- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

WILMINGTON, N.Y. President Bush yesterday used the 33rd annual Earth Day to tout his "Clear Skies" legislation, which would reduce toxic air pollution by nearly 70 percent by 2018.
Mr. Bush wants Congress to approve mandatory limits on the output of three pollutants acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide, smog-causing nitrogen oxide and mercury, a toxic chemical that contaminates waterways and goes up the food chain through fish to humans. He wants to let companies work out how to achieve these limits through a system of earning and trading credits.
Under the bill, the president said, "America will do more to reduce power-plant emissions than ever before in our nation's history.
"We will reach our ambitious air-quality goals through a market-based approach that rewards innovation, reduces cost and most importantly guarantees results. Mine is a results-oriented administration. When we say we expect results, we mean it," he said.
"We will set mandatory limits on air pollution with firm deadlines, while giving companies the flexibility to find the best ways to meet the mandatory limits," Mr. Bush said, drawing applause.
The president picked this Adirondack town about 10 miles from Lake Placid for his Earth Day speech because the 6-million-acre mountain park, the largest in the continental United States, features a symbiotic relationship between nature and man. Virtually none of the land is off-limits to visitors and hundreds of volunteers help marshal the throngs of visitors each year.
"This is the people's land. It's not just one person's land," Mr. Bush said. "In the north country of New York, you have chosen the way of cooperation. Private organizations, landowners, government at all levels are working with each other as opposed to against each other."
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman said the president's proposal "would virtually do away with [the federal parks] acid-rain problem in the next 10 years."
"Clear Skies legislation, when passed by Congress, will significantly reduce smog and mercury emissions as well as stop acid rain," Mr. Bush said yesterday.
The president took a jab at critics who said he was beholden to energy conglomerates when he noted the bill "will put more money directly into programs to reduce pollution, so as to meet firm national air-quality goals, and put less money into the pockets of lawyers and regulators."
Before his speech at the Whiteface Mountain Lodge, Mr. Bush, wearing khaki pants, a tan park service jacket and work gloves, strolled along a trail near the Ausable River in a park where he said Theodore Roosevelt "used to hang out."
Mr. Bush, who before September 11 had made a push to improve the nation's parks and increase accessibility, said, "The people closest to the land are those who probably love the land more than folks in Washington, D.C. And this is a way to make sure that power and money get out of Washington for the good of the environment."
His 2000 election opponent, former Vice President Al Gore, gave his own speech yesterday about the environment, charging that the Bush administration was controlled by large energy industries.
"There's a movement afoot by polluters who have undue influence in this administration in fact, they're pretty much in charge of the energy and environment policies of this administration and they have a movement to dismantle America's capacity to limit the releases of dangerous waste products and poisonous emissions threatening to take us back to the days when America's rivers and lakes were dying, when the skylines were some days not visible because of the smog, and when toxic waste threatened so many communities around America," Mr. Gore said in a speech at Vanderbilt University to about 200 students and environmental activists.
Asked about Mr. Gore's criticism, the president said he "hadn't paid attention to him." Told that Mr. Gore criticized Mr. Bush's environmental record, the president responded by saying: "That's why I haven't paid attention to him."


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