Bush Administration decided not to require electronic waste to be recycled.  EPA drafted rules for a voluntary program for recycling electronic waste, which contains lead and beryllium. 

Global Warming

Censoring climate data. On November 2, 2006, the Inspectors General of NASA and the Commerce Department began investigating reports that the Bush Administration blocked publication of research supporting the view that human activity is causing global warming.


Suppressing science. On September 26, 2006, the journal Nature reported that officials at the Commerce Department blocked release of a report in May 2006 that said the suggestion that global warming may be contributing to stronger hurricanes is part of the current state of hurricane science.  The report was to be circulated in a press kit at the beginning of hurricane season.  


Climate technology. On September 20, 2006, the Administration announced a “strategic plan” on climate technology that lists current technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the long term but lacks a near-term strategy and plans to promote market penetration of these technologies.

Restricting access to NASA scientist. On September 19, 2006, internal e-mails between officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  revealed that the Administration denied a CNBC request to interview NOAA scientist Tom Knutson because he has published studies that suggest global warming could increase hurricane strength.  Dr. Knutson said in February 2006 that he felt censored by the Bush Administration because of his studies’ conclusions.


NASA climate science. On July 22, 2006, the New York Times reported that NASA released a new mission statement that excluded the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” as one of the core functions of NASA.  Scientists at NASA say the change disrupts research plans and promotes space research at the expense of projects aimed at researching manmade climate change.

Neglecting emissions cut program.  On May 25, 2006, the GAO released a report finding that federal voluntary programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lack effective management to ensure participants are meeting their reduction goals.  The report studied the EPA’s Climate Leaders Program and the DOE’s Climate VISION program.

Increasing emissions. On April 17, 2006, the EPA released a report showing that greenhouse gas emissions in the United States grew by 1.7 percent from 2003 to 2004, nearly triple the 0.6 percent increase from 2002 to 2003.

Restricting state greenhouse gas controls.  On March 29, 2006, the Bush Administration finalized its rule revising the vehicle classification system in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAF