Press Releases & Bulletins

DATE: November 20, 2001


(Washington, DC) - In an apparent rebuke to Attorney General John Ashcroft, the American public overwhelmingly opposes easing environmental enforcement to "focus on threats like anthrax," according to a new national public opinion survey.

The survey, commissioned by the nonprofit Clean Air Trust, found that the public rejects relaxing clean air and drinking water enforcement by more than a two-to-one margin.

"The public obviously doesn't buy the rhetoric that enforcement of clean air and clean water has to be reduced to beef up activities against domestic terrorist threats," said , executive director of the Clean Air Trust.

On November 8, Attorney General Ashcroft announced a "wartime reorganization and mobilization" of the Justice Department. Ashcroft signaled that Justice would reduce environmental enforcement to "support [its] counterterrorism mission."

O'Donnell noted that Congress recently rejected an earlier Ashcroft plan to transfer much environmental enforcement to the states.

"The public equally rejects scaling back federal environmental enforcement," noted O'Donnell.

When asked the question "Should the government relax the enforcement of safe drinking water and clean air laws to focus on threats like anthrax?" respondents to the Clean Air Trust poll said "no" by a whopping 64% to 27%. Republicans (58% to 30%) and Democrats (63% to 30%) both opposed relaxing environmental enforcement, though independents (74% to 16%) were those most opposed.

Indeed, the public said "stories about anthrax and bioterrorism" had made them more concerned (50%) than less (8%) about the "safety of the air and water." (Forty-one percent said stories about anthrax and bioterrorism had "no impact" on their views about the safety of air and water.)

O'Donnell also warned that the Bush Administration appeared to be on the verge of seeking relaxation of clean air controls for the sake of energy development - a priority for Vice President Dick Cheney.

"With plummeting gas prices and a looming energy glut, it's going to look pretty ludicrous to try to roll back clean air controls for a nonexistent energy crisis," noted O'Donnell.

The Clean Air Trust poll sampled 900 people nationwide. It was prepared November 9 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

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