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Senate Gags EPA and Enviro-groups

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The EPA budget just passed by the Senate contains the equivalent of a gag order that could effectively silence EPA's efforts to inform the public about pending congressional actions affecting health and the environment. The bill prohibits "any activity or the publication or distribution of any literature" that could be construed as publicly speaking to the merits, pro or con, of "any legislative proposal on which congressional action is not complete." In addition, any recipient of an EPA grant - such as states and environmental groups -- could be subject to the same restrictions.

The bill also contains report language seemingly designed to facilitate legal challenges by the auto and petroleum industries against EPA's proposals for the toughest tailpipe standards ever for new cars and SUV's and for cleaner fuels.

The Senate cut $196 million from programs which form the backbone of national environmental efforts. These cuts seriously imperil the enforcement of our laws, the protection of America's drinking water, the clearing of our air, the protection of our rivers and lakes, and direct assistance to states for implementing crucial local programs. The Senate also provided "earmarks" for at least $197 million in special "home" projects that funnel money away from national programs that benefit all Americans. In addition to cutting Superfund by $100 million, the bill finances half of the Superfund cleanup program from general tax revenue. This violates the long-held principle of "polluter pays" and forces taxpayers to pick up the tab for toxic- waste cleanups instead of the responsible industrial polluters. And the President's Clean Air Partnership, which would make money available to individual communities to help them solve their local air pollution problems, would be completely zeroed out.

We still hope to work together with Congress for a final bill that ensures that the public health and environment of the American people will be protected as we enter the 21st Century.
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