According to administration records released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), President Bush''s budget plan for the next fiscal year includes "significant cuts in the number of inspections, investigations and enforcement actions that could be undertaken by EPA."
"Bush''s environmental enforcement plan is a shell game," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization represents both EPA and state enforcement professionals. "Cutting inspections makes it harder to track compliance, thus impeding targeted enforcement. At the same time, Bush is also slashing the very scientific staff needed to identify what the priority public health needs are."
Compared with the current fiscal year, the Bush proposed EPA budget would reduce inspections of facilities by 12 percent; criminal investigations by 11 percent; and civil investigations by 20 percent, according to information from PEER.
Ruch said that with respect to the shift of enforcement authority to the states, the Bush plan admits several times that a series of EPA Inspector General reports in 1997 and 1998 found grave problems with the inability of states to identify or prosecute significant environmental violators.
"Despite admitting serious weaknesses with state enforcement efforts, the Bush plan cuts nearly 200 employees from EPA whose jobs are to assure accountability for the federal dollars spent by the states," added Rush. "Bush''s plan allows states to attract industry by pursuing a race to the bottom of environmental protection."
by Virginia Sutcliffe