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For Immediate Release: Apr 14, 2004
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

MASSACHUSETTS STILL UNHEALTHY

Two-Year Federal-State Plan Sees Little Improvement in Commonwealth's Environmental Health


Washington, DC -- Massachusetts' waters will continue to be filthy, its air unhealthy and its natural resources degraded in a new two-year plan proposed jointly by the Commonwealth and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

In its plan for the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, EPA will require very little new effort or improvement in the performance of the Commonwealth's environmental agencies as a condition of continued federal funding for clean air, clean water, toxic waste and wetland protection programs. The public comment period for the plan, called a Performance Partnership Agreement, ended last week. This is the last step before it is finalized.

Under the plan, the environment in Massachusetts will remain seriously compromised:

· Waters Polluted. Only 9% of Massachusetts rivers are fishable and swimmable. While a staggering 78% of rivers were not even assessed, of those rivers that were assessed, none supported fish consumption, 55% do not support aquatic life and for only 27% can the waters safely come in contact with human skin; · Illegal Ozone Levels. Despite Massachusetts violating federal ozone standards, the plan has no effective means for reducing auto pollution, a significant contributor to ozone. According to documents obtained by PEER, state officials have known for several years that the test it used to measure tailpipe emission was wildly inaccurate, but EPA is not requiring the Commonwealth to fix its questionable vehicle Inspection & Maintenance program.

· Continuing Wetland Loss. The Commonwealth and EPA admit that "extensive illegal alternations of wetlands" have occurred over the last ten years, and plan to redirect resources away from into enforcement. However, this redirection neglects the essential function of overseeing Conservation Commission permit decisions and monitoring whether thousands of acres of restored or replicated wetlands are successfully functioning.

"This two-year environmental plan lacks basic credibility, program accountability and fiscal soundness," stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former EPA biologist, who noted that the commonwealth has declared that steps such as better water quality monitoring are not a high enough priority to fund. "For several key anti-pollution programs, this plan is ineffective on its face, making the Performance Partnership Agreement nothing more than the mutual rubber stamping of a meaningless document."

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Read PEER's comments about the EPA-Massachusetts Performance Partnership Agreement

Look at the EPA-Massachusetts PPA for 2004-5