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[greenyes] Bush Administration Environmental Record - NYTimes Feature

 NEW YORK TIMES -- 2/23/03

On Rules for Environment, Bush Sees a Balance, Critics a Threat

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 - For two years, it has come in bursts, on issues from
arsenic to wetlands: the unfolding of what President Bush, as a candidate,
promised would be a new era of environmental protection.
Whether rejecting a treaty on global warming, questioning Clinton-era rules
on forest protection or pressing for changes in landmark environmental laws,
Mr. Bush has imposed a distinctive stamp on a vast landscape of issues
affecting air, water, land, energy and the global climate.

What has emerged is an approach similar to President Ronald Reagan's. It
seeks to tie environmental protection to other goals that are not always
complementary, like economic growth, protection from regulation, increased
energy production and deference to local control.

"Our approach is to maximize the quality of life for America," said James L.
Connaughton, chairman of Mr. Bush's Council on Environmental Quality, "and
that means balancing the environmental equation with the natural resource
equation, the social equation and the economic equation."

Much of what Mr. Bush has done has the potential to be far-reaching,
including some significant rethinking of laws that date as far back as the
Nixon administration and the creation of the Environmental Protection

He has proposed new flexibility in the enforcement of the 1972 Clean Air Act
to allow old coal-fired power plants, the country's biggest polluters, to
modernize without meeting present-day standards and to trade the right to
pollute among themselves.

He has opened more public land to energy exploration and is seeking to open
more, particularly in Alaska, because of the view that federal lands are
underused as a source of natural resources, and that increased American oil
and gas production is the best way to ease dependence on foreign supplies.

And in the arena of global warming, Mr. Bush has ruled out mandatory
controls on American emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, the man-made
component of climate change, in favor of voluntary measures that he says can
address the problem without imposing a crippling economic cost.

Many of these policies are being put into effect not by changing laws but
through the less visible realm of regulation.

Mr. Bush and his senior advisers say they are demonstrating that it is
possible to have the best of two worlds - that "strong economic growth and
strong environmental protection go hand in hand," as a White House report
put it last fall.

But much of what the White House has called progress has been labeled by
critics, Republicans as well as Democrats, as examples of significant
retreat. The White House proposals, given names like Healthy Forests and
Clear Skies, have been derided as promoting exactly the opposite of what
they proclaim.

"Across the board," said Senator James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent
who until recently was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment
and Public Works, "we would be better off doing nothing than doing what the
Bush administration wants to do, which will make things worse than they
already are."

Mr. Connaughton of the environmental council dismissed such critics as
"one-note Nellies of regulate, litigate, re-regulate, litigate," adding, "We
came into office saying we have a much broader toolbox of policy tools to

Protecting the environment is an important issue to the suburban swing
voters whose allegiance is sought by both political parties, so it is not
surprising that the White House takes pains to cast its actions as
environmentally friendly.

But the disconnect between this administration's claims and those of its
critics has been particularly profound. Some environmental organizations
regularly denounce the president's actions as representing the biggest
setback in a generation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, described Mr. Bush's
policy on the environment in a recent report as a "fundamental threat more
sweeping and dangerous than any since the dawn of the modern environmental
movement in 1970."

How, then, to sort out the rival assessments on issues so complicated that
they are commonly referred to in shorthand, by names like Kyoto, Superfund
and ANWR?

for rest of article go to
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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