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Economic Stimulus Legislation to Save Our Environment and the Economy

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2009 ­ The stimulus package devised by President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders - the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan (ARRP) - wisely proposes to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to vital projects that can create jobs, jump-start the stagnant economy and lead to a renewable and sustainable energy future.

The plan to upgrade the country’s electrical power grid, weatherize homes and retrofit federal buildings is particularly critical for our long-term stability and security.

The present grid is an increasingly unstable relic that acts as a barrier to harnessing clean and proven renewable technologies such as wind and solar power.

“President Obama’s call for action shows vision and leadership we haven’t seen in the White House in years,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook. “This president will not only confront the perilous situation this country faces but will transform this crisis into an opportunity to use federal resources to green homes and offices and to update the grid, something we should have done three decades ago.”

We are encouraged that President Obama intends to seek funding to protect our dwindling supplies of fresh water from toxic pollutants and to ensure that clean drinking water is available to every community. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has focused much of our research investigating contaminated tap water systems throughout the country – many burdened with an antiquated infrastructure woefully in need of updating.

“We urge the Obama administration and Congress to give top priority to updating the nation's drinking water systems,” said Cook. “We’ve known for years that the nation’s drinking water is contaminated with unacceptable levels of toxic contaminants. In fact, just this week, The Washington Post reported on a new scientific study showing that hundreds of children who drink tainted tap water in the nation’s capital had harmful levels of lead in their blood.”

EWG and its allies in the scientific, environmental and health communities hope to see the president and Congress add more support for mass transit. In order to reduce U.S. independence on oil, we must make a fundamental shift toward commuter rail in our urban centers. Unfortunately, some in Congress are moving to strip funds for mass transit programs from the stimulus package.

"While EWG believes the Obama stimulus package is on the right track, we are concerned that necessary funding for mass transit and rail transportation is being whittled away in favor of tax cuts,” Cook said. “This may placate some politicians, but it won’t address America’s serious challenges.”

“Even more distressing is the legislation’s generic language that could allow loan guarantees to assist the corn-based ethanol industry,” Cook said. “Corn-based ethanol is an environmentally destructive form of fuel that already enjoys billions in federal largesse."

In a series of recent reports and analyses on the biofuels industry, EWG has disclosed that corn-based ethanol has accounted for fully three-quarters of the tax benefits and two-thirds of all federal subsidies allotted for renewable energy sources in 2007. EWG has found that the so-called “renewable fuel standard,” which calls for escalating amounts of biofuels to be blended into gasoline, poses unintentional dangers to the environment, among them, increased fertilizer pollution, heightened greenhouse gas emissions, diversion of scarce water supplies and destruction of wildlife habitat.

“The green elements of the stimulus bill, in combination with President Obama's decision to reconsider California's bid to impose tighter controls on global warming gases from cars and trucks, represents a dramatic and welcome shift in leadership to protect the environment instead of polluters,” added Cook.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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