Bush, Kerry Play 'I'm Greener Than You Are' On Earth Day

President touts Clear Skies, Kerry lays out plan for coastlines.

Thursday is Earth Day, and the candidates for president wasted no time in making the case that the grass is greener on their side.

After spending two days on the Louisiana coast discussing coastal environmental damage this week, Democratic hopeful John Kerry chose to spend Earth Day in Houston, one of the nation's smoggiest cities, according to the American Lung Association. There, Kerry will propose a new plan that he claims will reduce contaminated water along coastlines while also promoting business and industry. His plan calls for the creation of a federal-state partnership to address pollution threats, tools for communities to protect coastal ecosystems, and the immediate elimination of toxic materials that are being released into the surrounding waters. Kerry will stay in Houston for three days, where he is expected to slam President Bush's environmental record in his home state of Texas, where he used to be governor.

Bush will spend the early part of the day at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine, sampling water quality with volunteers. Later in the day he'll head back to the White House to speak at the President's Environmental Youth Awards ceremony. At both events the president will defend his Clear Skies Initiative, which passed in 2002.

Three environmental groups — the League of Conservation Voters, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund and Friends of the Earth Action — announced a grass-roots campaign to expel Bush from office on Wednesday. The organizations are targeting swing voters via door-to-door visits, advertising, mailings and phone calls.

Bush will be using Earth Day to talk about 30 years of continued environmental progress, and he'll call for a five-year protection and restoration initiative for more than 3 million acres of wetlands. (Critics counter that his administration has already reclassified many wetland areas so that they are no longer protected by federal regulation.) He is also asking Congress for increased funding for fish and wildlife programs.

White House spokesperson Trent Duffy said Bush will talk about "how we're working to use innovation, technology and incentives in addition to penalties and litigation to continue ... strong environmental progress." The president will prolong Earth Day celebrations through Friday with a visit to a Florida coastal reserve.

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will celebrate Earth Day a few days late on Saturday, stopping at a Take Back the Earth Day event on the shared campus of Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis. On Thursday Nader highlighted global climate change as one of the greatest threats to the planet and spoke out against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its ties to corporate oil.

For more information on environmental issues, check out the Public Agenda/ Choose or Lose issue primer on this topic.

For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out Choose or Lose.