Governor says EPA comments out of touch and scientifically baseless'

MONTPELIER, Vt. Governor Jim Douglas today criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying the Bush administration is unwilling to provide effective national leadership on environmental issues. In a strongly worded letter to Administrator Stephen Johnson, the Governor said the EPAs criticism of Vermonts efforts to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain was out of touch and scientifically baseless. Governor Douglas was responding to communication from an EPA regional staffer, which suggested Vermont lacks the policies and practices to protect and improve the states natural resources. You wont find another state doing as much to protect its natural resources. This EPA, on the other hand, has a record of working to move Americas environmental policies in the wrong direction and Im proud of our largely successful efforts to stop them, Governor Douglas said Tuesday. While Im disappointed, Im not surprised they would adopt a poorly informed and hypocritical position on a matter of such significance. This is just another example, among many, of how out of touch they are with the most pressing environmental challenges we face and the science that supports our actions. In his letter to Administrator Johnson, Douglas challenges the EPA on its own rules and the significant advances Vermont has made in water-quality efforts. Vermonts Clean and Clear Action Plan, which I created in September 2003, is considered a national model for implementing water-quality efforts, Douglas wrote. In fact, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources scientists are routinely invited to present Vermonts ground-breaking water-quality programs to other state environmental agencies, the National Academies of Science and your own EPA regional offices. Over the last several years, Vermont has invested more than $43 million in state funding, added more than 30 personnel and coordinated state action between the agencies of Natural Resources and Agriculture to work more closely with watershed partners. Over the same time, the EPA has cut Clean Water Act program funding to Vermont by almost 25 percent, from $9.6 million to $7.3 million. The dedicated scientists and biologists who have led the charge on the most forward-thinking environmental protections do so from the knowledge that we are a rural state, where our economic livelihood, traditions and quality of life are rooted in environmental stewardship, Douglas wrote. That is the Vermont Way. This is not the first time that Vermont has had serious disagreements with the EPA. Vermont has challenged the agency over its lack of oversight in the case of International Papers attempts to burn tires at its Ticonderoga, N.Y. plant. Vermont has also opposed the administrations miscellaneous proposals to weaken federal environmental rules that govern air quality, including joining with eight other states in 2005 to challenge the EPAs mercury rule, which failed to protect against harmful mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. This year, Vermont will begin receiving $1.8 million as its share of a multi-state settlement against American Electric Power Corp., the countrys largest coal-fired power plant operator. AEP went on to pay the largest civil penalty of its type to the U.S. government and another $60 million to update its power plants. And Vermont continues to appeal the EPAs politically driven denial of the tailpipe emissions waiver for Vermont, California and the 13 other states, which has cost both time and resources in dealing with climate change, one of the most pressing environmental issues of this century.

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