Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina Scapegoats: OK, Now Let's Blame, uh the Enviros -- Yeah, That's the Ticket!

Two rather disturbing developments on the Katrina-environment front which may fortell where the administration is going with its cynical attempts to address the disaster -- not the Gulf Coast disaster, but the disaster of Bush's popularity ratings.

In their neverending search for scapegoats, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have found someone new to blame for the New Orleans disaster: those tree hugging, industry killing, progress slowing environmentalists. And not only did they cause the disaster, now they're even getting in the way of the good faith (and well organized) efforts of the administration to clean up the mess.

As David Sirota and the New York Times report, Senator James Inhofe (R- OK) has proposed a bill that would allow the administration to waive any environmental law for three months to assist the Katrina recovery.

As if that wasn't bad enough, NPR's All Things Considered reported Friday night that there is a draft proposal at EPA that would give the EPA administrator authority to exempt anyone from a range of environmental laws and rules in emergency situations. But not just in national "state of emergency" or even emergencies declared by the Governor of a state. The EPA administrator would be able to decide for him/herself what constitutes an emergency. The memo says that such authority is necessary because current environmental laws "could hamper speedy relief and reconstruction."

The adminstration has already used its current authority to waive environmental rules to permit contaminated water to be pumped into Lake Pontchartrain to drain the city of New Orleans, but environmentalists fear that the administration is using Katrina as a pretext to gut environmental protections.

Meanwhile, the Clarion Ledger in Mississippi has obtained documents indicating that the Bush administration is attempting to blame the New Orleans flood on environmentalists.
The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."
The administration's inquiry may have been launched by a recent article in the CATO Institutes webpage that suggests that the Sierra Club may be to blame for the flood because it demanded an environmental impact study in 1996 concerning work being done on the Mississippi River levies.

The Clarion Ledger points out, however, that not only did the Sierra Club not oppose raising the levies around New Orleans, but there was a slight problem with that conclusion.
The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees. They were levees that protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain levees on the other side of the city.

When Katrina struck, the hurricane pushed tons of water from the Gulf of Mexico into Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city to the north. Corps officials say the water from the lake cleared the levees by 3 feet. It was those floodwaters, they say, that caused the levees to degrade until they ruptured, causing 80 percent of New Orleans to flood.

Bookbinder said the purpose of the litigation by the Sierra Club and others in 1996 was where the corps got the dirt for the project. "We had no objections to levees," he said. "We said, 'Just don't dig film materials out of the wetlands. Get the dirt from somewhere else.'"
But this administration never lets facts get in the way of a good attack against their enemies.

And not to be outdone, the above mentioned Senator Inhofe has also launched an investigation into whether or not environmentalist opposition to Corps of Engineers projects were actually the cause of the entire disaster.

Oh, by the way, if you noticed any other troublesome laws or regulations that Katrina can help get rid of, contact the National Association of Manufacturers which informed its members last week that:
We are also seeking information on other issues which have not yet been addressed but may need legislative or regulatory fixes in light of Katrina. If you have identified any such issues, please let us know that as well.
I can imagine the suggestions that are pouring in....

Other Katrina Posts