The second Bush administration is most anti-environmental administration in post-war American history, which is not an easy achievement given the competition for this status from the Reagan administration. Environmental policy in the Bush White House, Justice Department, Department of the Interior and EPA has been a coordianted assault on the entire framework of modern American environmental protection with a sweeping changes in policy, regulation, and law. The persistent and disturbing themes in the Bush anti-environmental regime echo problems in other policy arenas, foreign and domestic.
Abuse of science.
UCS report. Waxman report. Scienceinpolicy.org.
These initiatives are often advanced under cover of the most duplicitous possible labels, e.g. "Clean Skies, Healthy Forests."
The Bush administration officials ordering these changes are in a great many cases former lobbyists and lawyers for the industries they now are charged to regulate.
Opposition Gold Mine
Despite its low profile in current politics, the environment remains the Bush Administration's weakest overall policy area. This presents important opportunities for Democrats and planetary patriots alike.
Environmental Policy under the George W. Bush Administration:
Clear Skies Act
Clear Skies Act of 2005 (Senate bill S.131) was introduced in the Senate by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) on 1/24/2005 and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH). The bill was defeated in committee, but the administration has put forward mercury regulations that assume that it passed anyway, contrary to the Clean Air Act.
HFI: administrative (regulatory) and policy changes
HFRA: legislated change (new law) that caps HFI's assault on forest policy reforms
Purpose is to increase logging on public lands by removing legal and policy constraints, including the ability of citizens to effectively oppose illegal and destructive actions. Sold and resold as "must thin to reduce wildfire risks," but the Bush Admin has only proposed 40% of the HFRA funding necessary to actually perform real fuels-reduction work -- thinning from below and removing small-diameter fuels immediately adjacent to at-risk homes and communities in the wildlands-urban interface (WUI). Instead, under HFI/HFRA the USFS and BLM have returned to aggressively logging in roadless areas and old growth forests, often far from any human community.
Major Federal Environmental Laws
National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA")
NEPA requires any significant Federal Action to produce an Environmental Impact Statement before going forward. NEPA is a procedural statute, not requiring any substantive standards for the actions.
Clean Air Act ("CAA")
Clean Water Act ("CWA")
The CWA, an extension of the 19th century Harbors Act, regulates primarily point source discharges into the navigable waters of the United States.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA")
"Cradle to the grave" tracking of hazardous waste. RCRA was passed by Congress in 1976 under President Carter, and rules were promulgated primarily in the 1980s under Presidents Reagan and GHW Bush. In addition to hazardous waste management, RCRA also compels owners to investigate and clean up certain sites contaminated with hazardous materials under either the omnibus provision, the groundwater protection provision, or the corrective action provision. Comparable in many ways to the Superfund program under CERCLA, RCRA corrective action is being implemented in many states by delegated state environmental agencies using state "CERCLA-like" environmental cleanup laws. Involvement by EPA regional offices is diminishing over time as state environmental agencies take an increasing role in overseeing RCRA corrective action.
Comprehensive Environmental Resource Conservation and Liability Act ("CERCLA")
Also known as the Superfund. CERCLA became law in late 1980 under President Carter after highly contaminated orphan sites such as Love Canal were publicized. CERCLA established a process for identifying, ranking, and cleaning up contaminated sites; and for paying for these activities. CERCLA was amended in 1986 under SARA, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, which expanded the scope of CERCLA and increased state and public involvement in the remedial decision-making process. CERCLA was again amended in January 2002 under the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, which altered liability allocation provisions under CERCLA in an effort to promote brownfield (underutilized contaminated site) redevelopment.
Endangered Species Act
Prevents impact on endangered species.
Safe Drinking Water Act ("SDWA")
Regulates public water supplies, promulgates drinking water standards for contaminants, and protects underground sources of drinking water from pollution.
Though environmentalism was originally championed by Republicans, and surely is not a movement originating from the classical Left, very few Republicans of today have a positive environmental record.