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[GreenYes] Whitman Calls for Patience on Environmental Policies Article: Whitman Calls for Patience on Environmental Policies

Whitman Calls for Patience on Environmental Policies


WASHINGTON, April 6  Under fire for a Bush administration seen as
hostile to the environment, Christie Whitman, administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency, issued a plea for patience today,
saying critics had been too quick to denounce early decisions.

 On global warming and arsenic in drinking water, the two areas in
which reversals by the White House have attracted the most
criticism, Mrs. Whitman said the administration was working hard to
develop better, more balanced policies than those that had been set

 But in her first address to a major environmental organization,
Mrs. Whitman met with considerable skepticism. After she left the
podium, the head of the National Wildlife Federation, which has a
bipartisan, middle-of-the-road reputation, appealed to her "to call
a truce in what is beginning to look like a war on the

 "We can't stand idly by and watch what is beginning to look like a
cascade of efforts to roll back progress on the environment," said
Mark Van Putten, the president of the wildlife federation, which
had not joined other environmental groups in their criticism of the

 The tense exchange at a hotel here came as the administration was
facing sharper criticism from other environmental groups, one of
which has already called for Mrs. Whitman's resignation, and from
Congressional Democrats who have urged the White House to
reconsider many of its early environmental actions.

 The environmental group that has called for Mrs. Whitman's
resignation is Friends of the Earth, which endorsed former Vice
President Al Gore last fall. The organization said Mrs. Whitman's
defense of the administration positions cost her any credibility as
a moderate.

 Mrs. Whitman, the former New Jersey governor, had advised the
White House against its decision to come out against the Kyoto
treaty on global warming. But in her address today, and in comments
to reporters afterward, she assumed the role of a committed
loyalist, saying she "obviously" did not agree with Mr. Van
Putten's characterization and offering the most extensive defense
to date of the administration's environmental policy making.

 Mrs. Whitman told reporters that critics had been exaggerating the
impact of "one or two decisions that people might disagree with"
while minimizing others generally seen as more favorable to the
environment. One of those decisions left in place a Clinton
administration rule forcing drastic reductions in emissions of
pollutants by buses and big trucks, even though that action had
been opposed by the oil industry.

 On arsenic, on which the Bush administration abandoned a strict
drinking-water standard approved by the Clinton administration,
Mrs. Whitman said for the first time that "there's a very good
likelihood" that a review now under way might result in a
recommendation of an even tougher standard.

 On global warming, Mrs. Whitman elaborated on earlier defenses of
the administration's decisions to set aside the Kyoto treaty and to
reverse a campaign promise to regulate power plants' emissions of
carbon dioxide. Both actions have been criticized within the United
States and abroad.

 Mrs. Whitman said President Bush "wants to be proactive on the
issue; he wants to move forward."

 "But I think you'll agree," she said, "that we are better off
moving forward than fighting battles we may have already lost." 

 Mrs. Whitman's comment was an allusion to the strong sentiment
against the Kyoto accord that the Senate expressed in 1997, even
before the treaty was signed. 

 In place of the treaty's approach, which would have required the
United States and other industrialized countries to meet strict
standards for reductions of emissions of heat- trapping gases, Mrs.
Whitman said the administration was seeking to develop an
alternative that would emphasize "technology, market- based
incentives and other innovative approaches."

 Outside the room where Mrs. Whitman spoke, the National Wildlife
Federation had posted signs calling the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge in Alaska "too wild to drill," a rallying cry in opposition
to another administration policy.

 Mrs. Whitman did not explicitly defend the administration's effort
to win Congressional approval for oil drilling in the refuge. But
she did express frustration at the difficulty the administration
faced in coming up with new supplies of energy.

 "Nobody wants to drill for oil because of what that might do to
the environment," Mrs. Whitman told reporters. "No one wants oil
transmission pipelines because they blow up. No one want to talk
about nuclear energy. And even windmills kill birds because they're
in the flyway."

 The administration is facing deadlines that could force decisions
on other environmental issues.

 By April 17, it must decide whether to leave in place a Clinton
administration rule that would sharply lower the threshold for
companies that must make public details about their emissions of
lead, which can cause severe health problems. 

 Other policies under review include a reassessment of regulations
on dioxin and a plan, approved but not put into effect by the
Clinton administration, to regulate emissions of mercury from power

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