Muckraker: Grist on Politics

A group of 60 environmental and public health organizations sent a letter [PDF] to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson expressing concern that the agency “is considering a series of actions aimed at dismantling and dramatically weakening decades of EPA policies for protection of the public from ionizing radiation” in the remaining weeks of the administration.

There has not yet been a formal proposal from the Bush administration EPA, but the groups are objecting to a possible proposal to weaken cleanup standards in the event of radioactive material releases on which the agency may move forward in the near future. An internal draft document [PDF] from August 2007 detailing proposed changes to the EPA’s Protective Action Guidance for Radiological Incidents (PAG) was recently leaked to the news site Inside EPA ($ub. req’d). The groups are concerned that some agency officials are trying to get the new guide pushed through before the end of the Bush administration.

The letter cites proposed revisions that the groups say would relax the rules to protect the public from radioactive releases like nuclear power plant accidents, fires at fuel manufacturing plants, and transportation accidents involving radioactive materials.

Most egregious, they say, is the proposed weakening of standards for drinking water. Previous PAGs included drinking water as a component of the food PAGs, which was included as part of the overall dose limit in the intermediate phase. The new rules create a separate water PAG, which would allow for levels of certain types of cesium, strontium, and nickel much higher than the EPA has historically allowed.

The groups signing onto the letter include Environment America, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service.

“Much mischief is done in the last weeks of an outgoing Administration. We strongly urge you to decline to approve the issuance of the draft Protective Action Guidance for Radiological Incidents as long as it proposes to relax protections against radiation exposure,” they write. “The Environmental Protection Agency must protect, not radically endanger, public health and the environment.”