George Bush, friend of business: disdainer of the environment
Well George has to pay back all those campaign contributions so he has to open the doors to a lot of pollution.
Isn't life simple for George. He just discounts and ignores anything and everything that does not have to do with making a profit for his big business political contributors.
The measure of all things is money.
Bush giving loggers and polluters free rein, say greens
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
29 November 2002
New moves by the Bush administration to lift regulations on logging companies and big industrial polluters have been denounced by environmentalists, who say an unprecedented assault is being made on 30 years of legislation protecting America's forests, water, air and seashores.
Two low-key announcements in the past week, appar-ently timed to minimise media coverage, have removed environment-friendly provisions from the Clean Air Act and from rules governing the management of specially designated national forests.
The White House has also given tacit approval to the incursion of oil prospectors and mining companies in a number of national parks. Oil and gas drilling has already started in one previously protected area, the Padre Island National Seashore in south-west Texas, and is likely to be approved soon in other parks in Ohio, Texas and Louisiana.
A congressional showdown is expected over the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, whereunspoilt wilderness is vulnerable to energy exploitation because the Republicans control the House and Senate after this month's mid-term elections. Environmental lobby groups said yesterday the election victories appeared to have emboldened the President and revived ambitions to rewrite the environmental rule book.
Gregory Wetstone of the Natural Resources Defence Council, a Washington environmental lobby group, said of the latest measures: "Sadly, there is every reason to believe that this is just the leading edge of an assault on fundamental protections for our air, water and public health."
The first new announcement, made late last Friday, knocked out a central pillar of the Clean Air Act that forced companies to make additions to older factories to upgrade the level of protection against air pollution at the same time. The second announcement removed almost all federal oversight of forest management. Supervisors of the country's 155 national forests will now decide whether to authorise drilling, logging or mining, almost irrespective of legislation protecting wildlife species or old trees.
In many areas, environmentalists say, Forest Service officials are already beholden to powerful local industry forces and are likely to cave in to their interests. "They are pulling out the strongest single element in the law that assures that forests will be managed in a healthy manner," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.
When oil and gas exploration is the issue, decision-making power in many areas is already in the hands of local authorities. The federal government has the power to veto commercial exploitation, but the Bush administration chose not to exercise that power when approval was given this month to build two natural gas wells on the Padre Island National Seashore. Eighteen-wheeler trucks have since been rumbling right up to the sand dunes where a rare breed of turtle usually nests and hatches its young. What was once a 65-mile stretch of unspoilt barrier island – the longest in the world – is now rapidly turning into an industrial zone.
There is also a question mark over the White House's top environmental regulator, Christine Todd Whitman. She is thought to have fought unsuccessfully to prevent the latest anti-environmental measures, just as she fought unsuccessfully to maintain Washington's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. In an editorial this week, The New York Times urged her not to resign, saying she was the environmentalists' only advocate within the administration.
The Bush administration has shown it is not immune to some environmental appeals. Last year, it vetoed two projects in Florida, where the President's brother, Governor Jeb Bush, happened to be facing a tough re-election battle.
Nov. 28, 2002, 11:26PM
GOP to give industry more say in environmental policyBy KAREN MASTERSON
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- President Bush's intentions to ease laws that regulate industry pollution and logging in national forests launched what activists have dreaded since the Nov. 5 elections handed complete control of Congress to the GOP: a more pro-business approach to environmental policy.
Come January, Bush will have a Republican Congress with key committees chaired by lawmakers who share his views.
Emphasizing that pro-business doesn't mean anti-environment, industry groups, who routinely spar with Democrats, are unapologetic about their place in the new world order.
They already are working with Bush and GOP leaders on initiatives for next year. Topping their list is a plan to withhold funding from regulatory enforcement offices at several agencies, unless those offices prove they have measurably improved the environment.
New administrative tweaks limiting the reach of existing laws also are expected.
"There will be efforts made to restore common sense to environmental policies," said Becky Norton Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with close ties to Republican leaders.
"That includes passing new legislation that's more scientifically based, versus, `Let's do what feels good,' like this Kyoto stuff that (Vice President Al) Gore advanced during the Clinton years," she said. The Kyoto protocol is an international environmental treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gases and prevent global warming.
The United States' refusal to sign on, a move hotly criticized by European allies, has marginalized its significance, activists say. And Bush appears unwilling to compromise, in part because industries say the protocol is anti-free market.
"That's our biggest priority," Club for Growth President Steven Moore said of ensuring the United States remains outside the treaty. "We're pretty confident it won't happen. There's a lot of pressure on the administration to succumb. But Bush is a Texan; he'll stand up to it because he certainly understands this will hurt Texas and the energy industry."
Moore underscored the political divisiveness of many environmental issues. At least for the next two years, he said, industry views will gain advantage in Washington.
The confidence industries have in Bush is matched by the disdain environmental advocacy groups have for his policies.
"I don't think you could point to any area that will undergo a more dramatic change in terms of policy than the environment," said Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Trust, a nonprofit watchdog of the Clean Air Act. "In light of the recent elections, we may have the situation for a perfect storm, from the polluters' standpoint."
He charged the GOP-led House with being "indisputably controlled by big money special interests" and Bush with not being "at all sympathetic to cleaning up the environment," assertions the administration denied.
"I have found that more times than not, the people that are making these accusations are not basing them on the facts," said Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Joe Martyak. He said the administration must work with the needs of both sides, not just those of environmentalists.
But industry observers say it's clear that pro-business, anti-regulation advocates have a friend in the White House. And beginning next year they will have the ear of key leaders and committee chairmen in both chambers, much as they did eight years ago. "They will be back at the table in a more major way, only this time with more experience," Dunlop said.
This decade's anti-regulatory movement is more savvy than it was in the 1990s, when House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., leading a GOP congressional majority, rolled over Democrats and pushed through ultra-conservative policies -- triggering a public backlash and his political demise.
This time around, pro-business groups are mounting a strategy to quietly curb regulations, through Congress' control over the purse and through administrative rule changes. For that reason, environmentalists acknowledge that their influence is destined to wane while industry's access to the next Congress will be "even more insidious."
"They have learned their lessons," said Scott Stoermer, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, a political group that helps elect pro-environment lawmakers.
"I am not of the mindset that we're going to see them overreach like we saw with the Contract With America," Stoermer said of Gingrich's legislative plan. "They won't make wholesale rollbacks. They really do understand that (the environment) is not a niche Democratic issue. This is an issue that moves voters in the middle."
He predicted less public debate and Republican-led committees that won't call administration officials into hearings to explain their environmental policies -- as Senate Democrats have done.
Perhaps the most vivid change in environmental politics will come in January when Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and favorite of industry groups, takes the environment committee's chairmanship from Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont independent and environmental hero.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who supports oil exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, takes over the natural resources committee. Domenici intends to promote energy exploration on federal lands, a stark departure from the policies of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a conservationist who chaired the committee for the past 18 months.
Pro-business groups expected to leverage their new status on Capitol Hill include Club for Growth, Defenders of Property Rights, the National Wilderness Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Reason Foundation -- whose former president is now an assistant secretary at the Interior Department. This department oversees the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Interior Department's top attorney, William Myers, recently told Nevada ranchers that he supported broader grazing rights on publicly held lands. And he said the Endangered Species Act needs to be reined in. The law restricts everything from military maneuvers to housing and commercial development where sensitive habitats support animals threatened with extinction.
Environmental activists also pointed to the Bush administration's Wednesday proposal to ease logging rules in national forests as another sign of a more business-friendly atmosphere in Washington.
And last week, Christie Whitman, head of the EPA, announced that the landmark Clean Air Act -- crafted in the 1970s and updated regularly to reduce pollution deemed harmful to public health -- will be softened.
The EPA rule change, which environmentalists called the opening salvo for the next two years, allows refineries and other industries to expand operations without investing in expensive equipment for capturing pollution. Northeastern states are legally challenging the rule on grounds that only Congress can substantively alter existing laws.
Another Whitman proposal last week also pleased industries. The measure would allow oil refineries, power plants and other heavy industry to report more of their operational upgrades as routine, thereby avoiding clean air laws. Currently, owners of older plants must invest in state-of-the-art technologies when modernizing operations.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who called for Whitman's resignation last week, recently issued a report that accused Bush of making decisions based on "pre-determined hostility" toward regulations, rather than thorough analysis.
The Connecticut Democrat chastised Bush for rejecting Clinton-era proposals that would have lowered arsenic in drinking water, closed off roadless national parks to construction and logging, and regulated hard-rock mining on public lands.
"It was wrong for the administration to second-guess these final rules," Lieberman said. "It was wrong to discount a well-established scientific record. And it was wrong for the administration to use stealth tactics to achieve its ideologically driven ends."
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