Knight Ridder’s Seth Borenstein is front and center with another report
on the Bush Administration’s appalling environmental record.
The Bush administration is catching and punishing far fewer polluters than the two previous administrations, according to a Knight Ridder analysis of 15 years of environmental-enforcement records.
Civil enforcement of pollution laws peaked when the president's father, George H.W. Bush, was in office from 1989-93 and has fallen ever since, but it's plummeted since George W. Bush took office three years ago. That's according to records of 17 different categories of enforcement activity obtained by Knight Ridder through the Freedom of Information Act. …
Violation notices against polluters are the most important enforcement tool, experts say, and they've had the biggest drop under the current President Bush. The monthly average of violation notices since January 2001 has dropped 58 percent compared with the Clinton administration's monthly average.
Those pollution citations dropped 12 percent from 2001 to 2002, and another 35 percent from 2002 through the first 10 months of 2003. …
Some current EPA enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from their bosses, say they're getting the signal to slow down enforcement cases.
"It's very discouraging," said one official. "We're concerned about people's health. We have a job that we're supposed to be doing and we're not doing it. And we should be." …
"It's a sign that this administration is flat-out falling down on the job," said Dan Esty, a deputy assistant EPA administrator during the first Bush administration and now director of the Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
The statistics - examined by Lowrance and other former top EPA officials in both Republican and Democratic administrations - are the standard way the EPA measured enforcement progress.
"They measure presence. They measure whether the enforcement cop is on the beat," Lowrance said, adding: "And increasingly the cop is absent."
Are we surprised? Hardly. The Bush Administration is to the environment what the Texas fire ant is to school playgrounds.
Knight Ridder has previously noted that cleanups of toxic Superfund sites have plunged 41 percent (compared to the annual average over the previous eight years). Last June, the Washington Post
noted that few companies were being punished for polluting waterways
What else can be expected from an Administration that appoints James Watt protégé Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior? And now we’ve got Mike Leavitt running EPA, no doubt a vast improvement in the minds of rightwingers who think the moderate Christie Todd Whitman is a watermelon (green on the outside, red on the inside).
Pick an environmental topic, add “Bush” and plug into Google. Be sure to take your blood pressure medicine first.
It doesn't matter whether it's:
* diluting the Clean Air Act;
* allowing increased pollution from expansions of existing plants without new emissions controls (“new source review” rules);
* reopening Yellowstone to snowmobiles;
* undercutting national park haze regulations;
* denying public access to information about chemical plant accidents;
* okaying raw sewage discharges;
* dumping the prohibition against awarding federal contracts to companies that violate government regulations;
* rescinding rules that would permit the Secretary of Interior to block new mines on public land that would cause “substantial irreparable harm” to the environment;
* revoking rules requiring companies to clean up mining pollution and protect waterways;
* overturning rules banning destruction of seasonal creeks;
* allowing dumping of industrial waste in rivers;
* leaving 3 million pristine acres of the Tongass National Forest open to clearcut logging;
* speeding the process for granting mountaintop removal permits for mining operations;
* refusing to accept that having 89% of public land open to oil and gas drilling is enough;
* putting an indefinite hold on a report regarding carcinogenic dioxin in animal feed;
* failing to show up for the World Summit on Sustainable Development;
* blasting the Kyoto Treaty without suggesting an alternative;
* pushing an energy bill with mediocre conservation measures; or,
* passing a timber-industry-friendly “Healthy Forests” initiative under the guise of controlling wildfires.
Whatever the case, the Bush Administration knows no shame when it comes to gutting 30 years of environmental progress.
E. Mike Smith, assistant secretary for fossil fuels, inadvertently summed up what could well be the Administration’s environmental motto: "The biggest challenge is going to be how to best utilize taxpayer dollars to the benefit of industry."