Monday, September 08, 2003

"In every case the business community got what it wanted..."

First the bad news:
In the past few weeks, the administration diluted federal rules governing air pollution from old coal-fired power plants; emissions that cause global warming; ballast water on ships contaminated with foreign species of plants and animals; sales of land tainted with PCBs; drilling for oil and gas on federal land; and scientific studies that underpin federal regulations.

In every case the business community got what it wanted, and environmentalists got mad.
Bill Kovacs, the vice president for environmental issues of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the business community won more environmental battles during the final week of August than it had during the entire eight years of the Clinton administration.

"We certainly had a number of victories this week; I don't think anyone can deny that," Kovacs said on the Friday before Labor Day.

He and two big-industry lobbyists said the Bush administration had delivered nearly every environmental regulatory change business put on its to-do list in January 2001. Their industries got every change they wanted, the lobbyists said.
The good news is that this is from an article that appeared in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel and other Knight-Ridder outlets. Why is this good news? Because I know, and most of you who read Confined Space and similar authoritative media sources know, that the current Administration is totally under the control of the ideologues in the business community and Republican party who are, not to mince words, trying (and succeeding) to screw workers and the environment, while lying to us about every conceivable aspect of their domestic and foreign policies. But most people don't have time to read enough sources to figure out what's really happening. Which is why I'm happy to see an article like this in a middle-American newspaper.

The article also explains a little about how the Bushniks like to operate in Washington:
Experts say the timing of the changes wasn't accidental.

"They need to get this stuff out of the way before they get into an election year; they need to get enough below the radar," said political science professor Stephen Meyer, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Project on Environmental Politics and Policy.

"The Bush administration always likes to announce unpopular environmental policies in the dead of political and press night. And you can't find a week when people are less likely to pay attention than the end of August," said Phil Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust.
Unable to get bills that would weaken environmental laws through Congress, the administration made all these changes as administrative rulings.

"They leave the laws in place, but undermine the regulations below them, undermine the rules and undermine the agencies," said MIT's Meyer. "The details get lost because the average person doesn't have the details or the time to follow it."
Unfortunately, the author lets the Chamber of Commerce get away with this as the concluding quote:
Kovacs of the Chamber of Commerce said Bush was simply borrowing a tactic that the Clinton administration routinely used.

"They figured out what the Clinton administration figured out," Kovacs said. "If you control the agencies, you use them. I wish they had done it sooner."
Now let's look at that.

First, by definition, every President controls the agencies. That's why they're called Executive Branch agencies. Clinton didn't figure that out. Every single President in American history has known that if you're President, you control the agencies. That's part of the reason people want to be President.

The issue is not that Presidents are controlling the agencies, but what they're doing with that power. The difference between the Clinton Administration and the Bush II (and to a slightly lesser extent Reagan) is that Clinton was using the regulatory power of the agencies to implement the laws that Congress passed, whereas the Republicans and their business allies are using the agencies to undermine the laws that Congress passed.

Just take a look at their actions just over the past few weeks:
  • Two controversial changes in a rule governing expansion of old coal-fired power plants, dramatically easing the rules requiring companies to install new pollution controls when they make big upgrades.

  • Two legal opinions ruling that carbon dioxide, which most scientists say is the chief cause of global warming, isn't a pollutant that the EPA can cite to regulate emissions from cars and power plants. The rulings reverse a Clinton administration legal opinion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

  • An EPA legal opinion declaring that it won't regulate ships' ballast water under the Clean Water Act, turning the issue over to the Coast Guard. The ballast water contains billions of tiny fish, plants and other foreign invasive species that scientists say are major threats to native species in American waters.

  • An edict changing a 25-year-old rule to allow the sale of land tainted with toxic PCBs.

  • An order to Bureau of Land Management field offices in the West telling them to speed up the process permitting drilling for oil and gas on federal lands.

  • A new Office of Management and Budget policy governing scientific studies used to justify costly federal regulations. The policy orders more stringent peer review; environmentalists fear it will slow the enactment of environmental regulations.
Are they really trying to say that it was the intent of Congress when it passed the Clean Air Act that carbon dioxide, the chief cause of global warming, isn't a pollutant that the EPA can regulate? Or that Congress didn't really ever intend for old power plants to significantly reduce the pollution they generate after decades of upgrades? Or that when Congress passed the Clean Water Act they really didn't intend that scooping off the tops of mountains and dumping them into valleys, burying mountain steams, might be a violation?

To put it in as simple terms as possible: They are the bad guys. We are the good guys. They need to go as quickly as possible. But for that to happen, many more people need to understand the facts that are contained in the News Sentinel and similar articles.


P.S. Let's play a little game, just for fun. The purpose is to show how the Republicans deliver for the business community, but the Democrats are a bit less grateful to their friends. Here's how the game works. For every reference to a business initiative or spokesperson in one of the paragraphs above, substitute "labor." Then imagine how unlikely it would be for you to ever see such an article.
In the past few weeks, the administration strengthened federal rules governing organizing, issued an ergonomics regulation, along with several others, stenghtened overtime regulations, beefed up wage-and-hour enforcement, restricted government contracts to businesses that have broken the law, and [add more here].

In every case the labor movement got what it wanted, and business got mad.
Bill Samuel, Legislative Director of the AFL-CIO, said the labor movement won more worker battles during the final week of August than it had during the entire four years of the Bush administration.

"We certainly had a number of victories this week; I don't think anyone can deny that," Samuel said on the Friday before Labor Day.

He and two labor lobbyists said the Democratic administration had delivered nearly every pro-worker regulatory change labor put on its to-do list in January 2005. Their affiliates got every change they wanted, the lobbyists said.