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Second Report on Developments Regarding Environmental Programs During the Second Bush Administration

in the period between July 15, 2002 and Feb. 1, 2003

Michael McCloskey
January 20, 2003

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

Nearly 85% of the developments are negative. Most of the positive developments concern action by EPA. Also Bush did sign a few small wilderness bills.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

-      Interior Secretary Gail Norton has urged President Bush to veto any version of the Energy Bill that does not include authorization to drill for oil and gas within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But the bill died in the 107th Congress.  [9/20/02]


-      The EPAs annual report on air pollution trends this year leaves out its regular section on climate change because of industry opposition. [9/15/02]
-      The Bush Administration is still studying the question of whether human actions are causing changes in the climate, notwithstanding a consensus among United Nations scientists that they are. In the meantime, it refuses to agree to the Kyoto Protocol. [11/13/02]


-      The Bush Administration is backing power industry plans to build eight new coal-fired power plants in Kentucky; others may soon emerge. [9/26/02]

-      The Bush Administration has proposed to open millions of acres in six Rocky Mountain states to oil and gas drilling, but critics say that only eleven weeks of supply would be generated and that little has been done to assess the environmenta impacts. [10/30/02]

+/ -      The Bush Administration has ordered only a slight reduction in emissions from snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles. [1/5/03]

International Policy

-      At 3rd World Conference on sustainable development, the Bush Administration has rejected all initiatives and decided to "stand pat." A small amount of "new" foreign aid was later offered to protect forests in Congo and for energy projects in poor countries, but this may really involve a reshuffling of money. [9/5/02]

-      The Bush Administration has taken a stance that the National Environmental Policy Act does not apply to federal waters off U.S. coasts. [11/7/02]

Mining and Oil and Gas Leasing

-      The Bush Administration is trying to weaken the bonding requirements for mining so that mining companies would free to offer unenforceable assurances, instead of having to buy a bond, that they plan to rehabilitate the area [fall/02]

-      The Corps of Engineers is proposing to permit mining of 15,000 acres of wetlands in Florida's Everglades, allowing 1.7 billion tons of limestone to be mined for road construction. [8/21/02]

-      The Bush Administration has decided to let exploration occur outside the boundaries of grandfathered oil and gas leases within the Ancients National Monument in Colorado. As many as l900 acres of unleased land will be affected.

-      Interior Secretary Gail Norton has rejected proposals to have a panel of citizens oversee the trans-Alaska pipeline, which is having its permit extended. [9/12/02]

-      The solicitor of the Bush Administration's Interior Department has moved to overrule his predecessor's ruling that miners may only use five acres for each mining claim for their mill site (the "Leshy" rule). [9/14/02]

-      The Bush Administration's Interior Department has sided with the Glamis mining company in deciding that its claims in the California Desert Conservation Area are valid and do not fall afoul of the restriction against "undue impairment." They signaled their intent to overrule that provision. [10/15/02]

-      The BLM has failed to assess the cumulative effects of waste disposal and use in its EISs for coal methane development in Wyoming. [11/8/02]

-      The Bush Administration has approved going ahead with drilling two new natural gas wells in Padre Island National Seashore. Eleven endangered species are found in the seashore, along with the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, for which the area provides its principal breeding ground in the U.S. While drilling in allowed in this seashore on inholdings, the amount of drilling has been declining until now. [11/22/02]

-      The Bush Administration has failed in its efforts to persuade a federal judge to to allow it to go forward with the use of old oil and gas leases off the California coast in federal waters. Use of these leases in this matter is not consistent with California policy; federal law requires that leases be consistent with state law. [12/4/02]

-      A federal court judge has blocked the Interior Department from permitting exploration for oil near Utah's Arches National Monument. Environmental impacts were not considered sufficiently in advance planning. A dispute is brewing over plans to do similar exploratory work near Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. [11/1/02; 1/4/03]


-      Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles has refused to recuse himself as promised in cases involving dealings with members of his former law firm, for which he served as a lobbyist. [9/25/02]

National Forests

-      The Forest Service has claimed falsely that 48% of its fuel reduction projects have been appealed by environmentalists or stopped by their litigation, whereas in reality only 1% were. [8/1/02]

-      The Forest Service has decided to let holders of timber sale contracts in Alaska extend the time for logging them for as long as ten more years. [8/16/02]

-      The Bush Administration has proposed to let timber companies have access to old growth timber in return for thinning younger growth. Also they will permit more salvage logging in burned areas. Environmental safeguards would be weakened. [9/4/02]

-      There would be a categorical exclusion that would declare that no environmental assessments would need to be prepared for sales of small dimension timber. [9/27/02]

-      The Bush Administration has agreed to revisit and likely relax the requirement that it "survey and manage" all species that find habitat on its lands. This move is designed to facilitate more logging. [10/1/02]

-      The Forest Service has proposed to eliminate all NEPA compliance at the level of national forest planning. Compliance would be at the project level only, leaving cumulative effects not assessed. Forest supervisors would have discretion about whether to protect fish and wildlife. [11/8/02]

-      The Forest Service has announced that it plans to log on nearly 500,000 acres of California's Plumas and Lassen National Forests, including taking out large trees. One of the participants laments that the "Quincy Library Group," which made up prescriptions for much of the area, never contemplated removing large trees which are used by spotted owls for nesting. [12/11/02]

National Park System

-      The Interior Department is on the verge of approving projects, long opposed by environmentalists, to build a road across Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, as well as to allow development on an inholding of 168 acres of meadowlands inside the park near the southern entrance. A career Park Service employee (Dave Mihalic) retired rather than take on the job of facilitating these developments. [10/4/02]

+     President Bush signed legislation adding 310 acres to the small Tumacacori National Monument in Arizona. [10/21/02]

-      The management of Olympic National Park is proposing to put constructed shelters at two spots within statutorily designated wilderness. [11/02]

National Monuments

+     The Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has upheld actions by President Clinton in using his authority under the Antiquities Act to set aside seven of the 15 new new national monuments he created by executive action. [10/20/02]

-      The Bush Administration has set forth its plan to heavily log other species in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Half of the sequoia groves are in the monument. [1/2/03]


-      EPA has agreed to let the state of Idaho take over the matter of deciding how much cleanup should occur at the Coeur d'Alene superfund site, which is one of the nation's worst. In the past, the state has minimized the problem. [8/14/02]

+     EPA has threatened to take over North Dakota's pollution program because it claims that sulfur oxides are too high in Class I areas (where air quality is supposed to be high over federal wildlife refuges and national parks). A dispute exists over measurement models. [8/16/02]

+     EPA has threatened Ohio with loss of federal highway funds because of its failure to enforce national clean air standards. In defiance of federal law, Ohio exempted 22,000 small emitters from various requirements. [8/20/02]

-      EPA has refused to disclose comments of those within EPA favoring greater requirements for curbing emissions from snowmobiles. [9/27/02]

+/ -    Facing a court-ordered deadline, the EPA promulgated regulations that would require 30-50% reductions in emissions from various offroad vehicles, including snowmobiles, dirt bikers, and ATVs. However, the regulations do not go into full effect until 2012 and are weaker than those proposed earlier under the Clinton Administration. [9/13/02]

-      The Bush Administration has announced its intent to turn more of the job of enforcing federal water pollution laws and regulations to the states. [9/20/02]

-      The Bush Administration has decided not to impose strict regulations to protect chemical plants from attack by terrorists. Despite all of the talk about homeland security, this idea was scrapped in the face of opposition from the chemical industry itself. [10/3/02]

+     The EPA has worked out an arrangement with twelve ethanol plants in Minnesota to update their emissions control technology rather than fight doing so in court. Others may follow this move. [10/4/02]

-      In a lawsuit mounted by American auto makers (General Motors and Chrysler) that challenges California's zero-emission-vehicle legislation, the Bush Administration has argued that it constitutes an "impermissible intrusion" into federal jurisdiction. Specifically it objects to the inclusion of hybrid-engine vehicles in the zero-emissions law. It claims that the federal government has preempted the field of fuel economy, while states can impose stricter emissions controls. However, there are reports that the Bush Administration is considering extending its challenges to California's laws that require ten percent of all cars and trucks to be completely clean onto different legal grounds [10/10/02; 10/16/02]

-      The Bush Administration's EPA seems to be cleaning up less than half as many "superfund" sites as its immediate predecessors. It is asking for less money, though Democrats in Congress have succeeded in getting more. Work on seven sites has come to a stop because of lack of funds. [10/16/02; 10/31/02]

+     The Bush Administration's EPA has decided at last to enforce the Clinton Administration's stricter standard for control of ozone pollution. It does so after legal challenges from the American Trucking Assn. and the Chamber of Commerce were finally rejected by the Supreme Court. By the spring of 2004 it will decide which cities are out of compliance with the new standard. [11/14/02]

-      The Bush Administration EPA has decided to give owners of refineries and coal- fired power plants leeway to modernize their facilities without upgrading their air pollution control devices. This was thought to be required under the Clean Air Act's provisions "New Source Review" provisions. Now these provisions will be weakened, though they may be subject to challenge in court actions. [11/25/02]

-      The Bush Administration has agreed to accept more high-level nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state in return for a pledge to accelerate the timing of its cleanup there. The deal has been criticized as a "sucker punch." [12/17/02]

-      Acting under an order of the court to promulgate rules to control effluents from feed lot operations., the EPA has issued rules that require 15,500 factory farms to obtain government permits to release their effluents. However, the rules are weaker than proposed under the Clinton Administration -- applying to fewer facilities, failing to require monitoring of ground water, failing to hold subcontractors liable, and allowing more leeway. [12/17/02]

Regulatory Approach

-      OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) (working through its Director, John Graham) has forced monetized cost-benefit decision-making despite Congressional directives, undermined use of science, and gutted a number of public protections for the environment. [9/5/02]

-      The Bush Administration is in the process of clearing many Clinton era scientists off government advisory boards because of their suspected sympathy with environmentalists . [9/17/02]

-      The Bush Administration has asked Congress to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act under various circumstances: on military bases, in U.S. controlled offshore waters, and in the national forests (allegedly to reduce risk in fire prone areas). A review is underway. It is also seeking to limit court reviews and challenges. [9/27/02]

-      The legality of the 60-day freeze on all new regulations of the outgoing Clinton put forward by the incoming Bush Administration has been challenged by the Government Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate. They claimed the freeze reflected "a predetermined hostility" toward environmental regulations. [10/25/02]

-      Civil penalties growing out of actions to enforce federal, pollution-control laws have declined by over half since the Bush Administration took over. The punishments are also gentler. [11/13/02]

-      When public comments are sent in for consideration on proposed new regulations, the public should be mindful that the Bush Administration is not giving any weight to comments that come in via email in response to broadsides asking for input. It is only counting comments in letters (which may be held up for security reasons). 93% of all comments are thus discounted. [11/17/02]

-      The Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior, working with the Council on Environmental Quality, have decided to "streamline environmental reviews" on fire control measures. Many such projects would not be subject to stays, and some appeals would be heard and decided within 60 days. Guidance under NEPA is being provided. [12/12/02]

-      The Bush Administration has revoked a Clinton era condition for eligibility for federal contracts that the recipient be in compliance with federal laws, such as pollution control laws. [12/17/02]

-      The Bush Administration has embarked on a process of weakening over 300 regulations, including many that are intended to protect the environment. Included among them are steps to weaken restrictions on use of arsenic in pressure-treated wood and inclusion of the gray wolf and grizzly bears on the list of endangered species. [12/20/02]


-      The Bush Administration has directed federal agencies to speed environmental reviews for major transportation projects. [9/19/02] [10/1/02]

-      The Bush Administration, having rolled back the Clinton Administration's ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, has decided to allow 1,100 of them each day after 2003. Until then, use is unlimited. Over time, their rulings would require cleaner engines, but conflicts with wildlife would continue. [11/12/02]

-      President Bush has ordered an end to restrictions on Mexican trucks entering the U.S. These trucks would come onto American roads despite the fact that many of them are dirty and do not meet U.S. standards for safety and controlling pollution. Allegedly this outcome is required under NAFTA. An unlikely alliance of labor, environmentalists and trucking organizations has mounted a challenge in federal court in an effort to stop the order. [12/3/02]

-      The Forest Service under the Bush Administration has proposed to open a 90-mile long swath of the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana to use by offroad vehicles, including snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and ATVs. The eastern edges of such wilderness areas as the Bob Marshall, the Lincoln-Scapegoat, and the Great Bear areas would be affected. This plan was found to be illegal in 1987, but has been resurrected with little change. [12/19/02]

[?] The Bush Administration has decided to increase slightly the fuel economy standard for sport utility vehicles, vans, minivans, and pickup trucks. Under its proposal, the standard would be increased by 1.5 miles per gallon over three years, beginning in 2005. Environmentalists have called for a much greater increase. [12/13/02]

-      The Bush Administration plans to issue a ruling to allow ancient rights of way once used settlers and miners across public lands to be used again by offroad enthusiasts. [1/2/03]


-      The Bush Administration has signaled that it does not intend to press for water rights attached to various federal reservations in the West when controversies arise. They would turn control of that water to the states, which have historically sided with local interests in contests. [10/13/02]

Wildlife, ESA, and Wetlands

+     The Bush Administration has created a new wildlife refuge in Louisiana along the Red River, albeit of limited size and with donated land. [8/25/02]

-      The Bush Administration's Commerce Department is trying to relax labeling standards for "dolphin-safe tuna." [12/31/02]

+     The Pacific Fishery Management Council has decided to ban bottom fishing in federal waters on the continental shelf off the Pacific Coast of the United States. However, the final decision will be made by the Secretary of Commerce. Some think the decision is late in coming. [9/15/02]

-      The Bush Administration has agreed to exempt 850 species of migratory birds from protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty. This move is designed to accommodate the desires of military planners on 25 million acres of their reservations to be free of these restrictions. [10/23/02]

-      The Fish and Wildlife Service is removing restrictions from four million acres of land in California that it had imposed to protect the habitat of the threatened red- legged frog -- celebrated in Mark Twain's story about the "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Its habitat has shrunk by 70%. Having lost in a court challenge by developers, the agency is submitting without further resistance. [11/9/02]

-      In providing more water for farmers in Klamath Basin, the Bush Administration's Interior Department is partly responsible for the death of 33,000 salmon on the lower Klamath River. The Bureau of Reclamation rejected the advice of staff in the the National Marine Fisheries Service with regard to water releases for the salmon. [10/30/02] [1/6/03]


+     President Bush signed legislation establishing the 14,000-acre James Peak Wilderness in Colorado, which was sponsored jointly by Rep. Scott McInnes (R.- Colo.) and Rep. Mark Udall (D.-Colo.). [8/16/02]

-      The Bush Administration failed to fight in court to defend the roadless area rule. However, Court of Appeals upheld this rule, which protects 58 million acres of national forest land. The injunction to halt implementation of the rule issued by a lower court judge in Idaho has been vacated. However, in a different case involving.

+     land in North Dakota Bush Administration lawyers have defended the EIS prepared to justify the roadless rule. [8/16/02; 1/4/03]

-      The Bush Administration has decided to continue to allow surf fisherman to drive on the Holgate section of beach in the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which is supposed to be protected as wilderness. [9/4/02]

-      The Forest Service has proposed to continue to log in the Duncan Canyon Roadless Area in the Sierra Nevada, which is proposed for wilderness designation. [9/4/02]

-      The BLM has yet to apply wilderness standards within substantial portions of the wilderness that Congress established within the Steens Mountains area of eastern Oregon. Despite the fact that no dispensations were provided by law for pre- established uses there, a commercial outfitter routinely drives through the wilderness; a realtor also drives through the area; and a commercial training camp uses the area. Wilderness Watch has filed complaints. [10/02]

+     President Bush did sign legislation establishing the Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act sponsored by California's Congressman Sam Farr of Carmel. The bill adds 56,880 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System. [12/24/02]

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