Government scientists, beware: If you cant tell the Bush administration what it wants to hear, youd better keep quiet. In October 2003, a team of Fish and Wildlife Service biologists learned this lesson the hard way. After a decade of study, they had devised a rescue plan for the Missouri Rivers endangered pallid sturgeons and least terns and threatened piping plover. But just when the biologists were about to publish a final report calling for changes in the amount of water released from the rivers dams, they found themselves yanked from the project. Under pressure from the Army Corps of Engineers and congressional supporters of the barge industry, Interior Department assistant secretary Craig Manson
replaced the original scientists with an out-of-state "SWAT team." Their second opinion, released after just 45 days of study, called for smaller changes in water flow than the original team had recommended for recovery of spawning fish and nesting birds.
According to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, many professionals with "inconvenient" messages have been reassigned in Fish and Wildlife Service offices throughout the country. And the problem isnt limited to one agency. The Bureau of Land Management recently announced plans to transfer 20 Boise, Idaho, staffers to a remote office. Ruch characterized the move as a "targeted political payback" to local ranchers who oppose BLM interference in their affairs. Jennifer Hattam
One in every four Americans lives within four miles of a Superfund site, the nations most dangerous repositories of abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste. The Bush administration, however, doesnt seem to be in any hurry to clean them up. Oil and chemical companies are responsible for the majority of Superfund sites, but the White House opposes reinstating a tax on those industries that has helped pay for cleanups at "orphan" sites (those where the parties that dumped the waste cannot be identified or have gone out of business). The General Accounting Office estimates that the trust fund created by these taxes will run out of money by the end of this year, and Bush thinks taxpayers should now foot the entire bill.
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) have a better idea: Last year, they sponsored legislation to extend the corporate tax until 2014 to make polluting industries pay the bulk of the cleanup bill. "The heart of the Superfund law is under attack," Boxer said when she introduced the Toxic Clean-Up Polluter Pays Renewal Act. "These companies make millions on their sales. This fee is a small price to pay for a healthy, safe environment." Jennifer Hattam