Kerry Slams Bush Environmental Record
TAMPA BAY, Florida, April 21, 2004 (ENS) - President George W. Bush has "put the brakes on 30 years of environmental progress," Democratic challenger John Kerry told a Florida audience Tuesday. Kerry said Bush has consistently favored polluters over public health and land conservation under the guise of balancing economic and environmental concerns.
The Bush administration uses the "same tired old argument that you cannot have a clean environment if you want a strong economy," Kerry said. "They are wrong. We can have both."
"Protecting the environment is not just about doing what is right to preserve our land and water," Kerry said. "It is also about protecting our economy and our public health. They are all connected. Under my plan, a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand."
With an eye on Thursday's commemoration of Earth Day, the Kerry campaign has released a report criticizing the Bush administration's clean air and water policies, its opposition to a ban on the fuel additive MTBE, and its failure to fully fund the National Park Service and the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program.
Bush is the "worst environmental President since Earth Day started 34 years ago," the Kerry campaign says.
The Massachusetts senator has also repeatedly blasted Bush for his support of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for failing to promote clean and renewable energy development.
Kerry said Bush is using "empty slogans like 'The Clear Skies Initiative' or 'Healthy Forest'" to mislead the public about the true intent of such policies.
The Clear Skies plan, according to the Kerry campaign, will result in 100,000 premature deaths, millions more cases of asthma, and 21 million tons more pollution than enforcement of the existing Clean Air Act.
Kerry's criticisms of Bush's environmental record are "purely political and ignore the progress that has been made under President Bush," according to a statement by Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt.
"Our air is cleaner and our water is cleaner than before the President took office," Schmidt said.
Environmental organizations, which have been consistent and vocal critics of the Bush administration, say that statement is misleading.
They contend that largely through regulatory changes the President has slowed the progress of environmental improvement and undermined protection of public lands.
On Tuesday, three national groups launched a new grassroots effort with the single goal of defeating Bush and replacing him with John Kerry in November.
The newly formed Environmental Victory Project includes the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, Friends of the Earth Action and the League of Conservation Voters.
Whether the environment will emerge as much an issue for voters in November is very much up for debate.
This year's Gallup Environmental Earth Day poll, released this month, finds Americans worry less about environmental issues than they did before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
But the poll suggested that Bush's environmental image has suffered somewhat, in particular during the past two years.
The data show a continued decline in the percentage of Americans saying that Bush is doing a good job of "protecting the nation's environment," with 46 percent of Americans saying the president is doing a "poor job" on environmental protection - compared to 41 percent who said he is doing a "good job."
In the wake of the U.S. Oceans Commission report released Tuesday after three years of research, Kerry used his Tuesday speech to unveil his own plan for cleaner oceans. He noted the importance of coastal waters to the U.S. economy - these areas support some 28.3 million jobs and generate $54 billion in goods and services.
Recreational fishing, Kerry added, generates some $116 billion in annual revenue.
But beach closings were at a record high in 2002 because of disease causing pollution, Kerry told the Tampa audience, with 92 percent of the closures caused by waste from animals or humans.
Kerry pledged four steps to protect the oceans and coastal waters:
"We are going to protect our rivers and our bays and our oceans because we want our children to enjoy them," said Kerry. "We do not want them to get sick from them because George Bush and Dick Cheney think their friends at the energy companies deserve to make a buck at the expense of our kids' health - our kids' future."
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