The Whole Story: Bush’s Legacy Reflects Anti-Environment, Pro-Business Agenda with Little Regard For Public Health

Within First 100 Days, Bush Reversed Campaign Pledge To Regulate Power Plants’ CO2 Emissions And Pulled U.S. Out Of Kyoto Climate Change Treaty. According to The Guardian, “The tone was set in the first 100 days when Bush reneged on a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants, the biggest contributors to global warming. Days later, the White House announced that America would not implement the Kyoto global climate change treaty. The two moves at the time were seen as a sign of surrender from Bush, a former oil man, to America’s coal and oil industries.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush’s Designation Of Marine National Monuments Doesn’t Erase Anti-Environmental Record. According to Grist, “Relying on a precedent established by Theodore Roosevelt and employed by successors from both parties, President Bush invoked the Antiquities Act to establish three marine monuments that protect some 125 million acres of habitat, history, and beauty in America’s Pacific territorial waters. The Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll marine national monuments are a treasure of coral reefs, whales, sea turtles, dozens of bird species, hundreds of varieties of fish, the deepest spot one can go without burrowing into the planetary crush, and weird thermal formations that support the toughest life forms on Earth. […] Combined with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Bush designated in 2006, his marine preserves are equal in size to the combined extent of all national parks, national wildlife refuges, and the National Landscape Conservation System, plus 9 million acres in change. […] Even so, the administration did not accept statutory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. It continued pushing aggressive growth in domestic fossil fuel production offshore, in Alaska, and in the Intermountain West. It made repeated runs at weakening the Clean Air Act’s pollution control requirements for old coal-fired power plants. A week before clocking out, the administration finalized a regulation easing controls on mountaintop removal coal mining, about as destructive a fossil fuel production method that can be found anywhere. How much better it would have been if, rather than enabling more mountaintop removal, oil drilling, and climate change inaction, the president had emulated Theodore Roosevelt’s stunning final year of conservation, when the Rough Rider set aside more than 30 wildlife refuges, established nearly 140 national forests, and protected the Grand Canyon.” [Grist, 1/17/09]

Sierra Club Spokesman: Bush “Has Undone Decades If Not A Century Of Progress On The Environment.” According to The Guardian, “‘He has undone decades if not a century of progress on the environment,’ said Josh Dorner, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, one of America’s largest environmental groups. ‘The Bush administration has introduced this pervasive rot into the federal government which has undermined the rule of law, undermined science, undermined basic competence and rendered government agencies unable to do their most basic function even if they wanted to. We’re excited just to push the reset button.’” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush Worked To Strip Environmental Regulations. According to The Guardian, “Meanwhile, Bush officials began a concerted effort to strip away a regulatory regime that had been decades in the making. ‘Every effort has been made to weaken existing law and there has been no effort to advance regulatory solutions to the most important issue we face, which is climate change,’ said Frances Beinecke, president of the National Resources Defence Council.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush Appointed Energy Industry Leaders To Positions With Power Over Environmental Policy. According to the New York Times Magazine, “Publicly, the president asked Congress to pass major environmental legislation like the Clear Skies Initiative and a sweeping energy bill, which he knew would face considerable opposition. Privately, the president’s political appointees at the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Office of Management and Budget would carry out those same policies less visibly, through closed-door legal settlements and obscure rule changes. One key element of the strategy was putting the right people in under-the-radar positions. The Bush administration appointed officials who came directly from industry into these lower rungs of power — deputy secretaries and assistant administrators. These second-tier appointees knew exactly which rules and regulations to change because they had been trying to change them, on behalf of their industries, for years. One appointee was Jeffrey Holmstead, a lawyer and lobbyist for groups like the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy, an electric utility trade group that sought to weaken the Clean Air Act. Holmstead stepped into the role of assistant E.P.A. administrator for air and radiation, where he would oversee changes to new-source review.” [New York Times Magazine, 4/4/04]

Bush Administration Tried To Bury Global Warming Science. According to The Guardian, “The disinformation campaign became a defining element of the Bush era – and was perhaps the most damaging. ‘Certainly the most destructive part of the Bush environmental legacy is not only his failure to act on global climate change, but his administration’s covert attempt to silence the science alerting us to the urgency of the problem,’ said Jonathan Dorn of the Earth Policy Institute (EPA) in Washington. […] The full extent of the White House efforts to downplay, distort and outright censor the science on climate change remains unclear – but such efforts continued even after [NASA scientist James] Hansen accused the Bush administration of censorship. In July 2008, Jason Burnett, a former official at the EPA, wrote a letter to the Senate describing efforts by the office of the vice-president, Dick Cheney, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality to censor discussion of the consequences of climate change. Burnett said the White House tried to circumvent a 2007 Supreme Court decision compelling the EPA to regulate car emissions by doctoring scientific findings on the costs of fuel-efficiency standards. The White House objected to a study showing the benefits of raising fuel standards outweighed the costs. In 2008, officials from Cheney’s office sought to doctor testimony prepared for a Senate hearing on California’s efforts to impose stricter fuel efficiency requirements than the national standard.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush Administration Interfered With Endangered Species Act Out Of Concern That It Could Be Used To Force Emissions Limits. According to The Guardian, “A particular target of the Bush administration’s project of deregulation was the Endangered Species Act. The campaign was driven in part by the administration’s concern that the act – with its protections for polar bears – could be used to force limits on greenhouse gas emissions. As with the science on climate change, the Bush Administration has been accused of interfering with scientific findings on wildlife protection for political reasons.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush’s Interior Secretary Was Found To Have Improperly Prevented Additions To Endangered Species Lists. According to The Guardian, “An official report last month found widespread political interference in the management of endangered species. The inspector general’s report said that the deputy secretary of the interior, Julie MacDonald, intervened repeatedly to prevent new additions to the endangered species list. The report said MacDonald, who headed the endangered species protection programme at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, intervened improperly in 13 of the 20 cases under investigation, overruling the recommendations of field biologists that species be protected.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative Would Have Allowed For Dirtier Air Than What Could Be Achieved Under Preexisting Law. According to the New York Times Magazine, “On Feb. 14, 2002, President Bush unveiled his Clear Skies Initiative. The president declared that his proposed legislation ‘sets tough new standards to dramatically reduce the three most significant forms of pollution from power plants — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.’ It was true that the new standards, if enforced, would reduce emissions from their current rate — but the president’s formulation was somewhat misleading. Clear Skies was to replace Clean Air Act regulations with a cap-and-trade market system. On its face, that was not an unreasonable proposition. Many Republicans and some moderate Democrats embrace the general concept of cap-and-trade, in which Washington sets pollution standards for the entire country (the ‘cap’) and then allows companies that manage to reduce their emissions below the standard to sell their extra pollution ‘allowance’ to companies that haven’t met the standard (the ‘trade’). The key to cap-and-trade lies in the standard — how low it is set and how quickly it shrinks. And when President Bush announced Clear Skies, the E.P.A. was already on track to require deeper reductions in air pollution than his cap-and-trade proposal would produce. So the air would actually be dirtier under Clear Skies than if the president allowed the E.P.A. to enforce the existing law. Clear Skies allowed 50 percent more sulfur dioxide, nearly 40 percent more nitrogen oxides and three times as much mercury as the Clean Air Act — rigorously enforced — called for.” [New York Times Magazine, 4/4/04]

Bush Lifted Offshore Drilling Ban. According to the Washington Post, “President Bush yesterday lifted a presidential ban on offshore oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf that was implemented by his father, escalating a confrontation with Democrats in Congress over how to cope with soaring gas prices. […] In a Rose Garden statement at the White House yesterday, Bush argued that allowing drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines would ease pressure on oil prices by increasing domestic production. Bush also urged Congress to approve other steps, such as allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and he blamed Democratic opposition to drilling for the current run-up in gasoline prices.” [Washington Post, 7/15/08]

Bush Opened Door To Mountaintop Removal Mining. According to NPR, “What used to be a peak is now a massive mining site. A coal company scrapped off the top of the mountain to get to coal seams. Across Appalachia, similar operations are flattening mountains and covering up streams. The Bush administration has promoted what is called mountaintop removal mining, and it even changed environmental rules when lawsuits threatened to halt the practice. […] Throughout his term, Bush worked to preserve coal’s position as the biggest source of electricity and to increase domestic production of oil and natural gas. These priorities have translated into a lasting environmental legacy that includes buried streams in the coalfields of Appalachia, polluted waterways in the Rocky Mountain West and coal-fired power plants that haven’t had to clean up.” [NPR, 1/17/09]

Bush Administration Reclassified Mountaintop Removal Debris To Protect Practice Of Streambed Dumping. According to the Washington Post, “Today, mountaintop removal is booming again, and the practice of dumping mining debris into streambeds is explicitly protected, thanks to a small wording change to federal environmental regulations. U.S. officials simply reclassified the debris from objectionable ‘waste’ to legally acceptable ‘fill.’ The ‘fill rule,’ as the May 2002 rule change is now known, is a case study of how the Bush administration has attempted to reshape environmental policy in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists, citizens groups and political opponents. Rather than proposing broad changes or drafting new legislation, administration officials often have taken existing regulations and made subtle tweaks that carry large consequences.” [Washington Post, 8/17/04]

Just Before Leaving Office, Bush Altered Federal Rules To Weaken A Variety Of Environmental Protections. According to The Guardian, “Bush pursued the grand plan of deregulation to his last days in the White House, with a series of last-minute rule changes. Under the new rules, oil companies will be able to drill within sight of the Arches national park in Utah. Federal agencies will no longer be compelled to consult with government wildlife experts when they open up new areas for logging or road construction, and he also barred the EPA from looking at the effects of global warming on protected species.” [The Guardian, 1/16/09]

Bush’s Last-Minute Drilling Leases Near National Parks Were Revoked By Obama Administration. According to NBC, “In its first action to overturn Bush administration policies on energy, the Obama administration on Wednesday said it will cancel oil drilling leases on more than 130,000 acres near two national parks and other protected areas in Utah. ‘In the last weeks in office, the Bush administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases near some of our nation’s most precious landscapes in Utah,’ Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters. […] The 77 leases were for areas near Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon, which is sometimes called the world’s longest art gallery for its collection of ancient rock-art panels.” [NBC news, 2/4/09]

Bush’s Last-Minute Rule Change Gutting Endangered Species Act Was Promptly Reversed By Obama. According to The Guardian, “Barack Obama restored protections for endangered species today in a roll-back of one of the most contentious last-minute rule changes of the George Bush era. […] The rule change, which was made final in mid-December last year, left it up to government agencies to decide on their own whether new dams, logging or mining operations posed a threat to endangered species or their habitat. The rule also said that a project’s impact on climate change should no longer be a factor when taking into account its impact on wildlife. The Bush-era changes amounted to rolling back the clock on 35 years of protocol.” [The Guardian, 3/3/09]