"I am confident this action is an important step toward protecting the health of children and expanding communities' right to know," said Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman in a statement released before she met with President Bush at the White House to announce the administration's decision.
"Lead poisoning can cause learning problems, brain damage and hyperactivity in our children. Despite the significant progress we have made in reducing lead in children's blood, the president believes we can do more."
The regulation does not actually reduce lead emissions. It requires manufactures such as electric plants and car makers that use more than 100 pounds of lead or lead compounds annually to report emissions to the EPA. Previously, the only producers required to document lead emissions were firms that processed 25,000 pounds of lead or otherwise used 10,000 pounds or more a year.
Clinton adopted the regulation 12 days before leaving office in a move that angered many in the manufacturing industry because of the increased costs associated with emissions reporting. President Bush put implementation of the rule on hold for a 60-day review along with a host of other environmental regulations, many of them last-minute, some of which were rolled back.
In March, the White House abandoned the costly 11th-hour Clinton administration regulation calling for the reduction of arsenic allowed in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.
In related issues, Bush also reversed himself on a campaign pledge to curb carbon dioxide emissions from factories and withdrew U.S. support from the Senate-opposed Kyoto accords, an international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that some believe cause "global warming."
The actions drew criticism from foreign capitals, environmentalists, Democrats and liberal Republicans who accused Bush of catering to business interests at the expense of the environment.
In recent days, the White House has sought to amplify Bush policies favored by environmentalists, such as the lead regulation, which Bush upheld to prevent land developers building on "wetlands."
"This president cares about these issues," Whitman told reporters during a press conference called for the lead announcement.
Bush ordered Whitman to provide technical assistance for compliance to affected businesses, which must issue their first lead emissions reports by July 2002.
In a statement released shortly afterward, Bush said lead "is found too often in some of America's older and poorer communities."
"Under this new rule, workers consumers and communities will be provided crucial information about the presence of this toxic substance," Bush said. "My administration will continue to support and promote efforts based on sound science to clean our air, water and land."
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