CBS: White House ‘Dragging its Feet on Review of Toxic Chemicals’

Still Shot of Katie Couric, April 28 On Monday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric hyped a new potential scandal for the Bush administration as she declared: "Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a report due out tomorrow raises some serious questions about one of the most influential government agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency...It even suggests political pressure may be putting the health of Americans at risk."

Correspondent Chip Reid followed up by explaining that the new report "...also points a big finger of blame at the White House, and in particular the Budget Office at the White House, saying that they're interfering in this process." Reid went on: " The bottom line, they say, is that the administration is dragging its feet on review of toxic chemicals to the point that the health of millions of Americans could be in danger."

Reid highlighted White House critics, like liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and an anonymous EPA scientist during the segment:

REID: A new government report by the investigative arm of Congress concludes that the process for analyzing health effects of toxic chemicals "is at serious risk of becoming obsolete" because of endless delays and secrecy. Behind it all, critics say, is the White House.

BARBARA BOXER: Well, we're witnessing a scandal of major proportions, in my opinion. And, yes, politics has taken over the whole thing. And the scientists are being thrown, you know, to the rear.

REID: An EPA scientist with extensive experience in this area, who refused to go on camera due to fear of retribution, told CBS News "these chemicals have effects ranging from learning disabilities to cancer" and EPA scientists can't protect the public because of White House interference.

However, Reid only briefly mentioned the fact that the longer chemical review process is due to changes made by the Bush Administration to improve the quality of the regulation. Even then, Reid described the more detailed review process as a flaw: "...the White House added layer after layer of review. Five years ago, EPA set a goal of assessing 50 toxic chemicals a year. In the past two years they completed a total of four." Reid gives only one sentence, the final one in the segment, to the White House response: "Now, in a letter the White House budget office says this report is seriously flawed because it focuses on timeliness and not the quality of the end product, which they say is improving."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

6:39PM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a report due out tomorrow raises some serious questions about one of the most influential government agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency. The report says non-scientists are playing a bigger and bigger role in EPA decisions. It even suggests political pressure may be putting the health of Americans at risk. Chip Reid got an advanced look at the report. And, Chip, this is really damaging to the EPA's reputation.

CHIP REID: Well, it certainly could be, Katie, but it also points a big finger of blame at the White House, and in particular the Budget Office at the White House, saying that they're interfering in this process. The bottom line, they say, is that the Administration is dragging its feet on review of toxic chemicals to the point that the health of millions of Americans could be in danger. Formaldehyde is found in everything from home building materials to furniture to those infamous trailers that made thousands of Katrina victims ill. For more than a decade the EPA has tried and failed to regulate formaldehyde. The same is true for hundreds of other toxic chemicals, including some that have contaminated drinking water supplies across the nation. A new government report by the investigative arm of Congress concludes that the process for analyzing health effects of toxic chemicals "is at serious risk of becoming obsolete" because of endless delays and secrecy. Behind it all, critics say, is the White House.

BARBARA BOXER: Well, we're witnessing a scandal of major proportions, in my opinion. And, yes, politics has taken over the whole thing. And the scientists are being thrown, you know, to the rear.

REID: An EPA scientist with extensive experience in this area, who refused to go on camera due to fear of retribution, told CBS News "these chemicals have effects ranging from learning disabilities to cancer" and EPA scientists can't protect the public because of White House interference. This is what the process for assessing toxic chemicals looked like five years ago, and this is what it looks like today after the White House added layer after layer of review. Five years ago, EPA set a goal of assessing 50 toxic chemicals a year. In the past two years they completed a total of four. Now, in a letter the White House budget office says this report is seriously flawed because it focuses on timeliness and not the quality of the end product, which they say is improving. Katie.

COURIC: Chip Reid. Chip, thank you very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC