Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Bush Creates Hostile Environment

responding to "Bush Faces Hostile Environment," by Gregg Easterbrook, LA Times, Oct. 14, 2003

Gregg Easterbrook put so much spin on Bush's environmental record that I got dizzy reading it. Using statistics from the last 30 years of successful regulation and enforcement as proof that Bush's recent changes to those very laws are responsible for our cleaner environment is the utmost in neo-con double-speak. The steady decline of air and water pollution stats since 1970 actually prove that the policy of tough regulation and suing environmental evil-doers worked. Those policies have been abandoned under Bush, and it will take some time to measure the impact. We can, however, look at the record in Texas, where his voluntary emissions-control programs managed to sign up 3 of the 8,645 worst polluters, and pollution has gotten much worse. As new studies show an even more direct correlation between pollution and breathing disorders, especially asthma in children, we know that the results of Bush's laissez faire approach to pollution will result in more pain, sickness, and death.

People like Bush have spent decades fighting for land-owner rights over the rights of endangered species, and the rights of people to have protected wilderness areas. The fact that forested acreage has expanded in the last decade, or that no US animal has gone extinct in the last 20 some years is reason to applaud the brave people who have spent their lives fighting for these issues. To suggest that Bush be given credit for these facts is sickening.

While Bush's new regulations on diesel emissions are laudable, they are a miniscule portion of air-pollution, and will be flash-flooded away by the changes being made to allow more pollution elsewhere. Easterbrook doesn't mention the shift away from making polluters pay for Superfund, cutbacks in offshore oil well inspections, or Bush's under funding national parks. Bush has stopped farmers from suing pesticide makers, removed Clean Water Act protections from streams and wetlands, allowed factory farm pollution (from agribusinesses that give him millions) to foul the waterways with animal waste, and imposed a regulatory freeze that is holding up regulations to minimize raw sewage discharges. Easterbrook does mention an increase in smog in southern California, but he fails to explain how this "blip" isn't going to keep getting larger when, as he admits, SUVs aren't required to get better mileage, and there are more SUVs on the So Cal roads everyday. He ignores the fact that So Cal's success in fighting smog has been the direct result of the kind of tough regulations that Bush and the lobbyists he's put in power are against!

Easterbrook's assertion that we "...can't demand no oil drilling and also demand no mileage restrictions on SUVs," is convoluted logic. First of all, most Americans support strict mileage standards on all vehicles. It is the auto industry, well represented in the Bush administration by Andy Card, Bush's chief of staff and former auto industry lobbyist, that fights mileage standards. Spoiling our natural places with oil wells for a drop in the bucket of demand is an insult to and an assault on our children and grandchildren. Suggesting that Bush gives a damn about these environmental issues when his record in Texas and as president prove the exact opposite is the biggest insult of all.

Eric Schaeffer quit as an EPA enforcer when he realized the Bush administration, and the lobbyists they put in positions of power, were not only going to stop suing polluting industries, but actually relax the rules that regulate them. Bush also slashed the EPAs enforcement budget, and directed the EPA to expand loopholes that allow old power plants to continue pumping out 12 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year, without implementing modern pollution controls. Pending lawsuits were dropped. Polluting industries dropped out of agreements reached before Bush. All of these tools for reducing pollution were eliminated, resulting in a pollution increase compared to where we would be if Bush had not been "elected." Modest estimates of the results of Bush's changes to new source review show 20,000 more premature deaths per year as a result. Now that's eco-terrorism.

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