- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2001

EPA supports laws good for both industry and environment

Unfortunately, Kenneth D. Smith's Jan. 4 Op-Ed column "Only EPA knows" got the facts wrong on the Environmental Protection Agency's support of self-audits as well as on the Colorado self-audit law.

The EPA has consistently supported state policies that provide incentives for self-disclosure and has had a policy in place since 1995 that rewards companies that self-police, disclose and correct their violations.

The EPA does not, however, approve of laws that undermine a state's enforcement authority by providing loopholes that allow polluters to hide important information from the state and its residents. Neither does it approve of laws that take away the state's ability to respond to serious threats to public health and the environment.

Over the years, a number of states have enacted self-audit laws with positive results. Regrettably, some of these laws had unnecessary provisions that allowed companies to keep information on harmful pollution and public health effects secret or provided broad immunity for environmental crimes. The EPA worked successfully with many states, such as Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, to close the loopholes in these laws.

Although Colorado's original 1994 audit law encouraged voluntary self-policing, it also had loopholes that allowed polluters to hide environmental and public health information and gave them an unfair economic advantage over those that complied with the law. It denied the state authority to prosecute criminal violations and to assess penalties in cases involving serious threats and imminent hazard to public health and the environment.

The EPA has worked continuously to fix these problems, and recently there has been significant bipartisan cooperation among Colorado officials and the EPA to fix the law.

In May 2000, Colorado Senate Leader Ray Powers and House Speaker Russ George, both Republicans, co-sponsored a bill, with the support of Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar and Republican Gov. Bill Owens, which closed the loopholes and encourages companies to use the Colorado self-audit law. Now businesses in Colorado can operate in an atmosphere that encourages voluntary self-policing, and residents can be assured that they will have access to important information and that serious violations will be dealt with appropriately.

In short, everyone benefits.

Mr. Smith also erred in his claim that the EPA targets companies on the bases of their self-disclosure. The EPA wants companies to find, disclose, fix and prevent environmental problems. The agency's long-standing national policy provides positive incentives for self-auditing. The vast majority of self-disclosures result in zero or minimal penalties and positive effects for the environment.

It is the EPA's written policy that it has not, and will not, routinely request copies of audit reports to trigger enforcement investigations. To date, under the EPA's policy, 1,050 firms such as GTE, General Electric, ARCO and Sunbeam-Oster have disclosed violations at 4,900 facilities nationally.

STEVEN A. HERMAN

Assistant administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

Washington

Ashcroft will enforce rule of law

The Democrats are fomenting turmoil with their preliminary attacks on the nomination of former Sen. John Ashcroft for attorney general. It leaves one wondering if the Democrats are interested in the welfare of the country or simply playing "gotcha."

Do Democrats want to see the laws of our land administered more stringently? Or would they prefer the lax enforcement that has characterized the last eight years of the Clinton administration.

Agree with Mr. Ashcroft's views or not, but be certain that he is a man of principle who will support the rule of law in this land.

We need to return integrity not only to the White House, but to the office of the attorney general as well.

KATHRYN L. VAN HEYNINGER

Palm Harbor, Fla.

Civil War not a 'War Between the States'

I enjoyed reading Martha M. Boltz's article on Cmdr. James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Confederate seaman who moved to England after the Civil War.("Ceremony in England honors Southern patriots," Jan. 6).

Compliments aside, my purpose in writing is to object to an inappropriate reference to the Civil War. As is becoming increasingly common, Ms. Boltz uses the phrase, "War Between the States." This term is both inaccurate and misleading.

This term implies that the Civil War was merely an armed disagreement between Pennsylvania and Virginia; New York and Alabama; Michigan and Georgia; etc. As I am sure Ms. Boltz will agree, what we had was an armed rebellion by an amalgamation of state governments against the federal government. In no sense was this a "war between states."

In fact, the first act of war was the firing on a federal government facility (Fort Sumter), by armed forces operating under the authority of the illegal Confederate government. No individual state actions were involved. Rather, it was an insurrection and, in that sense, is properly defined as a "civil war."

I look forward to Ms. Boltz's next article with the hope that both she, and The Washington Times, will strive for both authenticity and accuracy.

BRIAN BERGIN

Arlington

National testing provides common measure for student achievement

In "We need teaching, not additional testing," (Family Times, Jan. 2) Michael Farris claims that national testing serves no purpose. He compares it to taking children's temperatures but not treating the child.

The fact is: National tests provide a fair and accurate measure of our academic health as a nation.

A national test is consistent throughout the nation. State tests, important as they are, vary in what they measure and how they are graded. Without a common measure, parents, employers and policy-makers cannot find out how the performance of local schools compares to those in other states or nations.

In today's global economy, parents want to know whether their children have the skills to get a good job.

Only a national test can measure whether local schools will help their students compete in the global workplace, and whether their relative achievement is improving. That is why the National Education Goals Panel wants the information and other evidence of progress available on a regular basis.

This information does not dictate cookie-cutter approaches in the classroom. It can enable creativity and innovation in local schools. It also can help local schools find ways to meet the needs of their students.

EMILY WURTZ

Acting executive director

National Education Goals Panel

Washington


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