Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bush Version 2.2: A Chemical in Every Pot, an Oil Rig in Every Park

You know, I really need to read the newspapers more. I completely missed the fact that this election was fought over the Bush administration's environmental "philosophy and agenda." Nor did I catch anything about the American people giving them "a broad mandate to refashion the regulation of air and water pollution and wildlife protection in ways that will promote energy production and economic development."

Silly me. I really must be more observant in the future.

I guess I should have figured this out when I was in Ohio making phone calls and knocking on doors and person after person told me: I’m voting for Bush. I mean, terrorists scare the hell out of me, the war in Iraq really isn’t going too well, my kids will have to pay off the national debt (if the abortionists don’t get them first) and gay people are undermining my marriage, but the main reason I’m voting for Bush is that I fully support his plan to refashion the regulation of air and water pollution and wildlife protection in ways that will promote energy production and economic development. I’ve been wanting to get rid of that mountain behind my house and replace it with a vista of open pit mines and oil wells.

But seriously folks, we’re still two months from Bush’s second inauguration and this LA Times article is most infuriating thing I’ve read. If this doesn’t get your blood boiling, check your pulse. You may have passed on:
Environment Officials See a Chance to Shape Regulations

WASHINGTON — Emboldened by President Bush's victory, the nation's top environmental officials are claiming a broad mandate to refashion the regulation of air and water pollution and wildlife protection in ways that will promote energy production and economic development.

"The election was a validation of the philosophy and the agenda," said Mike Leavitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental protections, he said, must be done "in a way that maintains the economic competitiveness of the country."
A look at coming attractions:
  • James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said President Bush would not reconsider regulating carbon dioxide emissions — despite scientific alarm over global warming — because such a policy would hurt the domestic coal industry and send jobs overseas.

  • The administration's top environmental officials, along with key allies in Congress, have made clear their intentions to push forward with controversial plans to open more of the Rocky Mountain region to gas development.

  • They have also expressed hope that a larger Republican majority in the Senate will allow proponents of energy production to prevail in their long-running battle to open Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

  • They also are geared up to make industry-inspired changes to the way the government regulates air pollution from power plants and decides whether hydroelectric dams need to be altered to allow fish to pass.

  • Republicans in Congress said they would try to relax laws that protect species from going extinct; that compel power plants to reduce smokestack pollutants; and that require the military to abide by air and toxic pollution laws during peacetime training exercises.
But don’t expect the battles to be fought where the public might actually find out what’s going on….
But industry lobbyists caution against excessive optimism, pointing out that the 55 Senate Republicans still need five votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster of bills.

William Kovacs, a vice president of the U.S. Chambers of Commerce, said it would be "very difficult" to pass pro-industry legislation and predicted that most efforts to ease restrictions on business would have to come through changes in the regulations.

On the other hand, four more years does give the administration a chance to make a lasting impact on environmental policy through lifetime appointments to the federal courts. During Bush's first term, the courts often sided with groups that sued the federal government to compel stricter enforcement of environmental laws. But the judicial climate could change dramatically with new appointments.

"It is close to the tipping point in a number of appeals courts, particularly on the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit [Court of Appeals]," said Glenn Sugameli of the environmental law firm Earthjustice.
And the mandate that Leavitt is claiming? Even the LA Times doesn’t buy it:
Despite unrelenting criticism of the president's policies by Democrats and activists, the environment did not emerge as a prominent issue in the presidential campaign. Nor did Bush say a word about the subject in his news conference last week outlining his second-term priorities.
Yup. Sounds like a mandate to me. Don't say you haven't been warned.