Bush’s Environmental Record




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he
Bush administration began its term in office by appointing industry
officials and legal allies to the U.S. government’s top environmental
protection offices. Since then it has pursued a strategy of opening
public property to development. Current Interior Secretary Gale
Norton once worked for the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a think
tank promoting commercial development of public lands. 


Agriculture
Deputy Undersecretary Mark Rey—who overseas the U.S. Forest
Service’s 100 million-plus acres of public forest—worked
for timber industry trade groups for 18 years, from 1976-1994. Interior
Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles most recently was the president
of his own lobbying firm where clients included “utility, coal
and oil interests…Sun Co, Pennsylvania Power and Light, Occidental
Petroleum, National Mining Sun Co, Pennsylvania Power and Light,
Occidental Petroleum, National Mining Association, Edison Electric,
and the Aluminum Association,” reports research group CLEAR.
Both President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney have worked for
resource companies and, once in office, this Administration set
its tone by disavowing the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global warming
and by announcing an intention to drill for oil in the Artic National
Wildlife Refuge and across public lands. 


The
Bush administration’s energy plan, which to date remains stalled
in Congress, calls for altering laws to boost oil and gas development,
mining, and spur the creation of more nuclear power plants. Yet
how this plan was drafted under Vice President Dick Cheney’s
leadership remains obfuscated because the White House has fought
to hide internal records and memos from public view. In Spring 2002,
the Bush administration was court-ordered to release some internal
records. The National Resource Defense Council reviewed these documents
and reported that the energy plan was developed with direct input
from the National Coal Council, Chevron, General Motors, and the
National Mining Council, among other companies and industry groups.
Congressperson Henry Waxman (D-CA) has charged that Cheney’s
proposed energy plan includes 17 provisions matching requests by
the now-bankrupt Texas company, Enron; Enron was President Bush’s
largest political donor up to January 2002, reports the Associated
Press. 


During
the last three years, the Bush administration fought to reduce a
scheduled tightening of arsenic standards in drinking water, but
was unable to halt it. In October 2001, the Interior Department
relaxed mining rules on public lands to weaken water safety standards
in mining operations and to make it harder for government officials
to deny a proposed mine even if the mine would cause “substantial
irreparable harm.” In January 2002, Bush loosened guidelines
for how private-sector developers preserve wetlands when developing
commercial and residential projects. In March 2003, Bush moved to
double logging levels on 10 million acres of public forest in the
Sierra Nevada region of California in disregard of a stricter 2001
management plan that took a decade of consultation and study to
forge. The list of deregulation goes on. 


This
past summer, the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual State
of the Environment report excluded comments on global warming because
the White House ordered these comments deleted. The President’s
Clear Skies air quality initiative, currently being considered by
Congress, excludes regulation of a central gas linked to global
warming—carbon dioxide—from industrial exhaust. Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wants Congress to exempt the U.S. military
from all U.S. environmental laws, including laws dealing with hazardous
waste, air quality, endangered species, and ocean species, even
though the military can already seek case-by-case waivers under
existing law by just offering a justification. 


Furthermore,
during the last three years industry groups have been challenging
U.S. environmental laws in court and winning from this Administration
very generous court settlements that weaken environmental protections—before
any judge rules—a pattern that has prompted environmental advocates,
and even CBS News Online (April 19, 2003, “Lawsuits, Not Lawmakers,
Make Policy”) to wonder if Bush and company are using the settlement
process to enshrine new law while avoiding the checks-and- balances
of Congress and federal rule-making. 


Recently,
the League of Conservation Voters awarded Bush an “F”
for environmental protection, and the group’s president, Deb
Calla- han, summed it up by saying, “Under the Bush administration,
corporate polluters have been allowed to write the laws.” With
the public focused on war, Bush administration officials are pushing
an unannounced developmental agenda to reshape the American landscape.



 





Gregg Mosson
has published articles in the



Oregonian



,



PDXS,
Cascadia Forest Roots



, and the



Hill Rag. He will
be a teaching fellow at the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars this fall.