GOP makes move on environmental initiatives
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MARCH 21, 2001

Pleasing foes of the Clinton administration, a Republican-controlled White House on Tuesday moved to rescind a number of the former President's environmental initiatives.

Arguing that the action wouldn't affect the drinking supplies of Americans all over the country, Environmental Protection Agency Administration Christie Whitman announced she would would rescind her department's pending arsenic regulation. Issued on January 22, the rule reduced the acceptable level of arsenic in water from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb, but Whitman said its costs outweighed the potential benefit

"I want to be sure that the conclusions about arsenic in the rule are supported by the best available science," said Whitman. "When the federal government imposes costs on communities -- especially small communities -- we should be sure the facts support imposing the federal standard."

Critics of the stricter standard like Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) quickly praised Whitman's decision. In February, he pressed Whitman to rescind the rules, which he said were based on "insufficient science" and had introduced a bill to recall them.

Domenici also said that while rivers in his state have higher levels of arsenic than normal, residents have a lower incidence rate of diseases associated with arsenic, such as cancer. But supporters like Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) challenged Domenici's notion that no studies have proved arsenic is a health risk.

"In abandoning this new standard, the EPA is ignoring the very real threat to human health posed by the levels of arsenic found in drinking water," said Reid. "Science has already proven that arsenic can cause several types of cancer, and any further delay in reducing levels in drinking water places millions of families in my home state of Nevada and across the nation at risk."

Over at the Department of Interior, officials confirmed yesterday that Secretary Gale Norton would formally rescind the Bureau of Land Management's pending hard-rock mining regulations. Issued January 20, they rules impose stricter standards on companies who want to mine on public lands.

Known as the "3809" regulations, they give BLM officials more power to reject new mining on public lands. Mining companies can also be forced to post bonds that would pay for future contamination cleanups and supporters, including Freshman Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), believe they protect public lands that might otherwise be developed under an 1872 mining law.

Cantwell had asked Norton during her confirmation hearings about the regulations and said they were "essential for protecting the natural resources on public lands." Although Norton acknowledged she understood the rules were "controversial," she said she had yet to review them.

But like Whitman, Norton will now submit new versions of the targeted regulations to the rule-making process. It is possible, although highly unlikely, that the Republican versions of the rules will contain similar provisions to the Clinton ones.

Relevant Links:
The Environmental Protection Agency -
The Bureau of Land Management -