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Letter to President Bush - Ozone

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown


March 23, 2004

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you know, the parties to the Montreal Protocol will be convening a first-ever extraordinary meeting of the parties next week in Montreal to address the current impasse over the United States' critical use exemption request for methyl bromide. That impasse resulted from the posture taken by the United States at the regular meeting of the Conference of Parties in Nairobi, Kenya last November. At that meeting, Administration negotiators suggested that the United States might abandon the Protocol unless they received approval for the entire critical use exemption request. That position effectively closed the door on any possibility for constructive resolution of the issue in Kenya. If maintained by Administration negotiators, such a position threatens the survival of what is widely regarded as the most successful international environmental agreement in history.

Recently, representatives of the State Department, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency, briefed our staff in anticipation of the Montreal meeting next week. We are deeply concerned that the Administration has not softened its inflexible position on its critical use exemption request and appears poised to increase the request above the amount recommended for the United States by the UN Technology and Economic Assessment Panel on February 14, 2004. Indeed, recent reports indicate that the United States will actually add another 1.1 million pounds to its already substantial request, which is much larger than the combined requests of all other countries.

If the entire amount of the United States request is granted, the exemption would allow the United States to increase its production of methyl bromide above current levels - a result that is directly contrary to the goal embraced by all parties to accelerate the global phase out of methyl bromide. As you may know, the target in the Protocol is a 100% reduction in 2005.
Instead, production and use in 2005 could be higher than in years 2003 or 2004. Unfortunately, Federal officials have not been able to collect reliable data to share with Congress on use and stockpiles, though some report the amount currently stockpiled to be substantial-perhaps as much as 22 million pounds.

Given the strong leadership role that the United States has played in making the Montreal Protocol a resounding success thus far, we urge you not to jeopardize our commitment to international cooperation on global environmental problems. To abandon or even threaten to abandon the Montreal Protocol would be a grave mistake - signaling to the world that the United States will not work with other countries on matters requiring multilateral cooperation unless those parties acquiesce to all of the United States' demands. Unilateralism undermines the international rule of law and compromises our ability to work with other nations in the future to solve common global problems.

We understand the difficulties facing certain agricultural interests on this issue. We do not agree, however, that the situation is so grave that it should threaten our ongoing participation in the treaty. Alternatives to methyl bromide have been and continue to be developed. EPA and USDA have identified a host of existing registered pre-plant and post-harvest alternatives, as well as collecting abundant alternatives information and case-studies for current users to expedite phase out of methyl bromide. Moreover, large segments of American industry have worked very hard and spent billions of dollars to comply with the Montreal Protocol through the development of alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.

To allow narrow special interests to force a withdrawal from the Protocol would cause severe damage to the reputation of the United States with respect to international environmental issues, and would render meaningless the substantial efforts and investments made by private actors to comply with the Protocol. Worse yet, such actions would likely lead to an increase in ozone depletion and the concomitant damage to human health and the environment that accompanies such depletion.

We urge you to follow a flexible negotiating posture for the upcoming "extraordinary meeting" of the parties. That posture should be consistent with our existing obligations to continue the trend in reducing emissions and production of ozone-depleting substances as rapidly as possible.

According to Mr. Rodney Brown, the Deputy Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics at the Department of Agriculture, who testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality in June 2003, "The goal of the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act is the protection of public health. On that score, we are clearly moving in the right direction. In fact, the legislative evaluation required by section 812 of the CAA estimated that full implementation of the Montreal Protocol will result in 6.3 million U.S. lives being saved from skin cancer between 1990 and 2165."

The interests of the United States can and should be protected without jeopardizing the survival of the Montreal Protocol. We look forward to your assurances that the Administration will act in accordance with the Protocol, the Clean Air Act, and the crucial need to continue protecting the fragile ozone layer.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Senators: Jeffords, Chafee, Biden, Snowe, Leahy, Kennedy, Wyden, and Lautenberg

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