- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Environmental rollbacks from the Bush administration “in the dead of the night” are history, the incoming head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee declared yesterday.

“That’s over. We are going to bring these things into the light,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said in a wide-ranging interview laying out her agenda with the Associated Press. She cited concerns about a host of new Bush administration rules on air, land and water quality.

Mrs. Boxer expressed optimism that Congress could reach agreement with President Bush on a global warming bill, but acknowledged she might not get all she hopes for. Mr. Bush has opposed mandatory regulation of industrial carbon dioxide.

“I have no line in the sand. … Even a little step will look like a big step,” she said. “I very much want the environment to go back to being a nonpartisan issue.”

Mrs. Boxer’s rise marks not only a sharp turn in the nation’s environmental leadership, but in Democrats’ ability to question and demand documents on the administration’s decisions.

“Any kind of weakening of environmental laws or secrecy or changes in the dead of night — it’s over,” Mrs. Boxer said. “We’re going to for once, finally, make this committee an environment committee, not an anti-environment committee. … This is a sea change that is coming to this committee.”

Mrs. Boxer’s first hearing next month will focus on ways to address global warming, including her goal of imposing the nation’s first mandatory caps on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

“This is a potential crisis of a magnitude we’ve never seen,” she said.

Mrs. Boxer said she would model federal legislation after a new California law that imposed the first statewide limit on greenhouse gases and seeks to cut California’s emissions by 25 percent, dropping them to 1990 levels by 2020.

“Real goals, real percentages,” Mrs. Boxer said of what she is seeking nationally, though she added that along with being an idealist, she’s also a realist — and hopes above all to get some form of new regulations started.

Several world leaders have called Mrs. Boxer expressing their hope for a new day in U.S. environmental policy, she said, adding that “we want to send a signal to the world.”

To help pay to clean up Superfund sites, the nation’s most contaminated ones, Mrs. Boxer said she will push to reinstate a special tax on oil and chemical industries and other businesses. She also plans to hold field hearings in Louisiana on the environmental effects of Hurricane Katrina.

On another matter, Mrs. Boxer said the government should provide health care for sick September 11 workers, vigorously endorsing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plan for a long-term ground-zero care program.

Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democrat, has estimated that sick workers would need an average of $5,800 a year in health care.

After September 11, the government spent $90 million on health-monitoring programs and this year spent an additional $75 million — the first federal dollars specifically for treatment.

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