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Ten Ways to Make the Environment Matter on November 2
Toxic Fallout: Ground Zero Report Documents Deception
Dupont Toxic Dump Plan Derailed
Goals for Our Grandchildren: An Excerpt from "Strategic Ignorance"
Road to Somewhere: How You Can Help
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The Planet
‘Your Call is Important to Us’

We can’t blame everything on the Bush administration. It’s DuPont, not the Bush administration, that’s pumping 12 million pounds of toxic waste into the air and water in Harrison County, Mississippi. (See September's article on DuPont's "Toxic Dump Plan".)

For the past several years, the Sierra Club has been connecting the dots between local environmental problems—be they asthma in children or mercury contamination of fish—and Bush administration policies.

Those connections are seemingly everywhere.
So it’s easy to forget that it’s not the Bush administration that is doing the actual polluting, or logging, or drilling. (Usually.) It’s the oil industry, or the timber industry, or, in the case of Harrison County, Mississippi, the chemical industry. But we point the finger at the Bush administration because it has the tools to enforce laws that protect citizens from industry abuses, but doesn’t use them.

Instead, it weakens these laws and helps industry dodge them. In fact, according to a Los Angeles Times investigative team, the Bush administration has even created a “complaint desk” for the energy industry, so that industry concerns get passed on quickly to federal land management employees in the field.

In other words, if you’re an oil or mining company, you get your own customer service department. Want to drill for natural gas in the Rocky Mountains but some pesky BLM scientist says it could hurt wildlife? Call the White House Task Force for Energy Project Streamlining, which can turn the screws on the local field office.

The Los Angeles Times cites the example of a BLM archaeologist who received such a call from the White House and initially thought it was a joke. “You must have the thing in Iraq taken care of if you have time to call somebody in a field office about a gas well,” he answered.

Once he realized the call, about a drilling permit, was no prank, he treated the matter seriously. He later explained to the Times, “It becomes a top priority because you don’t want the bosses to jump down your throat. I’ve worked for the federal government since the Reagan administration, and that’s never happened before.”
But what if you’re just an ordinary American citizen?
While operators are standing by for the administration’s industry friends, input from regular citizens is pretty much ignored. The Forest Service held more than 600 hearings for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and received more than 2 million public comments, the vast majority of which favored strong protections for remaining roadless areas. But the administration rewrote the rule to allow more drilling, mining, and timber harvesting in roadless areas.

It’s the same story for the administration’s plan for mercury pollution, which was practically written by the utility industry. More than 500,000 concerned citizens flooded the EPA with comments, mostly in support of stronger limits, but to no avail.

The message to ordinary citizens? “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next available operator.” And instead of soft rock, replace hold music with the whir of chainsaws and the rumble of drilling pumps.

John Byrne Barry

(Thanks to Sierra Club RAW)

 

 


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