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Lay of the Land

Wind-power Politics | Roads to Nowhere | Consumer-product pollutants | Columbia River Swimmer | Pinstripes Against Pollution | UNESCO's Danger List | Bold Strokes | WWatch | Updates


Keeping tabs on the Bush administration

Casualty Friday | For the Record | A Better Way | By the Numbers

Casualty Friday

If you’re in the Bush administration, how do you celebrate the end of the workweek? By wreaking havoc on the environment! Well aware that they’re out of step with the mainstream, its lieutenants save announcements of their dirtiest decisions for Fridays and holiday weeks, when they’re least likely to get media attention.

At the tail end of one week in April, for example, the Interior Department announced it would no longer review potential new wilderness areas across the West and was rescinding wilderness protection for some 3 million acres in Utah. Other TGIF bombs include: a decision to recommend no new wilderness in unlogged areas of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest (February 28); release of a plan to expand drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska (January 17); authorization of the largest oil and gas project ever on public lands, in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana (January 10); rules weakening the Clean Air Act’s "new source review" provisions (November 22, 2002); and announcement of loopholes for mountaintop-removal mining (May 3, 2002). Major holidays also provide cover: Last Christmas Eve, Bush’s Interior Department released rules allowing state and local jurisdictions to use 137-year-old Revised Statute 2477 to turn old trails, abandoned dirt roads, and dry streambeds into new roads (see "Highway Robbery,"). And just before Thanksgiving, the administration proposed revisions that would weaken the National Forest Management Act.

"By slipping controversial proposals under the radar," says Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope, "the administration seeks to accomplish its goals quickly and quietly, without full public knowledge." And for those who do read the paper on Saturday morning, it can ruin a good weekend.
–Reed McManus


For The Record

"I don’t believe there is any training mission in the United States that is being held up because of environmental regulations."

–EPA administrator Christie Whitman, on February 26, in response to the Department of Defense’s plan to exempt the military from five key environmental laws. Whitman recanted a month later, saying she was "very comfortable" with the exemptions. (See "Ways & Means,")


A Better Way

True Brit

Iraq brought George W. Bush and Tony Blair together, but will global warming pull them apart? In February, the British prime minister called for an unprecedented 60 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom by 2050. Blair says the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012, is insufficient and will amount to a mere 2 percent reduction in the gases. "Kyoto is not radical enough," said Blair at the annual conference of the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission. With new technology, he says, even a hefty reduction in greenhouse gases should not hinder economic growth. Blair and Prime Minister Göran Persson of Sweden are urging other EU countries to adopt the bold recommendation. At the same time, Blair is criticizing Bush for backing out of the Kyoto Protocol. By framing global warming as an issue of national security, Blair hopes to appeal to his reluctant colleague across the Atlantic. "There will be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged by climate change," Blair says.
–Reed McManus


By the numbers

• Number of U.S. chemical plants that, if targeted by terrorists, could endanger 10,000 or more people: 3,823

• Number of mandatory safety rules Bush has proposed to protect cities from terrorist attacks on chemical plants: 0

• Number of years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been dumping toxic sludge in the Potomac River under an expired permit: 9

• Number of additional years the EPA has given the Army Corps to adhere to stringent dumping restrictions: 6.5

• Percentage change in sulfur dioxide pollution in Washington State under the Bush administration’s proposed "Clear Skies" initiative, according to the EPA: —87

• Percentage change under the "Clear Skies" proposal, according to Washington State air officials: +34

• Number of oil and gas wells the Bureau of Land Management wants to allow in Wyoming’s scenic Jack Morrow Hills: 205

• Percent of Wyoming public land already open to oil and gas leasing: 89

Expanded By the Numbers

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