NRDC Says White House "Rewriting Rules" for Industry
WASHINGTON (January 16, 2003) -- For the second year in a row, the Bush administration undermined America's landmark environmental laws, as federal agencies announced -- on almost a daily basis -- regulatory changes to weaken safeguards for our air, water, forests, wildlands, wetlands, wildlife, and public health. That was the principle finding of a new report by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), which details more than 100 anti-environmental actions over the past year and highlights the fact that the administration intensified its assault after the November mid-term congressional elections.
"Last year, the White House escalated its efforts to weaken or roll back our bedrock environmental laws," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "And it's going to get worse. America's environmental protections have been challenged before, but never have they faced a threat as far-reaching, insidious and destructive as one posed by the Bush administration and the new Congress."
The report, Rewriting the Rules, Year-End Report 2002: The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment, shows that the White House has enlisted every federal agency that oversees environmental programs in a coordinated effort to relax regulations for oil, coal, logging, mining, chemical, automakers, and other industries. The report also shows how the White House Office of Management and Budget played a central role in coordinating this onslaught.
Additionally, the report found that the administration, emboldened by the results of the November elections, accelerated its efforts to make major policy changes that benefit industry at the expense of the environment and public health. Some of the most glaring examples documented in the report include:
- Changes to the Clean Air Act by the Environmental Protection Agency that provide the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants and refineries with loopholes exempting them from installing modern pollution controls when they upgrade or expand their facilities in ways that increase emissions.
- New EPA and Army Corps of Engineers policies to relax and, in some cases, end Clean Water Act protection for millions of acres of wetlands and other waterways; eliminate corporate liability for "factory farm" pollution; and exempt mining waste from regulation as a pollutant under federal law.
- A series of proposals by the Forest Service and other federal agencies to eliminate requirements for environmental review and public participation when considering logging, mining, drilling, development and other projects in all 155 national forests and on millions of acres of public lands.
"It's no accident some of the Bush administration's biggest handouts to corporate interests happened after Election Day," said Wetstone. "Americans voted for many things in November, but they didn't vote for a sweeping attack on the environment."
The report also notes how the Bush administration routinely tries to minimize public scrutiny of its anti-environmental policies by withholding information from the media until late on Friday evenings or around major holidays. For example, the EPA announced its major changes to the Clean Air Act a few days after Thanksgiving and on New Year's Eve. The administration also uses environmentally friendly euphemisms to mask the true intent and impact of its policy proposals. For example, the White House dubbed its plan to allow timber companies increased access to old-growth forests -- under the guise of fire prevention -- the "Healthy Forests" initiative, and refers to logging as "thinning."
"America's landmark environmental laws have safeguarded our health, improved our quality of life, and preserved our natural heritage," said Wetstone. "The Bush administration's quiet, back-door assault on environmental protections is no less an attack on the air we breathe, the water we drink and the last remaining special places we hold dear."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.