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Carl Pope

Carl's new weblog:
Taking the Initiative.

Field Notes Archive

Which is worst?
Vote for the Bush administration's
biggest folly!

Carl Pope's Field Notes

Three More Strikes
27, 2004

Need proof that the policies of the Bush administration are moving us backward, not forward, and that they are being reckless with the health and future of our families?

I offer the following for your consideration:

Exhibit A: EPA's posting this week of the Toxic Release Inventory showed a 5 percent increase in toxic chemicals released into our environment in 2002 -- on Bush's watch. And even though these numbers are self-reported (and we believe significantly under-reported) by industry -- this is first increase since 1997.

Some 4.79 billion pounds of toxics were released in 2002. That increase reverses a recent trend and is a big turnaround from last year's report by EPA that chemical releases in 2001 had declined 13 percent from a year earlier. See what happens when an administration stops holding polluters accountable, cuts monitoring and inspections, and stops enforcing environmental laws? We all pay the price in increased poisons in our air, water, and land.

Exhibit B: In 2001, President Bush promised to "restore and renew" our National Parks -- which will be visited by 250 million Americans this year. Instead, the parks are suffering from budget and staff cuts, a $5 billion maintenance backlog, and serious air pollution. A report out Thursday by our friends at the National Parks Conservation Association concludes that air quality in the National Parks has not improved even though Congress tightened the Clean Air Act in 1990. That poor quality affects more than scenic views -- it can have long-term, detrimental health effects on plants, trees, and animals.

Using haze, acid precipitation, and ozone, also known as smog, as their criteria, the report ranked these five parks in order of having the worst air quality:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. Named for its naturally occurring blue haze, the park rated worst in terms of acidity and second worst for smoggy days as well as haze, with average summer visibility for 1999-2003 at 20 miles. Natural visibility for the parks studied ranged from 80-120 miles. 
     
  • Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Average summer visibility: 17 miles. 
     
  • Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Average summer visibility: 24 miles. 
     
  • Acadia National Park in Maine. Average summer visibility: 54 miles.  

  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks in California. Average summer visibility: 39 miles.

Exhibit C: Finally -- even when there seems to be money available, the administration says it can't spend it.

Montana Senator Conrad Burns, who's a strong proponent of the President's "Healthy Forests" Initiative, has conceded that the Bush administration is playing a shell game with the fuel-reduction budget. Speaking of the President's proposed budget, Burns warned forest service officials, "While I support the proposed increase of $88 million for fire suppression in the FY 2005 budget, no one should be under the illusion that this will solve the fire borrowing problem. In fact, if the fire season is anything like what we have seen in the last few years, the agency would still have to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from nonfire programs."

In response, the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Mark Rey who oversees the US Forest Service, pled that he simply could not spend the money called for in the budget: "I don't believe we could spend that much money in one fiscal year," Rey said, arguing that there were not enough qualified contractors.

Personally I find the notion that workers qualified to wield chain saws and clear brush could not be found in the declining timber towns of Pacific Northwest, which are suffering from double-digit unemployment rates, very hard to believe -- but this, clearly, is an administration that doesn't really care whether you believe them or not -- or whether your health and safety suffer because of their recklessness.