Bush's Environmental Record
by Gregg Mosson
Z magazine, September 2003
The 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 Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and across public
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 Callahan, summed ~t 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.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft page