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Developments Regarding Environmental Programs During the Second Bush Administration

in the period between July 15, 2001 and Feb. 1, 2002

Michael McCloskey
February 7, 2002

Positive developments preceded by [ + ]; negative ones by [ - ].

PREFACE:  Negative developments outweighed positive ones by a 3-2 margin, with most of the negative moves stemming from the Bush Administration and only about half of the positive ones coming from them.


+     Agriculture. Sec. Ann Veneman proposed cutting federal subsidies for industrial agriculture and double funding for conservation programs.  [12/11/01]

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

-      The House of Representatives voted by a margin of 223-206 to open the coastal plain of the Arctic NWR to oil and gas leasing. The Teamsters union lobby swung three dozen Democrats in favor of the proposal.  Five major unions support drilling there.  Most Republicans support the proposal.  Under the House bill, surface occupancy would be limited to 2000 acres. [8/4/01]

-     Interior Secretary Gail Norton misled Congress in claiming that in most years caribou calving does not occur on the coastal plain, when in fact it does.  She claimed that she got confused over the difference between saying "inside" versus "outside" of the coastal plain. 10/26/01]

-      Interior Department officials found that oil and gas drilling in the Arctic NWR would not harm polar bear habitat there nor violate the treaty which obligates the U.S. to  protect them; this finding contradicts a 1995 F&WS study. [1/19/02]


+      Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card predicted that the Bush administration
would bring concrete proposals to fight climate change to the next international conference on that  problem (but earlier Sec. of State Powell's suggestions along that line were contradicted by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.)  [8/6/01]

[?]   The Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked the Bush administration to put forth a proposal to revise the Kyoto protocol to the Climate Treaty or an alternative proposal by this fall.  [8/4/01]


-      The House of Representatives turned back a proposal to raise the fuel economy standards for light trucks and SUVs to 27.5 mpg by 2007 by a vote of 269-160.  [8/4/01]

+      The energy bill passed by the House of Representatives in early August would require automakers to lower fuel use by 5 billion gallons over six years beginning in 2004, which would produce a slight gain in efficiency.  [8/4/01]

-      But this same bill provides $33 billion in subsidies and handouts to oil companies and other polluters.    [9/7/01]

[?]     The Bush administration unveiled a new partnership program with U.S. automakers to promote use of engines powered by fuel cells (replacing Al Gore's emphasis on improving the fuel economy of internal combustion engines). However, fuel cell technology may be slower in coming on line than hybrid engines.  Gore's program never produced anything useful.  [1/8/02]

National Forests

[ ]       Over two million citizens commented on whether the Forest Service should protect remaining roadless areas, with a half million more comments coming in after the Bush administration took office.  Most comments old and new favored protecting these areas. [9/19/01]

+      Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth upheld a Clinton-era decision to implement a study to extend greater protection to the ecosystems in the national forests in California's Sierra Nevada range.  It would protect old growth and significantly limit logging.  However, he did direct that it be reviewed further to comply with Congressional mandates on fire control.  [11/19/01]

But the Regional Forester soon thereafter announced that he intended to allow more trees to be cut, not fewer, as well as continued cattle grazing and more use by dirt bikes.  [1/4/02]

-     The Forest Service announced its intention to delay revising management plans for most national forests in the Pacific Northwest until 2012 rather than revising them by 2005, which had been the target.  The delay is attributed to budget shortages, but environmentalists fear it will deny them a timely opportunity to improve existing plans.   [12/3/01]

-      The Bush administration revised rules governing decisions on the fate of remaining roadless areas in national forests by eliminating the need to prepare an EIS prior to building roads in these areas.  Moreover, the Forest Service will no longer  need to show a "compelling need" before constructing new roads, nor will it extend any protection to uninventoried roadless areas adjacent to inventoried roadless areas or wilderness areas.  [12/18/01]  The Administration indicated it may propose new roadless area regulations in the spring of 2002, but is waiting to see what emerges from a dialogue group which has been convened by theTeddy Roosevelt Institute to address the issue (though the dialogue does not involve the principal environmental groups that are most interested).  1/4/02]
-     Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey expedited  salvage logging in a burned portion of Montana's Bitterroot National Forest by ruling that administrative appeals would not be allowed.  The logging could endanger habitat for the imperiled bull trout.  [12/18/01]

+      However, a federal judge subsequently ruled that his action was impermissible and that 45 days had to be provided for the public to file appeals of the proposed action.  The administration claims that the timber will rot if logging cannot go ahead soon.  [1/9/02] Through a mediation effort convened by the court, agreement was reached to reduce the acres to be logged by two-thirds. [2/8/02]

-      The Forest Service also is attempting to expedite local logging projects by expanding the use of "categorical exclusions" that would avoid the need to prepare environmental evaluations under NEPA .   [fall 2001]

National Park System

-      The approach of the Bush administration to national parks is to emphasize fixing roads, upgrading sewer systems, and building new visitor facilities instead of reducing impacts and protecting biodiversity (as the National Park Advisory Board recently called for).  [8/4/01]

+      President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, signed an agreement to guarantee that water captured by a new $7.8 billion restoration effort will actually go to Everglades National Park as Congress called for.  [1/10/02]

National Monuments

+     The Senate voted to protect national monuments from energy development including coal mining.  [7/23/01]

+     President Clinton's action in setting aside a Giant Sequoia National Monument in California of 328,000 acres was upheld by a federal district court, despite a challenge from the timber industry and ORV groups.  [10/3/01]

+     Clinton's actions in setting aside six other national monuments was also upheld by another federal judge as an appropriate application of the 1906 Antiquities Act.  The monuments under legal attack by the Mtn. States Legal Fund were: Cascades-Siskiyou (OR), Hanford Reach (WA), Sonoran Desert (AZ), Grand Canyon-Parashant (AZ), Ironwood Forest (AZ), and Canyons of the Ancients (CO).  [11/16/01]

Mining and Oil and Gas Leasing

[?]     Interior Sec. Gail Norton has urged Congress to revise the 1872 General Mining Act in various ways, including paying reasonable royalties, a reasonable holding fee, a better patenting system, giving states a larger role, and addressing the question of abandoned mines.  This approach is also generally agreeable to the mining industry, but falls far short of what the environmental community has called for.   [12/7/01]

-     Interior Sec. Norton also chose Cam Toohey, who had been lobbying to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil development, as her special assistant for Alaskan affairs. [7/21/01]

-     The Bush administration repealed the BLM regulation that permits the agency to turn down proposals to mine on public lands when substantial and irreparable harm would be done (the so-called sec. 3809 regulations).  A federal court, however, continues to ponder the matter.   [10/27/01]

-      The Interior Department has also weakened restrictions on using areas outside of mining claims for processing mills and other facilities.  It exempted existing facilities from these restrictions, as well as modifications made to them.  [11/23/01]

-      Interior Secretary Norton also overturned her predecessor's decision to turn down a permit for the Imperial Project mine in California, which Sec. Babbitt had found would cause undue impairment of tribal lands.  [1/4/02]

+     Congress voted to prohibit new oil and gas leasing in the beds of the Great Lakes for a two year period.  States could not lease there either until the Corps of Engineers completes a study of environmental impacts. [11/3/01]

+     The U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn an earlier Forest Service ban on oil and gas development along the Rocky Mountain Front--a 1.8 million acre swath of important habitat at the eastern base of the mountain range.  [11/18/01]

-     Forest Service Chief Bosworth has asked the Interior Department to drop action, requested by former Interior Sec. Babbitt, to withdraw 800,000 acres in Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains from mining to protect wild river values there.  [Dec. 2001]

-     The Bush administration is seeking authority to proceed with 36 oil leases off the California coast despite the opposition of California's government.These leases were granted prior to the existing moratorium there.  [1/16/02]

-     The BLM weakened standards governing its management of pre-existing mining claims in the national monuments that it administers.  It will no longer require that the claims be proved valid before permitting mining in monuments.  [12/7/01]


-     The Bush administration has delayed moving ahead with plans to apply the provisions of law controlling maximum daily pollution loadings permitted in the nation's streams and lakes.  A rule promulgated in June 2000 directs states to determine the loadings to be permitted in water bodies.  [7/17/01]

+     EPA Administrator Whitman decided to go ahead with orders to General Electric to clean up PCB pollution from their plants along the Hudson River.  Some 40 miles of the river might have to be dredged at the cost of a half a billion dollars.   [8/4/01]

-      Whitman, however, also decided to scrap earlier plans to compel power plants in the midwest to directly reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and mercury emissions and instead to let utilities address these issues through a pollution credit trading program. [8/4/01]

+      The House of Representatives voted 218 to 189 to require the EPA to stick to the standards for reducing concentrations of arsenic in drinking water that were promulgated by the Clinton administration.  [8/4/01]

-      The Bush administration made it known that it is re-assessing its approach to implementing the "new source performance review" requirements under the Clean Air Act.  The issue concerns leeway to make improvements to dirty, aging power plants without upgrading their pollution controls.    [8/15/01]  Various loopholes were being crafted to allow utilities owning these plants to escape the new source requirements.  [12/18/01] 

+      However, it was later announced that--on the advice of the Justice Dept--it was going to enforce the existing regulations for new sources.  [1/17/02]

-     The Bush administration is also proposing to delay implementation of rules to control runoff from polluted feedlots and other agricultural sources.  [8/27/01]

+     EPA Administrator Whitman has decided to go ahead with enforcement of rules to require reductions in the level of arsenic in drinking water to the level decided by the prior Clinton administration (10 ppb) after a National Academy of Sciences panel said that standards should be no weaker.  [9/17/01; 11/1/01]

+      The EPA proposed new more stringent rules to reduce the emissions from such vehicles as snowmobiles, diesel boats, and ATVs.  Carbon monoxide emissions would have to be reduced by 56% and nitrogen oxides by 80%, but not until 2010.  [9/21/01]

+      In a court approved settlement decision, EPA agreed to assess the risks of 39 organophosphate pesticides used in agriculture within the next year.  [10/1/01]

-      EPA has been slow to acknowledge that the air at ground zero where the rubble from the World Trade Center is being cleared is laden with such toxics as benzene, dioxins, PCBs, lead, chromium, etc.  Those working in the area have been particularly affected. [10/29/01]

Regulatory Approach

-      President Bush claimed that his administration will pursue environmental policies that both promote economic growth and protect the environmental ones that he claims are balanced and "based on science, not fads or politics."  [8/13/01]

-      The Bush administration has proposed to cut EPA's enforcement staff by 8% and rely more on the states, despite EPA's findings that states do a poor job of punishing polluters.  [8/27/01]

-      The Bush administration is developing a new executive order that will instruct federal agencies to avoid establishing "uniform national standards for programs where possible and to defer to the states."  [9/4/01]

-      OMB regulatory overseer John Graham sent a letter to federal agencies stressing the need to establish the cost effectiveness of federal regulations through greater use of benefit/cost analyses, which environmentalists claim are inherently biased.  [9/20/01]

-      OMB regulatory chief John Graham also tried to meet with business executives to get their lists of regulations they find too burdensome and that they want relaxed.  57 rules were targeted in preliminary memos circulated for the meeting.  [12/5/01]           

-      The Bush administration rescinded a debarment rule that made businesses ineligible for federal contracts if they did not have a satisfactory record of compliance with federal regulations, including environmental ones.  [1/3/02]

-     After the attacks by terrorists in September, environmental programs became more vulnerable to attack from those making arguments couched in terms of energy or national security arguments.  [11/18/01]

Wildlife, ESA and Wetlands

-      The Coast Guard has fewer resources--after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks--to enforce rules against poaching in nearshore waters because of its new responsibilities to police coastal waters.  [11/18/01]

+      The Senate turned down an amendment proposed by Oregon Senator Gordon Smith to remove protection for endangered fisheries in Oregon and California.    [7/23/01]

-      Following in the wake of pledges made by President Bush, the Corps of Engineers announced that it was abandoning plans to try to manage the Missouri River to achieve more natural stream flows in the spring to protect endangered wildlife (pallid sturgeon, piping plover, least terns, etc.) [8/4/01]

+      Interior Secretary Norton settled a lawsuit by agreeing to proceed with the listing and protection for 29 endangered species, but this is far short of the 300 that environmentalists say also need to be addressed.  [9/14/01]

-      Interior Sec. Norton withheld submitting comments from the Fish and Wildlife Service that were critical of plans of the Corps of Engineers to relax rules to protect wetlands.   [1/15/02]  These regulations, which make it easier to dredge and fill wetlands, have now been approved by the Bush administration. The new rules were justified in terms of reducing paperwork burdens.  [1/16/02]

-      President Bush signed a bill passed by Congress that turns over 110,000 acres of BLM land in the California Desert, containing important habitat for the desert tortoise, to Ft. Irwin for tank maneuvers.
Also affected are 35,000 acres of potential wilderness.  However, before the use by the military can proceed there must be compliance with such environmental laws as NEPA and the ESA.  [1/4/02]

+      In settling a law suit, the BLM in California agreed to a seasonal ban on grazing on 500,000 acres and a complete ban on grazing on 11,079 acres in the California Desert Conservation Area.   [12/7/01]       

+      Interior Secretary Gail Norton refused to invoke the so-called "God Squad" provision of the ESA over the water dispute involving the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California.

-      However, subsequently the Bureau of Reclamation indicated it would try to give farmers in the Klamath Basin their full supply of water in coming years .  And a National Academy of Science review committee found that the science behind the curtailments imposed in 2001 was weak.  [1/30/02]

+     Secretary Norton indicated she was asking for an 18% increase in funding to help the National Wildlife Refuges improve their trails, boardwalks, and levies.    [1/28/02]


+     The House of Representatives approved legislation to create a new 20,000 acre James Peak and Protection Area in Colorado.  The measure awaits action in the Senate.    [12/18/01]

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