Apr 25, 2001

Bush Defends Environmental Plans

President Bush insists that he is committed to clean air and water, but will ``make decisions based upon sound science, not some environmental fad or what may sound good.''

Bush used an awards ceremony for youths taking part in environmental activities Tuesday to defend his efforts. He attempted to clarify his position in a round of television interviews aired Wednesday morning.

``There are some extremists in our country that just will never agree to what I try to do because I also happen to believe that economic growth and the environment are compatible,'' Bush said on NBC's ``Today.''

``I also believe we can find more energy without destroying the environment and there are some who simply don't agree with that statement.''

In recent weeks, Bush has endorsed a treaty seeking a worldwide phaseout of a dozen highly toxic chemicals and upheld Clinton administration regulations requiring cleaner diesel fuels and engines and requirements that thousands of businesses report releases of toxic lead.

However, he also has reversed a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants as a pollutant, withdrawn from a global warming treaty, rescinded new arsenic standards for drinking water and eased environmental requirements on mineral mines in the West.

Bush said Tuesday that his biggest mistake since taking office was ``allowing people to define me as somebody who's not friendly toward the environment.''

``Somehow I get tagged for not wanting to reduce arsenic in drinking water,'' Bush told ABC in an interview for ``Good Morning America.''

An ABC-Washington Post poll Monday showed that only 47 percent of the public approve of Bush's handling of the environment while 52 percent said they favor protecting the environment over economic growth. The poll also said 55 percent of those questioned opposed Bush's proposal to drill for oil and gas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

``We need to be good stewards of the land,'' Bush said at the White House. ``But we've also got to understand that if we don't bring more natural gas to the market, we're going to have blackouts. ... We're going to make decisions based upon sound science, not some environmental fad or what may sound good.''

Bush's budget calls for spending $26.6 billion in the next fiscal year starting Oct 1. on natural resources and the environment - $1.9 billion less than the current fiscal year. The House calls for $26.7 billion, while a Senate-passed resolution would spend $29.6 billion.