FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2005
GREEN PARTY OF LOUISIANA
Contact: Leenie Halbert, 225-615-4905
GREEN PARTY CONDEMNS WEAKENING OF E.P.A. RULES AFTER KATRINA DISASTER
The Green Party of Louisiana today issued a strong condemnation of plans to suspend U.S. environmental protections in the wake of the Katrina disaster.
"The first disaster to hit our state was a natural one. The one following suspension of EPA rules will be a human-generated environmental disaster," Leenie Halbert, Co-Chair of the Louisiana Green Party warned.
A U.S. Senate proposal introduced Thursday would grant the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator the authority to waive or modify requirements for any emergency response related to Hurricane Katrina. The blanket proposal, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), applies to any project carried out by the EPA.
Halbert predicted that relaxation of environmental safeguards will lead to an unknown, but predictable, increase in the death rate in the lower Mississippi Valley, and stated that a limited suspension of EPA rules to allow burning of some wastes would be sufficient for the needs to clean up this region.
"There is no reason why there needs to be a complete waiver of EPA protection for the entire Mississippi Valley for a period of a year and a half," she said. "Furthermore, the EPA has been extremely slow in initiating testing of soil and water samples in the storm-damaged areas and we question if in any case the agency has the will to demand that pollution be kept in check duringthis period."
"Our people already are suffering from living in what is known as 'Cancer Alley,'" Halbert said. "Now, they have suffered the loss of their homes and the neglect-seen on televisions worldwide-of their basic needs in time of disaster. But this is not enough for the right-wing idealogues who control our institutions in Washington, and our people are once more going to be betrayed by thisAdministration."
The Senate Committee on Public Works, which met behind closed doors with EPA officials after the hurricane, claims that the waiver is needed during clean-up of the disaster, according toBill Holbrook, from the majority staff of the committee.
Halbert quoted officials of the environmental law firm Earthjustice, who say that the waiver of
eighteen months is too long a time for environmental protections to be suspend, and echoed their concerns about the proposed waiver which includes occupational health and safety laws applying to debris disposal, water management and reconstruction workers coming to the area.
"This entire maneuver is nothing more than a cynical attempt to use this disaster to achieve the dismantling of laws and procedures that have been created to protect our people," Halbert