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Bush, Udall give opposing takes on environmental policy


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George W. Bush
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U.S. Rep. Mark Udall

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a radio address geared to Earth Day, President Bush Saturday touted his environmental record and trumpeted a wetlands initiative to restore "at least 3 million acres over the next five years."

In the Democratic response, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado stated that "under President Bush, we have basically sold out our environment for the profit of the special interests."

President Bush's new initiative marks a shift in administration policy from one of "no net loss" to an expansion of the country's wetlands.

"This new wetlands policy reflects an enduring national commitment, carried forward by both parties, to protecting the environment," said Bush.

In the wake of a week of Earth Day activities, President Bush also enumerated the measures that his administration have taken on behalf of the environment as those "based on sound science and good economics."

"We are regulating mercury emissions from power plants for the first time ever. Under our new proposal mercury emissions will be cut by approximately 70 percent," Bush said.

Bush also mentioned his Clear Skies legislation, sent to Congress last year, as a measure that "will reduce the major causes of ozone and fine particles by 70 percent."

Calling for a "new direction on the environment" Udall accused the president and the Republicans of "trying to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act."

"Instead of forcing polluters to pay to clean up the mess they have made, the Republicans have made it easier for them to pollute our air and our water," Udall said.

Using figures from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Udall stated that the Bush administration approved 300 separate actions "that undermine the progress we have made in protecting the environment."

"They are trying to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act -- a step the American Lung Association says is the most harmful and unlawful air pollution initiative ever undertaken by the federal government," Udall said.

Bush also proposed a new rule that would remove sulfur from diesel fuels similar to the rule that led to the removal of lead from gasoline.

Saying his "brownfield" initiative has created more than 25,000 jobs, Bush said that, "Between 2001 and 2003, we restored over 1,000 brownfields to usable condition, more than were restored in the previous seven years."

The president also said his forest initiative bill "opens millions of acres of forest land to vital thinning projects. And by expediting the environmental review process, and directing courts to consider long-term threats to forest health, the law allows us to protect more of our nation's precious forests."

The Democrats' Udall took the administration to task for abandoning the "polluter pays" rule that in 1995 provided 82 percent of the funding to the Superfund, saying that such a move instead shifts "the burden onto the backs of individual taxpayers."

Udall said that the Bush administration "talks a good game" on reducing wildfire risks but doesn't give the Forest Service and other land agencies the resources they need to do the job.

Vowing to fight to clean up "toxic waste sites, to keep our air and water clean, to reduce harmful emissions from coal-fired plants," Udall also promised that Democrats would hold the line on a no drilling policy in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Bush administration wants to open the refuge to drilling.

Udall said, "It's a 100 percent sure bet, drilling would change everything in this area, and it will never be wilderness again."


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