Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor Gary Locke's Radio Address
March 31, 2001

Good morning.

I'm Governor Gary Locke.

I am from Washington State, and where I come from, when we talk about the natural environment and protecting public health, we take these problems very, very seriously.

We're meeting today by radio. So let me describe what's before me. Right next to the microphone, I have a glass of water. Cool, clear and clean, the sort of drinking water that all of us hope to have.

We take clean water for granted and we shouldn't. It quenches our thirst, feeds our plants and wildlife, and is essential to leading and living healthy lives.

But the safety of our drinking water -- along with many other important parts of our environment -- is coming under attack, and the person leading that charge is none other than President George W. Bush.

In his barely two months in office, President Bush has led an assault on the environment, the likes of which our country has not seen in decades.

In an already long list of actions that will harm environmental quality, one of the most egregious was his recent announcement that he would roll back regulations that limit the amounts of arsenic in our drinking water.

Here are a few facts. The current environmental standard limiting the amount of arsenic in our water is almost fifty years old. Since then, scientists have discovered alarming evidence about the dangers of arsenic in water. Last year the Clinton Administration proposed tougher rules to reduce the amount of arsenic in our drinking water. The new standard would have lowered arsenic levels by 80 percent.

Why such a drastic cut? Because 11 million Americans have drinking water with dangerous levels of arsenic, and the problems associated with high arsenic levels are truly frightening. According to a 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences, arsenic in drinking water causes lung, bladder and skin cancer, and may cause liver and kidney cancer, too. The study also said that arsenic harms the central nervous systems, heart and blood vessels and may cause birth defects and reproductive problems.

The report concluded that the old arsenic standard, "does not achieve the Environmental Protection Agency's goal for public health protection, and, therefore, requires downward revision as promptly as possible." But President Bush decided to ignore that.

So why did George Bush cut back on protections against arsenic in our drinking water? Is he pro-arsenic? Of course not. The problem is that special interests, and not George Bush, seem to be controlling America's environmental safety programs.

It is the wealthy donors and the special interests that helped put him in the White House who want to loosen environmental controls.

On the campaign trail, then-Governor Bush promised that he would place limits on the level of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere. But right after he got into the White House, that pledge went out the window because it would have been too expensive for his supporters in the coal and other energy businesses.

Two days later, the President announced that he thought our national parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, have great potential for oil drilling and exploration. Less than a week later, regulations were repealed to make it easier for mining companies to avoid paying fines for causing pollution.

Those are just a few of the anti-environmental initiatives launched by the Bush Administration. But even with just those few, it should be clear that our environment is being sacrificed at the altar of the special interests.

The American people want safe drinking water and a clean environment, for ourselves and for our children. And this is not a partisan issue: a safer environment is something Democrats and Republicans have spent years and years fighting for. And that fight - for clean air, safe drinking water, and protections of America's natural resources - continues to this day.

We urge the President -- in the strongest terms -- to protect our environment, and to shift his priorities away from the special interests and back to the people he swore to protect. We can never be so short sighted that we forget that there are generations who will follow us. It's difficult to believe anyone would need a reason to safeguard the fundamentals of life, but if the President needs a reason, he should look no further than the water in his own drinking glass.

Thank you for listening.
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