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For Immediate Release: Oct 22, 2003
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

WETLANDS POLLUTE, SAYS STUDY OKAYED BY EPA

EPA Biologist Resigns in Protest; Study Clears Way for SW Florida Developments


Washington, DC -- A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency biologist has resigned in protest of his agency's acceptance of a developer-financed study concluding that wetlands discharge more pollutants than they absorb, according to a statement released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA's approval of the study gives developers credit for improving water quality by replacing natural wetlands with golf courses and other developments.

A group comprised largely of local developers in Southwest Florida contracted Harvey Harper to write the report outlining how the developers could address worsening water quality problems in the region. The resultant Harper Report concludes that --

· Wetlands generate pollution, based upon sampling collected in wetlands next to highways and bridges; and

· Developers can escape federal wetlands restrictions by employing a tactic called "rent-a-cow," whereby the land owner allows a few cattle to graze in the wetland so it can classified as "improved pasture."

Often called "nature's kidneys," wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act in part because of the role they play in purifying water. Despite these legal protections, America's wetlands are shrinking as regulatory agencies find ways to approve more development.

Bruce Boler, a former state water quality specialist, resigned after three years with EPA. Boler, in his resignation statement, cited the stance taken by the EPA Regional Administrator Jimmie Palmer that "EPA would not oppose state positions, so if a state had no water quality problems with a project then neither would EPA." The state of Florida has already signed off on the Harper Report.

"In the Bush Administration's bizarre world of ‘sound science,' wetlands cause pollution and there is no evidence of global warming," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. PEER is leading a coalition of environmental groups seeking to stop ten projects in the Western Everglades that would destroy more than 2,000 acres of wetlands. "EPA's new position that wetlands pollute stands the Clean Water Act on its head and sends the all-clear signal to developers that no project is out of bounds."

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Read Bruce Boler's statement of resignation from EPA