|ST. LOUIS - Democratic candidate John Kerry Friday accused President Bush of leading "one of the worst administrations in modern history" on cleaning the air, water and soil, while Bush said he is "a good steward of the land."|
In the first instance where the two candidates broached environmental issues in debate, Bush insisted that things have improved on his watch.
"I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land. The quality of the air is cleaner since I've been the president," Bush said, addressing the town hall-style audience.
Kerry attacked Bush for pushing new rules that give coal-fired power plants more leeway to expand, and for pulling out of a global treaty to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
"The president I don't think is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment," the Massachusetts senator said.
"When it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history," he said.
The administration's "Clear Skies" plan would cut harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants by 70 percent by 2018.
Kerry criticized the plan's "Orwellian" name and said current rules would leave the air cleaner.
He also criticized Bush for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty to combat global warming that requires developed countries to reduce greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.
The United States is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
"They pulled out of the global warming - declared it dead - didn't even accept the science," Kerry said.
Bush said U.S. participation "would have cost America a lot of jobs. It's one of these deals where to be popular in the halls of Europe you sign a treaty."
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE