"SAFETEA" Fails To Protect Health, Stop Pollution

On May 14th, citing inadequate investment in public transit options, relaxed air quality protections and limits on public participation, Environmental Defense criticized the Bush administration's new "SAFETEA" transportation proposal for failing to include adequate safeguards to protect public health and reduce pollution.

"SAFETEA calls for billions of dollars to be showered on America's transportation needs, but it fails to include a strong commitment to protecting public health,"said Dr. John Balbus, a physician who heads the environmental health program at Environmental Defense. "Communities must be protected from smog and other air pollution that can trigger asthma attacks, streets should be made safer for kids to walk or bike to school, and commuters must be given a wider array of transit options in order to cut harmful vehicle emissions."

The administration's package fails to promote local involvement in transportation planning, despite the fact that cars and trucks are a leading source of toxic air pollution across the country. SAFETEA would also undermine existing safeguards against air pollution through changes in current law, including the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

"SAFETEA would undermine existing protections for the environment and public health,"Dr. Balbus said. "The SAFETEA package weakens accountability for meeting clean air goals that protect public health from the leading source or toxic pollution in most communities — the exhaust from gas and diesel engines."

"At a time when asthma is on the rise, the government should not decrease the frequency and effectiveness of measuring the impacts of transportation on the air American's breathe,"said Michael Replogle, director of the Environmental Defense transportation program. "SAFETEA reverses the bipartisan progress made under the last two federal transportation bills and threatens efforts to create healthier air and a cleaner environment by limiting community involvement and weakening existing regulations, including the Clean Air Act and protections for parks and historic resources. Communities have a critical role to play in making smart decisions about transportation planning, but the SAFETEA proposal does not provide local officials with the resources needed to get the job done."

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