President Bush went to the mountains of northern New York State to mark Earth Day and push his clean air proposals. Democrats were quick to respond, saying the Bush plan will do more harm than good.
On this Earth Day, politicians in the United States battled over the environment.
President Bush delivered his message in the Adirondack Mountains. After a snowy hike along a nature trail, he went inside to talk about his clean air proposals.
He said progress has been made toward protecting the environment since the first Earth Day 33 years ago. But he said it is only the beginning. "We have come to understand the success of a generation is not defined by wealth alone," he said. "We want to be remembered for our material progress, no question about it, but we also want to be remembered for the respect we give to our natural world."
In the Adirondacks, and many other parts of the country, one of the biggest threats to the environment is "acid rain," which occurs when sulfur dioxide emissions mix with moisture in the air.
The president said he has a plan to combat the problem. He called it a "market-based" approach that will bring results. "We will set mandatory limits on air pollution with firm deadlines," he said, "while giving companies the flexibility to find the best ways to meet the mandatory limits."
Mr. Bush said Congress should pass legislation that applies these regulations to three types of pollutants. In addition to sulfur dioxide they include smog-causing nitrogen oxide and mercury, a toxic chemical which can contaminate waterways and get into the food chain.
The president said if his plan is adopted, each pollutant would be reduced by about 70 percent by 2018. Democrats expressed doubts.
His rival for the presidency in the 2000 election, Al Gore, led the Democratic Party assault. The former vice-president said the Bush administration is sabotaging environmental protections.
Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, Al Gore's 2000 running mate, carried on that theme in a conference call with reporters. He said the president should focus on enforcing existing clean air law. Senator Lieberman said, "The president today identified some genuine environmental problems. But he did not provide adequate solutions to those problems at all."
Senator Lieberman said the president's plan would permit higher emissions than current legislation. He also noted the proposal omits controls on carbon emissions from power plants. "Carbon," he said, "is the most significant source of global warming and climate change. American power plants and their carbon emissions are responsible for ten percent of the international climate change problem."
The Connecticut senator accused the Bush administration of succumbing to industry pressure. He said what is at stake is not just preserving the nation's natural beauty, but protecting the health of all Americans.