Questioning the ?Clear Skies Initiative? 

Last week I received a disturbing letter from Jack Kingston, the House Representative for Georgia’s first district.

This letter referred to the Clear Skies legislation being urged into approval by the Bush Administration. Upon reading Kingston’s letter I had to re-research my entire stance.

His description of a program that "will eliminate 35 million more tons of pollution than the current Clean Air Act" and "will do this through the use of a market-based system that guarantees results while keeping electricity prices affordable for the American people" left me baffled. So, I did my research.

"The Clear Skies Initiative is a new environmental approach that will clean our skies, bring greater health to our citizens and encourage environmentally responsible development in America and around the world," said President Bush recently to a science panel at NOAA.

Sadly, I do not understand how this can be true. Scientists for the National Resources Defense Council claim that compared to the existing Clean Air Act, the proposed initiative would allow three times more toxic mercury emissions, 50 percent more sulfur emissions, and hundreds of thousands more tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

The only reason it is claimed under the Bush administration jargon to eliminate 35 million more tons of pollution than current law is because those laws are not being enforced.

In the 1990s, under the Clinton Administration, technology was mastered that would eliminate over 90 percent of global warming pollutants by the year 2008. However, under the Clear Skies Initiative these numbers change to a reduction of 70 percent of pollutants by the year 2018. That is ten more years with 20 percent less reduction.

In 2001, President Bush convened an energy policy task force, chaired by Vice President Cheney. The task force sought extensive advice from energy industry executives and incorporated many of their recommendations into its plan.

Just days after a scientific panel urged the government to warn pregnant women and children about the dangers of mercury in fish and water, the Bush Administration proposed to give power plants 15 years to install technology to reduce mercury pollution.

Last fall 12 states and several Northeast cities sued the EPA to block the Clear Air rules, which they argue will weaken protections for the environment and public health. Last month the President of Shell Oil expressed his concerns over global warming.

And the United Nations just released a statement stating that by the year 2025 over 125 million people will be displaced by desertification, an environmental result of global warming.

Voices are speaking out. But is anyone listening?

The EPA estimates more than 120 million Americans live in unhealthy areas with asthma, emphysema, and premature death rates rising. Recently, the American Lung Association released their State of the Air 2004 Report.

And we citizens of the Coastal Empire are certainly not the healthiest bunch. High levels of particulate waste from industries and power plants have given our air quality the grade of C.

According to this report nearly 5,000 children in Chatham County suffer from asthma along with nearly 13,000 adults. 8,000 citizens suffer from chronic bronchitis and 2,500 have emphysema.

I fear that Republicans and Democrats alike who strive for our best have been deeply misled by industry lobbyists who say environmental initiatives are not cost effective. This dollar talk in the wake of corporate scandals dictates the legislation that sits before our representatives. It is obviously not based on scientific data.

And, it is obviously not a Republican problem. Bush, a Republican, wishes to gut all of the standards Nixon, a Republican, created in the 1970s.

Mr. Kingston, I beg you to examine the facts. People throughout America and in your district are suffering, are dying from the effects of pollution. The state of the environment is not something that can be lightly discussed.

We already buy massive quantities of bottled water, are told to avoid eating certain foods, are told to stay inside on smoggy days in big cities, and are hooked to our inhalers to help us breathe.

Please, Mr. Kingston, 15 years is too long. Reconsider the Clear Skies Initiative before deciding how best to represent your constituents.

To address your concerns:

Rep. Jack Kingston
One Diamond Causeway
Suite 7
Savannah, GA 31406

About The Author

Bethany Jewell

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