Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is Stealing From Clinton The Best Bush Can Do In Environmental Policy?

With the Republicans' world crashing down around them, it's not surprising to see them trying to change the subject in a vain search for some real accomplishments -- any real accompishments -- even if they have to -- er, "borrow" them from a previous President-who-shall-not-be-named.

How about this? On Sunday, diesel fuel that contains just 3 percent of the pollution-generating sulfur that was in the old fuel will become available under a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation.

This is a good thing and surely worth some major bragging rights:

Like lead, sulfur generates airborne pollution that leads to severe health consequences. It also gums up the works of finely tuned pollution-control devices, making it difficult to produce cleaner-burning engines. So the new low-sulfur fuel will pave the way for new generations of diesel engines that will eventually cut lethal particulate pollution from diesel tailpipes by 95 percent.


The environmental agency estimates that when the current truck and bus fleets have been replaced and all are using the heavy-diesel engines that will become standard-issue next year, the new rule will prevent 8,300 premature deaths annually.

The only problem is that the diesel rule was a major environmental accomplishment....of the Clinton administration. But you wouldn't know it listening to the Bush administration take credit (while blaming Clinton for everything from 9/11 to the Korean nuclear test)-- unless you happened to be reading Felicity Barringer's NY Times article.
On Tuesday, the Bush administration embraced this signal accomplishment as its own, ignoring the 1990’s origins of the underlying regulation and the fact it became effective in the month before President Bush took office.

In a press conference at the Columbus, Ind., headquarters of Cummins Engine, a major diesel engine maker, the EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said, “Under President Bush’s leadership the pumps are primed to deliver clean diesel and a cleaner future for America.”

Like many of the regulations that took effect in the twilight of the Clinton administration, the diesel rule, covering fuel and the 7 million trucks and buses on the roads, was stayed once President Bush took office. Then the Environmental Protection Agency allowed it to proceed, and, in 2004, supplemented it with a similar rule requiring tight controls on the diesel engines in off-road equipment like cranes, tractors and construction equipment. (emphasis added)
Clinton's humorless former EPA Administrator didn't quite get the joke:
Carol M. Browner, the administrator who signed the original rule, bristled on Tuesday at the Bush administration’s proprietary attitude.

“The best they can do in environmental policy,” Ms. Browner asked, “is take credit for someone else’s work?”
I guess so.

Oh, and in case you hear any Republican candidates in the next few weeks trying to point to this as their proud accomplisment, you know what to do....

(HT Dave Meyer)